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Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Praise Iceland for Allowing Children to Challenge Custody Cases, Ask about Violence against Children and Waiting Lists for Mental Health Treatment – OHCHR

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05 May 2022
Press releases
Press briefing notes
Statements
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fifth and sixth periodic report of Iceland, with Committee Experts praising the State for allowing children to challenge custody cases, and raising questions about violence against children and waiting lists for mental health treatment.
A Committee Expert welcomed that children in Iceland had the right to challenge custody cases and request the custody of another parent.  How many such challenges had been registered, and could they be made in all regions?
Addressing violence against children, another Committee Expert asked how Iceland was ensuring that there were remedies available for child victims of violence at the municipal level.  Was corporal punishment banned in law?  What were the punishments for parents who committed such acts?  What was the objective of the campaign on corporal punishment, and had it been effective?
One Committee Expert said that children were forced to wait up to 19 months in some cases to receive diagnosis regarding mental health disabilities.  What was the reason for this long waiting period?  Why, another Expert asked, was the need for mental health care so high?
Introducing the report, Ásmundur Einar Dadason, Minister of Education and Children and head of the delegation, said that at the beginning of this year, a new comprehensive Act on the Integration of Services in the Interest of Children’s Prosperity had entered into force.  Under the Act, if a child was not satisfied with current arrangements on custody, residence or visitation, they could contact authorities and ask that their parents take part in a discussion on these matters.
The delegation added that there had been three cases of children using the custody mediation service in Reykjavík in 2022.  The Government was working on information campaigns to ensure that children were aware of this service.  The Ministry of Justice had also been making efforts to reduce the time taken to provide mediation in custody cases.
Mr. Einar Dadason also addressed violence against children, saying that it remained one of the State’s greatest challenges.  A special plan on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment against children had been adopted in 2020.  The State had also increased emphasis on providing victims of violence with the necessary support and access to child friendly information.  A special awareness campaign on violence against children had been launched.
The delegation added that during the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against children had increased.  In response, a special committee had been established that created new digital platforms for reporting violence and ran campaigns discouraging domestic violence.  Informative videos had been created in various languages to reach all groups in the society.  A plan to combat violence against women and children had been established, and a working group on implementing the plan had been launched.
On waiting lists for mental health treatment, the delegation said that there had been a surge in the need for mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Efforts were being made to improve mental health services and decrease waiting time.  Iceland had invested 540 million Icelandic crowns to improve mental care in 2020, and an additional 600 million had been invested in 2021.  Mental health care services in upper secondary schools had been improved as a result of this funding.  A new council focused on staffing and recruiting in health care had been established.  A better overview of waiting lists was required to determine why children were on these lists and provide alternative measures for these children.
In closing remarks, Luis Pedernera Reyna, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Task Force on Iceland, said that the Committee would work hard to develop a set of recommendations to strengthen Iceland’s adherence to the Convention.  Children needed to be informed about these recommendations.  If children were informed about their rights, democracy and society in Iceland would benefit.
Páll Magnússon, Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Education and Children and moderator of the delegation of Iceland, said in concluding remarks that the advancement and promotion of human rights, including those of children, was a never-ending process.  Iceland was strongly committed to furthering the rights of children using the Convention as a foundation and the Committee’s recommendations as a guide.  The Government awaited concluding observations with enthusiasm, and would do everything in its power to make necessary improvements.
The delegation of Iceland consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Education and Children; the Prime Minister‘s Office; the Ministry of Health; and the Permanent Mission of Iceland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue concluding observations on the report of Iceland at the end of its ninetieth session on 3 June.  Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage.  Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 6 May at 3 p.m. to consider the combined fourth to sixth periodic report of Cambodia (CRC/C/KHM/4-6).
Report
The Committee has before it the fifth and sixth combined periodic report of Iceland (CRC/C/ISL/5-6).
Presentation of Report
ÁSMUNDUR EINAR DADASON, Minister of Education and Children of Iceland and head of the delegation, said that children’s rights were very close to his heart.  His goal was to make Iceland the best country in the world in which to be a child.
