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Statement by Esther Hallsdóttir, Iceland´s Youth Delegate to the United Nations

Mr./Madame Chair, 

The fact that I am here today, speaking on behalf of young people in Iceland, marks an important milestone towards true and meaningful youth inclusion in my country.

I am deeply honored to be here as Iceland’s first Youth Delegate to the United Nations.

In Iceland, we have witnessed increased political will towards youth inclusion in the last few years. Decision-makers are finally realising the necessity of youth’s participation, consultation and expertise. 

However, there is progress to be made in many areas. For example, we have yet to establish a national youth policy, and current laws need to be revised as they, for example, hinder youth under the age of 18 from taking their elected seats on boards of organizations and from participating in our democracy. 

In addition, youth involvement is too often only tokenistic. The appearance is given of youth inclusion, yet our voices are not truly heard or we are not given the opportunity to express our opinions. Such pretension can have adverse effects as it can discourage youth from engaging further.

Young people’s participation should not be seen as only a box to check. We are not a public relations strategy or a hollow photo opportunity. On the contrary, we contribute to society and drive social progress. 

For the last year, young people have showcased their leadership through their prominence in addressing the most urgent issue the world faces today. 

In Iceland, children and young people have joined millions across the globe and participated in school-strikes for the climate every Friday for the last months. 

The unity of young people presents a clear appeal to world leaders. The climate crisis can neither be solved by single individuals nor nations, but we must all accept our responsibility.

Young people are calling upon leaders to commit to international cooperation, to choose openness over isolation, to act in solidarity and to not forget the importance of involving youth.

Mr. / Madame Chair,

In the context of youth rights, we must address the fact that within the already marginalised group of young people, individuals are facing multiple discrimination based on various grounds.

Although Iceland is frequently ranked as the world’s most gender-equal country, we still have not managed to achieve gender equality.

During the #MeToo movement, Icelandic women had countless stories to tell of sexual violence and harassment. With young women at the forefront, a light was shed on the magnitude of gender based violence still present in our society. Each and every story represents an attempt to discourage women, to belittle them and to restrain them. 

On a global scale, one in every three women experience sexual or domestic violence, millions of girls are out of school and every minute, 23 girls are married while still a child. 

We are also facing an enraging backlash in the respect of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Rights that women have fought for fiercely are now being threatened by people that don’t believe that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their lives, and their bodies.

Let me state this clearly; countries that aspire to be defenders of human rights, to be the leaders of the free world, should be ardent supporters of women’s human rights, and thereby, their sexual and reproductive health and rights.  

Mr. / Madame Chair,

Young women are pushing back and will not be subjugated any longer. Youth is pushing back and will not be ignored any longer. We have grown tired of waiting for others to listen and we are taking the lead. 

With the vision of a just and righteous society, in a sustainable global community, we are here, to make changes.

 

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