Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland
Thank you Sigurður, distinguished colleagues, dear guests.
The old saying that “the only constant is change” certainly applies to international affairs. We live in times characterized not only by continuous change, but also growing speed and complexity.
I believe this is true for international peace and security, where we are faced with new threats, as well as with environmental challenges where global climate change is a leading factor in the melting of glaciers and sea ice, and dramatic fluctuations in weather - triggering floods and draughts alike.
We live in an interconnected world where isolation is not an option. We are, at the end of the day, all on the same boat when it comes to ensuring peace and security, economic prosperity and stability, and sustainable development as the recent UN IPCC report aptly describes.
But, unfortunately, being in the same boat does not necessarily entail that we all row in the same direction. International affairs are also shaped by different interests and diverging ideas.
We, the West Nordic nations, live in and represent a large area in the world - an area of growing economic and political interest among major powers as witnessed by this year’s Arctic Circle.
How should we respond? Well – we can start by identifying what we want, where our interests lie, and what binds us together. Subsequently, we should lead by example and organize our regional co-operation around these common interests: free trade, scientific research, sustainable development, as we have done successfully in the past – to name only a few subject areas.
I also believe we should continue to emphasize that our regions, the North-Atlantic and the Arctic, do not become an area for re-armament. We want low-tension in the High North, but we also want to avoid a security vacuum and ensure full situational awareness. We should be a voice in support of human rights, the rule of law and the rule-based international order.
This we will emphasize during Iceland chairmanship in the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2019 and Foreign Minister´s co-operation of the Nordics and the Nordic-Baltic, as well as in our Arctic Council Chairmanship, which starts in May next year.
Geopolitical realities in international affairs have always been uncertain and ever-changing. Some things were better, other things were worse. The fact is, that states have been and will be constant caretakers of their own interests, and the world has for centuries seen great powers rise and fall in the quest for a balance of power.
What is new, as I mentioned in the beginning, is the complexity, the speed, and the almost immediate impact of events. At the same time, we are better equipped than ever before in our history to understand the challenges and to respond to them.
I wish you a fruitful discussion.