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Statement at the 24th Session of the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea

Statement by Mr. Hendrik Jónsson, Legal Officer
Directorate for Legal & Executive Affairs, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
General Assembly 78th session, 18 June 2024
Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (ICP 24)
General Exchange of Views

Distinguished Co-Chairs,

As this is the first time our delegation takes the floor, we would like to take the opportunity to congratulate you both on your respective reappointments as chairs of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and to convey to you our confidence in your stewardship over the important discussions we will have in the coming days.

We thank the Secretary-General for a highly informative and engaging report, which we have read with interest in our preparations for this meeting. We would also like to express our enduring appreciation to the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for the indispensable role which it plays in the organisation of this meeting and other meetings on our ocean calendar.
Distinguished Co-Chairs,

An islander knows innately that any distinction drawn between life in and out of the ocean is only artificial. We know that our life on land is dependent on the ocean. In turn, life below water is deeply impacted by the life we lead on land. It is against this backdrop that the Government of Iceland approaches all discussions of sustainable development; deeply aware that we must sustain the ocean, for the ocean sustains us.

Our planet and our species are today facing challenges of a scale that is on the precipice of what language can capture. Humankind’s success in resolving the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution will be measured in the planet we pass on to future generations.

When contemplating how to respond to a crisis such as this, it is perhaps not surprising that an island State would look to the ocean. For Icelanders, the ocean has for centuries been a source of sustenance and wellbeing. It has been our bridge to the wider world; our corridor for trade and travel; and our source of food.
The ocean is home to a great wealth of blue foods which can be sustainably caught, harvested or farmed to provide the food to feed a hungry planet. This umbrella term encompasses a wide variety of ocean flora and fauna, including fish, shellfish, molluscs and algae. Compared with land-based alternatives, many blue foods are denser in essential nutrients and can be produced with lower greenhouse gas emissions, less water pollution and using less land and water resources. Foods from the ocean are therefore pivotal, both globally and locally, to advancing the food and nutrition security needs of growing populations whilst advancing efforts to combat climate change.

Distinguished Co-Chairs,

We are much too aware that ocean issues are overlooked and insufficiently integrated into the large international discussions dedicated to sustainable development and responding to climate change. Of the 17 Goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, only one, Goal 14 on Life Below Water, is specifically dedicated to the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, sea and marine resources for sustainable development. Yet, as the topic of this meeting gives credence to, the sustainable development and use of ocean resources contributes to the attainment of the 2030 Agenda at large, not least Goal 2 on Zero Hunger and Goal 13 on Climate Action.

It is for this reason that the Government of Iceland places such emphasis on mainstreaming a blue food lens into the global, regional and sectoral fora in which we participate. We are proud to have championed the work of the Aquatic Blue Food Coalition, a multi-stakeholder effort of nearly 40 partners, which originated in the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and whose efforts are aligned with the FAO Blue Transformation Road Map. The Coalition has been chaired by Iceland’s Special Envoy for Ocean Affairs Mr. Stefan Jon Hafstein who we are pleased to see featured in the impressive roster of speakers this week.

It is furthermore for this reason that we are so enthusiastic that this twenty-fourth meeting of the Informal Consultative Process is dedicated to the topic of “the Ocean as a Source of Sustainable Food”. The Informal Consultative Process has an important role to play as the crossroads of dialogue between policymakers, scientists and innovators, where disparate conversations are joined and interspersed into a single stream of dialogue. We know from the example of the BBNJ Agreement how this meeting can act as an accelerator for turning novel ideas into action.
Distinguished Co-Chairs,

In redoubling our efforts to combat climate change and delivering the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, we must not neglect the powerful role which the ocean plays in delivering the just green transition. As set out in the Secretary-General’s report for this meeting: “A just and sustainable blue transition is crucial to ensuring that the ocean can continue to contribute to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits to current and future generations.”

However, we will only realise the unrealised potential of the ocean as a source of sustainable food if we make space for it on our agendas. Our hope for this meeting is that it will offer knowledge, insights and spur discussions which will keep it there.
With this, I thank you.


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