‘Always do your duty’

We cannot allow the business-as-usual procrastination to repeat itself in the Paris summit next week. We need a binding climate deal and we need States to put their money where their mouth has been so far. 

Those were the words inscribed by Eddie Fenech Adami on a copy of his autobiography given to a young friend of mine. I remember thinking how simple, yet, how moving a statement that was. 

Duty is something I will always associate with Dr Fenech Adami and has been a theme high on Malta’s agenda these last days. This week we saw the arrival of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who visited our nation to head the 24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). If ever there was an example of tireless devotion to duty, it is Her Majesty. 

Malta, it is said, will always have a special place in her heart. Opening CHOGM she said: “With its long history of resilience and courage in the face of adversity, Malta is a reminder that a nation’s size is no measure of the moral strength of its people or its willingness to play a full part in the global agenda.” 

Malta has never allowed its geographic realities to limit its contribution on the world stage, be it in the Commonwealth, the United Nations or the European Union. Throughout our 51 years of independence we have consistently punched above our weight and pushed forward issues like climate change, migration, active aging, the law of the sea and peace in the Mediterranean, to mention a few, on a global and European level. 

We have always played our part as a nation in facing the challenges of mankind and we must continue to do so. It is wrong to say we are too small to matter. We are not and we have proved it time and time again. Malta has always done its duty as a member of the world order and we must stand ready to be called upon to do so once again.  

That Europe finds itself in the eye of the storm is not something new. However, rarely have we faced the concurrent challenges posed by unprecedented migration flows, climate change, a refugee crisis on our doorstep, more deaths in our seas, instability in Libya, volatility in North Africa, devastating war in Syria and terror in our continent’s streets.

The Commonwealth, which brings together some of the world’s largest economies and some of the smallest nations on earth, shows that there are some challenges that we must and can all face together. 

After the terror attacks in Paris, these trying times are a test for every State and how the world responds under this pressure is a measure of the strength of our collective values. 

There can be no bystanders. Every State has a responsibility to share the challenges and come up with a coherent and concrete response that helps address these multi-faceted crises. This is a global crisis that requires a worldwide solution. Everyone must do their duty and Malta too can rise to the challenge. The fact that the fight against terrorism was high on CHOGM’s agenda was very welcome, but while exchange of experience is useful, we need stronger legislation in place. 

It is as a Member State of the EU that Malta is in an ideal position to help push anti-terror legislation forward. We need a better exchange of information between our law enforcement forces, implementing a passenger name record system. This would mean that States have access to records of everyone using a plane in Europe, harsher penalties for foreign fighters and tough sanctions to prevent radicalisation on the ground and online. 

This month will also see (what will hopefully be) a ground-breaking summit on climate change in Paris. As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon reminded us, climate change was an issue that Malta spearheaded, taking it to the United Nations in 1988 with our Foreign Minister Censu Tabone successfully arguing that this was to be considered the “common heritage of mankind”. More than a quarter of a century later, as was made clear during CHOGM, the world has not done nearly enough to address the causes of climate change. Too often it is narrow minded, short-term national interests that have scuppered any meaningful deals. 

We cannot allow the business-as-usual procrastination to repeat itself in the Paris summit next week. We need a binding climate deal and we need States to put their money where their mouth has been so far. 

These generational challenges are ours to deal with. We cannot keep on putting it off.