National Statement of Iceland – Plenary debate (Items 4 & 5) of the 214th session of the Executive Board of UNESCO, 4 April 2022
Delivered by the Permanent Delegate of Iceland, Ambassador Unnur Orradóttir-Ramette
Madame la Présidente, Madame la Directrice Générale,
Monsieur le Président de la Conférence Générale,
Excellences, distingué collègues,
L’Islande a été élue au Conseil Exécutif lors de la dernière session de la Conférence Générale. Au nom de mon gouvernement je vous remercie de votre soutien et de la confiance que vous nous avez accordée. [Iceland was elected to the Executive Board at the last General Conference. On behalf of my Government I would like to thank you for the valuable support and trust.]
The world is facing several global challenges, including climate change and environmental issues, that call for concerted actions and strengthened international cooperation on multiple fronts. The pandemic and current global turmoil continue to have a strong impact on UNESCO's work and have demonstrated the organisation’s relevance. Therefore, it is important that this Executive Board's session will do its utmost to protect, strengthen and deliver on UNESCO's mandate and reputation.
We would like to reiterate our joint Nordic Statement at the 7th Special Session and stress that Iceland is deeply concerned about the devastating effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on human rights, access to education, protection of cultural heritage, science, the independent media, and free flow of ideas and information. We call on UNESCO to continue to support the Ukrainian authorities and people to ensure the access and right to education of all those affected by the war.
We also see alarming developments in Afghanistan. A Joint Statement of support for the Respect of Afghan Women's and Girls Human Rights was co-signed by 45 members of the Group of Friends for Gender Equality on 10 February. Attention to the ongoing violations of women’s and girls’ human rights must remain high on the organisation’s agenda.
The Group of Friends of Afghanistan convened a meeting 10 days ago to discuss the situation in all areas of UNESCO’s competence in the country. Following those efforts 14 Executive Board members, including Iceland, have now tabled an amendment to document 214 EX/4.I, co-sponsored by a cross regional group of Member States, which asks UNESCO and the Director-General to continue following and reporting on the situation in its fields of competence. The amendments were published on Friday, and we expect to see your Delegation’s support on this important issue.
We were pleased to see the strong links to the Sustainable Development Goals in the new medium-term strategy and programme and budget, as it is crucial to fully support the 2030 Agenda in this Decade of Actions. The effectiveness of UNESCO remains a focus for us. Iceland welcomes work that can increase transparency and accountability – We agree with the need for the continued implementation of the UNESCORE Programme and support the organisation’s work on the core system redesign.
It is important for UNESCO to continue efforts regarding the implementation of the UN Development System reform and to align itself with efforts of the UN system. Iceland would welcome more detailed and concrete information on the implementation of the various reforms.
The human rights-based approach is paramount to the organisation’s work in all its Programmes and areas of competence, and we encourage UNESCO to continue strengthening this approach. Iceland places high importance on gender equality and gender diversity and we would like to appeal for an increase in tangible focus on LGBTI people and their rights, as well as a more ambitious and inclusive approach to gender mainstreaming.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Iceland stresses the importance of increasing access and quality of education in developing countries. Iceland’s multidisciplinary Category 2 Centre, GRÓ, was founded two years ago and builds on the long-standing work of four training programmes in the fields of geothermal energy, fisheries, land restoration and gender equality. The Centre has operated under the auspices of UNESCO since 2020 and focuses on capacity development.
We also continue our support for UNESCO’s important work for Freedom of Expression, as free and pluralistic media are important to all societies. We are witnessing crackdown on freedom of expression – We must push back on this development. At the same time artistic and scientific freedom must be protected.
The cultural sector and the creative industries are an important part of the global economy and Iceland is eager to contribute to the strengthening of multilateral cooperation on the sustainable development of the global cultural sector. We particularly look forward to meaningful exchanges on the topic at the MONDIACULT conference in Mexico in September.
Our thoughts are with Ukraine and its people. Now action is needed to end this war. I would like to remind you of an Icelandic poem cited by the President of Iceland at UNESCO’s 75th anniversary event:
For when there is wrong that you can put right
and when there is struggle but you stand aside
the troubles of this world are also your fault. [Author: Tómas Guðmundsson]
Pour les sessions à venir notre Délégation est impatiente de collaborer efficacement avec tous nos membres du Conseil Exécutif. [My delegation looks forward to working with colleagues on effective action at this session of the Executive Board.]
Je vous remercie. [I thank you.]