Hoppa yfir valmynd
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Statement by Axel Nikulasson, Counsellor

At the outset, allow me to thank the organizers for the opportunity to attend this important interregional meeting as an observer.

The world community acknowledged the unique situation of Small Island Developing States at the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development. Further steps were taken at the 1994 Barbados Conference on sustainable development of SIDS, at the Millennium Summit of world leaders and in Johannesburg.

Iceland, an island state, shares many of the concerns of Small Island Developing States in the area of sustainable development. Like many other island states, Iceland bases its livelihood on its natural resources, in particular living marine resources, and we are committed to utilizing those resources in a sustainable manner. While not a member of the SIDS community, Iceland has experience in confronting many of the challenges that small islands have to overcome, but we are also here to listen and to learn more from small islands’ perspectives and experiences.

The ambitious goals of the Barbados Plan of Action confirmed the special situation of small island states. Now, 10 years later, we acknowledge that progress has been made, but the Plan has only been partially implemented. The meeting here in Nassau offers us, the international community, an opportunity to contribute to advancing the issues of concern to small island developing states.

The Barbados Plan of Action embraces a wide range of issues. I will not address all 15 categories of that plan, but will instead offer some remarks on three basic aspects; climate change, energy and ocean issues.

Iceland shares the concern of small island developing states that climate variability and change pose a major threat to the sustainable development. Climate change is not a local or a regional phenomenon but a global one.

Other regions of the world are particularly concerned with the repercussions of climate change, including the Arctic region. The Arctic Council, currently chaired by Iceland, is in the process of conducting an Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), an assessment specifically referred to in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. It will be the first comprehensive regional assessment to come out of the UNFCCC process on climate change.

There is a reason why the world at large should look toward the Arctic in the debate on climate change. Some preliminary key findings of the ACIA reveal, that sea levels will rise, affecting among others coastal communities, islands, river deltas and harbors. In a sense, the Arctic can be viewed as an early indicator region for the globe as the consequence of climate changes unfold in the Arctic. A few of those changes are already apparent, and SIDS in particular, will bear some of the severest consequences of rising sea levels.

One way to reverse this trend is to increase the use of clean, renewable energy resources such as hydropower, geothermal power and wind power. Iceland, the only country in the world, which produces all of its electricity through carbon free energy resources, has considerable experience in the use of these resources. Iceland hosts the geothermal program of the United Nations University and has accepted students from all over world, including from SIDS.

Combating ocean pollution is an issue of great importance to all island states and other states that base their standard of living on responsible utilization of the oceans rich resources. We welcome the decision in Johannesburg to establish a regular process under the United Nations for global reporting and assessment of state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects, later confirmed in resolution 57/141 of the United Nations.

The decision acknowledges the need for international action to protect the oceans from the impact of land-based pollution and other human induced threats causing marine pollution or physical degradation of the marine environment. Efforts to this end have been hampered by a lack of readily available and coherent information on the state of the marine environment for policy makers, particularly regarding the socio-economic consequences of marine environmental degradation. The meeting to establish the regular process, hosted by the Government of Iceland, will take place in Iceland 20-22 October.

Significant steps have been taken to protect the ocean environment and in advancing the responsible use of the oceans. Those include the 1996 Washington agreement on a Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the marine environment from land-based activities, the Reykjavík Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem, held in 2001 in collaboration with the FAO and the ambitious goals set in the Johannesburg Summit regarding sustainable fisheries.

Iceland, like many island states relies on the responsible use of all its living marine resources. It is our belief that the management of these resources is best managed by those closest to the resource, those who depend on it for their livelihood. Where a collective effort is needed in managing a resource, concerned states should work together on a regional basis. But the international community also has a role to play and we look toward the Food and Agricultural Organization, in particular, in that respect. The ongoing work on the memorandum on understanding between CITES and FAO regarding proposals to list commercially exploited aquatic species on CITES Appendices, deserves our full attention.

Allow me finally to congratulate the organizers of this meeting and express my Government’s determination to contribute to the fruitful outcome of the Mauritius meeting. We look forward to working with small islands states to achieve their goals and in promoting the cause of sustainable development.

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