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UNESCO: National Statement of Iceland at the 219th session of the Executive Board

National statement of Iceland
219th session of the Executive Board of UNESCO, March 2024

Delivered by the Permanent Delegate of Iceland, Ms Audbjörg Halldórsdóttir

Ms Chairperson of the Executive Board,  
Ms Director-General,
Ms President of the General Conference,
Excellencies, distinguished colleagues,

Global divisions continue to rise and it has never been more important to defend multilateralism, freedom and democracy. The world is faced with multiple crises. Climate crisis, growing in-equities and social instability, conflicts, erosion of human rights and democratic values and alarming rates of disinformation and gender-based violence globally. These interconnected crises will only be solved through a system that builds healthy, caring, just and sustainable societies – where both planet and people can prosper.

Dear Colleagues.

As we tackle the immediate issues at hand, it is important to keep our eyes on the future. The goal of the upcoming Summit of the Future is to create the conditions to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. UNESCO‘s mandate must be well reflected in the outcome of the Summit, as its priorities encompass strong enablers for sustainable development and a prosperous future. 

This should include the results of recent years‘ conferences held under UNESCO’s areas of competence - Mondiacult, affirming culture as a global public good, and the Transforming Education Summit, reinforcing the role of education in the global political agenda.

The importance of a holistic, interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach is clear – and here UNESCO has a strong advantage.

The UN Secretary General‘s policy brief on „Beyond GDP“, provides a challenge for Member States and UN organizations, to outline a path to develop complementary metrics where what matters to people, the planet and the future is better recognized. UNESCO is well placed to contribute to this thought- and work process – as its mandate can certainly work to advance quality of life above and beyond monetary measures.

Iceland, as a part of the partnership of Wellbeing Economy Governments, is already working to this end of developing policies of wellbeing within the context of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Dear Colleagues.

UNESCO’s work on conservation and knowledge production is important to counter the harmful impact of climate change, environmental degradation, and biodiversity loss that threaten our physical, mental, and social health and pose significant challenges to our efforts to promote wellbeing and prosperous future for all.

Let us remember that SDG5 on gender equality is an enabler and a multiplier for all other SDGs. Recent years have seen a frightening backsliding on this front. We therefore welcome the focus placed on gender equality during this session of the Board. Empowering women and girls is key to addressing many of our challenges and Iceland will continue to support and help strengthening the work of UNESCO on a transformative approach to gender equality.

It is important not to become complacent - human rights need to be actively strengthened and protected in all areas of UNESCO‘s work. Iceland is in favour of an increased focus on gender diversity and the rights of LGBTQI+ people.

UNESCO‘s work to strengthen the inclusion of crisis-affected learners in all regions is more important than ever. We commend UNESCO for its invaluable work and response to education in emergencies.

Dear Colleagues.

Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine continues to have a devastating effect on Ukrainians, their cultural life and heritage, environment, education and the work of journalists. It is also an attack on the multilateral system and a blatant violation of international law.

We commend UNESCO’s continuous efforts in supporting Ukraine, which are essential in combatting the long-term effect of Russia’s aggression.

The catastrophic crisis in Gaza is horrific and has continued to deepen. The humanitarian toll is devastating. We emphasize the importance of full respect for international law and reiterate our call for a humanitarian ceasefire, unimpeded humanitarian access and protection of civilians, medical personnel and humanitarian workers.

Iceland supported the establishment of an emergency assistance programme within UNESCO’s fields of competence, as mandated in November. The urgency for assistance is vital, seeing the widespread damage to Gaza’s infrastucture - and UNESCO has an important role to play.  

Iceland is looking into how we can support UNESCO’s emergency assistance programme. 


We welcome UNESCO’s presentation of the C/5 implementation report which provides a good overview of the organization’s work. We also appreciate the Organization’s forthrightness on the reported financial management challenges. At the same time, we encourage the Secretariat to identify ways to improve appropriate risk management and financial mechanism controls, in order to avoid similar situations in the future.  

We look forward to having constructive discussions on the implementation report at our upcoming session.

Let me extend our thanks to the IOS and the entire Secretariat team for excellent reports and their tireless efforts in preparing for this board meeting. We understand this was challenging, given the short timeframe.

Dear friends. 

Our discussions at the Executive Board lay the groundwork for the direction of the work of the organization and assess how well we think UNESCO is delivering on its’ mandate. However, perhaps no less valuable, is the platform/opportunity it provides for Member States to engage with one another, to listen to the concerns and priorities of our different countries. To put to practice the values UNESCO was formed around.

This may seem obvious – but perhaps it is a good idea, to remind ourselves of the value the multilateral system has brought us – especially in this time of turbulence and what seems to be an increasingly polarized world.

I look forward to our deliberations in the coming days.

Thank you.



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