Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
General Assembly 76th session, 6 October 2021
Second Committee – General debate
Allow me to congratulate you on your election and sincerely thank Ambassador Rai and the outgoing Bureau for their excellent work.
We look forward to working with you, Ambassador Frazier, and your all-female bureau on delivering a successful session of this important Committee.
The Secretary General has sounded the alarm. We need to recommit to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals – faster, and at scale.
In the immediate term, we need to contain the spread of the pandemic and address its socioeconomic impact.
On both fronts, inequality is pervasive. Reaching vaccine equity is far from reality: 3% of people in low-income countries have received one vaccine dose, compared to over 60% in high-income ones.
Same can be said about addressing the pandemic´s socioeconomic impacts: high-income and macroeconomically resilient countries have invested nearly 28% of their GDP into economic recovery, while less than 2% of least developed countries have been able to do so.
Unless action is collectively taken now, the unequal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and different abilities of countries to address its socioeconomic impact are bound to deepen inequalities and halt the recovery.
Iceland is committed to play its part. We have contributed financially to the COVAX initiative and have also started the sharing of vaccines.
The pandemic has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable, especially women and children. Intensified care responsibilities have negatively affected on women’s ability to earn a living and the number of children living in multidimensional poverty has soared. Of high concern is the fact that over 4 billion people are not protected by any social protection measures, leaving the global community more vulnerable and less resilient to future crises.
To build back better, we need to address these challenges and keep gender equality at the center of our approach. This means following through on the commitments made at the Generation Equality Forum and investing in gender-responsive social protection.
As the recent IPCC report so clearly demonstrates, the climate crisis is putting the SDGs further out of reach. My government fully acknowledges its role in doing better, as reflected in our commitment to go beyond what we agreed to in the Paris Agreement. Our aim is to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 and, since 2018, we have also more than doubled our contribution to international climate finance.
Globally, energy production and use account for about 75% of total greenhouse gas emissions and 760 million people still lack access to electricity. Iceland was proud to take on a role as a Global Champion for Just and Inclusive Energy Transition, in the lead-up to the important High-Level Dialogue on Energy. Our commitment to this agenda was clearly reflected in our own Energy Compact, as well as other Compacts we joined, including the Gender and Energy Compact.
With as many as 811 million people facing hunger last year, nearly a third of all produced food being lost or wasted each year, and food systems accounting for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the recently concluded Food Systems Summit could not have been timelier.
In the lead-up to the summit, Iceland emphasized two key themes:
First, we advocated for the implementation of comprehensive school feeding programs to improve the diets and development of millions of children around the world, strengthen livelihoods and build resilience to future shocks. The recently formed School Meals Coalition will play an important role in driving this agenda.
Secondly, we promoted the work of the Blue Food Alliance and the need for enhanced focus on the role of blue and aquatic food in sustainable development. Sustainable use of marine resources remains one of the backbones of the Icelandic economy and a clear focus in our foreign policy and development cooperation. Within the alliance, Iceland will continue to promote the importance of countering illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing as eliminating IUU fishing is pro-poor, pro-nutrition, and pro-nature.
Tying together many of the issues I have mentioned - climate, food systems, inequality, and gender - is the issue of land.
Iceland proudly chairs the Group of Friends on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) along with Namibia. Restoring degraded land, in accordance with SDG target 15.3, enhances economic resilience and accelerates progress on many other SDGs – including on poverty eradication, food security, biodiversity, climate change and empowering women and girls.
Finally, Madam Chair,
To ensure that the second committee is fit for purpose, we must continue the revitalization process. In this context, we again encourage delegations to focus efforts on resolutions that have the most impact on 2030 Agenda implementation and the corresponding Addis Ababa Action Agenda.