The First Strategic Dialogue between the Maldives and the United Kingdom (UK) at the Senior Officials level was held on 20 February 2023 in Male’, Maldives.
The discussions focused on thematic areas including economic and trade cooperation, security cooperation, governance, democracy, human rights and rule of law, environment and climate change, higher education, visas and immigration and regional and international cooperation. Following the discussions, the two countries agreed to establish a Maldives-UK working group on maritime security and a working group on trade. A Memorandum of Understanding was also signed to formalise the Ocean Country Partnership Programme under the UK’s Blue Planet Fund.
Both countries acknowledged the importance of maintaining the momentum of the strong bilateral relations and agreed to strengthen the Maldives-UK relationship through the commencement and annual continuation of the Strategic Dialogue, which will enable both countries to better understand each other’s needs and priorities to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation and bring the bilateral relationship to the next level. The UK recognised the importance of the Maldives as a valued country of the Commonwealth and Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and both countries agreed to explore ways to strengthen further the Maldives-UK bilateral relationship and explore trade opportunities that benefit both economies and promote sustainable development.
The Maldives and the UK acknowledged the impact of overfishing in many parts of the world on marine population and the ecosystem and agreed to promote sustainable fisheries to preserve vital ocean resources. The Maldives and the UK reaffirmed their commitment to the global fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The UK and Maldives agreed to renew efforts to further enhance the trading partnership in sustainable fish.
To strengthen cooperation on education, both sides reaffirmed the importance of continuing to build upon opportunities provided for Maldivians through the Commonwealth and Chevening Scholarships. The Maldives and the UK agreed to work towards increasing the number of scholarships offered, in collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education of Maldives. Discussions were also held on supporting the visa process for Maldivian students studying in the UK.
Both countries recognised the importance of people-to-people exchanges in promoting mutual understanding between the two countries. They expressed their commitment to increase the levels of visitor arrivals from the UK to the Maldives, strengthen collaboration at local levels, promote cultural cooperation, and conduct friendly exchanges between the two countries.
The Maldives and the UK also emphasized the significance of developing cooperation, particularly in countering terrorism, and the prevention of violent extremism. The Maldives shared the progress it has made in implementing the National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism and addressed security vulnerabilities and priority areas including maritime security and domain awareness, defence cooperation, interagency operability for attack-response and delivering successful counterterrorism prosecutions. The Maldives expressed gratitude for the continuous assistance offered by the UK through initiatives such as providing technical assistance for the Joint Interagency Operations Centre (JIOC), counter-terrorism live exercises and training. Both countries agreed to expand the existing partnership.
The UK welcomed Maldives’ commitment towards consolidation of democratic governance, strengthening the rule of law and promotion and protection of human rights. The UK reiterated its commitment to continue supporting the Maldives in its endeavours to consolidate democracy and emphasized the importance of continuing these reforms.
On climate change, both sides stressed the importance of working together to ensure the success of the UNFCCC as the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change. Both countries expressed commitment to working together, and with other Parties, to strengthen the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement, and acknowledged the existential challenges of climate change and biodiversity in relation to humanity, as discussed in the COP15, COP26 and COP27. Both countries noted the establishment of the loss and damage fund at COP27 and discussed cooperating to operationalise the fund at the earliest.