In February this year, a new Ministry of Education and Children had been established.  The aim of this structural change was to bring together different policy areas that impacted children’s lives.  The change reflected the Government’s strong priority to further the rights and wellbeing of children in Iceland.
Iceland had made significant progress in recent years regarding children’s rights, however, various challenges remained.  The views of children were especially important when evaluating how the rights of the Convention were put into practice, and the State placed a special focus on active child participation, submitting a special report containing the views of children alongside the periodic report.
In 2013, the Convention on the Rights of the Child was incorporated directly into Icelandic legislation, along with the first two Optional Protocols.  Toward implementation of the Convention, a policy and an action plan – Child Friendly Iceland – was adopted by Parliament in June 2021.  The action plan included actions that aimed to increase child participation, assess the implementation of the Convention, and support education on children’s rights.  Child friendly municipalities had been established under the plan, which currently covered covering 55 per cent of all children.  A dashboard that gave a comprehensive overview on the status of children was being developed and would be implemented in all child friendly municipalities.
Further, a Government steering committee on children’s affairs and a parliamentary committee on children’s affairs had been established and these had increased knowledge about children’s rights within the Government.  At the beginning of this year, a new comprehensive Act on the Integration of Services in the Interest of Children’s Prosperity had entered into force.  The Act integrated and strengthened services, and established a framework for providing children with early support to reduce the need for more severe interventions.  If a child was not satisfied with current arrangements on custody, residence or visitation, they could contact authorities and ask that their parents take part in a discussion on these matters.
The Child Protection Act had also been amended to strengthen children’s right to participation within the child protection system, as well as increasing the right to child friendly information and a child friendly environment.  Parliament adopted in 2021 a resolution on the Education Policy 2030 with the aim to safeguard and strengthen the education system, and to make it more inclusive and equitable.
An Act on Services for Persons with Disabilities with Long-term Support Needs entered into force in 2018.  The Act aimed to ensure the rights of children with disabilities and their full and active participation in society.  A steering committee had also been established that aimed to further improve access to services and ensure sufficient resources to fully meet the needs of each child.  Another committee had also been established to address the status of waiting lists for services.  Yet another steering committee had been established to ensure the rights of children seeking international protection and children with immigrant backgrounds.  
Violence against children remained one of the State’s greatest challenges.  A special plan on the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence and harassment against children had been adopted in 2020.  The State had also increased emphasis on providing victims of violence with the necessary support and access to child friendly information.
Iceland had introduced special measures to support children during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A special awareness campaign on violence against children had been launched, aimed at reaching children and families with different language backgrounds by distributing videos in several different languages.  Special leisure activity grants were also offered to children during the pandemic.
The Icelandic Government was committed to continue working towards the protection and promotion of children’s rights.  Children’s rights had been and should always be a priority for Iceland.         
Questions by Committee Experts 
LUIS PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Task Force on Iceland, said that there were decreasing numbers of marriages of children under 18.  Would the State party consider an overall ban on the marriage of children under 18?
Foreign children were allegedly the target of discrimination.  What were the causes of discrimination of children in general?  Did the State plan to investigate the cause of discrimination and how to prevent it?
Sometimes the principle of “the best interests of the child” was confused with the “best interests of the parent”.  How did the State define “the best interests of the child”?
How did the State plan to tackle threats to the right to life of children, such as traffic accidents?
The Committee welcomed the focus of the State party on including children in discussions on legislation relating to them.  What measures did Iceland envision implementing to allow children to speak for themselves in courts and in parliament?
Were there plans to reduce the voting age to 16?
What challenges were faced by transgender and intersex children in accessing State services, and what was being done to improve these children’s access to such services?
Did the State plan to modify legislation that limited children’s rights to freely choose religion?
Images of children and medical records were kept on a State database, and the Ombudsperson had been engaged in discussions with the State with the aim of removing this personal information.  What was the Government’s position on this database?
Another Committee Expert congratulated the positive steps that Iceland had taken to protect the rights of children.  Were the rights of children fully covered by the State’s action plan?  Had the parliamentary committee on the rights of children been established?
What were the differences in services offered for children by different municipalities?  Had procedures to secure a budget for supporting children’s rights been successful?  What data was included in the dashboard collating information on children?
A Committee Expert expressed great satisfaction regarding the State’s report, opening statement, and measures supporting the rights of children.  Had the State succeeded in combining data on children from various Government departments in its dashboard?
Had the State’s new fact and evidence-based approach to interventions been successful?  Had the State improved affected children’s access to food?
Had the State’s campaigns to combat corporal punishment and domestic violence been effective?
How did the State intend to shorten waiting lists in mental health hospitals?  Had the State increased the number of psychologists?
Had the State succeeded in gathering more data on violence?  Could these statistics be used to provide better responses to violence, especially in schools?
Responses by the Delegation
Children aged 16 could apply for special permission to marry.  No applications had been received since 2016.  A draft law had been created that removed the ability of children to apply for this permission.
The first Children’s Parliament had been held by the Children’s Ombudsperson in 2019.  It was very effective and fruitful.  The next step for the Government was to determine how to systematically follow up on its decisions.
Parliament had yet to reach a majority regarding lowering the voting age, but there was support for lowering the age from both parties.
Data on young people who had committed suicide was not available, but there was a comprehensive suicide prevention plan that included specific actions directed at young people.  The plan promoted access to mental health and lowered barriers to access.     
More effort was needed at the national level to coordinate between ministries regarding the systematic participation of children, but it was promoted by the Child Friendly Iceland policy and the child friendly municipalities.  In recent years, changes had been made to bring legislation and practices in line with the Convention.  Recent changes to the Children Act had brought it in line with article 12 of the Convention in terms of participation in decisions affecting them.
There was a difference between the services offered by large municipalities and rural municipalities.  However, within the prosperity law, all municipalities were required to provide a range of services for children.  The steering committees were working on establishing services and securing funding for necessary services.
One of the Government’s aims in building a dashboard on children’s data was to improve services in a manner that was financially sustainable for municipalities.  The dashboard allowed Iceland to compare the provision of services for children in different municipalities.  The dashboard would help inform politicians regarding the status of children across Iceland and bring children into the political spotlight.  The dashboard provided an overview of children’s health and wellbeing both at the municipal and national level.  Data in the dashboard was anonymous. 
To ensure the implementation of the Convention, the Ministry of Social Affairs had established the strategy and action plan Child Friendly Iceland.  The action plan established clear actions regarding children’s access to education, recommended legal amendments related to international conventions on the rights of the child, and emphasised the participation of children in decision-making procedures.  It also established a complaint mechanism for children, and aimed to make the Government more child friendly and increase access to child friendly information.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against children had increased.  In response, a special committee had been established that created new digital platforms of reporting violence and ran campaigns discouraging domestic violence.  Informative videos had been created in various languages to reach all groups of society.  A plan to combat violence against women and children had been established, and a working group on implementing the plan had been launched.  The working group focused on strengthening education on gender-based violence for people working with and for children.
Action plans against violence in schools were in place, as was an action plan aiming to improve children’s safety online.  There was a coordinated approach aimed at parents and caregivers toward making the internet a safer place.  Iceland was focused on increasing media literacy.  Action plans were coordinated between actors, and took every part of violence into account.
The Government of Iceland had incorporated an impact assessment into its Child Friendly Iceland strategy.  A working group would be established to implement the assessment procedure.  Children’s participation would be a key factor in creating an assessment template.  Assessments would help to improve legislation.
Questions by Committee Experts 
A Committee Expert asked why some parties were reluctant to lower the voting age.  What was children’s position on lowering the voting age?
How was Iceland ensuring that there were remedies available for child victims of violence at the municipal level?  Was corporal punishment banned in law?  What were the punishments for parents who committed such acts?  How many complaints about corporal punishment had been lodged?  What was the objective of the campaign on corporal punishment, and had it been effective?
Another Committee Expert asked whether there were efforts to promote children’s rights within the judicial system.
Had the State party established procedures for budgeting measures protecting the rights of children?
Another Committee Expert welcomed that children had the right to challenge custody cases and request the custody of another parent.  How many such challenges had been registered, and could they be made in all regions?
Could the Children’s Ombudsperson receive complaints?  What oversight was provided
LUIS PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Task Force on Iceland, said that children under the age of 18 were refused the right to register companies.  Were there any measures in place to allow children to register companies?
Another Committee Expert noted that the State was trying to pass on the decisions made in Children’s Parliament to municipalities.  Had the State provided feedback to participants?
What were the important elements of child friendly cities?  Budgeting had not been implemented for child friendly cities.  Did the State have any plans to implement budgeting for child friendly cities?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that children who were not accustomed to politics would be opposed to the right to vote, but if children were involved in politics from an earlier age, the rate of support for voting would increase.  Talking to and listening to children was important in this respect.
Youth parliaments had discussed the voting age, with delegates saying that they needed to be better informed.  However, by discussing political issues from an earlier age, youth gained a better understanding of the political process.
The Ombudsman for Children was still in a trial period.  Its aim was to provide children with a means of filing complaints when necessary.
Corporal punishment was punishable under the Penal Code.  Acts that put children’s lives at risk were punishable with imprisonment.  The Government had worked to make social protections more available for children, using platforms that children used, such as YouTube.  Campaigns focused on preventing abuse and promoting positive parenting in stressful situations.
There was strong cooperation between the courts and the social protection system.
The dashboard was a tool that incorporated a wide range of data.  The majority of measurements that the Government would have access to was for children of age 10 to 18.  The Government was working on obtaining more data on younger age groups.  Data within the dashboard did not include personally identifiable information.
Iceland was committed to establishing a budgeting procedure for social services for children.  It was looking toward international organizations and other Governments for guidance in this regard. 
Questions by Committee Experts 
A Committee Expert congratulated Iceland for ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Children were forced to wait up to 19 months in some cases to receive diagnosis regarding mental health disabilities.  What was the reason for this long waiting period?
A coercive system to share housing costs for children with disabilities was being developed.  What was the status of this?  What was the integration rate of children who had completed Myelodysplastic Syndromes treatment?
What assistance was provided to families of foreign nationalities?  What measures had been implemented to support children in foster care?  Were there considerations to extend parental leave beyond 12 months?  How effective were complaint mechanisms in place for children in foster homes?
What measures were in place to protect the rights of children detained with parents in prisons?
Comprehensive mental health services were provided in primary schools, but not in all secondary schools.  What efforts were being made to address this?  There had been an increase in the number of specialised psychological staff since 2017.  Had this helped to decrease the waiting list for mental health care?
Had legislation on the marketing of tobacco products to children had a positive impact?  How were children involved in devising education programmes on environmental issues?  Were there targeted interventions to address the standard of living of homeless children?
Another Committee Expert asked whether school education was free.  Did the State provide support for transport to school?  What measures were being taken to combat absenteeism?  Could children who had received non-standard education access secondary and higher education?  Did the State implement human rights education courses in schools?  Did the State ensure that all children had access to leisure, regardless of their financial situation?
Did the Child Ombudsman carry out oversight of places of detention?  How had the State improved its justice system to make it more child friendly?  How did Iceland guarantee the rights of migrant children?
LUIS PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Task Force on Iceland, welcomed the position of Iceland, which prevented children from being involved in armed conflict.  Did the State identify children who had been involved in conflict in other countries and provide necessary support?
What efforts had the State made to prevent the creation and sale of child pornography?          
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that a new comprehensive law on equal rights and equal status had entered into force in 2021.  This was an effort to prevent discrimination and protect marginalised individuals.  Two anti-discrimination laws had also entered into force in 2018.  The first dealt with discrimination in the workplace, ensuring equal access to work.  The second applied to all areas of society.  There was a committee that dealt with complaints related to discrimination.
