Ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour and a privilege to address you here today as Chair of the Arctic Council at this 14th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region.
The very first Parliamentary Conference on Arctic cooperation was in fact held in Reykjavík, Iceland, in 1993. Now, nearly thirty years later, we are joined together on an online format with vast distance, borders and even oceans between us. However, most of us are probably at ease with this new reality and meeting venue by now.
A year ago, none of us could have predicted the effects the Covid-19 pandemic would have on the world and that we would still be battling the pandemic a year on. Nevertheless, with a promising vaccination program in progress in most places we can allow ourselves to be a bit optimistic for the next conference to be in person again.
As you all know, Iceland has chaired the Arctic Council for the past two years now and we will hand the chairmanship gavel over to Russia at the upcoming ministerial meeting in Reykjavík next month.
As you can imagine, it has been both a strange and challenging time to chair the Arctic Council. And thankfully this is the first time that Iceland has had to organise an international chairmanship while fighting a global pandemic! I have to say though, that despite the challenges that Covid-19 has brought about we can be proud of what we have achieved during our chairmanship period. Here I would like to note the Covid-19 Briefing Document for Senior Arctic Officials. A remarkable paper, compiled in record time last summer under the lead of the Sustainable Development Working Group and served to inform initial discussions on the pandemic in the Arctic at a Senior Arctic Officials executive meeting. The Briefing Document draws together the impact of Covid-19 and the actions taken to respond in the Arctic region in the first few months of the pandemic. Worrisome vulnerabilities in remote Arctic communities include crowded housing that make self-isolating near impossible, lack of running water, disruption of supply chains and long distances to health care.
On the other hand, the pandemic has also brought out the resilience of Arctic inhabitants, their resourcefulness and adaptability, which help them to deal with a difficult situation.
I would also like to mention that Covid-19 has given us an unexpected opportunity to develop the work of the Arctic Council. In 2019, when we took over the chairmanship from Finland, we noted the interest for online meeting participation. At the time, the Council’s six Working Groups had used online meeting platforms in their work, but the Council’s plenary meetings had always been in person gatherings. Since then, we have of course had to adapt and move most of the planned chairmanship events and meetings online. The Senior Arctic Officials meeting was for example, successfully held, fully online for the first-time last November. We also hosted the first international Symposium on Plastics in the Arctic and Sub-Arctic Region, with international panels and poster sessions, in a fully online format. Leading scientists and experts in the field came together to discuss and share their knowledge and important research on plastics in the ocean. Most of the participants have graciously accepted to allow the public release of their interventions so the material from the plastic symposium will be available very shortly.
The Arctic Marine Environment has been one of Iceland’s main priorities during our chairmanship. The Icelandic people have of course relied on the ocean for their livelihoods for centuries. Being an island nation in the north, fishing kept us alive, and we still rely heavily on ocean-based activities and marine products today. The same goes for our neighbours in other Arctic communities as the region is largely covered by ocean. We have all witnessed the changes in the Arctic Marine Environment due to climate change. It should be our duty to safeguard the oceans around us for a sustainable future in our region. The Arctic Council Working Groups have contributed significantly to scientific knowledge and understanding of the Arctic Marine Environment. During Iceland’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council, we have built on previous work of the Council in these matters. We launched a new platform for discussing Arctic Marine Environment issues, called Senior Arctic Officials Marine Mechanism or SMM. Although we started this initiative as webinar series, it is our hope that the SMM becomes an annual gathering of scientists and experts under the auspices of the Arctic Council, and that it will strengthen circumpolar marine stewardship.
The Arctic Marine Environment has not been Iceland’s only priority during our chairmanship. The Ottawa Declaration that established the Arctic Council places sustainable development at its core. Sustainability is also the backbone of Iceland’s governance. That is why we built our chairmanship priorities around striking a balance between economic, social, and environmental sustainability under the heading: “Together Towards a Sustainable Arctic”.
Throughout our chairmanship, we have also highlighted Climate and Green Energy Solutions, People and Communities of the Arctic and last but not least a Stronger Arctic Council.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I can truly say that the past two years have been as exciting as they have been challenging. Of course, we would have liked to host more of our planned events and meetings onsite and in person – and I can’t really complain about the reduced carbon footprint of the Council’s meetings during our chairmanship. On top of that most of our chairmanship projects are on track and the few delayed, will mostly be continued and completed under Russia’s incoming chairmanship. I think a lot can be learned from our time in the chairmanship seat during these challenging times. Best practises for online cooperation and participation in meetings for one, will no doubt continue to serve the Arctic Council going forward in a changing world.
It has been a great honour and privilege to serve as the Chair of the Arctic Council for the past two years. I believe that it is paramount that we, the Arctic States, Permanent Participants, and Observers continue to use the platform the Council has given us, both online and in person, to continue our good and important cooperation in the Arctic so future generations may enjoy a prosperous, sustainable future in our magnificent region in the north.
Óvissustig vegna hættu á gróðureldum á Norðurlandi Vestra
Ríkislögreglustjóri, í samráði við lögreglustjóra og slökkviliðsstjórana á Norðurlandi Vestra hafa ákveðið að lýsa yfir óvissustigi almannavarna vegna hættu á gróðureldum. Þessi ákvörðun er byggð á því að lítið hefur rignt á svæðinu undanfarið og veðurspá næstu daga sýnir heldur ekki neina úrkomu af ráði. Óvissustig almannavarna þýðir að aukið eftirlit er haft með atburðarás sem á síðari stigum gæti leitt til þess að heilsu og öryggi fólks, umhverfis eða byggðar verði ógnað. Að lýsa yfir óvissustigi er hluti af verkferlum í skipulagi almannavarna til að tryggja formleg samskipti og upplýsingagjöf á milli viðbragðsaðila og almennings.
Almenningur er hvattur til að sýna aðgát með opinn eld á þessum svæðum og öðrum þar sem gróður er þurr. Það þarf ekki mikinn neista til þess að af verði stórt bál.
Ef fólk verður vart við gróðurelda á strax að hringja í 112. Á heimasíðu almannavarnadeildar ríkislögreglustjóra má nálgast upplýsingar um ýmsar varnir til að draga úr hættu af gróðureldum https://www.almannavarnir.is/natturuva/eldhaetta/ og einnig inn á https://www.grodureldar.is/
Forsætisnefnd afgreiðir erindi um siðareglumál
Forsætisnefnd afgreiddi á fundi sínum 10. maí erindi sem henni barst 18. apríl sl. frá Birni Leví Gunnarssyni alþingismanni þar sem hann óskaði álits forsætisnefndar á því hvort ummæli hans í grein í Morgunblaðinu 3. apríl sl. stæðist siðareglur alþingismanna. Niðurstaða forsætisnefndar er birt í meðfylgjandi bréfi til Björn Levís Gunnarssonar.
Var niðurstaðan sú að skilyrði brysti til þess að nefndin tæki erindið til athugunar á grundvelli siðareglna fyrir alþingismenn, sbr. 1. málslið 1. mgr. 18. gr. siðareglnanna.
Landlæknir spurður út í bólusetningar vegna COVID-19
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