Many of the climate-change related impacts occurring in the Maldives appeared to be problems “of planning and capacity building”, visiting Danish Minister for Development Cooperation Søren Pind told Minivan News.
The Danish delegation yesterday toured the islands of Fares-Mathoda and Thinadhoo in the south of the country, both of which are suffering from flooding due to poor drainage, and signed a memorandum of understanding with the UNDP to provide assistance.
Pind said that as a Development Minister it was also very interesting to see first-hand the challenges faced by a country following a transition to democracy, “such as the fight between those who wish to go backwards and those who wish to go forwards – and it’s not always possible to tell the difference.”
Pind noted that Denmark had only adopted a parliamentary democracy in the early 1950s, after a process “that took us 100 years. We had a nasty fight in 1870-1901 between the king and those who wanted a new democratic government.”
Scandinavian countries such as Denmark regularly top human development indices. The country has the highest level of income equality, and in 2006 to 2008 was ranked “the happiest place in the world” by Forbes magazine based on indices of health, welfare and education.
Pind acknowledged that in the years following a transition, “of course there is a threat to democratic stability. I asked President Nasheed and he said he sees radicalisation as a key challenge.”
The way to counter growing radicalisation, Pind suggested, was to foster and promote “open society – civil institutions, NGOs, people fighting for gender rights and freedom of speech – these things counteract the same very conservative thinking that benefits from that prerogative.”
And if a society was found to be going backwards and not forwards, “identify those forces of destabilisation”, he suggested.
Radicialisation, Pind noted, was not a problem unique to the Maldives. “All these countries I’ve visited recently – Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia – all their politicians are talking about this, and referring to some sort of ‘foreign influence’. It seems to be a common problem.”
Pind said he found it sad that concepts such as education, free media “and the whole idea of inalienable human rights” had become a religious issue, “when I have heard people who know Islam say this is not a religious issue, but a political one.”
Asked how he felt the Danish government had handled the issue of the controversial cartoons published by one of its newspapers, Pind said Demark had “never seen it as a confrontation with Islam.”
“But we had to face the fact that one man had drawn cartoons that were published in a major newspaper. We had a hard time explaining that in this country the government could not interfere with the media. That is the price of an open society, and we pay it gladly.”
The Danish delegation – including Pind and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Dr Lykke Friis, visited the Maldives to announce funding of climate mitigation programs in Kenya, Indonesia and the Maldives as part of its US$40 million ‘fast-track’ climate change initiative, but showed a strong interest in other matters affecting the country.