National Statement of Iceland – Plenary debate (Items 4, 5 & 19) of the 215th session of the Executive Board of UNESCO, October 2022
Delivered by the Permanent Delegate of Iceland, Ms Auðbjörg Halldórsdóttir
Ms Chairperson of the Executive Board, Ms Director-General,
Mr President of the General Conference,
Excellencies, distinguished colleagues,
As I take the floor for the first time, I would like to thank colleagues for the warm welcome that I have received in the past weeks since I took over as Iceland’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO. I look forward to working with you all and being an active member of the UNESCO family.
At this board’s session we are following up on numerous important decisions taken by the Executive Board at previous sessions, including those on the situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Ukraine and on UNESCO's actions and emergency assistance programme for Ukraine.
The unlawful and brutal full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine continues. It has brought death and destruction to countless Ukrainians and has had a devastating impact on the country within all fields of UNESCO’s mandate and has driven up energy prices and created food shortages globally.
The rules based international order – the respect for international law, territorial integrity and human rights – is fundamental to our peaceful co-existence. This is especially important for the smaller countries of the world, like Iceland. It is in all of our interest to uphold our common principles and values and the respect for international law. We stand united with Ukraine. We cannot afford to stand silently by.
The world continues to face natural disasters linked to the climate crisis. We see the devastating effects around the globe, whether in the recent flooding in Pakistan; droughts in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel; or hurricanes in Japan and North and Central America. UNESCO’s work is needed in fighting climate change by strengthening cooperation in education and science.
The right to education is an indispensable human right, also for the exercise of other human rights. In Afghanistan, women and girls have been deprived of the right to seek education, with devastating consequences for them, their families and their country’s future. We, the member states of UNESCO, must stay firmly behind UNESCO's actions in support of Afghans. Iceland has presented amendments, prepared by the Group of Friends on Afghanistan and the Afghan Permanent Delegation, on the draft decision on item 5.I.G. We welcome the strong co-sponsorship so far and call on all delegations to join as co-sponsors in support of education in the country.
In the coming two weeks we need to work to further strengthen the significant role that UNESCO plays within the UN system. I would like to use this opportunity to thank the IOS and all the secretariat’s staff for excellent reports and your hard work in preparation for the board meeting.
We have received the first C/5 implementation report in its current form, which provides us with a good overview of the organization’s work, including its leading role in important projects across sectors.
It also highlights how the implementation of UNESCO’s Programme and Budget has been affected by global events, most prominently Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, climate change, and the aftermath of Covid-19.
The report gives a good overview of the financial situation and presents main challenges, including the issue of the organization’s financial sustainability and long-term funding needs.
We welcome an increase in resource mobilisation while also noting the need to reduce dependency of programmes on earmarked voluntary contributions.
We will furthermore discuss the proposal by the Director-General to the Draft Programme and Budget for 2024-2025. We are aware that the organisation predicts a steep rise in both staff and non-staff cost in the current biennium and that the secretariat is looking at cost-cutting measures. This is a time to prioritize UNESCO’s resources, while allowing the organization to continue working in the direction set out in the C/4 Medium-Term Strategy.
Human rights related to freedom of expression are an important pillar of UNESCO’s work. Societies become more resilient with a well-informed public and critical thinking. We need to continue supporting freedom of expression in all its forms.
Iceland is also a strong supporter of the Global Priority Gender Equality. The world becomes a better place when everyone can make the most of their lives, and this needs to apply to people of all genders. We would like to encourage the Director-General and the Secretariat to continue providing a safe working environment were LGBTQI+ people have equal opportunities and do not face discrimination.
Let us use this session of the Executive Board to advance the ideals of UNESCO by working together towards our common goal.
I thank you.