Hoppa yfir valmynd
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Commission on Sustainable Development - 11th Session

Eleventh Session

High-Level Segment

Statement by
H.E. Ambassador Gunnar Pálsson
Chair of Senior Arctic Officials

30 April 2003

As Iceland holds the Chair of the Arctic Council, I will concentrate my remarks on how the Arctic Council can contribute to the regional implementation of the Jo'burg Plan.

The primary responsibility for implementing the Jo'burg commitments remains at the national level, as the Secretary-General points out in his report. But as he also makes clear, increased emphasis on the regional level and stronger linkages between global, regional and national endeavours are a critical element of the new CSD. This is why account should also be taken of the Arctic Council, the only truly circumpolar forum.

As a forum for sustainable development, consisting of eight member states and six indigenous peoples' organizations, in an area that covers one sixth of the earth's landmass, the Arctic Council is engaged in a number of activities pertinent to WSSD process.

In the area of the environment, the Arctic region is increasingly being referred to as a global "indicator region" for some of our most pressing concerns, such as climate change and long distance accumulation of pollutants.

One project, specifically mentioned in the Jo'burg Plan of Implementation, is the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA). This assessment is designed to evaluate and synthesize knowledge on climate variability, climate change, and increased ultraviolet (UV) radiation and their consequences across the entire Arctic region. The goal is to provide pertinent information to policy makers and residents of the Arctic to address such changes. The ACIA could become the first comprehensive, regional assessment of climate change impacts and clearly demonstrates both the commitment and the capability of a regional organization built on the voluntary contribution of its members.

The Arctic Council's Monitoring and Assessment Program alerted the world some years ago to the surprisingly high concentrations of certain organic pollutants in humans and wildlife in the Arctic. Now, it has detected rising trends of mercury contamination in some regions of the Arctic, calling greater attention to this problem, not least in the context of the work of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which the Arctic Council is privileged to have participate regularly in its meetings.

The Arctic Council contributes to the regional and national implementation of the UNEP/Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA). One example is active support for national action in this area by the Russian Federation.

The Arctic Council places considerable emphasis on ocean issues. Over the next two years, the Council will develop a strategic plan for the protection of the Arctic marine environment. The plan will to a large extent be based on the ecosystem approach, partly defined by the Reykjavik Declaration, the fishing nations' main contribution to the WSSD. We are convinced that the plan will also contribute to the implementation of the targets set by the WSSD.

The Arctic Council is active in the area of biodiversity and has completed a major assessment of the state of biodiversity in the region. It is also engaged in the exploration of integrated ecosystem management approaches to conserve biodiversity and to minimize habitat fragmentation in the Russian Arctic.

Turning to the social and economic pillars of sustainable development, the Arctic Council has recently committed itself to developing an action plan on sustainable development. Also, it is currently undertaking a major assessment of living conditions in the Northern region, the so-called Arctic Human Development Report, inspired in part by the human development reports of the United Nations Development Programme. By means of this assessment, we hope to achieve better understanding of human conditions in the Arctic for the benefit of both policy-makers and the people of the region.

Through those and other endeavours, a regional body like the Arctic Council is able to participate actively in the regional implementation of the Jo'burg Plan. I hope, as the CSD goes on its way to promote that plan, that it will be able to take full advantage of the contribution of the Arctic Council.


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