Item 6 - Adoption of the Outcome of Iceland’s UPR Report and Addendum
50th Session of the Human Rights Council
Delivered by Head of Delegation, H.E. Harald Aspelund, Permanent Representative of Iceland
30 June 2022
It is my great honour to address the Council on the occasion of the consideration and adoption of the outcome of Iceland’s third Universal Periodic Review.
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.
The UPR offers an exceptional opportunity to regularly hold ourselves to account, take stock, and learn from others and Iceland greatly appreciates the interest shown in the human rights situation in our country. This review was an opportunity to discuss our own human rights record with fellow Member States and non-state actors. New challenges to human rights continue to rise and we, as all other countries, benefit from new perspectives on where we can do better.
Iceland respects the UPR’s core concept of broad stakeholder consultations. 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.
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.
Another 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.
The Government of Iceland welcomes the recommendations received during the third UPR of Iceland on 25 January 2022. Iceland received 230 recommendations. They are highly valuable for our continued national development.
The Government’s overall approach when considering the recommendations received was to accept recommendations where the Government could foresee measures before the next review, or where measures had already been or were being implemented.
After careful consideration of the recommendations, the Government submitted an addendum to the Report of the UPR Working Group on 4 April this year. A table with all the recommendations and the Government’s responses to them was annexed to the addendum. The responses include explanations with regard to all recommendations that were noted.
The Government of Iceland accepted 218 recommendations, partially accepted 2 recommendations and noted 10 recommendations.
The recommendations cover a number of different human rights issues. I will provide some comments with regard to the main themes.
During our review, the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution was raised by a large group of states.
The Government of Iceland has decided to establish a strong, independent and effective National Human Rights Institution that will be fully compliant with the Paris Principles. The establishment of a human rights institution is included in the coalition treaty of the current Government. Work is already underway on the establishment of a new human rights institution a bill will be presented to Parliament in 2023.
A number of states recommended the Ratification of the UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
We are pleased to announce that the process is underway. Icelandic law is based on a dualistic system, whereby national legislation is adapted to conform with international conventions ratified by Iceland. Consequently, the ratification process takes time. The Icelandic authorities emphasize their absolute devotion to continue an ambitious approach to the implementation of international human rights obligations.
I would now like to make a few comments about the ratification of Optional Protocols that entail communications procedures of the respective human rights treaty bodies. After careful consideration, a decision was made to ratify the third Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child before the end of 2023. To further strengthen the status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Government of Iceland has decided to incorporate it directly into Icelandic legislation. In parallel with the incorporation of the Convention into Icelandic legislation, a preparation of the Optional Protocol's ratification is planned.
Allow me now to highlight a few of the steps the Government of Iceland has taken to combat gender-based and sexual violence, and trafficking in human beings.
The Government is firmly committed to fighting gender-based and sexual violence. Significant efforts have been made to ensure faster and higher quality investigations and prosecutions in gender-based and sexual violence cases. This includes enhanced financing and additional training for police and prosecutors.
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 which since has been the foundation of a strengthened approach to the prevention, protection, and prosecution of human trafficking, as well as enhanced partnership and consultations across the administration and with the police.
We also received several recommendations concerning equality, non-discrimination and measures to combat discrimination, and accepted all of them.
There should be no doubt that the Government of Iceland attaches great importance to combatting 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.
Legislative protection against discrimination has been strengthened, with the broadening of the Act on Equal Treatment outside the Labour Market with a bill passed by the Parliament earlier this month/in June this year. The Act now covers equal treatment in all areas of society, irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion, life stance, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics.
I would also like to mention that earlier this month, the Parliament unanimously passed the first Action Plan on the rights of LGBTQI+ individuals in Iceland with the aim of improving their rights in all areas of society.
The matter of hate crimes and hate speech was also raised. The criminal code has been amended and now includes a provision on hate crime. The provision on hate speech has also been broadened to include protection for more groups.
During our review, a number of states gave recommendations to address the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.
The government has adopted a new and coordinated approach to refugee reception and integration, aimed at ensuring quicker and better inclusion of refugees into the community. This has gone hand in hand with a detailed Action Plan to further facilitate integration of all immigrants and to monitor societal perception of Iceland’s immigrant population.
The Government intends to formulate a comprehensive immigration policy in the coming years, aimed at ensuring that persons who settle in Iceland have the opportunity to integrate and actively participate in Icelandic society and in the labour market.
We noted the recommendations on ratifying the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The revision of the labour law is planned and needs to be conducted and the ratification of the Convention will be taken into consideration after that process.
Lastly, the fight against climate change is a core priority for the Government and we therefore welcomed and accepted the recommendations received on human rights and the environment.
I thank you.
Let me first of all thank you and all those who have participated today. I also wish to thank the Secretariat for their invaluable guidance, and our Troika – Argentina, Finland and Senegal – for their excellent work.
We have implemented a number of strategic initiatives since our last Review to promote human rights in Iceland, and the Government remains fully committed to continuing to implement the UPR recommendations. We will continue to involve civil society organisations in Iceland, and other stakeholders, in the follow up process. A strong and engaging dialogue with stakeholders is crucial to ensure that all key areas of concern are addressed. I can also confirm that we will, like last time, submit a voluntary mid-term report in 2024.
Iceland remains firmly committed to promoting and protecting human rights and we will strive to find adequate solutions and responses as new human rights challenges arise. Iceland views the Human Rights Council as the key platform for the promotion of human rights and a cornerstone of the multilateral system. We will continue to work actively with the Council to ensure that mechanisms for protecting and advancing human rights globally are strengthened.
I thank you.