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At a Crossroads: Iceland in the International System

Institute of International Affairs

Join us for a discussion on Iceland and international cooperation at the annual conference of the Institute of International Affairs at the University of Iceland, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Nordic House, in collaboration with the Institute for Public Administration and Politics at the University of Iceland and the Icelandic Political Science Association on April 24th from 10:00 - 17:00 at the Nordic House. 

Register

All are welcome. Some of the panels will be in Icelandic and others in English. Panels conducted in Icelandic will be translated to English.

Register here!

About this year’s conference

As at previous conferences we will discuss and analyse the current trends in international affairs and Iceland's position in the international system.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs will open the conference, followed by a keynote from the President of Iceland. Throughout the day, our panels will explore Iceland's foreign policy and defence strategies in a changed security environment, address the challenges of political polarization, discuss opportunities and challenges in EEA Cooperation within a shifting global landscape, and examine the impact of generative AI on democracy. The conference will conclude with a panel discussion featuring MPs from all political parties in the Icelandic parliament, focusing on Iceland's foreign policy.

Programme

10:00 – 10:10 Welcoming words

Sabina Westerholm, Director, Nordic House

10:10 – 10:20 Opening remarks

Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, Minister for Foreign Affairs

10:20 – 10:40 Keynote address

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, President of Iceland

10:40 – 12:00 Iceland's Foreign Policy and Defense in a Shifting Global Landscape

Opening remarks Erlingur Erlingsson, Foreign policy, defence and government relations specialist and Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir, Professor of International Relations, University of Iceland

Panel discussion: Diljá Mist Einarsdóttir, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and MP for the Independence Party, Erlingur Erlingsson, Foreign policy, defence and government relations specialist, Jónas Allansson, Director General, Directorate for Defence Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland, Ragnar Hjálmarsson, Researcher and political consultant, Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir, Professor of International Relations, University of Iceland

Moderator: Pia Hansson, Director of the Institute of International Affairs

12:00 -12:30 Light Lunch

12:30 – 13:30 Bridging Divides: Mitigating Growing Polarization

Opening remarks Dylan Andres Herrera Chacon, Doctoral Graduate Student at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland

Panel discussion: Bergþóra Snæbjörnsdóttir, Author and human rights activist, Bryndís Haraldsdóttir, Chair of the Icelandic delegation for the Nordic Council and MP for the Independence Party, Dylan Andres Herrera Chacon, Doctoral Graduate Student at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland, Eiríkur Bergmann, Professor of Political Science at Bifröst University, Guðrún Hálfdánardóttir, Journalist and radio programmer at RÚV

Moderator: Jón Gunnar Ólafsson, Post doctoral researcher in Media studies at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Iceland

13:30 – 14:30 Euro-Strategic Crossroads: Challenges and Opportunities for EEA Cooperation in a Shifting Global Paradigm

Opening remarks Pernille Rieker, Research professor at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)

Panel discussion: Ágúst Hjörtur Ingþórsson, Director General, The Icelandic Centre for Reacherch - Rannís, Breki Karlsson, Chairman, The Consumers Association of Iceland, Lucie Samcová - Hall Allen, Ambassador of the European Union to Iceland, Sigríður Mogensen, Director at the Federation of Icelandic Industries and Chair of EFTA Consultative Committee

Moderator Ambassador Auðunn Atlason, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Iceland

14:30 – 14:50 Coffee Break

14:50 – 15:50 Navigating the Impact of Generative AI on Democracy

Opening remarks Niels Nagelhus Schia, Research professor at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)

Panel discussion: Brynjólfur Borgar Jónsson, Founder & CEO of DataLab, Halldóra Mogensen, Chair of the Future Committee of the Icelandic Parliament and MP for the Pirate Party, Niels Nagelhus Schia, Research professor at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Páll Rafnar Þorsteinsson, Project Manager, Centre for Ethics at the University of Iceland, Theódór Ragnar Gíslason, Founder of Defend Iceland

Moderator Elfa Ýr Gylfadóttir, Director, Icelandic Media Commission

15:50 – 16:50 Where to and Why? Iceland’s role in the International System

Panel discussion: Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir Gunnarsdóttir, MP for the Pirate Party, Birgir Þórarinsson, MP for the Independence Party, Bjarni Jónsson, MP for the Left-Green Movement, Jakob Frímann Magnússon, MP for the People´s Party, Kristrún Frostadóttir, MP and Chairperson of the Social Democratic Alliance, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, MP and Chairperson of the Center Party, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs and Chairperson of the Progressive Party, Þorgerður Katrín Gunnarsdóttir, MP and Chairperson of the Liberal Reform Party

Moderator Sigmundur Ernir Rúnarsson, Journalist and Author

16:50 – 17:00 Closing Remarks

Jón Atli Benediktsson, Rector of the University of Iceland

17:00 – 18:00 Reception and Comic Relief

About the panels

Iceland's Foreign Policy and Defence in a Shifting Global Landscape

The current international landscape is marked by profound geopolitical shifts, including devastating conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, escalating tensions among major powers like the USA, China, and Russia as well as multifaceted challenges stemming from climate change. Simultaneously, the world is witnessing a decline in democratic values, with signs of an authoritarian turn evident in several Western countries. These developments signal not only a state of global unrest but also a transformation in the traditional structures that have defined the world order. In the face of these formidable challenges, the multilateral system is experiencing severe strain and faces the risk of losing legitimacy and effectiveness in addressing global challenges.

Bridging Divides: Mitigating Growing Polarization

Growing polarization in Iceland around issues of refugees and immigration reflects a broader trend seen across Europe. Displacement and human suffering in the wake of war and conflict on the global stage have a significant influence on the local debate in Iceland around Iceland’s humanitarian responsibilities, national policies, and our role in providing a safe haven for refugees. The need for proactive measures to bridge divides has become increasingly urgent. What are the causes of this societal division and how can we mitigate them?

Euro-Strategic Crossroads: Challenges and Opportunities for EEA Cooperation in a Shifting Global Paradigm

On the 30th anniversary of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA), it is opportune to reflect on its future prospects. Elections for the European Parliament will take place in June and a new European Union executive leadership will assume office thereafter. There are plans for future enlargement of the EU, possibly deepening cooperation, as some countries may choose a closer relationship ("multi-speed Europe"). The Russian invasion of Ukraine has called for increased cooperation among European countries in security and defence matters, and the results of the U.S. elections in November will have a significant influence. Calls for protectionism in international trade are growing. Furthermore, there is a significant undercurrent against European integration, while at the same time, urgent global issues such as climate change, migration and public health demand closer international collaboration. All these forces will undeniably have direct and indirect effects on Europe and the EU, and thus on EEA and Iceland. How will the EEA cooperation evolve in the next ten years? 

Navigating the Impact of Generative AI on Democracy

With the increasing use of generative AI for election-related content, concerns over misinformation, deepfakes, and forgeries are growing. On the one hand, AI offers the promise of efficiency, data-driven decision-making, and enhanced civic engagement. However, this comes hand in hand with potential pitfalls. AI algorithms can unintentionally amplify existing biases, creating echo chambers and contributing to the spread of misinformation fostering polarization. Collection of vast amounts of personal data by AI systems raise concerns about privacy and automation capabilities of AI may lead to job displacement potentially exacerbating economic inequalities and social divisions.

How can we harness AI’s potential for positive change while mitigating the risks? How can we cooperate on developing transparent regulations and more ethical AI?

Where to and Why? Iceland’s role in the International System

A Debate with Representatives from the Political Parties in the Icelandic Parliament