Hoppa yfir valmynd
25. janúar 2022 Forsætisráðuneytið

Ávarp Katrínar Jakobsdóttur forsætisráðherra vegna þriðju allsherjarúttektar á stöðu mannréttindamála á Íslandi, 25. janúar 2022

Universal Periodic Review - Iceland

Opening statement


H.E. Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland

25 January 2022


Mr. President and distinguished delegates,

It is an honour to open the Universal Periodic Review of Iceland. The promotion and protection of human rights is a core priority for the government of Iceland, in both domestic and foreign policies. We firmly uphold the principle that human rights are universal, and we strive to see this reflected in all areas of Icelandic society.

International cooperation is a critical component of promoting and implementing human rights for all. This is especially vital now in the context of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, and the increased polarization we see around the world.

We have seen a significant global backlash against human rights, with an alarming rise in nationalism, racism, religious intolerance, homophobia, and transphobia. We have also witnessed increased hate speech and a pushback on the gains that have been made towards gender equality and women’s reproductive rights.

We must reverse and fight these trends and work together to secure the human rights of all people, all around the world.

The UPR offers a unique platform for UN Member States to work together and take joint responsibility for the advancement of human rights, both domestically and internationally. The frank exchange with civil society within the process is also invaluable.

This review is an opportunity to discuss our own human rights record with fellow Member States. New challenges to human rights continue to rise and we, as all other countries, benefit from new perspectives on where we can do better. We therefore look forward to hearing your recommendations.

In that spirit, we have actively participated in the review of other countries. By the same token, we should regularly hold ourselves to account, take stock, and learn from others – the UPR offers an exceptional opportunity to do just that.

Mr. President,

Iceland respects the UPR’s core concept of broad stakeholder consultations. This is reflectedin our efforts to strengthen the preparation process throughout this third cycle.

A central part of this was the establishment of a Government Steering Committee on Human Rights, which since 2017 has served as a formal platform for human rights consultation and cooperation across all ministries. The Committee followed up on the implementation of all recommendations from the previous cycle and ensured improved access to information on their status and progress.

We closely involved Icelandic civil society in the review process. We held regular open consultations, and throughout the process, stakeholders were invited to submit comments and proposals. However, due to the pandemic, much of the consultations took place in a virtual format.

A vital part of the consultation process was the involvement of children and young people, with the Youth Council for the Sustainable Development Goals playing an important role.

The input of children and young people was invaluable. They called for increased attention to the impact of the climate crisis on human rights and raised the issue of rising inequalities and global justice.

Mr. President,

Iceland’s national report, presented here today, focuses on the implementation of recommendations from our last review and the many achievements we have reached, and outlines where we think there is room for improvement. Overall, we believe it accurately reflects the government of Iceland’s firm commitment to advance human rights in all spheres of society.

Now, I will share with you some highlights and address some of the questions we received from member states in advance of this meeting.

First: Iceland continues to make steady progress towards institutionalizing the promotion and respect for human rights.

The coalition treaty of the recently re-elected government is an example of this. The treaty affirms our intention to establish a strong, independent, and effective national human rights institution, completing a process we have already started. We will ensure that the establishment of this new national human rights institution is in full accordance with the Paris Principles.

Another demonstration of the high priority given to human rights, is the recent decision to transfer the policy area of human rights from the Ministry of Justice to the Prime Minister’s Office. Subsequently, both human rights and gender equality are placed at the centre of government, which will further facilitate the mainstreaming of human rights into all administrative work.

Likewise, we plan to strengthen the Government Steering Committee on Human Rights, with the intention to develop a strong and comprehensive national policy on human rights.

Since our last review, Iceland has also ratified several international human rights obligations.

These include:

  • the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
  • the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence;
  • the UNESCO Convention against Discrimination in Education; and
  • the UN Conventions on Statelessness.

We have also begun the process of ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Second: Promoting equality and non-discrimination continues to be a key priority.

We firmly believe that progressive policies aimed at advancing gender equality are the foundation for an inclusive, just, and rights-based society where everyone can prosper. And we have been successful - Iceland has been at the top of the World Economic Forum’s gender gap index since 2009.

While we are proud of this achievement, we will not stop here, but actively continue our drive. This is based on a dedicated Government Action Plan, where gender-equality mainstreaming – including gender-equality budgeting – is an integral part of public policy.

A critical step towards gender pay parity was taken in 2018, when a ground-breaking equal pay law was implemented.  Iceland became the first country in the world to require employers to obtain an equal pay certification, which ensures equal pay for equal work. This made it much harder for employers to maintain gender-based pay differences.

In 2020, we implemented a new comprehensive law on gender equality, with a first ever provision on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. This increases legal protection for the most marginalized individuals, including women of foreign origin and women with disabilities.

Here, I would like to specifically underline Iceland’s emphasis on LGBTQI+ rights, both at home and abroad.

The opening words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are clear: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”  We must ensure that each person is able to enjoy their human rights, regardless of sexuality, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics.

In Iceland, we have made significant progress on advancing LGBTQI+ rights.

In 2019, a new Act on Gender Autonomy was adopted, allowing individuals full autonomy to define their own gender. The law also prohibits unnecessary surgical procedures on intersex children, protecting their bodily integrity.

Additionally, amendments have been made to the Children’s Act regarding the parental status of trans and non-binary people, to protect and respect all forms of families.

