Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson,
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
General Assembly 74th session, 1 November 2019
General debate on the Report of the Human Rights Council
Iceland thanks the President of the Human Rights Council for his presentation of the report from the Human Rights Council, which invites us to reflect upon the functioning and work of the Human Rights Council.
Iceland is a strong supporter of multilateral co-operation and the United Nations. We believe that the Human Rights Council is one of the most important fora, providing a platform for important conversations on human rights, respect for fundamental freedoms, diversity and difference - discussions that affect everyone, everywhere.
It has therefore been our pleasure and our privilege to serve on the Human Rights Council for the very first time. Our work on the Council has been based on established priorities that include, specifically, gender equality and women’s rights, the rights of the LGBTI community and the rights of the child.
Reflecting on the Human Rights Council’s work over the past year, we have passed some important resolutions, including on the human rights situation in Yemen, Myanmar, Iran, Venezuela and in the Philippines. Furthermore, important resolutions on Violence against Women and Environmental Human Rights Defenders were passed. Moreover, we were particularly pleased to see the strong support of the Council’s member states to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
We were also pleased to see the Council approve a resolution put forward by Iceland, along with seven other states of the Equal Pay International Coalition, on the principle of equal pay for equal work – a priority for us in line with our focus on gender equality. The resolution aimed at tackling the root causes and other factors influencing equal pay as well as the gender pay gap, in line with Sustainable Development Goals number 5 and 8, especially target 8.5, calling for equal pay for work of equal value by 2030.
I am happy to note that the General Assembly, in this Third Committee Session, will consider a follow-up resolution, namely, to identify 18 September each year as an International Equal Pay day.
It is important to keep in mind the strengths of the Human Rights Council. Our focus should be on what works well, but at the same time find mutual ground on how we can further improve and strengthen the work of the Council. All changes should add value to the Council’s work and be in line with its current mandate.
The Human Rights Council has been addressing some of the key questions currently facing all of us. It has been functioning, as it should, as the primary arena for debating and advancing human rights at the national and international level.
However, we need to remain vigilant. These are treacherous times for human rights, and we can see an effort to negate some of the important progress made both here in New York and in Geneva. We are particularly worried that previous milestones with regard to women’s rights and reproductive freedom are under threat in far too many places. Iceland is committed to continue defending women’s human rights.
We believe that human rights express the fundamental purpose of the United Nations. Advancing the dignity and equality of all human beings, and to leave no one behind, must be our goal today and for our future. By those means only, we can attain peace, security and sustainable development for all societies, and accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2030.
I take this opportunity to thank the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Seck, for his professional and transparent leadership over the past year. It has been a pleasure for Iceland to work with the President and serve on the Bureau as Vice-President of the Council.
You can continue to count on Iceland’s support and commitment to the work of the Council and we look forward to hearing from other speakers today.