I must admit I was very humbled to give an address to this highly distinguished audience. I instantly said yes, and then I paused. I thought ‘what can I bring to the table?’.
After some reflection, in the same spirit as you, I see my country as an agent of and for change. No mater how small or large, we all carry the same responsibilities, to push for our full potentials in the spiritual and physical sense of the word. We are judged by our actions, and by the same token, they speak volumes.
Iceland, despite its size, has a platform and a voice, and we see ourselves as change agents. We use our voice and platform to share our experience and future goals for others to learn from.
I want to discuss three things today. Peace, human rights and gender equality, and economic freedom. Peace is a multi-layered fabric and is rich in colours. If we want the fabric to last in the turbulent winds it needs broad ownership from various sections of society. The SOH Forum is a reflection of this thinking and I am inspired by your contribution to strengthening and understanding of this universal goal.
Compassion, respect and solidarity may not be commonly discussed in international politics, but they should. One of the challenges we face is that such core values never stop leading our actions.
Good governance requires sound laws, based on protecting human rights. Laws that are not grounded in human rights will never in the long run enjoy the support of the people. Poor governance threatens peace and destabilises whole regions.
None of us are isolated from the world or world events. All of us agree that inclusion is the key. But how do we ensure that international efforts to build peace are meaningful and lasting. To build lasting peace and stability we need to guarantee respect for basic human rights and ensure gender equality. This is an area Iceland can contribute greatly to the world.
Iceland has been lucky enough to be free of conflict, 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 in gender equality. The challenge is not only to maintain the strong emphasis we place on gender, but also to push for new and innovative ways to further advance the work that is already underway. Only through equality can a society be deemed successful.
To realise the full potential of individuals and societies at large, we need freedom. Freedom to act and to grow. Only a century ago, Iceland was the poorest nation of Western Europe. Today we are one of the wealthiest and forward thinking on the planet. It is trade. Nature has given us riches and we have been fortunate to see how to share these riches with the world.
Trade is the bedrock of our relation with our neighbours and those further afield, and the simple truth is it brings us better relations, stability and prosperity to the international community. Iceland with its platform will continue to champion freedom.