Cablegate: Iceland: Eur Engagement On Women's Issues

DE RUEHRK #0006 0081557
R 081557Z JAN 10




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 09 State 124579

1. (U) Gender equality and women's issues are top priorities in
Iceland and the country has achieved strong results in these
spheres. Iceland ranked third in the United Nations' Human
Development Index in 2009, and placed first in the 2009 Global
Gender Gap Index, published by the World Economic Forum.

2. (U) The Global Gender Gap Index measures how well countries
divide their resources and opportunities between women and men,
looking at economic participation and opportunity, educational
attainment, political empowerment as well as health and survival.
According to the 2009 Index, Icelandic women are surpassing
Icelandic men in college enrollment and in attaining professional
and technical jobs, and have achieved near equal labor force
participation. The country also ranked first in political

3. (U) The financial and economic crisis that shocked Iceland in
October 2008 led to the downfall of the government and the elevation
of veteran politician Johanna Sigurdardottir to the post of prime
minister in early 2009, becoming the first Icelandic woman to hold
that position. Women make up 43 percent of the seats in parliament
following the most recent parliamentary election held in April 2009.
Half of the twelve government ministers are women. The Speaker of
Parliament and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are also both

4. (U) The combination of powerful female role models and
progressive government policies, like three to six months of paid
maternity leave, are working to close the gender gap even further.
One example of a best practice utilized by the Icelandic Government
includes a government-funded center for promoting gender equality
located in the town of Akureyri. The center provides counseling and
education on gender equality to national and municipal authorities,
institutions, companies, individuals, and NGOs. Another example of
an Icelandic success story is an international conference hosted by
the Icelandic Foreign Ministry and the University of Iceland in June
2009 on Women, Peace and Security. The conference was attended by
200 participants and focused on conflict prevention, conflict
resolution, peace processes, and women's empowerment.

5. (U) Iceland passed the Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights of
Women and Men in 1976. This legislation decreed that all
individuals shall have equal opportunities to benefit from their own
enterprise and to develop their skills irrespective of gender.
Subsequent legislation has included a provision to ensure that there
are equal numbers of women and men on public committees, councils
and boards. Iceland supports gender equality through central,
regional, and national bureaus that oversee the implementation of
these laws.

6. (U) The Icelandic government is also actively working to combat
trafficking in persons and gender based violence. Parliament
approved an action plan against trafficking in persons in March
2009. In December, the parliament passed an amendment to the
General Penal Code with respect to trafficking in persons which
clears the road for ratification of the Palermo Protocol to the
United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and
the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in
Human Beings. In October 2009 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights sponsored a well-attended
symposium on human trafficking. An action plan against gender-based
violence was adopted in 2007 and it is currently being implemented.

7. (U) Post has engaged with and assisted the Icelandic Government
in its battle against trafficking in persons. Notably, Post
sponsored one individual's travel to the United States for a
two-week IVLP program entitled "Combating Trafficking in Persons."
It is Post's intention to send another individual on a similar
program this summer. In addition Post has worked to increase the
lines of communication between Washington and Reykjavik on the TIP
topic. There is, for example, a Digital Video Conference scheduled
for January 14 that will allow officials from the Icelandic
government to discuss the matter with their colleagues in State
Department's G/TIP office.


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