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UNESCO: National Statement of Iceland at the 216th session of the Executive Board

National Statement of Iceland 
216th session of the Executive Board of UNESCO, May 2023

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 we approach the half-way point of the 2030 agenda this year, it is clear the SDGs are far off track and there is a need for turbocharged process on all fronts.

The various multi-dimensional crises we are confronted with will be hard to address without restoring trust in the multilateral system, between countries and within societies. Senseless armed conflicts around the world not only inflict unimaginable suffering on ordinary civilians, but exacerbate social disparities, undermine trust in democracy, threaten fundamental human rights and damage the future of generations to come.

The destruction of Russia’s unlawful war on Ukraine was evident in Kyiv when visited by a group of Ambassadors from the Group of Friends of Ukraine last month. Destroyed homes, schools, cultural centres, livelihoods. But the visit also underscored the critical importance of UNESCO’s expertise and assistance.

The need for UNESCO‘s message and creative intelligence has never been more compelling.

UNESCO‘s work promotes culture of peace and tolerance, celebrates diversity in all of its‘ shape and form, works to deliver knowledge, science and educational development and defends human rights and freedom of expression.  It is our job to help the Organization achieve these goals and to uphold the principles and common values as set out in the UN Charter.

We need concrete actions, ambitious commitments and innovative policies based on scientific inputs and lessons learned. We need to work harder to address climate change, inequalities, strengthen quality education for all and the general advancement of social well-being and human development. And we need to do it faster.

Our forthcoming discussions at the EXB are therefore important and I would like to thank the IOS and all the secretariat’s staff for excellent reports and your hard work in preparation for the board meeting.  

Dear colleagues.

We need to provide UNESCO with the necessary funds to implement the organization‘s important work, including its leading role across sectors. In this regard let me emphasize the importance of transparency, effectiveness and prioritization, as well as the alignment of the organization with the overall efforts of the UN system.

We need a strong, agile and well-manned organization, built on an inclusive and diverse working environment. We encourage the consideration of gender balance and geographical distribution and we would especially like to encourage the organization to continue to  address the gender gap in managerial positions. The safe inclusion of people of other marginalized groups is also of high importance to Iceland, including the LGBTQI+ community and persons with disabilities.

Dear collegues

Iceland is committed to supporting the Organization’s Global Priorities. According to UN Women, it will take 300 years to achieve gender equality at the current pace – and the gender gap has increased, following recent crises.  We must reverse this serious backlash. UNESCO needs to invest more in a Gender-transformative approach.

Clear frameworks on gender equality for all programmes are necessary, and a theory of change should be applied to all of UNESCO’s Programmes. We encourage the Sectors to strengthen the monitoring and information-sharing of gendered results and call for an increased focus on the accountability of staff for delivering these results.

We would also like to highlight the critical situation of women and girls in Afghanistan and the continued violation of their basic human rights, including education. We recognize  and emphasize the importance of continued support to UNESCO’s work in Afghanistan and the reporting thereon.


Let me congratulate UNESCO and all ratifying Member States on the entry into force of the 20-19 Global Convention on Higher Education and we look forward to participating in its first Intergovernmental Conference.

We also want to highlight the importance of UNESCO’s focus on the issue of climate change, which is undeniably one of our most urgent generational challenges. UNESCO has an important role to play through education, adaptation at World Heritage Sites, the Open Science Strategy, and not the least through the work of the IOC. The UN General Assembly has recognized the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment for all and we would like to see a greater focus on climate change across all programmes and sectors.


AI and transformational technologies are developing at an exponential speed and the impact on our societies is unquestionable. With the invention of new technologies, come responsibilities. This topic is critical for the future of our societies and international relations. We welcome the initiative on ethics of neurotechnology and believe it is important that the international community can move swiftly on this important topic.

I thank you.


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