Iceland has actively promoted its LGBTQI+ rights agenda internationally, including here in the Human Rights Council. This year, we doubled our contribution to the unique Global Equality Fund, and we have also committed to contributing to the UN Free and Equal campaign for the next three years.

Iceland is also firmly committed to fighting racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination.

Significant steps were taken in 2018, when the Icelandic Parliament adopted two anti-discrimination laws: The Act on Equal Treatment in the Labour Market and the Act on Equal Treatment irrespective of Race and Ethnic Origin.

In addition, a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation has now been presented to Parliament. This bill requires equal treatment in all areas of society and prohibits all and any discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, life stance, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.

Increased emphasis has been placed on fighting hate speech and hate crime, including through extensive awareness raising. To that end, we will present a bill this spring where the General Penal Code will be amended to include a provision on hate crime. This bill will also give more groups protection against hate speech, including people with disabilities and intersex persons.

Third: we are committed to further advance the rights of persons with disabilities.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was ratified in 2016. Since then, various amendments have been made to implement the Convention into Icelandic legislation. An example is the Act on Services for Persons with Disabilities with Long-term Support Needs, implemented in 2018, which aims to give people with disabilities the support they need to lead their lives independently on their own terms, and to fully enjoy their human rights on an equal basis with others in our society.

We are committed to fully implementing the Convention, the central goal being the self-determination and full participation of all persons with disabilities in our society. To further strengthen the status of the Convention, the decision has been made to incorporate it directly into Icelandic legislation.

Fourth: Icelandic authorities place strong emphasis on the rights of the child.

A new policy and action plan on a Child-Friendly Iceland was adopted last summer. It aims to ensure a comprehensive implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including through strengthened child participation, child impact assessments, child-friendly budgeting, increased collection of data, and education on children’s rights at all school levels and throughout society.

Since our last UPR, Iceland has undertaken an extensive revision of laws and policies on services for children, including a new Act on the Integration of Services in the Interest of Children’s Prosperity. We also plan to create an integral policy on matters concerning children, based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international obligations.

Fifth: we are determined to continue the fight against gender-based and sexual violence.

Regrettably, gender-based and sexual violence remains one of our greatest human rights challenges. This global crisis has deepened during COVID-19, which has brought about conditions that have contributed to an alarming rise in violence against women and children.

We are firmly focused on strengthening our systems to fight gender-based and sexual violence. This includes policies on prevention and awareness raising, and new provisions in the General Penal Code to address online gender-based violence.

We have made significant efforts to ensure faster and better-quality investigations and prosecutions in gender-based and sexual violence cases, as well as in cases of human trafficking. This includes more financial resources and additional training for police and prosecutors.

In the context of COVID-19, the Government of Iceland has undertaken to minimize the societal effects of quarantine measures, in part to reduce the risk of gender-based violence and other human rights abuses. No lockdowns or curfews were imposed, and preschools and compulsory schools have predominantly stayed open throughout the pandemic. Services for victims of violence remained as open as possible and a special task force was established to coordinate actions against violence, with a special focus on women, children, and other vulnerable groups.

Combating human trafficking is a top priority for Iceland. In 2019, the Government’s policies were outlined in a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and Other Forms of Exploitation. This has been the foundation of a strengthened approach to preventing human trafficking, protecting survivors, and prosecuting perpetrators. On this issue, we have created enhanced partnerships and consultations across the administration and with the police.

Lastly, we are committed to protecting the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.

With record numbers of forcibly displaced people around the world, accelerated by the climate crisis, Iceland remains firmly committed to assisting those in need. We have a well-established asylum and protection system, which focuses specifically on the most vulnerable groups.

The Icelandic government is finalizing a new action plan and a long-term policy on immigration issues. The goal is to promote an inclusive society based on the principles of equality, justice, and respect for the human rights of all individuals.

Mr. President,

As mentioned at the outset, human rights are not only a core national priority for Iceland, but also a central element of our foreign policy.

In 2018, Iceland took a seat on the Human Rights Council for the first time, and we will continue to use the Council as a key platform to promote human rights, gender equality, rule of law and democracy. We are seeking a seat on the Council for the period 2025 to 2027.

Later this year, Iceland will chair the Council of Europe. During our chairmanship, we are determined to engage meaningfully with all members on the advancement of human rights in and beyond the region.

Mr. President,

In this opening statement, I have provided an overview of the important progress made since Iceland’s last Review. We are proud of the progress made, and thankful to the many stakeholders across Icelandic society who have been instrumental in this process.

At the same time, let me acknowledge that our work is far from over. Due to it´s nature, it will never be over. The advancement of human rights is inherently an ongoing process. New challenges are continuously emerging, calling for thoughtful and lasting solutions.

Among those, climate change is the biggest challenge of them all, the biggest challenge of our time. Not only does it pose a direct threat to the lives and livelihoods, but it also has profound implications for human rights - and by extension the work of the Human Rights Council.

The fight against climate change is a core priority for the government of Iceland. It is a fight that needs to be fought on many fronts, and I welcome the recently adopted resolution of the Human Rights Council which recognizes for the first time that a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is in fact a human right.

Mr. President,

With the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we pledged to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The UPR process is an essential manifestation of how UN Member States have come together to do just that. It has been an honour to take part in this process, for the third time now, and we look forward to receiving your recommendations.

I thank you for your attention.


Hafa samband

Ábending / fyrirspurn
Vinsamlegast svaraðu í tölustöfum