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Statement at the General Debate of the Second Committee by Ambassador Jörundur Valtýsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the UN

Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson

Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations

General Assembly 75th session, 6 October 2020

Second Committee – General debate


Mr Chair,


First, let me thank Ambassador Niang and the outgoing Bureau members for their excellent work, and congratulate you and the members of the new Bureau on your election and wish you every success in the unprecedented work ahead. You have our full support.


While the pandemic has further revealed just how interconnected we all are, COVID-19 is not the great equalizer as some have described. Those most vulnerable are hit the hardest. Those with no safety nets will take longer to recover from the socioeconomic effects of the pandemic.


Although uneven and insufficient, we were making progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. We saw inspiring improvements in areas such as maternal and child health, access to electricity and women’s representation in government. So as we embark on this Decade of Action, we must do all we can to protect the gains we have made and accelerate progress in areas lagging behind, such as food insecurity, deterioration of the natural environment, and persistent and pervasive inequalities.


Mr Chair,


Iceland is no stranger to the three interconnected pillars of sustainability: environment, society, and economy. Sustainability has, in fact, been the key to our prosperity. By respecting our nature and its resources and promoting gender equality and human rights we have seen rapid and relatively inclusive socioeconomic growth. We therefore focus on sustainable development in our foreign policy and international development cooperation, including through addressing climate change, reducing gender inequalities, and securing human rights for all. 


We all remain off-target to achieve SDG 5 on gender equality. We encourage other countries to join Iceland in its quest to achieve this target and improve gender equality, including universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and the fight against sexual and gender-based violence. Iceland is committed to contributing in a meaningful way as a co-leader of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on gender-based violence. We also encourage all countries to grant increased attention to groups who lack fundamental rights, such as LGBTI people and other vulnerable groups - leaving no one behind.


Mr Chair,


Since early last century Iceland has focused on recovering land quality and limiting land degradation. Degraded land is the root cause of many pressing societal challenges we are facing today, including the loss of animal habitat and the spread of disease from animals to humans. On a more positive note, 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 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.


Mr. Chair,


The 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR) provided a path, which will now help ensure that our UN development system can optimally contribute to building back better with a greener, smarter, and more equitable economy. We were pleased to see in the Secretary-General’s report on the QCPR that UNDS reforms are indeed consolidating. As we embark on the new QCPR cycle, we need to build on the progress made, address gaps, and identify areas for improvement. Overall, it is important that the new QCPR provides the UN development system with a meaningful and forward-leaning guidance for the challenging times ahead.


In addition to the important QCPR process, this Committee considers many significant topics. While we weather the current storm, it is important that we also continue with the revitalization process, as the Second Committee could benefit greatly from full alignment with Agenda 2030. We risk losing perspective and focus if we continue to discuss issues that are no longer relevant.


Mr. Chair,


The Secretary General has called COVID-19 “an opportunity to reimagine the future”.  An opportunity to do things differently.  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 and building back better and greener, both at home and abroad.


I thank you.



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