Hoppa yfir valmynd
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Opening address at the seminar "Women, Business and the Law 2019"

Ms. Kristalina Georgieva, interim President of the World Bank Group
Your excellency, Minister of Development Cooperation of Denmark, Ms. Ulla Törnæs
Other distinguished participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this launching event for the 2019 Report on Women, Business and the Law. We are pleased to be able to partner with the World Bank on this important matter and welcome all the distinguished speakers.

Gender equality is one of the corner stones of Iceland´s foreign policy. Iceland contributes actively to the promotion and protection of human rights, with emphasis on women's rights and equal opportunity for all, which are values that we Icelanders hold dear. 

Over the past few decades, we have witnessed increased respect for women's human rights and various legal reforms and gender-responsive policies. We have also seen active economic and political participation of women but in Iceland almost 80% of women participate in the workforce. All this combined has raised well-being and prosperity in Iceland. 

Without the women´s movement in this country and constant vigilance working on gender equality we would not have such a thriving society.

In our international development cooperation, we put emphasis on gender equality and women´s empowerment as we strongly believe in gender equality as a human right and as a driver of economic and social development. It is our believe that by supporting countries towards gender equality, they will reap the benefits as a society. 

Iceland has collaborated with Malawi and Uganda, our partners in bilateral development cooperation, for over three decades and we continue to support their progress on women´s rights and empowerment.

Without half the team, the game cannot be won. Therefore, we also actively work to engage men in the fight for gender equality. 

Iceland was a pioneer when it introduced exclusive paternity leave in the year 2000. It has changed norms and behaviour in a meaningful way and enabled men to engage in their children's early lives and at the same time been supportive to women´s constant participation in the labour market. 

A recent OECD report, commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers, shows that improvements in gender equality have contributed considerably to economic growth in the Nordic countries. It revealed that the steady increase of women in the labour market can account for 10-20% of the Nordic region's GDP per capita growth in the past 40-50 years.

Today, most people agree that gender equality is a no-brainer and that discrimination against women should not exist. 

Still, complicated challenges remain, both in Iceland and in other parts of the world. In Iceland, we have put in place laws to ensure equal representation in boards, however this has yet to be translated into more female CEOs. We also have a new law to enforce a decade old legislation on equal pay, but we still need to address the labour market segregation that contributes largely to the absolute gender pay gap. 

It is good to take stock occasionally as we are about to do here today, and focus on how we tailor our national policies, so they advance gender equality. It is beneficial for us to discuss how we go from good policies to good practice.

I commend the World Bank on the new report and the interim President for her commitment to gender equality within the World Bank Group. The Bank has done a good job in addressing women´s rights and their participation, voice and agency in the labour market.

But we can always do more.

The entire world has collectively agreed to aim for a gender equal world by 2030, through our shared Sustainable Development Goals. 

The equal participation of women at all levels, the respect for their human rights and the empowerment of women and girls will be fundamental to our success in reaching all the other goals. 

And now, it is my pleasure to welcome warmly the interim President of the World Bank Group, Ms. Kristalina Georgieva who will introduce the main findings of the Women, Business and the Law report.


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