Government reveals foreign policy for next five years

President Abdulla Yameen has revealed his government’s foreign policy today, stating that the most important objective was to increase economic self-sufficiency, describing this as a requirement of independent foreign policy.

“The foreign policy of my government will be based, just as those firm policies of President Maumoon, on the principle of mutual respect between countries, respect for the sovereignty of countries,” Yameen said.

He said that a well-thought foreign policy is necessary “for a small Maldives to travel safely amidst the turbulent political currents”.

“The foreign policy of Maldives will protect and sustain Maldives’ selfhood and Islam. [It is] a policy that will sustain the independence, security and sovereignty of the the Maldives. A policy that will open opportunities abroad for Maldivians to benefit from,” Yameen said.

The foreign policy revealed today has six main targets: protecting national independence and increasing national security, protecting the Islamic unity of the country and promoting Islamic characteristics internationally, increasing economic self-sufficiency, increasing South Asian regional cooperation, providing quality services for Maldivians living abroad, and the strengthening and development of foreign services.

In terms of protecting national independence and increasing national security, the government plans to increase cooperation with Indian ocean states in combating terrorism, piracy, and other non-traditional security threats, and get more involved in keeping world peace.

In addition to this, the government aims to improve relations with international civil society organisations and think tanks, and to improve the reporting for conventions to which the Maldives is a party.

Speaking at the ceremony held to reveal the policy, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon said the Maldives’ role in achieving regional and international stability will increase in the coming five years and that Maldives will especially speak out on challenges faced by small states and on climate change.

Economic self-sufficiency

On increasing economic self-sufficiency, Dunya said the ministry will work towards finding more markets for Maldivian products and increase the number of tourists and investors that visit the country. She particularly highlighted finding new markets for fish exports within the year.

Such new markets was something the government announced last year when the European Union declined to extend the duty-free status of imported fish from the Maldives for non-compliance with international conventions concerning freedom of religion.

“We should think about who gives [foreign] aid and what their intentions are. We should accept that [they] will not give without expecting something in return” Dunya said.

The foreign policy published today states “finding funding for development projects” and to “invest more in renewable energy” as strategies for increasing economic self-reliance.

Speaking at the ceremony Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef also highlighted the importance given to commercial diplomacy in the government’s foreign policy, and the need for creating a name internationally as a safe destination for investors and businesses.

Foreign service restructured

The government revealed that many steps have already been taken to strengthen the foreign service, including the establishment of Foreign Service Institute of Maldives (FOSIM) within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week.

This institution is mandated with providing training for foreign service employees and youth who wish to pursue a career in the foreign service. It is also to conduct academic research required for the formulation and implementation of foreign policy.

A Foreign Relations Advisory Council (FRAC) – composed of experienced persons who have previously served in the foreign service – was also created to advise the institute and a policy department.

In addition to this, President Yameen announced that a Foreign Service Bill will be sent to the People’s Majlis within the first hundred days of his government.

In the Foreign Minister’s speech she noted that foreign policy is much more than “getting as much aid from as many countries” and highlighted some achievements of Maldives foreign service.

“In 1965 many countries were against the UN recognizing Maldives as an independent sovereign state, however today those countries have accepted Maldives as a country that can work alongside at the same level,” Dunya said.

Lauding this as a great achievement, she said the Maldives was currently an active partner and a leader in many global issues such challenges faced by small states, protection of human rights, democratisation and climate change.