Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Aslam has underscored the harsh reality of climate change for the Maldives and stated that despite the nation’s negligible contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, it finds itself on the front lines of the climate crisis. He made the statement in his address at the 148th Assembly of the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU), speaking on “building bridges for peace and understanding” and the role of ‘parliamentary diplomacy’ in achieving it. The assembly is held from 23 to 27 March in Geneva, Switzerland.

Aslam emphasised that for the Maldives, peace also means climate security, adding that despite the nation’s negligible contribution to global warming, it bears a disproportionate burden of climate change impacts.

“We are a nation of over 500,000 people. Losing our home is not an option. We do not want to be climate refugees. We have a culture, we have a language, we have an identity. We want to remain in the beautiful Maldives forever,” Aslam stated.

In his speech, Speaker Aslam touched on the multifaceted challenges confronting the Maldives and the broader global community, ranging from security and terrorism to gender disparity, drug epidemic, and regional conflicts.

Speaking about the rise of violent extremism in the Maldives, Aslam highlighting the terrorist attack on his predecessor, former President Mohamed Nasheed. He emphasised the need for a comprehensive legislative framework to combat terrorism and the importance of de-radicalisation programmes. He also noted the amendments to the Maldives Anti-Terrorism Act and the establishment of the National Reintegration Centre as significant steps towards this goal.

The drug epidemic and related crime, a long-standing issue in the Maldives, was another critical topic in Aslam’s speech. He called for effective global collaboration to combat drug trafficking, acknowledging the challenges faced by many countries, including the Maldives, in this fight.

In addition, Aslam addressed the issue of gender disparity within the People’s Majlis, where only five percent of parliamentarians are women, despite women making up 49 percent of the population. He stressed the importance of equal representation and noted a recent bill submitted to parliament to reserve 33 percent of parliament for female members.

The speaker also used the opportunity to urge for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, reminding the assembly of the far-reaching consequences of such conflicts. At least 32,333 Palestinians have been killed and 74,694 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since 7 October, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

Aslam further highlighted the role of parliamentary diplomacy in addressing global challenges such as climate change, gender disparities, terrorism, and regional conflicts. He emphasised that solutions lie in collective action and cooperation, transcending political agendas for the greater good.

“Tolerance towards others is at the root of peace and understanding,” Aslam stated, underscoring parliamentarians’ responsibility as direct representatives of their constituents. He urged his fellow parliamentarians to ensure that the voices they echo are not those of hate and intolerance but rather of peace and harmony.

In his closing message, Aslam stressed that building bridges for peace requires an open exchange of ideas and a commitment to respect each nation’s unique perspectives and experiences. He called for a collaborative effort that goes beyond political affiliations, emphasising the common humanity that binds us together.

“Let us seize this opportunity to create understanding, overcome differences, and build a world where peace prevails,” Aslam urged. “Together, we can construct bridges that stand the test of time, creating a legacy of harmony for generations to come.”