In his statement to the UN General Assembly last Friday Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson made a point of the great changes that the UN has undergone in the past 70 years, with 193 member states and overseeing a complex framework of international law in the field of peacekeeping, human rights, humanitarian aid and environmental protection.
Foreign Minister Sveinsson emphasised human rights in his statement and said that the imposition of the death penalty should not be justified under the appearance of maintaining order and security. In this regard, the Minister made reference to the the case of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, a minor who awaits execution in Saudi Arabia, and called on authorities in Riyadh to uphold its international obligations and to commute his sentence. The Minister said that Human rights were for all men and all women, all girls and all boys and that "We the peoples” includes everyone. Mr Sveinsson stated that Iceland would continue to be a champion of gender equality get men more active on gender equality. One aspect of this are the Barbershop conferences, which started at the UN earlier this year, and Iceland intends to host such conferences in other international organisations that Iceland is a member of.
The Minister also spoke of the situation in the Middle East and said that the only path to peace between Israel and Palestine is the two-state solution. He stated his deep concern of the humanitarian situation of the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, and reiterated his calls for the lifting of the blockade. The Foreign Minister said that Iceland condemned all acts of violence against civilians and emphasised that safety and well-being of civilians on both sides must always be ensured. Focusing on Iran he congratulated all the parties which achieved the breakthrough agreement on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program.
Finally, Foreign Minister Sveinsson spoke of UN reforms and said that it was impossible to ignore the increasingly indefensible situation, in which the Security Council represents the world as it was in 1945. The danger was that its authority would gradually be undermined if it did not better reflect the world as it is. In this respect the Minister also said that the gender imbalance in high-level positions must be addressed to increase the credibility of the UN. It was high time for female candidates to be seriously considered for the position of UN Secretary General.