I would like to address comments on the Secretary-General’s Cluster I on Freedom from want.
In my intervention last Thursday, I said that central to the ideal of the UN is the concept of our common humanity. It is this sense of our common humanity that led us to our commitments at the Millennium Summit and at Monterrey.
We agree with the basic premise that the Millennium Development Goals have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest and that these goals should be the benchmarks for further progress.
Referring to our previous intervention on human dignity, I would also like to support the Secretary-General’s comment that the Millennium Development Goals do not cover certain vital development issues such as good governance and this needs to be borne in mind in our overall approach.
Iceland also supports the statement by the Secretary-General that Development is a shared responsibility of the developing and developed countries in line with the Monterrey Consensus. We also strongly endorse the Secretary-General’s statement that investment strategies to achieve the Millennium Development Goals will not work in practice unless supported by transparent, accountable systems of governance grounded in the rule of law, encompassing civil and political as well as economic and social rights and underpinned by accountable and efficient public administration
Iceland also recognises that the Millennium Development Goals will not be met in the least developed countries – particularly in Africa – in the absence of increased ODA. Iceland aims to double its official development assistance by 2009 and already concentrates the bulk of its development efforts on least developed countries in Africa.
Iceland also supports the emphasis on an open and equitable multilateral trade system to allow developing countries to take a full part in the globalised economy. We consider that a timely finalization of the Doha trade round would contribute significantly to increasing the resources available in developing countries to combat poverty.
As the Secretary-General’s says, we fundamentally rely on ecological systems and resources for our existence and development. We must guard against the physical degradation of the environment and the depletion of living natural resources which must be harvested responsibly and sustainably. In relation to marine resources, it is the firm position of Iceland that sustainable and responsible harvesting is best managed by coastal states with a direct stake in the future of the resources. It should also be recalled that marine resources are one of the principal sources of protein in many developing countries and it is thus essential to manage them sustainably in order to safeguard and expand this vital source of food. When discussing issues like marine fisheries in the context of “environmental priorities” this should not be forgotten.
The importance of access to energy is mentioned in the report. We believe that it will not be possible to reduce poverty effectively unless radical measures are taken to improve access to energy. Around 2 billion people at present do not have access to electricity. Measures that should be considered include more efficient use of energy resources, the development of new technologies and increasing the share of renewable energy resources. Attention should be paid to the development of new energy carriers, such as hydrogen, which could help developing countries leap-frog their way into the modern industrial economy. Technological innovation in the energy sector deserves the backing of the international community, not least because it can help countries mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Two of the Millennium Development Goals relate directly to health as perquisites of development. Disease, whether naturally occurring or purposely deployed by terrorists is a major threat to life and the ability to develop. In light of the growing threat of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, Iceland supports the call to look at a revision of the International Health Regulation at the World Health Assembly to be held this May.
The Secretary-General’s report also illustrates the importance of well-run and well resourced health systems in all countries. This again is a question of adequate resources and good governance.
We appreciate the motivation for trying to identify measures which can be carried out rapidly with a maximum of effect. We support the proposal but also share the concerns expressed by others that such measures should not have a detrimental long term effect, for example on the environment.
Iceland strongly supports the emphasis which the Secretary-General places on gender equality and its potential for contributing to development. Women who are struggling with serious health concerns and who are poorly educated will not be able to play a full role in society. Therefore access to education and to sexual and reproductive health services are central issues.
Iceland supports the call for better disaster preparedness and the establishment of a world wide early warning system. As the report makes clear, it would be best to build on present systems and to identify gaps which need to be filled in.
International Financial Institutions
We agree that the international financial institutions are essential to ensuring development in poor countries. Iceland commends the World Bank for its commitment to the Millennium Development Goals but calls for even greater efforts by all the international financial institutions in this regard.
In my first statement in this series I stated our full support for the central tenets of the Secretary General’s report; that development, security and human rights are inextricably linked. Freedom, in its broadest sense, of the individual and of the society in which he or she lives is our ultimate goal. Security and human rights are prerequisites to effective development.