Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
UNGA 77, Third Committee
20 October 2022
Delivered by Helen Inga S von Ernst
The promotion and protection of human rights is a core priority for the government of Iceland, both at home and abroad.
We firmly uphold the principle that human rights are universal and we strive to see this reflected in all areas of Icelandic society.
International cooperation is a critical component of promoting and implementing human rights for all.
This is especially vital now where we are seeing the serious consequences of the climate crisis, the vast effects of a global pandemic, and the tragedy of war has returned to Europe with the Russian invasion in Ukraine – a blatant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.
Many of the basic rights, we may have thought to be secured and guaranteed, have been challenged.
We are seeing serious challenges to human rights with increasing religious intolerance, violent nationalism and racism, and homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. We are also witnessing increased hate speech and a pushback on the gains that have been made towards gender equality and women’s reproductive rights.
We must reverse and fight these trends and work together to secure the human rights of all people, all around the world. Together we must fight the discontent and suspicion of the values of democracy, freedom, and human rights and defend a system where dissent is an integral part of public discourse.
Earlier this year Iceland got the valuable opportunity to discuss our own human rights record with fellow Member States and non-state actors during our third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in the Human Rights Council.
We were pleased to receive 230 recommendations from Member States on where we can do better in our continued national development as new challenges to human rights continue to rise.
In that regard, we emphasise the importance to make steady progress towards institutionalizing the promotion and respect for human rights.
We are pleased that the Icelandic Government has decided to establish a strong, independent and effective National Human Rights Institution that will be fully compliant with the Paris Principles.
Work is already underway, and a bill will be presented to Parliament in 2023.
We firmly believe that progressive policies aimed at advancing gender equality are the foundation for stable, peaceful and prosperous societies.
Empirical evidence in the Nordic countries has in fact shown that gender equality is not only just and fair, but also a smart economic policy.
Although Iceland is proud to have been at the top of the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index since 2009, we will not stop here, but actively continue our drive. This is based on a dedicated Government Action Plan, where gender-equality mainstreaming – including gender-equality budgeting – is an integral part of public policy.
Iceland has and will also continue to raise its voice for LGBTI individuals all around that world. At home, we continue to make significant progress on advancing LGBTI rights based on a dedicated and newly adopted Government Action Plan on LGBTI rights.
In 2018, Iceland took a seat on the Human Rights Council for the first time, and we continue to use the Council as a key platform to promote human rights, including children’s rights, LGBTI and gender equality, rule of law and democracy. We are seeking a seat on the Council for the period 2025 to 2027.
In November, Iceland will assume its chairmanship in the Council of Europe. During our chairmanship, we are determined to engage meaningfully with all members on the advancement of human rights in and beyond the region.
In this decade of action and delivery for the SDGs, we must stand together in working towards advancing democratic values and fundamental respect for human rights for everyone.