The Human Rights Council opened its fortieth regular session in Geneva yesterday. Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Foreign Minister of Iceland, was among around 100 high-level dignitaries who presented statements at the session. In his speech, Minister Thórdarson, urged states which have joined the Council to lead by example and reminded them that they should expect their own human rights record to be subject to particular scrutiny during their time as members.
“The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are not, by electing and re-electing countries to this Council that have less than stellar human rights records, to put it mildly – playing into the hands of those who argue and accuse this Council of not being a force for good but rather a protector of human-rights abusers,” said Minister Thórdarson in his speech.
The Minister also expressed concerns about rising intolerance against minorities, also in mainland Europe. “We also see a worrying trend in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia where individuals are targeted for hate and discrimination simply for their faith. We cannot return to our past of us versus them, of indiscriminate hate and fear.”
Today, Minister Thórdarson participated in a High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen. The United Nations and the governments of Sweden and Switzerland convened the participants for the event in Geneva. At the conference, the Foreign Minister pledged USD 250,000 to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in addition to USD 300,000 already pledged to the UNFPA this year. This funding is allocated to the alleviation of the suffering of the people in Yemen, women and children in particular.
“It is a well-known fact that in times of crisis, women and girls become increasingly vulnerable to gender-based violence and exploitation as families and communities become dispersed and chaotic conditions contribute to a sense of lawlessness. It is, therefore, critical to provide funding for humanitarian actors such as the UNFPA that play a leading role in protecting women and girls from gender-based violence and in maintaining their dignity and respect,” said Minister Thórdarson in his address to the conference.
Today’s announcement brings Iceland’s humanitarian contribution to Yemen to a total of USD 1.3 million in the space of a few months.
The Human Rights Council this morning held its biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, with a focus on human rights violations in the context of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality. Minister Thórdarson addressed the meeting on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic States: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and Iceland.
In addition to attending these events, Minister Thórdarson has had several bilateral meetings in Geneva. Yesterday, he met with Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, Maria Ubach, Foreign Minister of Andorra, Marija Pejčinović Burić, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia and Anders Samuelsen, Foreign Minister of Denmark.
Today, Minister Thórdarson had bilateral meetings with Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Henri Gétaz, Secretary-General of EFTA, Josep Borrell Fontelles, Foreign Minister of Spain, Retno Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia and Didier Reynders, Foreign Minister of Belgium.