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Voluntary National Review

Cover page

Voluntary National Review

2. Highlights

1. Opening statement by the Prime Minister

I am very pleased to present you with Iceland’s second Voluntary National Review (VNR). We have taken some decisive steps since our first review in 2019.

This report captures both where we stand at this very moment from the local and global perspective and how we aim to move forward. 

The world we know today is not the same as that we knew in 2019. And, the future we want to build is currently under threat due to multiple overlapping crises. Worldwide, only 12% of the reported Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track and the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased since 2019, a deeply worrying trend.

Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Icelandic Prime Minister

We are still far from reaching our goals to halt climate change. And, we are witnessing a global backlash against human rights, including against the rights of the LGBTI+ community, and gender equality. Iceland, for instance, still faces many challenges in eliminating discrimination against women in all of the group’s diversity despite being a frontrunner in SDG 5 for gender equality. 

We are now at the halfway point of the 2030 Agenda and need to demonstrate unprecedented resolve in accelerating action on the SDGs.

Iceland is willing to do its part. We have increased our official development assistance and our climate finance contributions. We have strengthened our national framework for sustainable development with a new cooperation platform called Sustainable Iceland, and we have established a large sustainability council with members from the government and across society. By the end of this year, we aim to have developed a national strategy for sustainable development for 2030 using the SDGs as guiding principles. 

Children and youth have been at the forefront of Iceland’s VNRs, and recently, the SDG Youth Council presented their thoughts and priorities to the ministers of my government. This VNR is the first time that dozens of civil society organizations have contributed their own assessments of Iceland’s progress on the SDGs. Local authorities are also working towards creating their own Voluntary Subnational Reviews. As Prime Minister, I have travelled around the country to engage in dialogue with the public on human rights and sustainable development, which we will use in our policymaking going forward. 

In Iceland, we see our glaciers melt before our eyes. Climate change is a crisis for humanity as a whole. To combat it, we need international cooperation at all levels. Iceland is committed to the Paris Agreement, and we have put our goal to reach carbon neutrality no later than in 2040 into national legislation. We will achieve this through emission reductions, science-based solutions in carbon capture and storage, and green energy in transportation. 

We are also a member of the Wellbeing Economy partnership, where we monitor progress beyond the traditional GDP through indicators that assess the quality of life and well-being. However, it is not enough to monitor well-being in our own state. 

Iceland ranks relatively high on SDG implementation, but there is room for improvements in many areas, especially in understanding and managing our so-called negative spillover effects. Iceland’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) 2023 side event this year revolves around spillover effects, or how one country’s actions affect other countries’ ability to achieve the SDGs. If we are to achieve the SDGs in time, climate justice and social justice are necessary along with correcting the intergenerational injustices and economic inequalities we face today, leaving no one behind. 

My government is fully committed to implementing the 2030 Agenda nationally and through international cooperation. Collectively, we must create a culture for sustainable development and show both persistence and resilience in our work.

I would like to end with the words of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres:

Global coherence demands a permanent strategic cooperation culture at all levels”.

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