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Plenary Speaker

Olafur R. Grimsson

Olafur R. GrimssonOlafur Ragnar Grimsson (b. 1943) is the fifth President of the Republic of Iceland and was first elected President in 1996. He received his B.A. degree in economics and political science at the University of Manchester in 1965 and his Ph.D. thesis in political science five years later. He subsequently became the first Professor of Political Science at the University of Iceland. President Grimsson was elected to the Althingi, the legislative assembly, in 1978 and served as Iceland’s Minister of Finance 1988-1991.

President Grimsson has been active in international venues for a long time. He was a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 1981 to 1984 and 1995 to 1996 and was Chairman and later President of the international organization Parliamentarians for Global Action from 1984 to 1990, serving on its council until 1996.

In recent years the President has been very active in international dialog on renewable energy and climate change. Together with Professor Jeffrey Sachs, he initiated the Global Roundtable on Climate Change, which met both at Columbia University and in Iceland and included representatives of nearly one hundred European and American corporations, as well as experts, scientists, and opinion leaders. He has actively participated in the Clinton Global Initiative and has helped to further clean energy projects in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the United States. President Grimsson advocates the use of geothermal energy, as proven convincingly by the case of Iceland. In 2007, he was the patron and helped to organize an international forum on soils, society, and global change that was held to commemorate a century of organized soil conservation and land restoration in Iceland. He participated in dialogs in different parts of the world on restoration of land quality to battle climate change, combating desertification and revegetating eroded land.

President Grimsson has been a Board Member of the Special Olympics, and he played a major role in the international drug prevention campaign Youth in Europe, which now enjoys the participation of 19 European cities. He has also been active in promoting cooperation between Icelandic and foreign universities and has lectured at prominent American academic institutions, including Harvard, Columbia, Brown, and The Ohio State University. Among the many international awards he has received is the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize, which he received on behalf of PGA, and last year it was declared that he would receive the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding. He was a member of the committee of the Peace Initiative of Six Heads of State in the years 1984-1989.

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