A report on transport accidents had been released.  The aim of the report was to improve children’s safety and prevent fatal accidents involving children.  There had been an increasing number of accidents involving electric bicycles, and this was an area that the Government planned to raise awareness on.
Children residing in Iceland whose parents did not have residency status or international protection may be expelled from Iceland, however, the situation of the family was considered in each case.
Individuals were required to register their own gender at the age of 15.  They were able to identify as gender neutral.  Children below the age of 15 could apply to be registered as a different gender, and their application was assessed by a special committee.  Gender-alignment surgery for children could only be undertaken with the permission of guardians, and after undertaking counselling.  There was limited information on the status of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex children, however, a plan was in place to evaluate their wellbeing in schools and provide them with support.  There was a dedicated transgender team within the psychiatric department of the Ministry of Health.
The general rule regarding religion was that children were considered to be of the same religion as their parents, but children were able to choose their own religion at the age of 16.  The Ministry of Justice had no plans to change this.  There had been no issues regarding religion in custody cases.
Children’s privacy online was an issue.  Steps had been taken to ensure that children’s personal information was not published online.  The judicial administration had been working with the Children’s Ombudsman on this issue, and a set of rules on the publication of information was being prepared.
There had been a surge in the need for mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Health care was prioritised based on needs.  If a child had an acute problem, they were provided with help as soon as possible.  Efforts were being made to improve mental health services and decrease waiting time.  Iceland had invested 540 million Icelandic crowns to improve mental care in 2020, and an additional 600 million had been invested in 2021.  Mental health care services in upper secondary schools had been improved as a result of this funding.  Funding was also secured for a national children’s mental health team, the Centre for Children’s Mental Health.  The Centre would work to decrease waiting lists and improve mental health services. 
Despite these efforts, the State still faced considerable waiting lists, and these needed to be eradicated.  The Ministry of Health was developing a new policy and action plan on mental health toward this aim.  The policy emphasised change from the bottom up, empowering patients, and equitable health care.  Staffing and recruitment was a challenge for Iceland due to the small size of its population.  The Ministry was increasing the number of psychologists, and a new council focused on staffing and recruiting in health care had been established.  The Directorate of Health was reassessing the waiting list procedure.  The Prosperity Act also included measures to provide improved services to children to decrease waiting lists and improve children’s overall health. 
In 2019, an information centre on violence against children was established.  It examined available data on violence, and had started collecting improved data on incidents.  It included data on digital violence in its quota of data collection.  The centre was comparing current and past data to examine trends in violence against children.
The child friendly municipalities project focused on knowledge of children’s rights, their participation and their wellbeing.  The project was funded by the Ministry of Education and initiated by the United Nations Children’s Fund.  Currently, two municipalities had been accredited, as municipalities needed to conform to strict requirements to be accredited to the project.  Many municipalities were participating in budgeting, with funding attributed through a democratic process.  Staff working on the project received training on children’s rights and budgeting.  Children were also trained to offer opinions regarding municipalities’ budgets.
New official buildings met the requirements for universal design.  Some older buildings did not, but the Government was working on improving facilities in these buildings, hiring universal design officers in municipalities to assess and improve facilities.
Measures were in place to strengthen child participation in the child protection system.  A comprehensive revision of the Child Protection Act was underway, and would be completed in 2025.
The Government had assessed household finances, finding that the poverty rate was higher for single parent households.  Housing costs overburdened such households.  The material depravation rate was also higher for single parent households.  The Government had undertaken work to improve the living conditions of single parent households.  It provided subsidies for housing for these groups, and invested in constructing housing to meet increasing demand and reduce the increasing cost of rent.
As of 2022, children were able to request interviews regarding custody cases from the State.  There was still not a large amount of data on this initiative, but there had been three cases of children using this service in Reykjavík.  The Government was working on information campaigns to ensure that children were aware of this service.
