The Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations
Statement by Harald Aspelund,
Deputy Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
SECOND COMMITTEE of the
61st SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Item 56: Groups of countries in special situations
New York, 8 November 2006
I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm Iceland’s full commitment to the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action, which is a crucial element in the global strategy to improve the situation of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). We are fully committed to reaching the UN target of 0.15% to 0.2% of Gross National Income for official development assistance to the LDCs.
In the progress report on the implementation of the Programme of Action, we see some positive signs and that some LDCs have met the target of annual growth rate of 7 per cent. It is, however, worrying that extreme poverty decreases in only few LDCs and is increasing in many. There is an urgent need for a substantial international effort to reverse this trend. Much is to be done during the remaining 5 years of the Programme of Action and we stand ready to play our part.
Iceland is a supporter and financier of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative and welcomes and supports the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) initiative to cancel 100% of outstanding debt of eligible HIPCs.
Around 70% of our bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) has gone to the LDCs, and the core of Iceland’s multilateral development activities has been support for the International Development Agency (IDA), which directs its efforts principally to the assistance of LDCs. Iceland will continue to maintain its policy of channelling the largest share of its development cooperation to the LDCs.
Food security has been an important aspect of our development cooperation. Fish is one of the principal sources of protein for people in many of the LDCs. Iceland’s bilateral fisheries projects have therefore contributed to the improvement of food security and reduction of malnutrition. We have also increased our emphasis on food security through increased support for the UN World Food Programme. The campaign against hunger will continue to be an important aspect of Iceland’s development cooperation.
Education has been a core aspect of our development cooperation. Projects in this area have primarily involved education of fishermen in the partner countries and of experts in the field of geothermal technology and fisheries in the UN University training programmes in Iceland. Recognising the close link between poverty and illiteracy; basic education and adult literacy programmes have also become a significant part of our bilateral development cooperation. A special emphasis has been placed on education and training of people from the LDC´s.
Poor health care is among the principal problems of the LDC´s. People living in poor health cannot participate fully in their communities. The fact that three out of the eight Millennium Development Goals focus on health, signifies the pressing need for assistance in this area. For that reason we have launched efforts to support the health sector in two of the LDC´s. The Government of Iceland has supported the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and we will continue to support multilateral efforts in this area.
Women play a fundamental role in the development of the LDC´s, and experience has shown that support for the education, health and economic activities of women has a multiplier effect for their communities. For this reason we have increasingly directed our development cooperation at gender specific projects in the LDC´s. This has been done through our bilateral work and we have also supported the work of UNIFEM in these countries.
I will now to turn to the Landlocked Developing Countries. We are fully committed to the implementation of the five priorities of the Almaty Programme of Action of 2003. We recognise that the specific situations of these countries, with the lack of access to the sea and distance from world markets, contribute to increased poverty. Aid for trade, which Iceland supports, is an important initiative that can reduce the adverse effect of the LLDC's geographic location and should be a part of a broader development policy for the LLDC’s.
We will continue to advocate increased liberalisation of international trade. The setback of the Doha Development Round could slow down the integration of the groups of countries in special situations into the world economy. A breakdown of the negotiations would have negative consequences for the developing countries, especially the LDC´s and the LLDC’s. We need to bring the trade negotiators back to the table without a delay.