Allow me at the outset to congratulate you and the other members of the Bureau on your election. I am confident that you will guide us wisely through the complex tasks ahead and I can assure you of the cooperation of my Delegation.
Iceland alligned itself with the statement made by the European Union on Monday but would like to elaborate further on the two thematic issues which are being addressed by the Commission during this session.
The Icelandic Government has been giving more attention in the past few years to the role of men in establishing and maintaining gender equality.
With increased participation of women on the Icelandic labour market, with 80% of women now participating in the work force, attitudes have changed as regards the roles played by men and women, including on the division of responsibilities between them in society. Studies have indicated that men would like to participate more in their children´s upbringing and many of them feel they are not able to spend enough time with their children. Furthermore, the sharing of women’s and men’s responsibilities in the upbringing of their children and in taking care of their homes is considered to be one of the preconditions for equal gender participation on the labour market and in other activities outside the home.
As a result the Icelandic Government’s position is that women and men should enjoy equal rights to maternity/paternity leave to enable them to reconcile their occupational and family obligations. Consequently, since 2001, mothers and fathers have had an equal, non-transferable right to take maternity/paternity leave from work and are able to divide a further three months between themselves as they wish.
So far the majority of fathers have taken their paternity leave while women still take a longer leave than men. During the short period since the new system entered into force, it can be said that it has already had an influence on the Icelandic labour market. As an example, employers who mainly employ men, now have to take into account their employees’ paternity leave when organising work. This would not have been the case before the new system entered into force. At the same time employers can expect that the men they employ request to take paternity leave equal to women. Because of this new system is is now far more likely that women and men will be evaluated on equal terms, both during the hiring process as well as after they become employees.
It is, however, important to be aware of the obstacles which still prevent full gender equality on the labour market. For example the fact that many men still have a vested interest in maintaining gender inequality in the workplace and may therefore feel compelled to defend it. Here changes in attitudes are called for.
Iceland welcomes the report by the Secretary General on Women, Peace and Security and the report by UNIFEM on Women, War and Peace and the recommendations contained therein. I am pleased to inform you that last autumn we had a conference in Iceland on Women, Peace and Security with the participation of Mrs. Elizabeth Rehn a former Defence Minister of Finland and one of the authors of the latter report. The conference generated interest among people at all levels of society and increased public awareness as well as support for SC resolution 1325.
The members of the Security Council are in a key position to implement Security Council resolution 1325, and bear the main responsibility to do so. But the Secretary General and the wider membership, being direct addressees of the resolution, are also responsible. Much more needs to be done, especially to increase women´s participation at all levels, not the least at the highest level of decision making.
The increase in total disrespect for the lives and dignity of women during armed conflicts is appalling. The international community has to renew its efforts to ensure respect for international humanitarian law and human rights. Increased accountability is necessary and the ICC will be an important tool in this regard. It is also crucial to secure respect for women´s human rights in post conflict situations and here I would like to emphasise the plight of women in Afganistan and Iraq.
It is important that the High Level Panel on Global Security Threats and Reform of the International System established by the Secretary General will make recommendations on women, peace and security when they conclude their work later this year.
Thank you, Madame Chair