Ambassador Hjálmar W. Hannesson
Permanent Representative of Iceland
to the United Nations
60th GA: Informal consultation of the plenary on environment
Environmental conservation and sustainable use of natural resources are fundamental policies of my Government and are at the same time keys to obtaining the Millennium Development Goals. Increasing strain is being put on the world´s natural resources, both due to environmental degradation and world population trends. The High-level panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, invited by the Secretary General to make proposals to strengthen our collective security system, noted in its report that environmental degradation is one of the principal threats to our collective security.
Tackling this situation is neither straightforward nor easy. Much of the work of the United Nations is already devoted to that task in one way or another. In seeking to come up with better solutions, we might wish to entertain ambitious new ideas. However, our first and foremost challenge should be to find ways of improving the operation of the system that we currently have in place.
Considerable work has been invested in precisely such an effort. There have been repeated calls for enhanced, coherent coordination and improved policy advice and guidance at international level. We welcome, therefore, the attention given in the World Summit Outcome to environmental issues. Paragraph 169 is clear and concise. We agree that we need to be more efficient and better coordinated, and to achieve that we should draw on existing scientific knowledge and better treaty compliance.
- We should build our work on the Johannesburg plan of implementation, in which we emphasized the need for more coherent institutional framework of international environmental governance, with better coordination and monitoring.
- This is a challenge, given the number and complexity of instruments and agencies that deal with environmental affairs. The excellent background paper by the Secretariat on the institutional framework for the United Nations system’s environmental activities is a useful overview, which sheds some light on the difficult task ahead.
We recognize the need to strengthen the scientific knowledge within the current institutional framework. There is however significant knowledge available throughout the system. We should focus on better assessments and integration of existing environmental activities into the UN policy framework for sustainable development.
There might also be a need to strengthen the existing institutional framework. UNEP, the leading environmental program, faces difficulties in playing fully its proper role. The process of strengthening UNEP started already two years ago, at a meeting in Carthagena. This process is ongoing and greater attention should be given to the implementation of the recommendations agreed upon there
Iceland supports the suggestion that analytical and technical debate take place on how the agency could improve its performance, including a debate on UNEP´s mandate and links to other fora within the international system. A transformation of UNEP into an UN Environment Organisation has been proposed and we appreciate the important initial work that has already been done by the informal working group of 26 countries, set up to consider that possibility. While Iceland has supported the principle of universal participation in the important work of UNEP, we would want to see how this debate develops before committing to a specific position on the institutional framework.