Sustainable Development - Statement by Iceland

Statement by

Mr. Jón Erlingur Jónasson

Deputy Permanent Representative


GA66 / 2nd Committee

Item 19:  Sustainable development

Mr. Chair,

In our statement we will focus on land degradation and desertification which is a subject close to the heart of the Icelandic people.

Land degradation and desertification are among the world´s greatest environmental challenges, greatly affecting climate, biodiversity, soil quality, food and water security as well as human well-being in general and peace on Earth. Yet, this great challenge is not receiving due attention globally, and loss of soil and decline in ecosystem services may be regarded as the silent crisis.

The global community will be unable to achieve its goals of food and water security, to meet its Green House Gas targets and eradicate poverty without a major improvement in conservation and restoration of the world´s soil resources.

According to FAO statistics the world may need to increase food production by 70% in the span of the next 40 years. This basically means that more food needs to be produced before the end of this century, than was produced over the last 10.000 years.

In the past, increasing food needs have mainly been met by clearing and irrigating more land, converting more natural forests to agriculture, diverting more water resources, using improved varieties and applying more fertilizers. These options are rapidly narrowing.

Soils may be regarded as a non-renewable resource. In many areas of the world, soil organic carbon, and thus soil fertility, has been depleted through years of unsustainable land use. There is an urgent need to increase food security, improve water holding capacity of land and break the poverty trap. Increasing soil organic carbon in degraded land can increase global food production immensely.  Further the Global community needs to establish ways to use the income stream generated by carbon trading to provide efficient incentives to restore degraded soils and ecosystems.

Mr. Chair.

Iceland has participated actively in international cooperation on soil protection and has been among those advocating soil restoration for climate change adaptation and mitigation while simultaneously providing opportunities for productive human use.

Iceland also emphasizes the role of carbon sequestration by the restoration of land quality as a triple win strategy:

Firstly, by increasing farm productivity and incomes; 

secondly, by making agriculture more resilient to variations in climate, and thus promote stability and security; and

thirdly, by helping to make the agricultural sector a part of the solution to the climate change problem rather than part of the problem. 

Mr. Chair,

There is a strong need for an international action on soil. Iceland therefore particularly welcomed the Launch of the Global Soil Partnership that took place at the FAO headquarters in September 2011. 

The main aim of this Partnership is to promote voluntary process and integrated, participatory approaches for achieving soil protection and sustainable land management for multiple goals at all levels. The Global Soil Partnership could also contribute to reaching the goals of the Convention on Combating Desertification.

Mr. Chair.

Iceland’s long term efforts to halt soil erosion and restoring land quality now form the foundation for the United Nations University-Land Restoration Training Program in Iceland, which is an important part of our development co-operation. This programme has now provided training for a number of fellows from countries combating land degradation and decertification, especially from Africa.

Achievement of the global goals of combating land degradation and desertification, and restoring land quality, is unattainable without action at the local level. Participatory approaches have been a key element in Iceland´s success on combating desertification.

Finally, Iceland would like to emphasize the need to increase efforts in capacity building for sustainable development and gender equality.  Women are major actors in agriculture of many countries. Therefore, capacity building of women is important for sustainable development in agriculture in these areas.

Thank you, Mr. Chair


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