Donor Conference pledges now US$487 million, says Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Aid commitments following the recent Maldives Donor Conference have reached US$487 million, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed and State Minister Ahmed Naseem took to the stage this morning to dismiss claims made by the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) that the donor conference had raised less US$20 million in pledges.

“That is their own number,” Dr Shaheed said.

“If you add up the money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the UN system, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) it’s almost US$200 million. That is 80 per cent of pledges coming from these big donors.”

Shaheed spoke about monitoring and implementation mechanisms, which would ensure the funds are used according to the donor’s wishes and the government’s pledges.

Coordinator for the UN in the Maldives Mansoor Ali said the donor conference had been very successful and it was “not the time to be negative” about the results.

Dr Shaheed also spoke of the recent climate change meeting held this week by the Progressive Group in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, where delegates from 23 countries met to advance negotiations before the next international climate change summit scheduled to take place in Cancun, Mexico in November this year.

The Progressive Group brings together the countries with a “forward-looking and constructive attitude to international climate change negotiations,” and played a key role in last year’s international climate change summit in Copenhagen.

Delegates from over twenty countries came together in Colombia to “exchange opinions and promote active participation towards the next climate change summit.”

The meeting focused mostly on creating ministerial-level communication between countries, in hopes to ease dialogue between nations and to advance on key issues such as fast-start financing, adaptation, low-carbon development and verification of emission cuts.

Maldives proposed a second ministerial-level meeting to take place in Malé in July this year.

Dr Shaheed also spoke of President Mohamed Nasheed’s recent visit to Europe, and confirmed that German Police officers will be arriving in Malé “very soon” to begin training Maldives Police Service (MPS) officers to work in a democracy.

“They are the ones who retrained the Stasi in East Germany after German reunification, as well as the police force in Kosovo,” Shaheed said. “They are the best in the world at what they do.”

He said the German team will stay in the Maldives from one year to eighteen months, depending on when they believe the MPS is ready, “all at the German government’s expense.”

Dr Shaheed added that Icelandic President, Ólafur Grímsson, will be visiting the Maldives soon to promote sustainable green energy alongside President Nasheed.

Dr Shaheed spoke of the recently signed agreement with the Rothschild banking dynasty, which has agreed to help the Maldives in the bid to become carbon neutral by 2020.

“There needs to be a study on where we have most carbon emissions,” Dr Shaheed said, adding that “they will also try to carbon-proof our current systems.”

The Rothschild group will secure international financing to fund a carbon audit of the Maldives. Dr Shaheed said the surveying will take approximately nine months.

Dr Shaheed ended the press conference with news of the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to draft a new international human rights treaty as an additional optional protocol to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was proposed by the Maldives.

Maldives was chosen to chair the core group discussing the CRC in Geneva, joined by Slovenia, Slovakia, Egypt, Kenya, France, Finland, Thailand, Uruguay and Chile.

The CRC, which is the most ratified treaty in the world, was lacking in allowing cases regarding abuse of the rights of children to be submitted to international UN mechanisms.

The new treaty proposes to allow cases to be sent to international protection mechanisms to intervene when domestic institutions fail to offer protection.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story Dr Shaheed was quoted as saying the visiting German police trainers were  responsible for retraining the Gestapo after the Second World War. This has been clarified as the Stasi, the East German secret police, who were retrained after the reunification of Germany post-1990.


Rothschild banking dynasty to assist Maldives with goal of carbon neutrality

The Rothschild banking dynasty in Europe has agreed to help the Maldives towards its goal of carbon neutrality, following a meeting between President Mohamed Nasheed and Baron Benjamin and Baroness Ariane de Rothschild in their Genevan chateau.

In the first phase of the agreement signed on Monday, the family’s financial services arm La Compagnie Benjamin de Rothschild (CTBR) will secure international financing to fund a carbon audit of the Maldives.

CTBR is one of the arms of the US$137 billion Edmond de Rothschild Group, one of the world’s oldest banking dynasties and an early investor in the Shell Oil Company and the De Beers diamond firm.

The Rothschild’s website describes the banking family as “brokers and financers, as bankers to royal houses and governments, as railway magnates, personalities, patrons and philantopists, the Rothschilds have never forgotten how to walk with Kings – nor lost the common touch.”

In the second phase of the agreement, the company’s environmental and sustainability wing, BeCitizen, will spend two months assessing the report and analysing emissions from all sectors of the country’s economy, including transport, housing ,tourism, energy and waste management.

The final report, expected at the end of 2010, will contain a detailed plan of how the Maldives can reach carbon neutrality by 2020. In the third phase, CTBR will then help the government secure international financing to build the wind farms, waste recycling plants and sustainable transport solutions suggested in the report.

Benjamin and Ariane de Rothschild said in a statement that the agreement between the family and the Maldivies “is not only important for reasons of moral leadership in tackling climate change – the greatest challenge facing the world today – but also because it places the Maldives at the head of the pack in the transition to a low-carbon world.

“The Edmond de Rothschild Group is convinced that, as well as helping Maldives becoming carbon neutral, the partnership will spur domestic economic growth and new revenue-generating business opportunities for the country,” the family said.

Presdient Mohamed Nasheed said the partnership would allow the Maldives to “make rapid inroads into our national carbon footprint”, and set an example for other developing countries.

“The Maldives wants to set an example, by demonstrating that a country can develop without having to pollute the planet. After all, it is not carbon we want but development, it is not coal we want but electricity, it is not oil we want but transport. The Maldives aims to grow but we want our growth to be green.”

Spokesman for the President Mohamed Zuhair said the project was a “win-win” and “won’t cost the Maldives money.”

“[Rothschilds] have financed other industrial revolutions, and for them the Maldives is an ideal partner for the green revolution,” he said.

Ali Rilwan, director of environmental NGO Bluepeace, meanwhile acknowledged the country’s need for a “carbon master plan” and said he did not believe the agreement with Rothschilds had strings attached.

Instead, the support of the banking dynasty could allow the Maldives to become a ‘proof-of-concept’ for carbon neutrality and alternate energy, he suggested.

“Carbon neutrality is very fashionable in Europe at the moment, along with corporate responsibility,” he said, “and the Maldives is the first to initiate [carbon neutrality] with such a short target. And as the country is small, the targets are achievable. The push to move main electricity from power stations to windmills is also encouraging.”

Rilwan explained that while the Maldives’ carbon emissions “are small on a global scale, we can set an example.”

“We won’t change the world’s climate but upmarket resorts are increasingly attracting toursists looking for green holidays. This will also help them,” he said.