Perspectives of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law on the Covid-19 Pandemic
Thank you for giving me the floor.
And allow me to thank Ann Linde and Sweden for arranging this discussion today on human rights in the time of COVID; but also more broadly for embarking on your ‘drive for democracy’.
You can rest assured that you have Iceland´s support going forward.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly stipulates that we are all, every one of us, entitled to certain rights and freedoms – regardless of our race or colour or sex or religion or our place of birth.
This was true prior to the COVID-19-Pandemic and it is true today.
Unfortunately, there have always been those that violate these rights, who seek to strip their fellow human beings of their freedom and equality and their dignity and rights.
The current state of affairs, in this Covid-19 world of ours, unfortunately provides an opportunity for such actors to renew or increase their human rights violations.
However, we are not just talking about governments and political leaders putting growing limitations on media, civic space and freedom of expression but also ordinary people´s daily lives.
To mention just one example, the UN has warned that gender-based violence, particularly in the home, has surged around the world as COVID-19 lockdowns became necessary.
Gender equality has for long been a policy priority for us in Iceland, both locally and internationally. We strive to put gender equality at the top of the agenda wherever we speak.
We are therefore very proud of the fact that Iceland was recently chosen to lead one of the Action Coalitions of the Generation Equality initiatives – and we are looking forward to the challenge of leading from the front on that important initiative.
Overall, my response to the challenges we face is simply this: we must re-double our efforts to safeguard and strengthen human rights. Not allow the present vacuum to fester, given everyone´s preoccupation with fighting the virus.
Iceland will certainly continue to be a vocal advocate for human rights.
During our recent membership of the UN Human Rights Council we spearheaded the first Joint Statement on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. We also put human rights violations in the Philippines on the agenda of the Council, an important initiative given the serious situation there.
We have been vocal on recent events in Belarus, the assassination attempt against the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, the weakening of LGBT-rights in Hungary and on civil rights and democracy in Hong Kong. And we will remain committed to the cause of freedom and democracy everywhere as we go forward.
The Nordic countries have a unique voice and are in a unique situation to be advocates for human rights, civil liberties and democracy. Our ideals and our solidarity are and will be key to our success. Our reputation is solid and respected around the world and we must use that – we should be even bolder than we are to call out those that violate human rights around the world.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Iceland was until this year the smallest country to be elected to the Human Rights Council. But the power of your advocacy and the wisdom of your words has nothing to do with the number of your citizens or the size of your country.
The only thing that matters is if you have something to say that needs to be said, and if you can bring others along with you. In that sense, our recent initiatives have made me very proud because it has been very clear that our voice has been heard.
I can only hope it has inspired other smaller countries to stand up for human rights – because we need human rights champions of all sizes, big and small.
Ávarpið var flutt á umræðufundi um lýðræði og mannréttindi á tímum COVID sem utanríkisráðherrar norrænu ríkjanna tóku þátt í ásamt Michelle Bachelet, mannréttindafulltrúi Sameinuðu þjóðanna, Marija Pejčinović Burić, framkvæmdastjóri Evrópuráðsins, Audrey Azoulay, framkvæmdastjóri Menningarmálastofnunar Sameinuðu þjóðanna (UNESCO) og fleirum.