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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Statement at a World Bank Small States Ministerial roundtable

Thank you Chair.

It is an honour and pleasure for me to be invited to make some remarks at this Small States Ministerial roundtable, in particular focusing on the Blue Economy. 

The Blue Economy concept is not very old but is now a widely used term for economic activity, growth and development related to oceans, seas and coasts. 

A sustainable blue economy can provide small states, especially large ocean nations, with a greener more competitive economy. 

In this regard I particularly like the definition by the World Bank, referring to it as the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem." Which is fully in line with the aims and objectives of SDG 14.

This definition describes in many ways the history of the economic development of Iceland. In short, we became both sovereign and a wealthy nation by sustainably using our fisheries resources. However, this is not only a historical fact, sustainable use of our ocean resources will also be a major part of our future prosperity. 

We need to take seriously the challenges the ocean faces, with environmental degradation, the impacts of climate change, marine pollution and growing populations. At the same time, we must realize the opportunities that healthy oceans and sustainable use of its resources can provide. 

We need to approach this in a holistic way in partnership with all actors, on the local, regional and global level. At the global level let me, in particular, mention the World Bank and FAO which are increasingly stepping up to play the role we expect of them.

In its dialogue with the World Bank, Iceland has consistently made the case for a bigger engagement in all aspects of the ocean economy, but notably in sustainable fisheries. We therefore note with pleasure the Bank’s growing emphasis on the oceans and its resources, with the ProBlue initiative now emerging as a flagship programme and we are proud to be one of ProBlue´s core members. We also welcome the growing interest in the special challenges of SIDS member countries.

In our bilateral collaboration with the Bank we have also been experiencing significant and growing interest in making use of the knowledge we have to offer. We are glad to be able to share our experience in this area with other countries. 

We have learnt that successes will only be achieved through science and research, innovation, collaboration and investment - and through the common understanding that value is more important than volume when it comes to the sustainability of our ocean resources.

There are great opportunities in the transition towards a greener or, in our case a bluer, economy. There is increasing global demand for quality and innovative products and services that emphasize sustainability and circularity - it makes good business sense. 

The oceans are of crucial importance for any meaningful discussion on climate change and they have too often been on the margins instead of in the center. Therefore, we need to bring climate aspects into the ocean agenda and, more importantly, bring ocean aspects into the climate agenda. 

We must also acknowledge that to ensure the future of a sustainable Blue Economy we need serious actions in dealing with marine pollution, including solutions on plastic pollution. Iceland strongly supports this agenda and we realize that this poses great threats not the least to small island developing nations, the large ocean nations that are most reliant on healthy oceans.  

I would like to emphasize that partnership is essential in tackling these issues. This cannot be solved locally in a global economy. In oceans without physical borders, we must act together on a regional and global scale when making necessary changes to the usual way of doing business.

This is a common task and common responsibility for all of us, islands and land locked countries, small states and large.

I thank you for your attention.


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