Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of Iceland, addressed the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, Vísir reports. Due to the pandemic, participation in the the session took place both online and in person. The Minister participated yesterday via video call.
Human rights, the state of the pandemic and the threat of climate change were the main topics tackled in his speech. Unsurprisingly, Guðlaugur Þór was sure to connect each of these issues to the importance of international cooperation.
Sustainable energy and climate change
Guðlaugur Þór stressed the need for global participation on climate action through adherence to the Paris Agreement, a topic that has become even more pressing since the release of an alarming report in August 2021 by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts of global warming.
“Today’s challenges may seem overwhelming and almost impossible to overcome. However, as an optimist and a strong believer in multilateral cooperation, I have for the past five years stressed in my message to the General Assembly the importance of seeing the world of opportunity, the potential of our cooperation,” he states. “My message today is no different: we cannot let global challenges divide us. On the contrary, we must for all our sakes, unite.”
Guðlaugur Þór shares that Iceland has been working towards sustainable energy for Iceland and others for decades through “research, education, sharing of experience and collaboration.” He goes on, “As a Global Champion, we are now scaling up our efforts even further.”
“For our part, Iceland’s ambition is to go beyond the Paris commitments.”
When speaking on the Covid-19 pandemic, Guðlaugur Þór urges that we cannot go back to business as usual. He touches on the disparities faced in the fight against the pandemic, stating, “While in most developed countries we are turning a corner in our fight against COVID-19, the same cannot be said about all of the world.” Continuing on, “It is critical that we work together to ensure that vaccines reach all countries and peoples – rich and poor – and as soon as possible. Not only is this a fundamental matter of global solidarity, but also in the interest of us all.”
He then demonstrates Iceland’s commitment to this cause through vaccine sharing and a 1 billion ISK donation that has already been made to COVAX. He states, “The pandemic has taught us that we are stronger together than apart. It has also exposed the dangers of isolationism, disinformation and distrust.”
Emphasis on equality
Guðlaugur Þór believes that Iceland’s example demonstrates the need for inclusivity and equality in sustainable development, especially by way of gender equality in societal progress.
He states, “Iceland is committed to promote SDG implementation at home and abroad. The Global Goals guide our growing official development assistance, under the overarching objective of poverty reduction and a strong focus on human rights, including gender equality, rights of children and LGBTI.”
Human rights were touted as an essential cornerstone of sustainable development across the globe. “Including everyone,” he states, “irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, or race, means more hands and minds pushing for social and economic progress for all.”
The entirety of Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson’s speech to the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly can be read here.
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