Statement by H.E. Jorundur Valtysson
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
General Assembly 78th session, 6 October 2023
14th Plenary Meeting of Third Committee
In the past ten years, since the Convention on the Rights of the Child was incorporated directly into Icelandic legislation, the Government of Iceland has made significant progress regarding children’s rights. Within our Government, the ministerial responsibilities fall under a specific Ministry of Education and Children and, two years ago, the Government introduced a wholistic policy and action plan, the so-called “Child Friendly Iceland”. This approach is now also being implemented at the municipal level. The work on this continues and we have been forthcoming in sharing experiences and learning from others, including other Member States and the UN.
While we have moved forward on many fronts, plenty of challenges remain. These include access to mental health services and treatment, and combating violence against children, as pointed out in the periodic review by the Committee on the Rights of the Child last year. On the positive side, Iceland has been lauded by the CRC for allowing children to challenge custody cases and request the custody of another parent.
Iceland is firmly committed to end all violence against children, both domestically and globally. Iceland will continue to support UNICEF, UN Women and UNFPA programmes to accelerate global actions to end child, early and forced marriages and female genital mutilation. We must also work together to empower girls all over the world, and support and enable them to prosper. This includes ensuring sexual and reproductive health rights and services for youth, comprehensive sexuality education and to protect the right to bodily autonomy, privacy and self-determination.
The protection of children in armed conflict is an uncontested obligation under international law. It is therefore alarming to see this obligation blatantly disregarded - especially by a Permanent Member of the Security Council. We deplore and condemn the unlawful deportation of Ukrainian children from areas occupied by Russian armed forces. The evidence is there and, earlier this year, the International Criminal Court issued warrants of arrest against the President of the Russian Federation and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights for these heinous crimes.
New technologies are creating great advances and opportunities for our children and adolescents. These should be exploited to the benefit of our youth. However, these exciting developments also come with their own risks, which can pose threats to children and many other vulnerable groups. We must remain alert to these challenges.
Regrettably, we see old patterns of misogyny, racism, intimidation, and gender-based violence spreading on new platforms, intimidating and posing real threats to their victims. Children and adolescents, who are using these new technologies more frequently and at an earlier age, are among the most vulnerable. In addition, cyberbullying is reaching younger and younger children. The smartphones and tablets that enable learning and personal development can be misused to destroy their wellbeing, even lives.
Awareness and education are key factors in preventing these negative aspects of new technology. We must take preemptive actions by targeting the root causes of negative social norms, gender stereotypes and gender-based violence. This includes engaging and educating young men and boys, to empower them to become agents of change for gender equality, both online and offline.
Finally, Mr. Chair – and on a personal note.
Last year, I had the opportunity to spend some time with my young son on a paternity leave - on the basis of a progressive legislation in Iceland. I quickly learnt that caring for a toddler can be more exhausting than lengthy UN negotiations. However, this time and the bond we formed was invaluable and endures. I also believe in leading by example and it is important that we, as supervisors and senior staff, pave the way for others to follow. But, ultimately, it is not only about me and us, but the child´s right to enjoy this precious time with both parents.