Mr President, dear colleagues.
It is a great pleasure for me to say a few words about the political, economic and social situation in the world from the perspective of our very vital theme. Parliaments as platforms to enhance education for peace, security and the rule of law.
Education is an important policy priority for the Icelandic Government and a great effort has been put into advancing public debate and research on the issue. This subject remains an integral part of our policy to strengthen social well being and securing equal opportunities for both men and women.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture is responsible for the implementation of legislation pertaining to all school levels from pre-primary and compulsory education through the upper secondary and higher education levels.
A fundamental principle of the Icelandic educational system is that everyone should have equal opportunities to acquire an education, irrespective of sex, economic status, residential location, religion, possible handicap and cultural or social background.
Also, promoting education and gender equality is a main concern in Icelandic development cooperation. This is based on the conviction that education and gender equality are human right. Furthermore evidence shows that in societies where the struggle for education and gender equality has been most successful, the social and economic rights of the public are greater.
Iceland is so fortunate to be a gender equality frontrunner and has topped the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index the tenth year in a row – making it the country with the narrowest gender gap in the world. In particular, we rank high on women’s educational achievement and women’s political empowerment.
Gender equality in Iceland can partly be attributed to equality being the leading principle in the design of educational policies in the 20th century – with focus on equal access to education – irrespective of gender, class or geography. This is clearly one of the reasons that Iceland was on the top of the 2018 Inclusive Development Index of the World Economic Forum.
Still, many challenges remain in Iceland and after graduation gender equality does not come at its own accord. On the contrary – gender stereotypes influence educational choices – that in turn contribute to gender segregated labour market – the gender pay gap – and the imbalance between men and women in terms of unpaid care and household work. We also see a lack of women in senior management positions, despite the fact that around 70% of university graduated students are women they are less likely to be in senior positions in the largest companies.
Furthermore, researches show that female education and empowerment is strongly associated with democratic development and democracy is more likely to occur in nations with a history of educating girls. Also women have different approaches to problem solving and prioritization that should not be underestimated.
Whether it be in relation to peace and democracy or health and poverty, education and empowerment of women is vital to success.
Moreover, I want to stress the enourmous part schools play in society and should condemn stereotypes and any kind of violence. Prevention should start early in life, by educating and working with young boys and girls promoting respectful relationships and gender equality. While public policies and interventions often overlook this stage of life, it is a critical time when values and norms are formed.
Education is the single biggest transformative factor for the individual and the nation as a whole. Societies cannot thrive nor develop unless all children and young people have quality education – both girls and boys.
Vital values taught include equality, respect for diversity, care and empathy.
Mr Chair, dear colleagues,
It takes a lot of dedicated political will and action to make real changes when it comes to equality issues and better educated society will always be better prepared to adopt new norm and ideas.
Icelands SDG´s priorities include several targets linked to addressing gender based inequality and quality education for all.
That said, progress has been made regarding LGBTQ+ rights and Iceland is now on its way to join the group of states that have introduced legislation on gender recognition – ensuring the rights of transgender and intersex people.
Additionally, I want to stress the instrumental importance of gender mainstreaming – as tools to ensure that policies and decisions overall are supporting the realisation of equality. Gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting and various important actions to increase gender equality and prevent gender-based violence are crucial to ensure peace and security as well as economic growth and sustainable development in general – and doing so by leaving no one behind.
Implementing education for all and increasing human rights by doing so, is likely to improve our countries as wellbeing economies, a goal that we should all aim at!