Bringing Men Into the Gender Equality Debate: Q&A with Einar Gunnarsson

“We like to bring the men into the forums where gender equality is being debated,” said Einar Gunnarsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations. “Not only that, we also want to bring the gender equality debate into the rooms where men are.”

Speaking with International Peace Institute Senior Adviser Warren Hoge, Mr. Gunnarsson said gender equality and women’s empowerment are cornerstones of Iceland’s foreign policy.

Among the ways it has encouraged this is through an initiative known as the “Barbershop Conference,” which was developed jointly with officials from Suriname to encourage men to discuss gender equality, women’s rights, and ending violence against women and girls.

The conference was held at the beginning of 2015 and attended by 100 male permanent representatives to the UN. Iceland is now planning to develop it as a tool for others around the world.

“We think it is important, these two sides—bringing men into the room where the gender equality debate is taking place, but also bringing the gender equality debate where men are the dominate part of the room,” he said.

Mr. Gunnarsson said Iceland had been a strong supporter of the women, peace and security agenda, including UN Security Council resolution 1325 on this issue.

“We set our eyes to processes that we were able to relate in one way or another to the women, peace and security agenda,” he said, “and it has become a natural element for us. It is at the forefront of our agenda.”

Iceland’s peacekeeping operations have a 50-50 participation of women and men, a process that started in 2008 and took a year to put into full operation.

This discussion was part of a series of interviews done on the margins of ICM’s fifth retreat, on women, peace and security, held on June 19-20.

Listen to the interview: