Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
General Assembly 78th session, 31 October 2023
General debate on the Report of the Human Rights Council
I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Nordic countries, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and my own country, Iceland.
We thank the President of the Human Rights Council for his presentation of the report from the Council, which invites us to reflect upon its functioning and work.
This year we mark the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that proclaimed that everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights, no matter their identity, beliefs, or circumstances. This milestone document is still a guiding light for our work today.
Respecting and promoting universal human rights is at the core of the Nordic countries. The Human Rights Council provides an important platform for conversations on respect for human rights, and fundamental freedoms, diversity and difference - discussions that affect everyone, everywhere.
Unfortunately, we are seeing challenges to many of the human rights we thought had been secured and accepted. We are witnessing an increase in hatred and intolerance, violent nationalism, racism and homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia. We are also seeing pushback on democracy, media freedom as well as the gains made towards gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights.
We must reverse and fight these trends and work together to secure the universal human rights of all people. We must stand up for democracy, and human rights and the rule of law, defend the freedoms of opinion and expression, and assembly and association. In that regard, the Human Rights Council has a crucial role to play.
The Nordic countries will continue to actively engage with the Council’s core mandate of advancing the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and addressing human rights violations and abuses.
As strong supporters of the Council’s work, the Nordic countries emphasise the importance of engaging in the Council’s work. Finland has served on the Council since early 2022 and Iceland has decided to seek a seat for the term 2025 to 2027, as a Nordic candidate, at the next elections in the fall of 2024.
Reflecting on the Human Rights Council’s work over the past year, it has passed some important resolutions, including on the human rights situation in Russia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Sudan. Furthermore, important resolutions on violence against women and girls and preventable maternal mortality and morbidity were passed.
It is important to keep in mind the strengths of the Human Rights Council. Our focus should be on what works well, but at the same time find mutual ground on how we can further improve and strengthen the work of the Council.
The Nordic countries will continue to engage with countries from all regions of the world in an inclusive manner, recognizing the critical importance of respectful and genuine dialogue for a more efficient and effective Council.
This is an important point. Member states in the Human Rights Council do not have to be perfect. None of us are. But we can all do better, and we should all aim to do so. In that regard, the Nordic countries will continue supporting the UN human rights system and its work in assisting countries in furthering human rights at home. We should not shy away from dialogue and neither shy away from calling out human rights violations and abuses, regardless of where they take place or by whom.
We believe that human rights express the fundamental purpose of the United Nations. Advancing the dignity and equality of all human beings, and to leave no one behind, must be our goal today and for our future. By those means only, we can attain peace, security, and sustainable development for all societies, and accelerate the implementation of Agenda 2030.
Mr. President, you can continue to count on the support and commitment of the Nordic countries to the work of the Human Rights Council.