“My political goals will always be linked to the environment, social justice and gender equality!“
Katrín Jakobsdóttir has been Prime Minister of Iceland since November 2017. At 42, she is the youngest female head of government in Europe, leading the Icelandic Jamaica coalition. Jakobsdóttir is married and has three sons. Sven Lilienström, founder of Faces of Democracy, spoke with Katrín Jakobsdóttir about democracy, gender equality and climate change.
Mrs. Prime Minister, the Faces of Democracy initiative wants to support a better understanding of democracy around the world. How significant are democracy and democratic values to you personally?
Katrín Jakobsdóttir: Upholding democracy and democratic values is maybe the biggest reason I am in politics, so obviously they mean everything to me as a politician. Those of us in power must never forget that we are in our positions to serve the people.
Iceland is one of the most peaceful countries in the world. However, according to the Global Peace Index, migration is increasing worldwide due to increasing conflicts. Which refugee policy is Iceland pursuing?
Katrín Jakobsdóttir: There is a huge crisis going on globally when it comes to displaced people. We must face the fact that we have a record number of refugees in the world due to armed conflict, persecution, and environmental catastrophes.
Iceland will make its contribution to solve the refugee crisis and will accept more refugees!
Iceland will make its contribution to solve the refugee crisis and will accept more refugees. Humanitarian considerations and international obligations will be the basis for our policy. An inter-party committee of parliamentarians will be entrusted with assessing the application of the Foreign Nationals Act and – as necessary – with the revision of that act.
Keyword security: Iceland has no regular army. Nevertheless, your party is against remaining in NATO. How should we imagine Iceland´s defense without the North Atlantic Alliance?
Katrín Jakobsdóttir: Iceland’s National Security Policy (NSP), which is based on a broad definition of the national security concept – including inclusive security, human and food security, environmental and health security and nuclear disarmament – clearly states that membership of NATO continues to be a key pillar in Iceland’s defense.
My party is the only political party in Iceland which opposes the membership of Iceland in military alliance because we don´t think military alliances are the right way to ensure a more peaceful and secure world.
Being a nation without a military, Iceland of course participates in NATO only on a civilian basis. My party is the only political party in Iceland which opposes the membership of Iceland in military alliance because we don´t think military alliances are the right way to ensure a more peaceful and secure world. In this government however we are committed to follow the National Security Policy which has the support of a broad majority in the Icelandic Parliament.
You recently emphasized that equal rights are among the most important topics of Icelandic politics. What can other countries learn about equal rights from Iceland?
Katrín Jakobsdóttir: I would encourage others to proactively implement policies which level the playing field for men and women. By doing this we accelerate this process of change towards gender equality. Iceland’s Equal Pay Certification legislation is an example of this.
Boards of companies with over 50 employees are required to have a gender balance of at least 40:60!
We also have legalized gender quotas on corporate boards and on public committees – these were implemented in Iceland in 2013. Boards of companies with over 50 employees are required to have a gender balance of at least 40:60. Our maternity and paternity leave legislation is another example of policy as a hugely important tool. When the norm is for fathers to go on paternity leave just as it is for mothers to go on maternity leave, potential pregnancies and children do not become as fraught of a gender issue in the hiring stages.
As a green politician, how do you rate the withdrawal of US President Donald Trump from the UN Climate Change Agreement and the US backdown in the fight against plastic waste in the oceans?
Katrín Jakobsdóttir: It’s important in my opinion for all nations to take climate change seriously. The Icelandic government is strongly committed to an ambitious implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement and to the promotion of renewable energy at the global level.
Our goal is to go even further than envisaged in the Paris agreement, and to have carbon neutral Iceland by 2040.
Our goal is to go even further than envisaged in the Paris agreement, and to have carbon neutral Iceland by 2040. This will be achieved by cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon uptake by soil and vegetation by actions in land use, for example by restoring wetlands.
Who is „Huh“? Iceland is taking part in a World Cup for the first time. How much does investment infrastructure and training contribute to the success of Icelandic football?
Katrín Jakobsdóttir: I think it’s a combination of a few things. An increased investment in facilities and training has made a difference in the past years, and has set a certain framework around the football. Another important thing about this team is their mindset and their strong team spirit.
It’s been inspiring for all of us in Iceland to see how their belief in the team and its possible success despite the odds, has carried them this far.
Their main strategy is working together, they know that no single player is more important than the others or than the team as a whole. It’s been inspiring for all of us in Iceland to see how their belief in the team and its possible success despite the odds, has carried them this far. This goes for both the Men´s and Women´s national teams. They have both had incredible success in international football.
Mrs. Pime Minister, our seventh question is always a personal one: What do you most like to do in your free time and what political goals have you set for your first term as Prime Minister?
Katrín Jakobsdóttir: What free time? Just kidding. When I do get the chance I love to enjoy the great outdoors.
My political goals as Prime Minister will always be linked to the environment, social justice and gender equality!
Maybe go for a run or a hike or just sit outside in nature with a book – I actually read fiction every single day which is essential for my mental health! My political goals as Prime Minister will always be linked to the environment, social justice and gender equality.