UN sees increase in Maldivian jihadists overseas

A UN report has raised concerns over an increase in fighters leaving the Maldives to join terrorist organisations including al-Qaida and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The expert report to the UN Security Council, obtained by The Associated Press, said the flow of fighters globally “is higher than it has ever been historically”, increasing from a few thousand a decade ago to over 25,000 from more than 100 nations today.

The Maldives police chief Hussein Waheed in January estimated some 50 Maldivians are fighting in foreign wars, but the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party says the figure could be as high as 200.

Waheed’s comments came after reports of at least 13 Maldivians leaving for jihad surfaced in local media in early January. Since then, at least four more have traveled to the Middle East.

Some seven Maldivians are reported to have died in the past year during battle in Syria, according to local media.

Waheed said that police were monitoring the activities of militants and would reveal details of plans to prevent radicalisation at a later date. The MDP has said the government is doing little to counter radicalisation and prevent recruitment of would-be fighters.

The UN report, written by a UN panel monitoring sanctions against Al-Qaida, listed the Maldives, Finland and Trinidad and Tobago as countries from which numbers of fighters were increasing, while the highest number of foreign fighters come from Tunisia, Morocco, France and Russia.

Most fighters travel to Syria and Iraq, to fight primarily for the Islamic State and the Al-Nusra front.


Maldives among only three countries to ever graduate from least-developed status: UN report

The Maldives is among only three countries to ever advance from the UN’s ‘least developed country’ (LDC) designation, according to a UN report reviewing the development of the world’s 51 poorest countries.

Only the Maldives (2010), Cape Verde (2007) and Botswana (1994) have ever graduated, leading UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to state that enduring marginalisation of the world’s 48 poorest countries promised “a future we cannot afford.”

“While the number of countries meeting the criteria of ‘least developed’ increased through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the graduation rate from that grouping has been glacial,” the report’s authors said.

They extrapolated that despite limited economic and social progress, “the gap between the LDCs and the rest of the world, including the low middle income countries, is widening.”

“The structural disadvantage of these economies, weak human assets (education, health, nutrition etc), limited physical and institutional infrastructure, dependence on fragile agricultural sectors and a limited range of exports are at the heart of the continued marginalisation of these countries within the world economy,” the report stated.

While development was one ingredient, “LDCs should assume greater ownership of their own development trajectory,” the authors suggested.

“It is our contention that some of the tools to achieve this is through negotiating better prices for their valuable raw materials and in turn processing these materials to generate capital gains. Increased mobilisation of domestic resources is also a key tool in their development.”

The report also suggested that fighting corruption and seeking for the return of stolen assets can improve the business climate and spur future growth.”

While the Finance Ministry has previously insisted it has budgeted for the graduation, the Maldives’ progression to the middle income category limits the country’s access to concessional credit, removes certain trade concession, and some donor aid – as well as risks creating a perception in the donor community that it is ‘less deserving’ than countries still on the LDC list.

With a crippling budget deficit created by a bloated civil service spend, and political difficulties attached to its resolution, the Maldives earlier this month contested at the UN in New York that graduating countries still require special financial and technical assistance.

The UN may consider the issue ahead of a conference on LDCs to be held in Istanbul from May 9-13, which will seek to promote a 10-year programme for food security, decent work, disaster risk reduction, climate resilience and clean energy growth in the LDCs.

Read the report here (English)