Activities 2011 - Abstract

The Icelandic Human Rights Centre was founded on June 17 year 1994 by 9 organizations and institutions. Today, 14 organizations and institutions that all work in the field of human rights have representatives in the board of directors. Partners today are the Icelandic Section of Amnesty International, Save the Children Iceland, the Bishop Office of the Evangelical lutherian Church of Iceland, University of Akureyri, University of Reykjavík, Icelandic Church Aid, Equality Centre of Iceland, Icelandic Womens Right Association, Icelandic Red Cross, the National Queer Organization, Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, Organization of Disabled in Iceland, UN Women in Iceland and the National Federation for the Aid of the Disabled.

The purpose of the Centre is to inform about, educate and research on the subject of human rights. The Centre also reviews and supervises parliamentary bills and makes reports for The United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the European Council. The Centre represents Iceland in international collaborations, for example AHRI, COST, ESB projects and European and Nordic human rights organizations.

The Centre's main projects for the last years have been meetings on human rights issues, education for secondary school students, 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, European Week against Racism, answering questions and errands from individuals and institutions, making reports and reviews, publishing, improving our library and updating our webpage. The year 2011 was the third year the Centre carried out projects supported by PROGRESS, the EU program about employment and social cooperation.

The director of the Centre is Margrét Steinarsdóttir.

Domestic work

Supporting and informing:

As usual, individuals, students and institutions came to the Centre seeking for information on human right issues. The director and staff met the demand as well as possible but since, at the end of the year, only one employee was working at the Centre along with the director it has been hard for us to conduct these assignments as well as we would like to.

Comments on parliamentary bills:

The Icelandic Human Rights Centre comments on bills of law presented at the Parliament (Althing), with the aim of ensuring that Icelandic law is in accordance with Iceland's international human rights obligations. In the year 2011, the Centre commented on bills concerning equality matters, guard of disabled people's rights, restraining orders, law change on Icelandic citizenship, child law, slave trade, proactive investigative police powers, religious communities and senior citizens.

Conferences and courses:

The Charter of Fundamental Rights and the EU under the Lisbon Treaty
In the end of January, the Centre along with the Institute of Human Rights of the University of Iceland and the faculty of law of the University of Reykjavík, held a conference in collaboration with the EU executive board/ TAIEX. The conference concerned the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the influence of the Treaty of Lisbon. The conference was called The Charter of Fundamental Rights and the EU under the Lisbon Treaty: Towards Enhanced Human Rights Protection.

Conference on Equality
The Equality Council (Jafnréttisráð) and the Ministry of Welfare have held a conference on equality (Jafnréttisþing) every year for the last few years. This year the conference
was held on the 4th of February. The purpose of the conference was to encourage the government to have interactive discussions on gender equality with the general public, and to give anyone interested a chance to have influence on the government's course in gender equality issues. The director of the Centre was in control of the conference.

Course on Equality and Prohibition of Discrimination

The Centre held a course with this theme for NGO's, governmental institutions and wage-earner movements on October 21st.

Seminar on the Right to Protest
On World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the Icelandic section of UNESCO held the seminar The Yellow Ribbon – the right to protest, in collaboration with the Icelandic Journalist association and the Human Rights Centre. The purpose was to enhance a critical discussion on the right to protest.

Seminar due to publishing of the book Mannréttindi í þrengingum (Human Rights during Recession)
On the 20th of May 2011 a seminar was held on the occasion of the book Mannréttindi í þrengingum. The book was published by the Human Rights Centre and the University of Akureyri.

Along with participating in seminars in Iceland, the director and staff participated in conferences abroad. Following is the list of conferences attended:

  • Youth in Acton: Think! Act! Protect! – Wroclaw, Poland, 25 – 30 of May.
  • Project on comparative researches between various countries about government action plans against gender based violence, court- and work procedure in cases of ill- treated children, violence in close relationships and more. The project was supported by Daphne III. – London, England
  • The Role of the EU in the UN Human Rights Reform: Yearly conference of AHRI/ COST. –Venice. 25th – 27th of September.

Events and meetings:

International women's day
The Centre took part in organizing a program for the international women's day on March 8th.  The main organizers of the day were the Icelandic peace organization MFÍK. The program included many interesting talks from for example Fatima Khua, Katrín Oddsdóttir and Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. The guests were also shown a video from the 8th of March celebration in Mamadur, India and the singer Ellen Kristjánsdóttir sang for the guests.
On the same day the Centre's director, Margrét Steinarsdóttir, held a talk about the legislation on discrimination and manifold discrimination.

