Address at side-event “Addressing Desertification and Land Degradation in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS and Mobilizing Efforts to Ensure Food Security and Water Accessibility in these Countries” organized by OHRLLS with partners UNCCD, FAO, the GEF, OSAA, ITU
Tuesday, June 19, 2012, Rio Centro
Ambassador Jarmo Viinanen
Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, New York
Mr. Minister, Ambassador Diarra, Excellencies, dear friends of sustainable development,
Let me first thank our long-standing partner the OHRLLS (UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Land-locked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States) as well as all the other organizers for the invitation to speak at this important event.
Previous speakers have already touched upon the most important aspect of today’s topic: the most vulnerable will always be the hardest hit in the face of the forces of nature, or indeed, the negative impacts on the environment of human behavior. When we discuss desertification and land degradation this, to me, is the essence. We must combat desertification because it saves human lives. We must prevent land degradation because it makes the lives of millions of people more bearable.
The reality today is already gruesome: there is malnourishment, children who grow up stunted, women who use all their time to fetch water. And while many opportunities are lost by the poorest and hardest hit today, the worst may yet be to come. We may face losses of whole generations and we may face losses of entire island countries.
It should be clear to everyone that the concerted efforts of the international community are needed more than ever before. Twenty years ago, as we know, the Rio conference adopted the UN Convention to Combat Desertification. It has been a successful convention, not least as an awareness-raising tool, and we, the Parties, need to continue strengthening its relevance through active implementation. This week, here in Rio and later when we continue to discuss the post-2015 MDG/SDG agenda, we need to find new ways to address issues related to food security and access to water. In the Rio +20 context, the Finnish government has placed a particular emphasis on water and sanitation issues and I hope we can continue to do so in the coming years.
Another international effort, and one that lies very close to my heart, is the Istanbul Programme of Action. It clearly acknowledges links between agriculture, rural development and food and nutrition security for LDCs. Moving forward on the partnership agenda for LDCs is a clear priority for the Government of Finland. A smooth transition to graduation, productive capacity development, trade, continued ODA commitments, development, peace and security along with South-South cooperation all need to be implemented and we want to continue to build strong partnerships to realize these aims.
One topic which has been particularly strongly emphasized by my government and which is absolutely imperative here at Rio is the recognition of gender equality as a catalyst of development. When women and girls are empowered, there are considerable development gains. This is true for LDCs, and this is true for all countries. Finland has a new Development Policy Strategy which strongly underlines both LDC and gender issues, together with a climate mainstreaming and a human rights -based approach.
It stands clear to me that there is a link between desertification, land degradation and women’s empowerment. Climate change affects women and men differently and women and men also have a gender-differentiated impact on climate change. Like-wise, women are key actors in finding solutions to land-degradation problems. Sustainable agriculture and forestry and sustainable use of water are often better managed when women’s voices are heard. Knowledge-sharing and participation in decision-making are therefore essential, as are equitable solutions to land rights and tenure. The rule of law and civil and human rights are central. Growing populations make these challenges all the more pressing. All in all, to move forward, women’s empowerment needs to be reflected when making financing decisions, both locally and among large donors, including the IFIs.
The government of Finland has long been committed to LDCs, as well as to land-locked developing countries and SIDS, and we pledge our continued support to mobilizing efforts to ensure food security and water accessibility in these countries. We have achieved the ODA target (of 0,15-0,20 % of GNI) to the LDCs agreed on ten years ago and more than one third of our development assistance goes to LDCs. Seven out of our ten biggest recipients are LDCs. Over the years, we have made many contributions to strengthening reforestation and water and sanitation efforts in partner countries. We have also supported the participation of women delegates to international climate negotiations, for instance through the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA). One further concrete area where we have had some successful partnerships with a bearing on desertification and land degradation is meteorological cooperation. The Finnish Meteorological Institute and some very advanced private companies have contributed substantially to knowledge about desertification and land-degradation along with issues such as atmospheric conditions, sea-level rise, etc.
Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank you for your attention and end with the wish that the Rio +20 conference will manage to successfully address the issues of land-degradation, food and nutrition security and access to water.