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78th General Assembly Third Committee, Advancement of Women (Item 25)

78th General Assembly Third Committee, Advancement of Women (Item 25)
Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland
New York, 4 October 2023

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 working under your steadfast stewardship.

Iceland aligns itself with the joint statement read by the United Arab Emirates on the deplorable situation of women in Afghanistan. Member States represented here today may disagree on many agenda items, but no-one can deny that the setback of Afghan women’s rights under Taliban control requires our urgent action.

Mr. / Madam Chair,

Shifting the attention much closer, namely to the UNGA General Debate two weeks ago, the representation of only twenty-one women speaking on behalf of their governments was a disheartening example of how far we are from achieving full, equal and meaningful political participation of women.

Astonishingly, there are only 28 women serving as Heads of State and Government in the world. Today, women represent only one in four members of parliaments worldwide and the numbers of female cabinet ministers are even lower.

According to UN Women, gender parity in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years if we continue at this current rate. Should this turn out to be the case, we might reach gender parity at the 208th session of the General Assembly.

Mr. / Madame Chair,

Social, cultural and economic impediments to women and girls’ participation in political and public life are all too familiar. They do not only challenge women’s rights but also the functioning of democracy. These impediments are often perpetuated by social norms and gender roles, but also local laws and customs, as well as media, including social media. Algorithms and artificial intelligence that are designed mostly by men, and by implication for men, are bound to exacerbate the inequality in the world.

Rapid advances and new technologies have also opened new fronts in the battle against gender-based violence. Old patterns of misogyny, intimidation, and gender-based violence are increasingly finding new platforms to spread, intimidate and pose real threats to the security of women and girls.

Recent numbers show that roughly two-in-five women have experienced technologically facilitated gender-based violence. Younger women are more likely to have been the victim of such violence and adolescent girls are a particularly vulnerable group in this regard. If we do not act to reverse this trend, more women and girls will opt to self-censorship and withdraw from public spaces. In other words, the exact opposite of what we wish for the future generations to come.

Whenever new technologies are on our agenda, we must address the immense gendered impacts they are having, especially on young women and girls. We must also engage men and boys, so they become agents of change in promoting gender equality and eliminating gender-based violence.

Mr. / Madam Chair,

We are witnessing increased polarization and deepening divisions with global backlash on gender equality and human rights - even the ones collectively agreed as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Women’s rights and equality continue to be at the heart of Iceland’s foreign and international development policy. This includes access for all women and girls to the full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights services. To do that, they must be aware of, and understand, their ability to realize these rights – hence the importance of comprehensive sexuality education. Women must also be able to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters relating to their sexuality and bodily autonomy.

Mr. / Madam Chair,

Fighting for equality is not a fight for lofty principles. The belief that everyone should enjoy their fundamental freedoms and dignity is as practical as it is principled. 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. Human rights, equality and diversity are strengths and enablers of the sustainable progression of societies – not a luxury or an afterthought.

Thank you.


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