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
Representative from the Human Rights Centre, UNICEF in Iceland and the Ombudsman for children in Iceland went to Geneva to attend a questioning from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child for the Icelandic delegation on the 23d of September. The questions from the delegation were about child issues in a wide perspective, and the meeting went very well.

European Week against Racism
The European Week against Racism is an annual event that takes place from the 14th of March to the 27th. The Human Rights Centre organized events for the week along with the Icelandic Red Cross and various other NGO's of Iceland.  The goal was to make each and every participant find and fight their own prejudices. Events were for example a design-competition, courses, dance and music.

16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence
The 16 Days of Activism Campaign is an annual event and Iceland has participated in it for the last eight years. The Human Rights Centre is the main organizer of the campaign in Iceland which starts on the 25th of November and ends on the 10th of December.  Many different associations participated in the campaign and events were movie nights, book reading, meetings, and more.

Media campaigns
In the end of October, the Human Rights Centre launched their advertisement-campaign. The campaign was made to make people think about discrimination. Reaction from the general public was good and the Centre plans to launch the campaign again next year.

The Human Rights Centre took part in other projects on the following topics:

  • The status of foreign women in Iceland.
  • Rights of disability pensioners that have lived abroad to gain rehabilitation pension.

Contribution to meetings and seminars:

The director served as chairperson in the following seminars:

  • Seminar on the book Mannréttindi í þrengingum (Human Rights during Recession).
  • Integration Debate seminar, held on the conference Integration and Immigrants.
  •  Participation  Debate on the procedure of making a new constitution in Iceland.


Teaching Human Rights:

The Human Rights Centre held presentations for social counseling students. The Centre also held presentations about immigration issues and human rights for university students. Various other presentations were held, for example on law environment, immigration issues and EU non-discrimination law.

Human Rights Reference Handbook
The office got a grant to translate and localize a part of the book Human Rights Reference Handbook. The government of Holland and the University of Peace published the book which has been used for teaching in the University of Utrecht.

 Against All Odds:a computer game
The Centre, along with the Icelandic Red Cross, got the game Against All Odds translated in the year 2007. The game is made for youth from age 13 to 16 and gives the player insight into the world of refugees.


Mannréttindi í þrengingum (Human Rights during Recession)
Mannréttindi í þrengingum was published in spring 2011. The purpose of the book is to give the government as well as the general public information on economic, social and cultural rights and how important it is that those rights are respected, especially during times of recession.  

Social Mass Media:

As usual, Icelandic media was in contact with the Centre to get comments on issues regarding human rights and the director wrote in newspapers to raise awareness on human rights issues. 

International Cooperation

The Human Rights Centre is a member of the Nordic school of Human Rights Research, the Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) founded in Iceland in September 2000, the UNITED movement that fights against racism, the ESC-network and FIDH.

The Centre leads work in the international project Human Rights Education Project (HREP). HREP is a project of the UN University for Peace in collaboration with the government of Holland. The Centre has made a website in English based on contents from Human Rights Education Project.  The website contains information about various human right-issues.

The United Nations:

The Human Rights Centre handed in a report to the UN due to the first Universal Periodic Review from Iceland.  The report included criticism on Conventions that Iceland has signed as well as conventions that haven't been signed. The report also expressed various human right issues that Iceland has yet to resolve.
The Centre also handed in a report on civil and political rights to the UN.  The report was handed in as a criticism on Iceland's fifth report on implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Various topics were criticized in the Centre's report and positive changes were praised.

European Council:

The Centre sends reports to the European Council about jurisprudence and legislation in Iceland that are linked to the UN Convention on Human Rights every year. The content is published in the yearbook of the Information Centre.
The Centre also handed in a report to the ECRI committee of the European Council along with the Multicultural and Information Centre where various Icelandic legislations on immigrant rights were criticized.

The European Union:

The Human Rights Centre has a representative in the COST-Project and EU's project on Non-discrimination and diversity training here in Iceland, in collaboration with Migration Policy Group and European Human Consultancy. The project involves training for associations to increase their knowledge on the requests that the European Union sets on the field of multiculturalism, equality and the Icelandic legislation against discrimination.

Nordic Cooperation:

The Nordic School in Human Rights Research was founded in 2002 and the Human Rights Centre, along with 9 other institutes, is a partner of the school. The school will offer students a four year doctoral degree with emphasis on Nordic viewpoints and –projects, but also projects on an international scale.

Nordic consultation meetings on human rights
The Human Rights Centre took part in an annual consultation meeting of Nordic governments and human rights institutes as well as regular consultation meetings for directors of Nordic human rights institutes.  

Icelandic Human Rights Centre

Túngata 14 | 101 Reykjavík | Sími 552 2720 | info[at]humanrights.is

The office is open from 9-12 and 13-16