From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Arni M. Mathiesen (Minister for Fisheries, Iceland)

Mr Chairman, Distinguished Head of Delegation, Ladies and Gentlemen. More than five years have passed since the World Food Summit was held here in Rome to address the dire situation facing the most destitute segment of humanity: the millions of people who are plagued by poverty and hunger, whose lives are tragically affected and cut short by malnutrition.

High hopes were expressed, resolutions were made and commitments were undertaken to halve the number of the world's hungry by 2015. Regrettably, we are gathered here this week because, in spite of all that has been achieved, we are falling short of not only our own expectations, but more importantly of those undernourished millions who most need our commitments to be realized.

There remain in excess of 800 million undernourished people in the world. Very clearly, we must accelerate progress towards the World Food Summit goal if it is to be met in time. The fight against hunger and the attainment of global food security remain major challenges for the international community and, indeed, each and every one of us as FAO Members. This is a multifaceted challenge requiring comprehensive responses. Where there is poverty and a lack of capacity to produce food and utilize resources in a sustainable way, food insecurity will remain.

It is imperative that the ongoing negotiations in Geneva, under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, take fully into account the concerns of developing countries and provide them with greater opportunities to reap the benefits of the multilateral trading system. For this to be realized, more must be done by way of technical assistance and capacity building in developing countries. Further commitments must serve to enhance their development and participation in international trade, thus increasing welfare and not least food security where it is so urgently needed.

Iceland is primarily a food-producing country and has throughout its history sought to be as a self-sufficient in its domestic food provision as natural conditions have allowed. This involves inter alia the maintenance of a vibrant agricultural sector that is, for example, capable of meeting the population's meat and dairy needs. My country still depends to an almost unparallelled extent on fisheries for its livelihood. There is universal concern about overfishing and the state of fish stocks, and understandably so in light of the importance of fisheries to world food security. Fish is after all the prime source of animal protein for some one billion people in the developing world.

Iceland has gained valuable experience in managing living marine resources and a resource-based economy over the past decades. We are keen to share our experiences and expertise with others for the global good. A fundamental lesson is that scientific research into marine environment is indispensable to a sustainable management programme. Decisions on allowable catches must be in accordance with sound scientific advice and effectively implemented and monitored. Moreover, the management system adopted must be conducive to economic efficiency and dynamic development.

The potential of world fisheries to provide an even greater share of the nutrition required for present and future generations is considerable, but first the trend towards growing over-exploitation must be reversed and living aquatic resources must be managed constructively.

Constructive management of the world's aquatic resources means, among other things, that no resource should be excluded from utilization except on a sound scientific basis. The preclusion of certain species from sustainable harvesting is wasteful and inconsistent with constructive management.

A direct relationship exists between state subsidies in many industrialized countries and the over-exploitation of fish stocks. The abolition of state subsidies would help rationalize the utilization of the resources in the ocean and remove price distortions. Unjustified barriers to trade must be removed to promote welfare and food security worldwide.

I am proud to recall the success of the Reykjavik Conference on Responsible Fisheries in the Marine Ecosystem, held last October by Iceland and FAO with the co-sponsorship of the Government of Norway.

The objective of the Conference was to review the experience of applying ecosystem considerations in fisheries management, and to identify challenges and strategies to include ecosystem considerations in fisheries management. I do not hesitate in saying that the Reykjavik Declaration which emerged from the Conference embodies an unprecedented consensus on responsible and sustainable utilization of marine resources. It confirms the fundamental importance of sustainable fisheries for food security and for economic wellbeing and development. I, therefore, wish to stress that implementation and operationalization of the Declaration are of direct relevance to our deliberations here this week. The Declaration is indeed a key factor in promoting sustainable resource use and enhancing food security for future generations. It thus represents a positive contribution to implementation of the World Food Summit Plan of Action.

The Declaration importantly recognizes the support needed by the developing world in building sustainable fisheries management regimes and calls on international financial organizations to cooperate with FAO in this respect. I take this opportunity to inform you that Iceland is organizing a seminar in Reykjavik this September to further understanding of the crucial issues at stake, and we are hoping for the active participation of key delegations from the Reykjavik Conference.

While I have stressed the role of fisheries and their sustainable use, it is a fact that the eradication of hunger depends on a range of actions, virtually across the spectrum of human activity. This holistic approach is recognized in the Declaration we have adopted to reaffirm our commitments from 1996 and encourage actions towards their fulfilment. Essential preconditions to success include democracy, good governance, respect for human rights and viable production and trade capacities that drive economic growth. Ultimately, our responsibility is to foster an environment within which the undernourished of today can consume their own food tomorrow, safely, securely and sustainable. This requires dedication and untiring efforts from each and every one of us. Let us secure food for all.

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