Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson addressed the UN General Assembly yesterday. In his speech he stressed the need for the international community to continue its fight against poverty and inequality. The Foreign Minister discussed the new Millenium Develpment Goals due to take effect after 2015. In his speech he said that Iceland placed an emphasis on food-security, in particular the sustainable utilisation of the oceans and opportunities in the seafood sector which could be a core issue in the post-2015 development agenda. He said that Iceland would also argue strongly for measures to achieve a land-degradation neutral world. The world needed to overcome the vicious circle of land degradation and the release of greenhouse gases by switching to sustainable land management.
In the context of Foreign Minister Sveinsson also discussed the importance of ensuring access to affordable and sustainable energy for all. Today over 1.3 billion people had no access to electricity and as energy production grew it was essential to increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by 2030. To this end, Iceland had lined up with a group of countries and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to identify opportunities and support mechanisms to scale-up geothermal production. The Foreign Minister encouraged UN Member States to join this Global Geothermal Alliance.
The Foreign Minister put a special emphasis on gender equality in his speech and said that we must continue to fight for the full implementation of the commitments made almost 20 years ago in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Iceland was proud to support UN Women in the campaign to celebrate Beijing+20. Moreover, he announced that Iceland had partnered with Suriname to lead a friends' group of countries to galvanize support to promote gender equality and to commemorate the 20th anniversary. The two countries would convene a “Barbershop” conference in January 2015 where men will discuss gender equality with other men, with a special focus on addressing violence against women. This would be the first time at the UN where only male leaders were brought together to discuss gender equality and this would be an exceptional contribution to the Beijing+20 and #HeforShe campaigns.
The Foreign Minister expressed his grave concerns over the growing disregard for international law. The self-styled terrorist group ISIS was a shocking example of this and the Minister said that as human beings we were revolted by its brutality and appalled by its mindless destruction. The international community could not accept the disregard for the fundamental principles of the UN shown by this group. The Minister said that Iceland therefore agreed with lawful actions to end these atrocities by countries in the region and from other parts of the world and that Iceland would contribute humanitarian aid through UN agencies.
Foreign Minister Sveinsson discussed the situation in Syria and reminded the audience of the suffering and total disrespect for humanitarian law in the civil war that had caused almost 200.000 people to die. He also said that the prolonged foreign occupation of the State of Palestine was another violation of international law and that this summer a pointless war between Israel and Gaza had caused unacceptable loss of life. In his speech he condemned the disproportionate use of force by the Israel Defence Force which resulted in over 2000 deaths in Gaza and condemned the indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas and other militant organisations in Gaza. He appealed to the General Assembly when he said we should not let the loss of life be in vain and let the future of Palestinian children be a future without foreign occupation. A two-state solution, with comprehensive support from neighboring countries and robust international peacekeeping arrangements, was the objective.