Jón Bjarnason, Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture, Iceland
Opening Statement on the 36th FAO Conference
Rome18 – 23rd November 2009
Madam Chair, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, ladies and gentlemen
Allow me, Madame Chair and Vice Chairs, to congratulate you all upon your elections to chair this Conference.
Iceland regards the work of FAO in the field of fisheries and agriculture as crucial in the international arena as it provides a forum for both co-operation and co-ordination. I applaud the work of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department both in regards to food security and as an important source of knowledge in the field of fisheries. The central role of the department was clearly demonstrated this year with the conclusion of the international agreement on port state measures to combat illegal fishing – which will help to prevent illegally caught fish from entering international markets.
I would also like to commend the FAO for organizing the World Summit on Food Security earlier this week. It is, after all, one of the main priorities of each nation to be able to secure food to its people. The Summit’s Declaration – which pledges renewed commitment to abolish hunger - gives us important guidelines to reach the first Millennium Development Goal.
I am gravely concerned over the diminishing role of agriculture in development cooperation. To fight poverty and feed the growing human population, a more fair distribution as well as an increase of food production is vital. It is therefore of utmost importance that agriculture and fisheries be restored to the central role they should possess in development cooperation. We need a solid commitment to the sustainable use of natural resources on a local and global level.
Iceland has made efforts to contribute to sustainable food production, both by enhancing its fisheries management according to sustainable measures and by working towards soil conservation and land restoration.
I was encouraged by the interesting discussions at the side-event held yesterday by the Nordic Council of Ministers on “Genetic Diversity and Food Security in a Climate Changing World” where it was heavily stressed that the conservation of biodiversity and genetic resources are key issues in obtaining food security and mitigating measures for climate change.
Fish and other marine products are undoubtedly among the most valuable sources of nutrition and income for the developing countries. Ninety-five per cent of those who make their living from fisheries are situated in the developing world. Iceland has cooperated with many developing countries in capacity building in fisheries, on projects which emphasize the sustainable use of resources to benefit the local population.
All food production needs to be ecologically, economically and socially sustainable if it is to benefit the local society as well as the global population. It is our firm duty to commit ourselves to this goal.