The Ministry of Justice had been making efforts to reduce the time taken to provide mediation in custody cases.  A plan of action had been implemented, under which the number of legal representatives and funding for mediation offices had been increasing.  As of 23 March this year, all cases had been assigned to a legal professional, and the waiting list had been reduced to zero.  Efforts had been made to enhance divorce counselling to reduce disputes between parents.  The Ministry of Justice was preparing a revision to the Children Act to address child benefits in custody cases.
Parental leave had been extended to 12 months in 2021.
Recipients of international protection received health and social insurance.  Every person with a legal domicile was able to access social services.  In cases of family reunification, refugees were able to participate in the family resettlement programme, and housing was provided for these persons.
If a prisoner had a child or gave birth during her term, they were permitted to have the child with them only until the child reached 18 months.  A separate apartment was provided for such children and the prisoner.
Vaccinations were registered in a central database, and data on public vaccination had been published since 2013.  Information campaigns on vaccination had been carried out.  General vaccination levels were above 90 per cent in most age groups, with the exception of age four only.  The health and wellbeing of children made up a fundamental pillar of State education, and all children received education on mental health.
New recommendations had been prepared regarding nutrition for newly born babies.  The Ministry of Health recommended breastfeeding for at least up to six months.  More home visits were being conducted over the first six months to encourage breastfeeding. 
Parents could not make decisions regarding the sterilisation of their children.  A new law on abortions gave girls under the age of 16 the right to request termination of pregnancy without the permission of their parents.  Termination of pregnancy was free of charge for all.  Forced termination of pregnancy was not accepted.
The Ministry of Health had a model for preventing children’s use of drugs and substances.  The State surveyed adolescents each year on substance use, and had found that cannabis use had decreased each year since 2012.
The climate crisis was increasingly discussed as a human rights and children’s rights issue.  Various projects within school systems were related to climate issues.  The equal school project funded by the State encouraged children to learn about climate issues.  A non-governmental organization established in 2013 encouraged young people to promote climate protection.  Young people were pressuring the Government to take action regarding climate issues.
Schooling was free in Iceland.  Parents paid a portion of preschool education in some municipalities only.  Compulsory schooling was free, but there were some costs regarding school meals, extracurricular activities and learning materials.
There had been a decrease in the dropout rate.  It had fallen to 4 per cent at the upper secondary level.  A study had found that there was a connection between dropouts and children’s socio-economic situation.  Individual and institutional factors were also influential regarding dropouts.  Working with students who dropped out was a priority.  A working group was focusing on reducing dropout rates, especially for boys, and improving student well-being, and was drafting a report on the issue.
Interest in internships had decreased among secondary students.  Since 2020, the State had worked on improving the vocational education system to rectify this situation.  In recent years, an increased number of students had been recruited directly into vocational studies. 
Human rights education was included in school curricula.  The United Nations Children’s Fund was undertaking a project to strengthen human rights education in schools based on the Convention.
Questions by Committee Experts 
LUIS PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Task Force on Iceland, noted that the Child Ombudsperson did not receive complaints from children.  This meant that children would struggle to file complaints.  He called on the State party to make the complaints process more child friendly.
What efforts was the State making to tailor legislative tools such as the Discrimination Act to children’s needs?
Another Committee Expert asked if the State party had procedures in place for victims of forced sterilisation to take their case to court.
Did the State have a policy tailored to supporting children who stammered?  Stammering was an issue that was very rarely addressed. 
Another Committee Expert asked if there were services that citizens were entitled to but foreign residents were not.
Were there any cases where people were jumping the queue to receive health care?
Another Committee Expert asked if foreign children born in Iceland received a birth certificate and citizenship.
What measures was the State party taking to address the shortage of psychologists?  What happened to children waiting for mental health care?  Why was the need for mental health care so high?
Had the State party studied why some children were not vaccinated?
Another Committee Expert asked how international adoption was dealt with in Iceland.  Was there a special policy concerning trafficking in children?
How were the best interests of the child determined regarding migration, and who determined this?
Could a child sit on the board of a non-governmental organization?
Were there specialised lawyers for children?
