Ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to address you here today at this graduation ceremony on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Davíð Oddsson.
Dear fellows, the session of the United Nations University (UNU) Fisheries Training Programme, closing here to day, is the seventh from the beginning of the programme. This day is a day to remember, for you personally as well as the institutes. Not only do we have 19 promising fellows graduating, but we have now reached the three digit number of graduates. With your graduation the programme will have graduated 103 fellows!
Allow me to congratulate all of you for your personal achievement. Your work, I have been told, has been of exceptionally high standard. But then we expected no less, taking into account how carefully you were selected by your respective institutions and the Fisheries Training Programme.
Graduating from this programme is hopefully not the end of your cooperation with Icelandic institutions in the field of fisheries. Indeed we hope that by having the training here in Iceland we will create close ties between you and Icelandic researchers and scientists. With this in mind we can say that this graduation marks the beginning of future cooperation between you, your countries, and Iceland in the field of fisheries.
The Fisheries Training Programme has now grown to be a well known part of the institutions hosting it; the Marine Research Institute; the Icelandic Fisheries Laboratories; the University of Iceland and the University of Akureyri. What might be less known is that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, being responsible for the official developing assistance, regards the two UNU training programmes, in Fisheries, and in Geothermal energy, as an integral part of Iceland’s official development assistance. Indeed, the programmes form one of the main pillars of Iceland's development policy. It is worth mentioning, that the programmes receive the single largest contribution of Iceland to any UN agency.
Last year the government of Iceland decided that it would increase its official development assistance to reach 0,35% of its GDP in the year 2009. Given the importance of fisheries in our economy and the fact that fisheries have always been the main undertaking of our development assistance, we can assume that the UNU training programmes will remain a priority in the future.
The Icelandic government has always maintained that development co-operation should focus on areas where Iceland has comparative advantage. This approach is reflected in our determination to allocate the necessary means for the programmes to expand even further in the coming years. We are happy to learn that the programme is continuing to develop short courses in fish processing and quality management for Vietnam, as well as developing new courses directed to capacity building in the Pacific Small Island Developing States. We believe these courses, to be held in the partner countries, will accelerate the much needed capacity building we are aiming for, as well as strengthening the relationship between Iceland and its partner countries.
Finally allow me to mention another example of how we see the Fisheries Training programme growing in the future. The ambition is to make it possible for UNU Fisheries Training Programme to cooperate with the Fisheries department of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The intention is to give financial support to FAO in the field of training and capacity building in developing countries, and thereby to facilitate and encourage its cooperation with the Fisheries Training Programme.
It is well known that FAO is the leading, and only global, multilateral agency in the field of fisheries. Their work in this field does not only matter for the developing world but also for us, the developed fishing nations. With cooperation between the Fisheries Training Programme - having the experience in training - and FAO - having unique knowledge in fisheries in the developing countries - we believe we will be able to even further enhance the quality of the programme’s training.
Dear fellows, as you are aware of, Iceland’s policy on ocean issues is based on maintaining the future health, biodiversity and sustainability of the ocean surrounding Iceland, in order that it may continue to be a resource that sustains and promotes the nation’s prosperity. This was recently reiterated in a comprehensive policy statement on the Oceans. I believe this policy statement will be of interest for you, as we all share a common interest in promoting the sustainable use of the ocean.
Dear fellows, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and all of us at the Ministry would like to congratulate you again and wish you all the best in your future work.
Ladies and gentlemen.