JOSEPH MUSCAT, Prime Minister of Malta, said that as President of the Council of the European Union his country had worked with the bloc’s member States towards a new European Consensus on Development with a focus on poverty eradication. Malta was also Chair‑in‑Office of the Commonwealth, an organization representing 52 “different realities” that had joined together to launch common initiatives to expedite implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and on a national level, it had registered a voluntary commitment of 30 per cent of all the waters under its jurisdiction as Marine Protected Areas. Recalling that Malta had been instrumental in triggering the negotiations that had led to the adoption of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said it now supported efforts to establish a legally binding instrument under that Convention for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Noting that Malta would host the next “Our Ocean” Conference in October, he voiced further support for the establishment of an Intergovernmental Panel on Ocean Governance, which would report to the Assembly through the Secretary‑General. The Commonwealth was also developing a “Blue Charter” to help its countries fulfil the requirements under Sustainable Development Goal 14, he said, expressing strong support for the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Malta based its policies on the overarching principles of social mobility, social justice, equality and unity. Today, fewer of its people were at risk of poverty due to Government efforts to fairly distribute the proceeds of its sustained growth, he said, emphasizing that a prosperous future must be accompanied by an inclusive society. “People who live in fear or are oppressed or discriminated against cannot realize their potential and are not at peace.”
For those reasons, he said, Malta had put human rights, equality and empowerment at the forefront of its political agenda, and it had made them priority issues of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning rights and gender equality. Malta had redefined marriage to grant full equality to all partners in a fair, gender-neutral manner, and had amended its Constitution to protect against discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”. “These individual choices should be as significant as the colour of one’s eyes,” he said. Malta was the only European country to provide free and universal childcare to all working people and had worked to increase youth participation by lowering the voting age in general and European elections from 18 to 16, after already having done so in local elections.
“Malta, despite its small size, can now serve as a beacon of political courage that inspires others to introduce concrete measures and reforms,” he said. Underlining the protection of marginalized and vulnerable people as a priority, he said the United Nations was pivotal in that process and must continue to spearhead, sustain and mobilize the international community along its path to 2030. As it was located along the central Mediterranean route used for migrant smuggling and human trafficking, Malta knew first hand that “the exploitation of human misery knows no boundaries”.
While Malta was working as part of a wider European response to those challenges, he stressed that national and even regional action remained insufficient without a global response. In that context, he welcomed progress towards a global compact on migration which would reaffirm States’ sovereign rights to decide on their own immigration policies while also committing them to build institutions that treated migrants with fairness, dignity and respect.