The Expert commended Iceland for not having held children in detention centres for several years.  How was this achieved?  Were special facilities established for children of detainees?
Was there a discussion about giving access to euthanasia to children?
What actions was Iceland taking to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?
Another Committee Expert asked how the best interests of children were determined regarding housing in detention facilities.
Were there cases where children were not allowed to go to mainstream schools? 
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the Government aimed to improve the knowledge of educators and other people who worked with children regarding child rights.  A three-year plan toward this aim was being drafted.  Conversations with the Save the Children Foundation on this project were also ongoing.
Most municipalities supported children’s leisure activities through grants.  Grants were not based on law, and municipalities decided on how grants should be allocated.  Videos about such grants had been produced in various languages.
Prisoners under 18 years of age served sentences under the supervision of child supervision authorities.  The best interests of children were determined by these authorities.  The Ombudsman for Children caried out investigations of emergency units where children were housed, and could demand records and official reports from the Government.  A new institution monitored the provision of services to these children, and could conduct unannounced visits of places where children were deprived of liberty.
A child that applied for international protection could be provided with a residence permit.  Residence permits were provided for all family members, even if only one family member qualified for it.  If there was a suspicion that refugees required special care, they were provided with it.  All refugee children attended school.  Unaccompanied minors were placed in housing facilities and provided with support at those facilities.  If unaccompanied minors were not granted protection status, child protection authorities assessed whether it was safe to return the child to their country of origin.  If it was not, the child’s case was reassessed.
There was a special action plan on human trafficking that included procedures for identifying child victims.  An information portal on human trafficking had been established.
It was a crime to involve children in armed conflict in Iceland.  Unaccompanied children were interviewed to determine whether they had participated in conflict.  Children who had been involved in armed conflict were entitled to mental health care and support.
The State had taken steps to strengthen the protection of children from all forms of sexual abuse.  There had been proposed changes to broaden the definition of sexual abuse within legislation to address child pornography cases and provide appropriate redress to victims of child pornography.
The Ombudsman for Children did not receive complaints.  There were efforts to provide more child friendly information to children and support them to lodge complaints with the general Ombudsman.
Children with stammers received speech therapy that was partially funded by national insurance.  The Minister of Health had started a working group to build an action plan on speech and language therapy services.  The State was working to serve more children with speech impediments more quickly.
There was no difference between services provided to citizens and those provided to residents.  Tourists, however, did not have access to the same range of services.  Refugee families received the same services as residents.  There was a requirement to have lived in Iceland for a certain period to receive housing assistance, but this was waived for refugees.
There had been efforts to provide counselling to children who had shown unacceptable sexual behaviour.
The Icelandic Government was working on tackling the Sustainable Development Goals, and involving children in the process.  A report on implementation of the Goals and the involvement of children had been released.
People were not jumping the queue on health care waiting lists.  However, a better overview of the lists was required to determine why children were on these lists and determine alternative measures for these children.  If urgent health care was required for children on these waiting lists, it was provided.  A comprehensive effort was needed to increase the number of health care workers.
Closing Remarks
LUIS PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Task Force on Iceland, said that the Committee would work hard to develop a set of recommendations to strengthen Iceland’s adherence to the Convention.  Children needed to be informed about these recommendations.  If children were informed about their rights, democracy and society in Iceland would benefit.
PÁLL MAGNÚSSON, Permanent Secretary within the Ministry of Education and Children and moderator of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the constructive discussion.  The integration of children of foreign origin and their families, including through schools and leisure activities, was among the key challenges that Iceland faced.  The Icelandic Government took this task seriously and welcomed the Committee’s recommendations.
The advancement and promotion of human rights, including those of children, was a never-ending process.  Iceland remained firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and would strive to find adequate solutions and responses as new challenges arose.  It was strongly committed to furthering the rights of children using the Convention as a foundation and the Committee’s recommendations as a guide.  The Government awaited the concluding observations with enthusiasm, and would do everything in its power to make necessary improvements.
Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/05/experts-committee-rights-child-praise-iceland-allowing-children
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