Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir addressed the United Nations yesterday, delivering a speech that put its emphasis on gender equality and children’s rights.
“Ten years ago a milestone was reached in international cooperation,” the prime minister said in part, “The endorsement of the Millenium Development Goals. This provided common universal objectives for the global fight against poverty. … We need to listen to the voices of women and children worldwide. We need to hear the poor and marginalized. It is our responsibility to act in all of their interest as leaders accountable to our fellow citizens.”
Citing Iceland’s – and the world’s – economic crisis, she said, “We have learned a hard lesson from the financial turmoil, and it has most affected those most vulnerable. We must not lose sight of fundamental values, such as fair and just society. Short term policies and benefits must not replace sound economic management and long term stability.”
The main focus of her argument, however, was that “gender equality and empowerment of women is key to the success of the Millennium Development Goals. Not only as a specific target, but for the goals in general,” pointing out that women face greater degrees of discrimination than men with regards to education, employment, and health care.
Therefore, working towards gender equality would, the prime minister contended, help to alleviate numerous problems at once.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’,” she concluded. “The respect for human rights is essential to a more peaceful, prosperous and just world. We need to make a common international effort, and respond more efficiantly when human rights are not being respected. With leadership and political will we can accomplish real progress and make a world free of poverty a reality.”
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