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Statement at the CSW66 side event Gender Equality and Empowerment in the Arctic


Gender Equality and Empowerment in the Arctic

Side event CSW66, 14 March 2022

Opening remarks,

Jörundur Valtýsson,

Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations


Thank you, madame moderator, dear Embla, and let me thank the organizers for giving me the opportunity to address you today on the important topic of gender equality and empowerment in the Arctic.


Ladies and gentlemen,


Here at the United Nations in New York, colleagues from afar sometimes raise their eyebrows when I start talking about thriving Arctic communities and people, which for me only highlights the importance to talk about the human dimension of the Arctic – a dimension that is too often downplayed or ignored.


As we speak, the 66th meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women has just started here in the UN Headquarters in New York, and the theme of today’s event is closely linked to this year’s Commission´s priority theme, namely the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, which also marries two foreign policy priorities of Iceland.


Climate change is one of the most critical challenges of our times – even existential. It increasingly affects our everyday life, our environment, and our societies. The signs are evident, science is clear, and the plans are in place. All states need to scale up and implement the Paris agreement, and more broadly the Sustainable Development Goals. Iceland’s ambition is to go above and beyond the Paris commitments by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than half by 2030, reaching complete carbon neutrality by 2040 - and becoming fossil-fuel-free by 2050.


It is, however, important to keep in mind, that climate change is not only an environmental challenge but has also social justice and economic aspects. It will greatly affect those most vulnerable and marginalized, both globally and within our own societies.


Although significant advances have been made globally, there is still a long way to go to reach gender parity and data shows that women and girls are often more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Women should, however, not only be seen as victims but also as active agents of adaptation and mitigation. But for that to happen, they need to be included and empowered – a message that resonated in UN Secretary General´s remarks this morning.


Our own experience has been that greater inclusivity and equality generate more resilient and adaptive societies. That is why gender equality and women ‘s empowerment are cornerstones of Iceland‘s foreign policy, both here at the United Nations and in our Arctic cooperation. We are therefore proud to have led and supported the Gender Equality in the Arctic project from its inception in 2013.


The project has brought together multiple stakeholders from across the Arctic - academics, researchers, youth, indigenous representatives, and other experts. It has provided us with a truly circumpolar perspective while highlighting the fact that environmental, social, and economic changes impact people and communities differently depending on a variety of factors, including gender.


A key contribution of this project is to strengthen scientific knowledge that should be used to inform policy and action on gender issues in the Arctic. I also believe the report could feed broader discussions on gender equality, sustainable development, and climate change - including here at the UN during the session of the Commission on the Status of Women.


I hope today’s discussions will provide you with a window into the Arctic, its vibrant social and cultural realities, to inform our debate about gender and empowerment in the context of climate change – and, ultimately, in our common pursuit of building back better and more equal.


Thank you.




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