The General Debate at the 57th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
Statement by H.E. Mr. Halldor Asgrimsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Iceland
Allow me at the outset to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of this General Assembly. I am confident you will guide us wisely through the complex tasks ahead.
I would also like to use this opportunity to welcome Switzerland, our longtime friend and EFTA partner, to the United Nations. Furthermore, I would like to express our satisfaction with East-Timor joining the United Nations later this month. The independence of East-Timor is one more example of how, in the end, the purposes and principles of the United Nations prevail.
The deliberate and so viciously organized terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11th last year have had global implications. The necessity to fight terrorism and the international commitments and determination to do so have dominated the international arena in the past year.
Iceland reaffirms its commitment to cooperate with the United Nations and its Member States as well as other relevant international organisations in the fight against terrorism. To this end, we stress the importance for states to ratify and implement all the relevant legal instruments that together contribute to uprooting this menace. We should aim at concluding the draft comprehensive convention against terrorism during this session of the General Assembly.
Iraq must comply
On such important issues as peace and stability, it is often difficult to reach decisions and agree on resolutions here at the United Nations, let alone to ensure that they are implemented. Full implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions is imperative.
It is therefore very encouraging to see that during this General Assembly, we have witnessed that the emerging concensus on how to deal with defiance of Security Council resolutions seems to be giving tangible results. Only yesterday, the Iraqi government informed the United Nations that Iraq has decided to cooperate fully with the organisation and give weapons inspectors unconditional access to the country. This is certainly a positive sign, but deeds will have to follow.
The Middle East conflict
In a recent visit to the Middle East my belief was confirmed that there must be a much stronger and active involvement of third parties in the efforts to resolve the Middle East dispute. In this regard, Iceland fully supports the efforts of the Quartet as well as the Saudi proposals.
Negotiations on a political settlement must resume; they must not be held hostage to the situation on the ground. Only a comprehensive peace agreement dealing with all aspects of the dispute will guarantee security and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The occupation of the Palestinian territories must end in line with Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. Iceland strongly supports the two States solution. Israel and Palestine must live side by side in peace within secure and recognised borders.
Until a peace agreement has been reached, both parties have to play by certain rules. The sanctity of the lives of innocent civilians has to be respected under all circumstances. This means that the Palestinian Authority must reform to deal effectively with terror and pave the way to establishing a democratic and accountable Palestinian state. Israel also has to respect international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem.
The circumstances on the ground have to change for the better. Otherwise, there is a real danger that the worsening of the economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories could lead to a humanitarian disaster.
International law and criminal justice
Iceland strongly welcomes the entry into force of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). We urge all States, which have not already done so, to ratify or accede to the Statute with the aim of achieving universality in the fight against impunity for the most serious international crimes.
The ICC certainly is one of the major accomplishments of the international community in strengthening the international legal system. Some concerns have been voiced with regard to the possible abuse of the Rome Statute. These concerns should be carefully studied with an open mind without prejudice to the effective functioning of the ICC.
Human rights and humanitarian law
Constant vigilance is needed to ensure respect for human rights and humanitarian law. Our continuous efforts to combat terrorism must not result in any form of human rights violations. All measures taken have to be in accordance with international law.
Allow me to dwell on human rights issues affecting women and children.
Unfortunately, women's rights are sometimes viewed as a purely social issue rather than a human rights issue. Women are more often than not the prime victims of conflicts. Yet their right to participate on an equal footing in peace negotiations and decision-making processes is still not recognized. Security Council resolution 1325 is meant to change this and its provisions must be implemented and respected.
While progress has been made towards greater gender equality the situation in many countries is still dire. Trafficking in women has increased, not least in Europe. The resumption of ancient methods of punishment of women in some parts of the world is appalling. Lack of education, information and health care, as well as sexual exploitation, makes women particularly vulnerable to the growing malice of HIV/AIDS.
The wellbeing of children is our responsibility. Millions of children suffer all over the world because of poverty. They are cruelly exploited as child soldiers or labourers. They do not enjoy their right to eduction and are deprived of the decent life they are entitled to. Iceland therefore welcomed the Special Session on Children held last spring. The participation of children themselves was especially successful. We need to listen to our children and make every effort to implement the declaration and plan of action of the Special Session as well as the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Sustainable development has become an integral part of policies and strategies of local and national governments, international organizations, businesses and NGO}s worldwide.
Despite impressive progress made in many fields during the past decade, especially with regard to the environment, millions of people still live in poverty and see little hope of escaping it. It is essential that poorer countries be allowed to enjoy the benefits of their comparative advantages and to put their human resources to work. Trade liberalisation and free commerce would be a major contributor to promoting equitable and sustainable growth for the benefit of poorer countries.
At the Johannesburg Summit, world leaders succeeded in generating commitments for action. This is a major accomplishment. It is now up to each and every one of us to see to it that these commitments are implemented.
At the Summit, Iceland declared its willingness to increase its bilateral development assistance by providing training in the sustainable management of living marine resources and the use of renewable energy resources. A huge step forward in the development and utilisation of renewable, clean, energy resources is necessary in order to be able to fulfill the commitments laid down in the Kyoto Protocol. Sustainable management and utilisation of all living marine resources is essential for food security and hunger alleviation.
Law of the Sea
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is without doubt one of the greatest achievements of this organisation. For a country like Iceland, which is overwhelmingly dependent on the sustainable utilization of living marine resources, the Convention is of paramount importance. In our view, it is highly appropriate that the General Assembly will devote two days during its 57th session for commemorating the 20th anniversary of the opening for signature of the Law of the Sea Convention.
The Law of the Sea Convention has gained universal participation and all the three institutions established by the Convention are functioning in an effective manner. We welcome the entry into force last December of the related Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. It is imperative that both the Law of the Sea Convention and the Agreement be ratified by those states which have not done so, that they be fully implemented and that their integrity be preserved.
Revitalization of the United Nations
In the Millennium Declaration we resolved to strengthen the United Nations system in order to make it more effective. In this context the revitalization of the General Assembly is important. Reform measures such as the clustering of agenda items and, most recently, the election in advance of the President and Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly and the Chairpersons of the Main Committees - are steps in the right direction. However, we must strive to deepen the reforms on the basis of the Millennium Declaration.
In many crisis situations in this past year - as so often before - the Security Council has proven effective and fulfilled its tasks satisfactorily. However, we must not forget that the reform of the Security Council remains an issue that needs to be resolved. The efficiency of the Council in coping with the serious issues on its agenda must be further secured by making necessary changes and adjustments with regard to the composition of the Council and its working methods.
It is essential that the membership of the Council fairly reflect the whole membership of the United Nations. It is also important to further enhance the transparency in the decision-making process. In order to move the reform work forward, all member states must show flexibility and willingness to compromise.
We continue to face serious threats to international peace and stability. The best way to preserve the peace and work for prosperity and democracy in the world is to be steadfast in working in full compliance with the Charter of the United Nations and the resolutions of it's organs. No nation shall be allowed to destroy this common endeavour.
Thank you, Mr. President
The General Debate at the 57th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations