Thank you, Mr. / Madam Chair,
As this is the first time Iceland takes the floor this session, allow me to begin by congratulating you and other members of the Bureau on your election. We look forward to work under your stewardship and to make this first fully in-person session in three years a successful one.
The protection and promotion of human rights is a cornerstone of Iceland’s foreign policy. Human rights are universal and should be protected regardless of who we are, where we come from, what we believe in or whom we love.
Sadly, women have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst restrictions and community lockdowns, more cases of gender-based violence were documented than ever before. Therefore, it is our joint responsibility, as we begin to recover from the effects of the pandemic, to ensure that the negative social and economic consequences of the past two and half years will not undermine our achievements on gender equality in the long run. Iceland is one of the leaders of the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence and will continue to contribute to this important initiative. Gender equality will also be one of Iceland’s main priorities during our upcoming chairmanship in the Council of Europe.
Effects of the pandemic should not act as an excuse but be an encouragement in our pursuit of gender equality. As we recover as societies, we should regain lost ground in the fight for equality, or else we risk falling even further behind on our commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Mr. / Madam Chair,
Iceland is committed to defending reproductive freedom as part of women’s human rights. We are deeply concerned to see established international norms and standards continuously being challenged, even the ones that have been collectively agreed as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. We are particularly concerned with attempts to overturn the discourse on bodily autonomy, comprehensive sexuality education [CSE] and sexual and reproductive health and rights [SRHR].
The fulfilment of sexual and reproductive health and rights entails that we ensure access for all women and girls to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services. To do that, they must be aware of, and understand, their ability to realize their reproductive rights – hence the importance of comprehensive sexuality education. They must also be able to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters relating to their sexuality.
This year, this Committee will consider resolutions related to the harmful practices of child, early and forced marriages and female genital mutilations, as well as ending fistula and trafficking in women and girls. We should all be addressing these important topics to keep up with the 2030 Agenda – and we hope the Committee will be ambitious in its endeavor.
Mr. / Madam Chair,
It is very difficult to speak on women’s human rights without mentioning the women and girls currently affected by war and conflict, including in Afghanistan, where women are facing one of the worst cases of deterioration of their rights.
The representatives of all UN Member States in this room may disagree on many things, including when it comes to women’s rights, but none deny young women the right to a secondary education like in today’s Afghanistan where young women and girls risk their lives for the right to education.
Mr. / Madam Chair,
Equality is not only a principled agenda. To believe everyone should enjoy their fundamental freedoms and dignity, is also a practical one. Discrimination comes at a cost to society; both human and economic.
If we are to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and truly “Leave No One Behind”, we must guarantee non-discrimination and equality of all. That includes men, women and anyone identifying as neither. In all our diversity.
I thank you.