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Statement by Mr. Davíð Logi Sigurðsson, Director for Human Rights to the Third Committee

UNGA 74, Third Committee

22 October 2019

Statement by Iceland

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

Human Rights are a corner-stone of Iceland’s foreign policy. Iceland is committed to the principle that everyone is born with and possesses the same rights, regardless of where they live, their gender or race, or their religious, cultural or ethnic background. We are committed to strengthening the universality of human rights and to protecting the plurality of voices in civil society who speak up for those rights.

It has therefore been our pleasure and our privilege, for the past fifteen months, 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.

In this context I want to highlight the Equal Pay resolution we put forward in the Council this summer, along with seven other like-minded nations, 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 will consider a follow-up resolution, namely to identify 18 September each year as an international Equal Pay day this Third Committee session. We look for your support to this important initiative.

As a member of the Human Rights Council, Iceland was also pleased to see the Council approve its resolution this summer on the human rights situation in the Philippines and we look forward to receiving a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on that topic before the 44th session of the Council next June.

Mr. Chairman,

As we near the midpoint of the 2030 agenda, we are alarmed to see established international norms and standards that have been collectively agreed, including in the SDGs, being challenged.

We are particularly worried that previous milestones with regard to women’s human rights and reproductive freedom are under threat in far too many places. As we saw at this years’ meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women, there have been increased efforts to roll back advances made with regards to bodily autonomy, comprehensive sexuality education, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender-based violence. Iceland is committed to defending women´s human rights. We cannot let their rights be eroded, or we will never achieve the SDGs.

Mr. Chairman,

I want to conclude by expressing our deep concern for the consequences of the latest developments in the bloody conflict in Syria; a tragedy that has now lasted more than seven years and that has not just seen thousands of lives lost but also caused such a terrible erosion of the human rights of ordinary people.

Turkey´s recent military operation in north-east Syria threatens to destabilize the region and it without a doubt deepens the humanitarian crisis in Syria, with extensive civilian suffering and increased risk of further displacements.

We recognize and appreciate Turkey´s important role in hosting millions of Syrian refugees displaced after years of conflict. However, we must also call on Turkey to act in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law and to cease fully their current military campaign. As a first step, the current ceasefire must be upheld and extended and we also call for dialogue for Turkish withdrawal and for Kurds’ and other minorities right to remain.

I thank you.

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