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Iceland and the United Nations

On 25 July 1946 The Parliament of Iceland passed a resolution authorizing the Icelandic Government to apply for membership in the United Nations. On 9 November that year a resolution was passed by the General Assembly, admitting Iceland, Afghanistan and Sweden as members. At the 48th plenary meeting of the General Assembly on 19 November 1946 Iceland was officially welcomed as a Member of the United Nations. Mr. Thor Thors, then Ambassador of Iceland to the United States, became the first Permanent Representative of Iceland to the UN. He served as a PR until 1965. Since then, the following ambassadors of Iceland have served as Permanent Representatives to the UN:

Hannes Kjartansson (1965-1972)
Haraldur Kröyer (1972-1973)
Ingvi S. Ingvarsson (1973-1977)
Tómas Á. Tómasson (1977-1982)
Hörður Helgason (1982-1986)
Hans G. Andersen (1986-1989)
Benedikt Gröndal (1989-1991)
Helgi Gíslason (Deputy Permanent Representative) (1991-1992)
Kornelíus Sigmundsson (Deputy Permanent Representative) (1992-1993)
Tómas Á. Tómasson (1993-1994)
Gunnar Pálsson (1994-1998)
Þorsteinn Ingólfsson (1998-2003)
Hjálmar W. Hannesson (2003-2008)
Dr. Gunnar Pálsson (2009-2011)
Gréta Gunnarsdóttir (2011-2014)
Einar Gunnarsson (2015-2018)
Bergdís Ellertsdóttir (2018-2019)
Jörundur Valtýsson (2019-Present)

Iceland is a member of most of the Specialized Agencies and other autonomous bodies of the United Nations. Permanent Representatives of Iceland maintain a presence at the UN headquarters in New York and at the UN offices in Geneva and Vienna. The Icelandic Ambassador in Paris serves as Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome is served from the Ministry in Reykjavik.

Iceland contributes to various institutions and programs of the United Nations, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Women, UNFPA, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the near East (UNRWA), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations University (UNU). Others include IFAD and OCHA.

Four training programmes are operated in Iceland under GRÓ International Centre for Capacity Development, Sustainable use of Natural Resources and Societal Change. The Centre operates under the auspices of UNESCO as a Category2 Centre. The four programmes are the Geothermal Training Programme, which has been in operation since 1979, the Fisheries Training Programme, which was established in 1998, the Land Restoration Training Program, established in 2010, and the Gender Equality Studies & Training Programme established in 2009. All are located in Reykjavik.

The International Criminal Court

Iceland became the tenth state to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998. The Court has the role of trying individuals accused of committing the most serious crimes against humanity.

Ocean Issues

Iceland plays an active role in discussions at the UN General Assembly on ocean affairs. Iceland welcomes the growing attention the oceans are receiving in the General Assembly. Iceland emphasizes that the focus of the discussion should be on specific issues that have global implications, and not on issues that fall within the purview of the sovereign rights of States. The General Assembly should address issues that are global in nature and can only be resolved through global co-operation. Such issues include marine pollution which respects no boundaries and must therefore be met with global action, and issues related to setting a level playing field for the fisheries sector which encourage sustainable fisheries globally, such as the need to remove fisheries subsidies. Conservation and sustainable utilization of living marine resources in specific regions and areas is, on the other hand, a local and regional matter and should be handled by competent local and regional bodies.

Law of the Sea

Through the years, Iceland has taken an active part in international negotiations on the Law of the Sea. Three institutions were established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which entered into force on 16 November 1994. One of these institutions is the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, which has adopted its rules of procedure and scientific and technical guidelines and is now prepared to receive information from coastal states on the limits of the continental shelf extending beyond 200 nautical miles and return its recommendations. According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, coastal states should as a rule have submitted information on the limit of their continental shelf within 10 years from the entry into force of the Convention for the state in question. For Iceland this involves on the one hand the continental shelf to the south, i.e. the Reykjanes Ridge and the Hatton Rockall area, and on the other hand the continental shelf to the east, i.e. the so-called Herring Loophole.

Human Rights

The protection of human rights and the fight against human rights abuses are a fundamental part of the work of the United Nations. The connection between human rights and security issues is of increasing importance. Human rights are global in nature and no state can reject international action in the human rights area on the grounds that they are domestic issues. The Icelandic government is of the view that all human rights, civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural, are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. It is up to the international community to ensure respect for human rights. Iceland and the other Nordic countries have been among the leading countries in this area. Iceland attaches great importance to ensuring the international protection of human rights, which is closely linked with the fight against poverty, oppression and armed conflict.

Iceland is a party to all major UN conventions on human rights. Iceland co-sponsors many resolution on human rights at the UN, including the Commission on Human Rights. Iceland supports programs to assist children and women in developing countries, especially in the field of education and health.

Humanitarian Aid and Refugees

Iceland contributes its share to emergency aid and efforts to solve the refugee problem, which is a serious and increasingly urgent international problem. It is quite clear that the refugee problem will not be solved without the co-operation of all countries. The conditions of refugees who have been forced to abandon their homes are such that they must be given the protection they need and temporary asylum until conditions in the areas from which they have been displaced have changed in such a way that they can return to their homes and enjoy the safety to which they are entitled. Iceland was among the first nations to react to the enormous refugee problem created in the wake of the conflict in Kosovo. Iceland has co-operated closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in acceptance of refugees and will continue to do so.


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