IMAGINE FORUM: LOOKING OVER THE HORIZON
RÆÐA GUÐLAUGS ÞÓRS ÞÓRÐARSONAR UTANRÍKISRÁÐHERRA
10. OKTÓBER 2017
President of Iceland,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour to be invited to address you here today; to discuss Youth, Peace and Security. Although I may see myself as the same young person as I was when I graduated from this very University some years back, I do realise I no longer possess the authority to speak on behalf of youth.
But I speak on behalf of a small democracy, some would say a young democracy. A country that possesses the energy and driving force of youth, which in my mind makes it as an agent of change and an agent for change.
No matter how small or how large, we all bear the same responsibilities. To drive and to push for our full potential. We are judged by our actions and by the same token, our in-actions speak volumes.
Iceland, in spite of its size, has a platform and a voice. I see us as an agent for change, using our voice and our platform to share our experience and future goals, for others to learn from and to contribute to strengthening the resolve to build a better world.
This is what I want to touch upon today. And by doing so, I want to focus on three distinct areas: 1) Peace, 2) human rights and gender equality and lastly, 3) economic freedom.
First, let me discuss briefly peace, stability and universal respect for one another. Peace is a multi-layered fabric. It is rich in colour, and it is only as strong as the efforts that are put into weaving it. If we want this fabric to last in the turbulent winds of world politics, it needs broad ownership from various segments of society; academia, civil society, media and not least citizens, no matter what their opinions or way of life may be.
In a world of constant struggle between different interests, a world where inequality and conflict is a sad fact of too many lives, it is essential that we don’t lose sight of the values which we have built our societies on; respect for diversity, human rights and individual freedoms, representing charity, harmony and reverence.
Good governance requires sound laws based on, and protecting human rights. Rights without the machinery to enforce them have very little value. Laws that are not grounded in human rights will never, in the long run, enjoy the support of the people. Laws divorced from human rights are more likely to foster injustice and derailing societies from within. Poor governance threatens peace and security within a country and it destabilizes whole regions.
So, while we bear a responsibility to our own people to govern well, we also bear a responsibility to the global community. Each nation is sovereign indeed – but none of us is isolated from the world and world events.
I think all of us agree on that inclusion is key in this respect. But this begs the question: how do we assure that international efforts to build peace are both meaningful and lasting? This is a complex question and there are no short answers.
This leads me to my next point. To build lasting peace and stability we need to guarantee respect for basic human rights and more specifically, I want to specifically mention the need to ensure gender equality. This is an area where Iceland can contribute greatly to the world.
Iceland has been lucky enough to be free of conflicts. That, however, does not mean we do not have a role to play in advancing peace and common prosperity. We do that, in part, by remaining a voice for gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.
The challenge is not only to maintain the strong emphasis that we and our Nordic friends place on gender, but rather to push for new and innovative ways to support and further advance the work that is already under way.
Equality is an essential part of sustainable development, clean economic growth, social justice, sustainable peace and security. Only through equality can a society, in general, be deemed successful.
This brings me to my third and final point. To realise the full potential of both individuals and societies at large, we need freedom – Freedom to act and freedom to grow.
Only a century ago, Iceland was the poorest nation of Europe. Today, we are among the wealthiest and most forward-looking nations on the planet. The key to this success is very simple: Trade. Nature has given us riches and we have been fortunate enough to be able to trade in a free and fair way and taken care not to upset our delicate balance with nature.
This brings me back to my initial points. If the very essence of freedom is questioned by those who make up the complex fabric of societies it will only hit them back with a cold storm. And it will hit those in our societies that need growth and prosperity the most.
And let’s keep in mind, that free trade is not only the exchange of goods or services for money for the benefit of both parties.
Free trade is forming relationships, free trade is people interacting, travelling, understanding each other, regardless of race or religion.
Free trade is therefore one of the most powerful tool to establish and maintaining peace.
Iceland, with its platform and its voice will continue to champion freedom.
These are the values that make our communities sought after and a model, they are the fabric of a better, safer world.
I hope our discussions here today will only strengthen our resolve to honour these values.