Application of the Covenant in the Icelandic legal system. 4
Article 2 - Exercise of rights without discrimination. 4
Article 3 - Gender equality 6
Article 6 and 7 - Right to work and to just and favourable conditions of work 8
Article 9 and 11 - Right to social security and adequate standard of living 12
Article 10 - Protection of the family 16
Article 12 - Right to health 19
Article 13 and 14 - Right to education 22
Article 15 - Right to participation in cultural life. 23
1. In light of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Committee) review of Iceland’s fourth Periodic Report on the Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the Icelandic Human Rights Centre (ICEHR) has taken the opportunity to provide the following insights regarding Iceland’s implementation of the Covenant.
2. The Government report provides an extensive overview of national legislative measures that are significant to the implementation of the Covenant. The report however was written in 2008 and has been updated only to a limited extent and as such, there are several issues identified that call for improvement.
3. ICEHR has assumed the functions of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) as set out in the UN Paris Principles, although its powers, independence and financing are not established by statute. Even though no contribution is earmarked for the Centre in the National Budget, the Centre has since 2008 been allotted 10 million ISK annually from the Ministry of the Interior (former Ministry of Justice and Human Rights) and additional 3,5 million ISK through a service agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ICEHR appreciates the Government’s support but these contributions do not satisfactorily sustain the Centre’s operations and functions. As a result, ICEHR has had to seek monetary support from other sources as well, mostly for specific projects that take up valuable time that should be directed at the Centre’s primary functions as stipulated in the Paris Principles. Furthermore, the Centre’s exclusion from the National Budget means that ICEHR is unable to rely on governmental financial support, making it almost impossible to plan ahead. Recently, the Government have stated their intention to actively consider the possibility of establishing a NHRI, in view of existing institutional structure, availability of expert knowledge and experience and other relevant factors. ICEHR has already offered our experience, knowledge, contacts etc. to be of use and to facilitate this work.
Constitutional protection of economic, social and cultural rights.
4. In the Icelandic Constitution, Act no. 33/1944 only a few articles aim to protect economic, social and cultural rights. On November 4th 2009 the Icelandic Prime Minister submitted a bill to the Parliament establishing an advisory Constitutional Assembly with the given mandate to review the Constitution. Annexed to the bill was an explanatory statement stipulating the reasons for a Constitutional review, which were mainly the need for extensive social discourse in order to review the basis of the Icelandic administration after the economic meltdown in late 2008. Demands had been made on the need to review various ground rules of the Icelandic administrative infrastructure such as the organisation of the legislative and executive powers and the separation between the two.
5. Finally after a long journey of establishing the Council it was officially formed on 6 April 2011. The delegates of the Constitutional Council are a various group of people with diverse opinions, education and experience in life. Each and everyone have taken a stance to matters based on their own beliefs and opinions. During the process, the Council has consulted the Report by the Constitutional Committee, as well as the result of the National Forum 2010. The public did have wide access to the work of the Council, primarily by writing comments, totalling 3600, as well as sending their suggestions, numbering approximately 370, to the Council's website. The idea that the public had their saying in the revision of the constitution was thus preserved. In that way, the proposed bill for a new Constitution has little by little taken shape during discussions between the delegates themselves and with open exchange of opinion with the community.
6. The bill for a new Constitution was presented to the Speaker of Althingi on 29 July 2011. All Council delegates, at the last meeting of the Constitutional Council 27th July 2011, unanimously approved the bill. The Chapter on Human Rights has been revised and is now called Human Rights and Nature. The Principle of Equality is more detailed than in the present Constitution and special emphasis is put on all being granted the right to live with dignity. A provision is made that by law, all children shall be granted the protection and care required for their well being. With the emphasis on increased transparency and information duty of Government bodies, the bill strives to better ensure civil rights for people in strive with the authorities. Media freedom is stipulated in the constitution as well as increased freedom of information, it is especially provided that everyone is free to collect and distribute information and that public administration shall be transparent.1