Address on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, Mrs Valgerður Sverrisdóttir,
At the Special Forum of the Committee on World Food Security,
delivered by Permanent Representative Guðni Bragason
on 30th October 2006 in Rome
Allow me, on behalf of the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, to express thanks to the FAO for providing us with this Special Forum which is an excellent opportunity to assess the World´s Food Security and to evaluate the “Progress and Prospects for Achieving the World Food Summit Plan of Action”.
I would like to thank the FAO for the extensive documentation provided, which, however regrettably, demonstrates the slow progress in achieving the summit goals of halving the number of undernourished people in the world by the year 2015.
The Icelandic Government approached the great challenge of realizing the World Food Summit Target and and MDG Target last year with its own Policy Plan on Development Cooperation for the coming years until 2009. The Policy Plan emphasises some principle areas: Human and Economic Development, Equality and Human Rights, Democracy, Good Governance, Peace, Security and Sustainable Development.
Accordingly, we have responded to the needs for Official Development Assistance (ODA) to be increased and have made a determined effort to increase our contribution. Over the next three years, Iceland´s development assistance will almost have tripled in size, and we are determined to do even better. Beyond the year 2009, our assistance should increase even further, with the aim of reaching the UN target of zero point 7 per cent (0.7%) of Gross National Income (GNI). We also welcome and support international efforts for debt relief to the poorest countries.
Enhancing Food Security has been at the core of Iceland´s development cooperation, through the Icelandic International Development Agency (ICEIDA), which has concentrated on capacity–building projects in southern Africa, Asia, and Central America, mainly in the field of fisheries, our area of expertice.
The two UN University Training Programmes in Iceland also reflect our emphasis on the importance of providing training and sharing technology. The Fisheries Training Programme is now preparing training courses in cooperation with the FAO Fisheries Department.
Sustainable use of natural resources is of great importance to our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, as recognised by the 2001 Reykjavík Declaration on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem. Ninety-five per cent of those who live from fisheries are in the developing world and a billion people depend on fisheries for their main intake of protein. It is an important principle that management and decision-making on the conservation of the ocean ecosystems and the utilization of the living natural resources of the ocean should lie with those states which have the greatest interests at stake and are directly affected by such decisions. The responsible management of living marine resources is best carried out within the purview of the sovereign rights of States or regional fisheries management organizations.
The harnessing of new and renewable energy resources is crucial for sustainable development. The UN University Geothermal Training Programme has for years contributed to the development of new technologies and environmentally friendly energy projects. Recently, we have begun to focus on the use of hydrogen for the developing world.
Gender equality and active role of women in agriculture is of paramount importance in strengthening Food Security. ICEIDA has cooperated with its partner countries promoting equal rights and active participation of women in the economy, thus strengthening the local Food Security. We have as well increased our support of the work of UNIFEM more than tenfold over the last two years, and we intend to increase our support even further.
It is an alarming fact that more than 10 million children die from preventable causes every year. We urge states to increase contributions to the vital work of UNICEF. I am proud to say that the people of Iceland have been particularly active in this respect and make the highest contribution per capita to UNICEF of national societies.
Globalization has changed the world markets rapidly for the last ten years. As clearly demonstrated by this year´s World Food Day discussion, the commercial market forces now play a larger role than ever in contributing to Food Security. In her address on the World Food Day, Iceland´s Foreign Minister, Mrs Valgerður Sverrisdóttir, emphasised the need for developing countries to become active participants in the global market and thus benefit from gains in trade liberalisation. Iceland believes that liberalisation of world trade and the realisation of the Doha Development Agenda is of paramount importance to global development and to Food Security. The lack of progress in the Doha Round is a disappointment to us.
Free trade agreements, bilateral and multilateral, which take into account Parties’ diverse level of development, are of great importance in this respect. This was an integral part of the Free Trade Agreement signed between the member countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Iceland among them, and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) this summer. The Agreement covers trade in industrial goods, including fish and other marine products, and processed agricultural products. The EFTA countries have also individually signed bilateral agreements with the SACU States on trade in basic agricultural products.
The realisation of the ambitious Action Plan, launched ten years ago, needs our constant vigilance and determination. It is a struggle fought on many fronts by various players in our diverse societies; governments, NGO´s, the private sector and individuals. We must continue our long-term efforts, as well as respond quickly to calls for emergency food relief, such as by the World Food Programme. We must also keep in mind that Food Security can not be safeguarded without the promotion of peace, democracy, equal rights and good governance.