1. The Committee
considered the second periodic report of Iceland on the implementation
of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (E/1990/6/Add.15)
at its 3rd to 5th meetings (twentieth session), held on 27 and 28
April 1999, and adopted, at its 20th meeting held on 7 May 1999, the
following concluding observations.
2. The Committee
welcomes the submission of the second periodic report of the State
party, as well as its written replies to the list of issues presented
by a delegation comprised of officials of various ministries. The
Committee welcomes, in particular, the frank and constructive dialogue
with the delegation and its readiness to reply to additional questions
and to furnish additional information, whenever available. The State
party's report was generally in conformity with the guidelines established
by the Committee.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee
welcomes the establishment of the Icelandic Human Rights Centre, which
indicates the State party's respect for and dedication to the advancement
of human rights.
4. The Committee
welcomes the State party's efforts to further the goal of the implementation
of gender equality and fuller participation of women in public affairs.
It welcomes the Act on the Equal Status of Women and Men, which paved
the way for special equal-status programmes such as the Action Programme,
1998-2001, which attempts to eliminate traditional obstacles to equality.
The Committee welcomes the State party's acknowledgement that formal
or legal equality is not sufficient if it does not result in real
equality between both sexes in practice. It notes, in particular,
that an important objective of the Government of Iceland is to work
against wage disparities based on gender.
5. The Committee
takes note of the Act on the Rights of Patients and the Act on a Health
Sector Database which, it was informed, is in harmony with the Patients
Rights Act. It also notes the establishment of the Special Council
on Nutrition within the Ministry of Public Health, and the establishment
of the Council for Alcohol and Drug Prevention. In particular, it
notes, in this connection, the programme called "Drugless Iceland
by 2002". It also notes the enactment of the Act on Compulsory Education
in 1995, which shifted control of educational facilities from central
to local government, with a view to improving the quality of education.
6. The Committee
notes the State party's intention to amend Act No. 133/1994 on the
Right of Foreigners to Work in Iceland, which amendment, if adopted,
will eliminate the discrimination currently existing between nationals
of European Economic Area (EEA) countries and those of other countries,
as well as the discrimination between spouses of nationals of EEA
countries and those of non-EEA countries.
7. With respect
to the right to social security, the Committee notes the assertion
by the State party that persons belonging to EEA countries enjoy the
special privilege of obtaining work permits, unemployment benefits
and social security benefits for their spouses or children who are
non-EEA citizens. In addition, refugees admitted to Iceland not only
have the right to obtain work permits but, unlike non-EEA citizens,
are not subject to a six-month waiting period before acquiring entitlement
to health-care benefits.
8. With regard
to the problem of domestic violence, the Committee welcomes the programmes
established by the State party to alleviate the situation of battered
women and to prevent acts of violence. In addition, the Committee
commends the State party for its anti-alcohol, anti-drugs and anti-smoking
9. The Committee
notes with satisfaction that Icelandic non-governmental organizations
play an important role in furthering the cause of human rights and
that they are consulted on a regular basis. In particular, it notes
the role of an NGO called The Association for the Elderly in maintaining
a useful position for that age group in Icelandic society.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the
10. The Committee
notes that there are no factors or difficulties impeding the implementation
of the Covenant in Iceland.
D. Principal subjects of concern
11. It notes
a certain complacency with respect to the non-incorporation of the
Covenant in domestic legislation in the near future.
12. The Committee
regrets that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights has not been incorporated in domestic legislation, despite
the State party's affirmation that different rights contained in the
Covenant have been incorporated in various legislative Acts. It notes
with regret that the rights in the Covenant have not been invoked
before the courts.
13. The Committee
notes that the State party has enacted many laws which have not been
fully implemented in practice, as exemplified by the remaining gap
in remuneration for equal work between men and women, even in the
public sector. In addition, the Equal Status Complaints Committee,
which is only entitled to make recommendations and present cases to
court, was not considered to be the best venue for victims of discrimination.
14. The Committee
is deeply concerned that juvenile violence against children is on
the increase and it suggests that a possible link exists between this
increase in juvenile violence in general and the increasing use of
alcohol and drugs by schoolchildren and juveniles.
15. The Committee
is concerned at the lack of family solidarity and the increasing resort
to foster homes. It is a matter of concern that children leave their
nuclear families and have to be brought up in temporary or permanent
foster homes, which may give rise to problems of custody, homelessness
and delinquency. It also increases the danger of this category of
abandoned children falling victim to alcohol and drug addiction.
16. The Committee
notes with concern that, according to information supplied by the
University of Iceland, 10 per cent of the population live below the
poverty line, and notes the lack of a persuasive explanation by the
delegation in this regard. It notes that the problem of poverty particularly
affects single parents, parents with children, farmers, students and
household workers. The State party's social welfare expenditure appears
to be insufficient to help those vulnerable groups, despite the State
party's relative affluence and resources.
17. The Committee
notes with concern the high rate at which young people drop out of
upper secondary education, a situation for which the delegation could
not provide a satisfactory explanation. In addition, the Committee
notes that 60 per cent of university graduates are female, and only
40 per cent male, which is explained by the fact that most males receive
vocational training in secondary school and are determined to pursue
a trade rather than a university education. It is not yet clear whether
or not the transfer of control over schools from the central Government
to the municipalities will lead to widening disparities between affluent
and less affluent municipalities.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
18. The Committee
reiterates its previous recommendation that if measures are taken
to incorporate civil and political rights treaty obligations in the
Icelandic legal system, similar measures should be taken simultaneously
in respect of economic, social and cultural rights. The Committee
requests the State party to provide, in its next periodic report,
information and specific relevant case law on the application of the
Covenant. The Committee also requests that information be provided
on an overall government plan to implement and to indicate progress
achieved in implementing economic, social and cultural human rights.
In that connection, the Committee draws the attention of the State
party to its General Comment No. 9 on domestic application of the
19. The Committee
suggests that the State party review and strengthen its institutional
arrangements, within the government administration, which are designed
to ensure that its obligations under the Covenant are taken into account,
at an early stage, in the Government's formulation of national policy
on issues such as social welfare, housing, health and education.
20. The Committee
encourages the State party to increase its social welfare expenditures
so as to strengthen its health and social welfare centres around the
country. The Committee recommends the development of a social indicator
model of drug and alcohol abuse and its treatment. It recommends,
in addition, the elaboration of educational and social programmes
to deal with problems of the victims of alcohol and drug abuse on
a long-term basis.
21. The Committee
recommends that the State party study in greater depth the poverty
situation with respect to single parents, couples with children, students,
farmers and disabled pensioners, with a view to extricating them from
their present financial difficulties.
22. The Committee
recommends that the State party present in its next periodic report
an overall government plan aimed at alleviating the difficulties of
the State party's vulnerable "poverty population", as well as a progress
report on its achievements in this field.
23. The Committee
requests the State party to ensure the wide dissemination of its present
concluding observations and to inform the Committee of steps taken
to implement these recommendations in its next periodic report.