Statement by Mr. Harald Aspelund
Deputy-Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Groups of countries in special situations
Agenda Item 57
Sixty-second Session of the General Assembly
5 November 2007
I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm Iceland's full commitment to the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, which is a crucial element in the global strategy to improve the situation of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). We are fully committed to reaching the UN target of 0.15% to 0.2% of Gross National Income for official development assistance to the LDCs.
In the progress report on the implementation of the Programme of Action, we see some positive signs and an increase in the number of LDCs that have met, or are close to meet, the target of annual growth rate of 7 per cent. Many LDC's are still short of the target and extreme poverty is still a serious problem in LDCs. Much more needs to be done and the need for a substantial international effort in the fight against poverty, is still as urgent as ever.
In this context we welcome the new advocacy strategy, which is an excellent instrument to raise awareness of the objective, goals and commitments of the Programme of Action, as well as to facilitate effective and timely implementation of the programme.
Iceland is a supporter and financier of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and welcomes and supports the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI).
The focus of Iceland's development policy is on least developed countries and the bulk of our bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) has gone to LDCs. Furthermore, the core of Iceland's multilateral development activities has been support for the International Development Agency (IDA), which directs its efforts principally to the assistance of LDCs. Iceland will continue to maintain its policy of channeling the largest share of its development cooperation to the LDCs.
Food security has been an important aspect of our development cooperation. Fish is one of the principal sources of protein for people in many of the LDCs. Iceland's bilateral fisheries projects have therefore contributed to the improvement of food security and reduction of malnutrition. We have also increased our emphasis on food security through increased support for the UN World Food Programme. The campaign against hunger will continue to be an important aspect of Iceland's development cooperation.
Education has been a core aspect of our development cooperation. Projects in this area have been at various levels, ranging from primary and adult education, training and capacity building of fisherfolk in the partner countries and support to higher education. Iceland hosts two of the United Nations University training programmes, the geothermal and fisheries training programmes, where experts in the respective fields have been trained in relevant technology. Recognizing the close link between poverty and illiteracy; basic education and adult literacy programmes will continue to be a significant part of our bilateral development cooperation.
The fact that three out of the eight Millennium Development Goals focus on health, signifies the pressing need for assistance in this area. Poor health and lack of access to health facilities contributes to slow economic and social growth and sustained poverty. For that reason we have launched efforts to support the health sector in two of our partner countries; Malawi and Mozambique. The Government of Iceland has supported the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and we will continue to support multilateral efforts in this area.
Women play a fundamental role in the development of the LDC´s, and experience has shown that support for the education, health and economic activities of women has a multiplier effect for their communities. For this reason we have increasingly directed our development cooperation at gender specific projects in the LDC´s. This has been done through our bilateral programmes in the partner countries and through support to the work of UNFPA and UNIFEM.
Sustainable use of renewable energy resources is an important element for development, in particular for the LDCs, where high oil prices are putting excess burden on communities. Iceland is focusing on energy for development, both via the UNU geothermal training programme as well as through the Energy Sector Management Assistance Programme (ESMAP) within the World Bank.
I will now to turn to the Landlocked Developing Countries. We are fully committed to the implementation of the five priorities of the Almaty Programme of Action of 2003. We welcome the efforts made by the Secretary General to ensure effective preparation for the midterm review of the Programme next year. We recognize that the specific situations of these countries, with the lack of access to the sea and grate distances from world markets, contribute to increased poverty. Aid for trade, which Iceland supports, is an important initiative that can reduce the adverse effect of the LLDC's geographic location and should be a part of a broader development policy for the LLDC's.
We will continue to advocate increased liberalization of international trade. The setback of the Doha Development Round could slow down the integration of the groups of countries in special situations into the world economy. A breakdown of the negotiations would have negative consequences for the developing countries, especially the LDC´s and the LLDC's.
I would like to conclude by highlighting the issue of Climate Change, which is a major concern to all of us. On our path towards a comprehensive post-2012 global regime on climate change, it is important that we pay attention to the special needs of the most vulnerable. The poorest in developing countries tend to be hardest hit, those who are least responsible for causing climate change.