United Nations General Assembly 76th Session - Third Committee General Debate
Third Committee, General Debate
Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland
Delivered 4 October 2021
Thank you, Mr./Mrs. Chair,
First, let me congratulate you and other members of the Bureau on your election.
Mr. / Mrs. Chair,
We are currently fighting a global pandemic that continues to have serious effect for the promotion and protection of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The consequences of the pandemic have prevented children from getting their education, people have lost their jobs and livelihoods, and our health systems have faced tremendous pressure, with severe effects on access to vital health services.
Amidst restrictions and community lockdowns, reported cases of gender-based violence, violence against children and hateful acts against minority and marginalized groups have been on the rise. Both online and offline. During such crisis, women, children, LGBTI individuals, and other vulnerable groups, are among the hardest hit. The social and economic consequences of the ongoing pandemic should make us re-double our efforts in our response to these challenges.
Mr. / Mrs. Chair,
There has been a serious decline in respect for those defending our rights worldwide, be they human rights defenders, journalists, environmentalists, feminists, defenders of LGBTI and others, who risk their lives and liberties calling out injustices, stand up for democracy and equality, and speak out against discrimination and intolerance. These heroes deserve our attention. All states must respect the principles of rule of law and defend their citizens’ freedoms and rights without discrimination.
Mr. / Mrs. Chair,
It remains Iceland’s priority to promote children’s rights, to ensure their protection from any kind of violence, abuse or exploitation, but to also have the right services and response in place when children are believed to be victims of violence.
A good example is the Barnahús – or Children’s House – model that has been developed in Iceland over the last three decades and has been introduced in around twenty countries. This child-friendly and multi-agency response framework to child abuse has a comprehensive and evidence-based approach to investigate cases - and provides appropriate therapeutic services for child victims.
Mr. /Mrs. Chair,
Iceland is committed to defend the fundamental human rights of women. Iceland’s own experience shows the value of inclusiveness and equality for sustainable development and the importance of improving gender equality for economic and social progress.
A key issue to ensure gender equality is to secure women’s full sexual and reproductive health and rights. In that regard, in 2019, Iceland passed a progressive legislation ensuring women self-determination over their bodies.
We are proud of our initiative on Equal Pay Day and our leadership role within the Action Coalition on GBV. We are, indeed, proud of our achievements, but equally aware of the remaining challenges.
Globally, we have seen gains towards gender equality but there are still many battles left to win. Whether it is the fight for gender parity and equal pay, or the fight to end all forms of gender-based and sexual violence, men and boys must join forces with women and girls to advance gender equality. We – men – must be agents of change, not patrons of patriarchy; be it at home, in the workplace, online or here at the United Nations.
Mr. / Mrs. Chair
In too many countries, people are still persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Punishing people for their feelings, self-defined identity or consensual relations is no less hateful than penalizing religious believes, race or ethnic background.
We should take pride in our diversity. In this regard, the Icelandic Parliament has recently passed three bills to improve the legal framework for transgender and intersex people.
Challenges remain, but social and legal changes not only free LGBTI people from stigma but also unleash their potential for society as a whole. This is why believing everyone should enjoy their fundamental freedoms and dignity is not just a principled agenda. It is also a practical one.
Inclusion of everyone, irrespective of believes, race, gender or sexual orientation means more hands and minds pushing for social and economic progress for all. It means a more prosperous, democratic world. If we are to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and truly “Leave No One Behind”, we must guarantee non-discrimination and equality for all.