Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
General Assembly 74th session, 7 October 2019
Second Committee – General debate
First, let me congratulate you and the members of the bureau on your election and wish you every success in the work ahead.
The SDG Summit last month revealed that more efforts are needed. At the same time, we see important achievements in many fields, including in gender equality, reducing child mortality and fighting communicable diseases. It falls on all states, big and small, to work together on these pressing issues and, in this respect, my Government remains fully committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda, both at home and abroad.
One of the biggest threats of our times is climate change. It affects all aspects of the 2030 Agenda. From North to South we are all experiencing, one way or another, the negative effects of climate change. Iceland is committed to fulfilling the targets set in the Paris Agreement. The Government aims for a carbon neutral Iceland in 2040 and, collectively with other European states, a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Also, earlier this year, Iceland’s Parliament agreed on a new policy for international development cooperation with a particular focus on addressing climate change, reducing gender inequalities and securing human rights for all. The key pillars of the policy are interlinked and aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.
Iceland is no stranger to the three interconnected pillars of sustainability; the environment, society and the economy. Sustainability has been the key to our prosperity and, indeed, our survival for a long time - and that is not going to change.
We need to take care of our green and blue planet. It is an intriguing fact that the oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface and are directly affected by climate change. Indeed, climate change is also an ocean change. Therefore, sustainable management of the oceans are vital to the world.
Since early last century Iceland has focused on recovering land quality and limiting land degradation. Further cooperation and joint action are needed to further deliver on SDG 15 aimed at combatting desertification and restoring degraded land and soil.
We continue to support the UNCCD, including through the Group of Friends on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought. It is important to bear in mind that some of the most effective solutions are low cost, simple and nature-based like land restoration.
Degraded land is the root cause of many pressing societal challenges we are facing today. Land restoration offers multiple cross cutting solutions and is a connecting piece between enhanced food security, water, biodiversity, reduced climate emissions, more social stability and, ultimately, peace and security. We must also keep in mind that women around the world bear the brunt of the effects of climate change.
When it comes to the societal aspect of sustainable development, respect for human rights and gender equality are both specific and cross-cutting issues. We encourage other countries to focus on increasing gender equality and empowering women. We also encourage all countries to grant increased attention to groups who lack fundamental rights, such as LGBTI people and other vulnerable groups.
Last month, we gathered to discuss the importance of universal health coverage. Iceland continues to emphasise quality basic health care accessible and affordable to all, the health and nutrition of mothers and children, and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Also, equal access for all to quality education has positive effects on society. Therefore, in our international development cooperation, increased emphasis is placed on quality basic education, improving access to education and reducing dropout rates. This we do with a special focus on girls, which also contributes to efforts in eradicating poverty.
Building economies by working with the private sector in creating work opportunities and increasing investment is an important path to a sustainable economic growth. We are also committed to sharing our knowledge of renewable energy, fisheries, land restoration and gender equality, including through our United Nations Training Programmes in Iceland.
In July, our Prime Minister presented Iceland’s first Voluntary National Review, including some 65 priority targets in implementing the SDGs. My government remains fully committed to Agenda 2030 – and making sure that no one is left behind.