City of Reykjavik – interview

City of Reykjavik – -Interview 2014/02/20


Interview with: Halldóra Gunnarsdóttir – working at the Human rights office of the City of Reykjavik


Signed the Charter: In 2009


Background to the signature of the Charter:

The gender equality policy of the city of Reykjavik is a part of the work of the Human Rights Office, an administrative body in charge of implementing the Human Right policy with a mandate coming from the Human Rights Council, a political body (composed of seven elected representatives) deciding on the policies regarding i.e. human rights, gender equality and anti-discrimination.

The interest for signing the Charter came from the human rights office, which was the driving force that encouraged the human right council and later the city council to sign it. The signature took place in 2009 at the beginning of the 2009-2015 action plan.


Added value of the Charter:

The Charter has served as a reference point when discussing how to develop the work on gender equality within different areas such as “the employer’s role” or “gender assessment” with the City council of Reykjavik.


Elaboration of the action plan:

When elaborating the action plan, the Human Rights Office wanted to link the Icelandic Law on Gender equality, the Human Rights Policy of Reykjavik and the European Charter. The drafting took place with cooperation of the human right council and consultation of the other departments within the city. The Action plan was based on the already existing Human Rights Policy that had previously been adopted by the City (and that had been elaborated in consultation with citizens, NGO’s and other stakeholders).

The Human Right office also tried to get feedbacks from the civil society on the draft of the Action Plan by publishing it on the municipality’s website. However there were very limited reactions.

The elaboration took approximately one year and the draft version was presented in 2011 to the City council, which members were invited to come with ideas that were then integrated in the plan before the approval of the final document.


Collaboration with other municipalities: The Human rights council of Reykjavik indented to work in collaboration with a network of seven other Icelandic municipalities in the elaboration of an action plan but that failed due mostly to lack of time and human resources (people involved in the project were not working directly with gender equality issues but did this as an “extra” which made it difficult to meet and coordinate).


Renewal of the action plan: The equality action plan is renewed together with the city action plan every four years. It corresponds to the duration of the city council’s mandate.


Focus areas:

The action plan covers seven main areas: Stereotypes, gender assessment and gender mainstreaming, multiple discriminations and disadvantage, role as employer, public procurement and contracts, culture, sports and recreation and gender-based violence.


The Human Right Office particularly focused on Gender-based violence as part of a national strategy addressing the issue. In Iceland, the perception of gender-based violence and of the way to address it has changed significantly since 2012 due to investments from national level.


The government commissioned a University to do a large scale research on gender-based violence in order to make a diagnostic of the situation. Qualitative and quantitative research allowed getting an overview of the extent of this problem. It also served to raise awareness among the population and to encourage political leaders to take action.


In the framework of this research, interviews with school teachers were held to find out on how they handle violence within schools, or how they address the issue of domestic violence when hearing about it from the children.


An action plan, implemented by the city, against gender based violence and violence against children followed.  


Lessons learnt, key factors:

  • Importance of data and diagnosis: the extensive research commissioned by the State in the field of gender-based violence served as a diagnostic for the municipality to frame an efficient policy concerning this issue. It provided a lot of material and a base for further discussion.
  • Importance of collaboration with other stakeholders: the synergies of the work of the different departments within the municipality, NGOs and the University. The support from the State was of course also a central aspect of this success.
  • Importance of internal collaboration: In the work of implementing the action plan, but also in the work of following up activities, it is very important to establish good connections with other key persons working within the city administration, building relations and personal trust.
  • “Be patient”: be aware that this type of work often takes time, keep in mind that “small steps are also important victories”.


The Human Rights Office of the city of Reykjavik


Established in: 2006

Number of employees: 7 persons, one of them working of Gender Equality


The Human Rights office is a small centralized office working closely with all the other departments within the city since they are requested to integrate human rights in their action.


A “Human rights officer” is appointed in every department and liaise with the Human Rights office through monthly meetings but also through sectorial projects to raise awareness on human rights and gender equality within the departments. As a result, the work of the human right office is adapted to the different audiences based on the context of intervention and the level of knowledge of the subject. 


The Human Rights Office is working closely with the Center for gender equality in Iceland, the University of Iceland and with NGOs.  


Good practices