Statement by Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
High-Level Segment of the 16th Session of the
United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development
New York, 15 May 2008
The timing of the themes for this cycle of CSD could not be more appropriate, with the attention and focus of the world’s media on the food crisis, mainly affecting the poor. These themes are closely interlinked with other main concerns of today, including climate change. These interlinkages are widely acknowledged to be of particular significance to the Small Island Developing States.
At the outset I would like to emphasize the fact that women play an important role in agriculture and land care. Therefore the empowerment of women is a key to success in solving the problems of hunger and poverty.
Climate change causes desertification, thus decreasing the agricultural output of vast areas. And indeed, land degradation and desertification is itself a contributor to climate change, responsible for about 30% of the greenhouse gas releases.
The carbon atom located in the soil as organic matter is the key to soil fertility and increased food production for the world’s ever growing population. A significant part of atmospheric greenhouse gases can be returned to soils and ecosystems, increasing their fertility and biodiversity and promoting food production.
Iceland stresses the link between the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and food security. Climate change and desertification remain inextricably linked. In the last millennium Iceland has lost 50% of its vegetation and 95% of tree cover. With the oldest Soil Conservation Service in the world, established one hundred years ago, Iceland gradually reversed the process and gained experience and knowledge in combating land degradation and desertification.
Based on this knowledge the Government of Iceland has recently decided to fund an international training program in land restoration and soil conservation.
The Land Restoration Training Program is under consideration to become a part of the UNU Training Programs.
The Global Forum on Soils, Society and Global Change was held in Iceland in September 2007, focusing on innovative ways to collectively tackle the interrelated facets of land care and sustainable land management.
According to The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment land degradation is one of the world’s greatest environmental challenges, affecting climate and biological diversity, reducing environmental security, destabilizing societies, endangering food security and increasing poverty.
The challenges we are facing pose a formidable obstacle in the way to fulfillment of our commitment to reach the Millennium Development Goals. At this session we have defined problems. At the next session of CSD we have to agree on ways out and not accept anything less than solutions. That is our challenge.