European nations discuss environment, conflict resolution and development in UN debate

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Valgerdur Sverrisdottir

26 September 2006 – The increasing importance of environmental issues, the inherent challenges in conflict resolution and the need to do more to encourage economic development outside the industrialized world were among the key themes during addresses to the United Nations General Assembly today by representatives of five European countries.

Iceland’s Foreign Minister Valgerdur Sverrisdóttir said it was time to pay more attention to ocean issues given that 95 per cent of those who depend on fisheries for their livelihood inhabit the developing world.

“A billion people depend on fisheries for their main intake of protein. At the same time we see the rapid increase in pollution of the ocean and depletion of its living resources,” she said.

Mrs. Sverrisdóttir also stressed the need to substantially increase the share of renewable and clean energy sources in the world’s overall energy demand, adding that 2 billion people lack access to electricity and yet all eight of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) require greater energy consumption.

Sergei N. Martynov, Foreign Affairs Minister of Belarus, told the Assembly that the MDGs will not be achieved unless there is a “deep transformation” of the Bretton Woods institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

“They were established in a different era. They were established for different purposes. They should be changed and made to serve the cause of global development,” he said, adding that the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) should have an enhanced role as well.

Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Jürgenson called for information and communication technologies to be used more to help achieve the MDGs, which have a target date of 2015.

Mr. Jurgenson said more emphasis within the MDGs should also be given to promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, including within the UN system itself.

Dermot Ahern, Foreign Minister of Ireland, drew upon recent events in Northern Ireland – where “the word has finally replaced the weapon as the way to resolve disputes” – to underline the importance of building peace and encouraging reconciliation in divided societies.

“Peacebuilding and conflict prevention are ultimately about psychology: addressing fears, perceptions, beliefs about the past and about the future. A conflict does not begin when the trigger is pulled. It begins in the heart and mind of the person who pulls the trigger,” he said.

Echoing that theme, Moldova’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Ministers Andrei Stratan said conflict resolution – just like the battle against international terrorism – cannot be won through only military, political and economic means.

“We must look for solutions which will not resolve and not exacerbate the threat and which are based on the clear understanding of the factors that generate and sustain terrorism, fundamentalism and fanaticism,” he said.

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