Statement by Ambassador Jörundur Valtýsson on The Advancement of Women
GA74 – Third Committee – Advancement of Women
Mr. /Madam Chair,
As this is the first time I take the floor in this Committee, let me start by congratulating you and other members of the Bureau with your election to this very important Committee. You can rest assured that the Icelandic Delegation will work with the Bureau in the spirit of cooperation throughout this session.
This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of CEDAW - a driving force for transformative change in almost all societies of the world. Although we are immensely pleased that CEDAW is close to reaching universal membership, we believe it can only reach its full potential as an effective tool when states have demonstrated the full political will to adhere to the Convention – a will that is currently discounted by reservations. We remain concerned regarding the high numbers of reservations and encourage concerned States parties to constantly review their reservations and consider lifting them.
This year is also an important preparatory year for the international community. We have important upcoming anniversaries, including Beijing + 25 and UNSCR 1325, that create a momentum to review both our progress and challenges, as well as an opportunity to strengthen our political efforts for the full and effective implementation of these commitments. In this regard, Iceland looks forward to participating in the Generation Equality Forum convened by UN Women and co-chaired by Mexico and France.
Mr. / Madam Chair,
Iceland has ranked at the top of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index for ten consecutive years. Although we have seen achievements, we are aware of the numerous remaining challenges to fully close the gender gap. We have seen that gender equality does not come about of its own accord but needs a set of targeted social infrastructure investments and innovative policy tools.
An example of such a tool is an equal pay law that entered to force in Iceland last year. The new legislation makes Iceland the first country in the world to require employers to obtain certification on the basis of an equal pay management requirement standard which helps employers to analyse their pay structures, identify potential discrimination and correct it. By doing so, the legal obligation transfers the responsibility of ensuring equal pay from the employee to the employer. By these means, Iceland has pledged to eliminate the gender pay gap by 2022.
Currently, previous victories on women’s human rights and reproductive freedom are under threat in far too many places. As we saw at the Commission on the Status of Women this year, there have been increased efforts to roll back advances made with regards to bodily autonomy, comprehensive sexuality education, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and gender-based violence. We are concerned about the increased politicisation of women’s human rights - and are committed to defending them.
This increased politicisation comes at the same time as the #MeToo movement continues to expose the systematic harassment, violence and everyday sexism that women across various layers of our societies are subjected to. Violence against women is a violation of human rights and an unacceptable reality of many women. Iceland is committed to dismantle the structural nature of harassment and violence and continues to work towards increased accountability and lasting solutions.
Mr. / Madame Chair,
Achieving gender equality and realizing women and girls’ rights are key to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. In this milestone year for gender equality, Iceland reaffirms its steadfast commitment to the advancement of the rights of all women and girls. It is our common responsibility to address the challenges that prevent progress on gender equality and the fulfilment of women’s and girls’ human rights.