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Muscat speech to United Nations: ‘No peace while extreme poverty exists’

Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat addresses UN General Assembly makes pitch for multilateral action on migration and trafficking

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
22 September 2017, 5:24pm
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses the United Nations General Assembly
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat addresses the United Nations General Assembly
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat set much store by his government’s efforts to reduce extreme poverty and severe material deprivation at home, in his speech to the United Nations’ General Assembly in New York.

His opener to the UNGA, declaring that “there can be no peace while extreme poverty exists”, served as a prelude to a speech that promoted his government’s commitment to social mobility, social justice, equality and unity.

“Just today we have learnt that in Malta less people are at risk of poverty, following a drive by our government to distribute fairly the proceeds coming from sustained growth. This is an achievement which is as dear to us as our record setting economic growth and minimal unemployment levels,” he said of the latest income survey that found 9,000 less people were living at risk of poverty and social exclusion.

“This is exactly what we work for, our raison d’etre, which we describe as prosperity with a purpose.”

Muscat also spoke of his government’s achievement in equality and inclusion, particularly on gay rights.

“We redefined marriage to grant full equality and a fair gender neutral essence. All this has been complemented by amendments to our Constitution to protect against discrimination on the basis of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity’. These individual choices should be as significant as the colour of one’s eyes.”

He also spoke of the government’s measures to reconcile work and familial responsibilities, and provide universal free childcare to all working people. “We want to ensure more gender-balanced political representation coupled with recent initiatives to increase youth participation by lowering voting age in general and European elections from 18 to 16, after already lowered voting age in local elections.”

He turned to migration, where he claimed Malta – often dubbed a source and destination country for trafficking – was serving as a “beacon of political courage that inspires others to introduce concrete measures and reforms” in the protection of marginalized and vulnerable persons.

“The exploitation of human misery knows no boundaries. Migrant smuggling and human trafficking by criminal groups are globally prevalent and Malta very much witnesses this close to home along the central Mediterranean route.”

But he said that migration and trafficking required a global response, he reaffirmed that States had a sovereign right to decide their immigration policies. “But [the Global Compact on Migration] should also commit States to build migration systems and institutions that operate in a timely manner so that migrants are treated fairly and with dignity; protect migrants’ human rights and create awareness against exploitation and modern slavery; and lead campaigns against xenophobia whilst providing support for the integration of long-term migrants.”

“We are strong believers in the overarching power of multilateralism. We do not believe the UN is simply a sum of its parts, but rather a force that grows exponentially when we think and act as one, rather than alone.”

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.