Icelandic Human Rights Centre

Interview: Icelandic Human Rights Centre

Icelandic Human Rights Centre Interview date: 16 July 2014

Interviewed by: Frantisek


The Icelandic Human Rights Center was founded on 17 June 1994 by nine organizations and institutions working in various fields of human rights, in conjunction with constitutional reform in Iceland. Partners today are the Icelandic Red Cross Society, the Icelandic Section of Amnesty International, the Bishop’s Office of the Lutheran Church (the national church of Iceland), the Icelandic Church Aid, the National Federation for the Aid of the Disabled, the Office for Gender Equality, the Organisation of Disabled in Iceland, Save the Children, UNIFEM, the Women’s Rights Association, the Association of ‘78 (Association of homosexuals), Sidmennt (the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association), the University of Reykjavík and the University of Akureyri. (Source :

1. Name: Margrét Steinarsdóttir

2. Email address: info [at]

3. Phone number: +354 552 2720

4. Your title in the company: Director

5. Company Name: Mannréttindaskrifstofa Íslands / Icelandic Human Rights Centre /

6. Industry: Human Rights

7. Company years in operation: 20

8. Type of (legal structure) company (limited company, NGO, foundation, cooperative etc.):  NGO, non-profit

9. How many employees does your company have: 3

10. Annual turnover: 2013: 27.635.272 ISK

11. Description of company: All aspects regarding human rights

12. Company Mission:

The purpose and aim of the Center is to promote human rights by collecting information on and raising awareness of human rights issues in Iceland and abroad. The Center works to make human rights information accessible to the public by organizing Conferences and seminars on human rights issues and by providing human rights education.

The Center also promotes legal reform and research on human rights and has established the only specialized human rights library in Iceland.

Furthermore, the Centre Managed the EU Progress Programme for Iceland for 2009-13, it works closely with the Other Nordic Human Rights Institutes, it is a member of the Nordic School of Human Rights Research, the AHRI network, UNITED and the Coalition for the OP-ICESCR.

The Centre serves a monitoring role and has, since its inception, commented on dozens of bills of law, action plans and public policies and provided information to international monitoring bodies on the state of human rights in Iceland. The Centre also writes shadow reports to UN treaty bodies and CoE committees and bodies, such as UNHCR, CRC and ECRI,

13. Description of social / environmental mission:

“No, we don’t have clear environmental mission, yet. However, we have 14 affiliates, and a few of them have some sort of environmental mission. You can see them here .”

This is a description of our social mission: The Center works on making human rights information accessible to the public by organizing conferences and seminars on human rights issues and by providing human rights education. The Center also promotes legal reform and research on human rights issues and has established the only specialized human rights library in Iceland. Furthermore, the Center is a member of the AHRI network and the Nordic School of Human Rights Research. In addition, the Center serves a monitoring role and has, since its inception, commented on dozens of bills of law and provided information to the treaty bodies on the state of human rights in Iceland.

14. Would you call yourself a social entrepreneur or social enterprise? Yes. Basically, all revenue is going back to promoting human rights.

15. How do you interpret the concept of social enterprises?  „To my mind, a social enterprise is an undertaking benefitting society, either as a whole or smaller groups. Thus I believe the Icelandic Red Cross, Stígamót (Counselling and Information Centre on sexual violence and for victims of sexual violence), the Women’s Shelter as well as NGOs representing vulnerable groups, such as the Association of Disabled, LBGT organization, the Women’s Rights Association and similar organization as to be social enterprises. As I interpret it, the Icelandic Human Rights Centre also falls under this definition.”


Questions related to definition

16. Does your company have a clear social and/or environmental mission set out in their governing documents (legal documents)?

“Yes, we have clear social mission set out in our governing documents and the environmental part of our mission is covered by an umbrella of our affiliates.”

17. Does your company generate the majority of their income through trade? (51% and above). If not, how much?

No, except some money (less than 20 thousand IKR pr. year) from the publication we are selling.

18. Does your company reinvest the majority of its profits back into the social and/or environmental mission? (51% and above). If not, how much?

“We are investing all of the money back to the promotion of and education on human rights”

19. Is your company autonomous of state?

“Yes, we are autonomous of state, despite the fact that we are largely funded by the ministry of the Interior and have service agreements with the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Welfare.”

20. Is your company majority controlled in the interests of the social and or environmental mission?

Yes, absolutely.

21. Is your company accountable and transparent?(Transparency – corporate actions are observable by outsiders)

Yes. Everything is issued – something on our website and other information (like internal revenue) can be obtained from the Register of Enterprises.

22. Who are your clients / focus group?

Basically, anyone who feels that his/her rights are violated. Through a service agreement with the Ministry of Welfare we run a legal counselling service for immigrants in Iceland,   who, not being familiar with the legal environment, need help with many issues.

23. What KPI’s (key performance indicators) or measurement tools, if any, do you use to access if you are meeting your social impact according to your mission?

“We are very often contacted by the media for comments on human rights issues; also we are called to by ministries and government bodies to take part in working groups and committees on various human rights issues. Our website and Facebook page are also very frequently visited. Finally, we get positive feedback from the public, relevant actors as well as governmental and municipal bodies on our publications, seminars etc.”

24. As per 23, what type of social impact have you created through your products/service (e.g. assisted 1,000 access to health care they won’t have other wise)

“To start with, we have provided hundreds of immigrants with the necessary guidance and information for them to be able to uphold their rights, through our publications we have also informed the public as well as vulnerable groups on their rights and been of service to governmental and municipal bodies as regards human rights issues. We also guide and counsel all who contact us who believe that their human rights have been violated.”


Social enterprise sector

25. If a social enterprise umbrella body were formed, would you be interested to know more about it and possibly join as a member?If so would you be interested to join our mailing list for news on our activities?

“Yes we would be interested to follow the process and also in participating if we believe the umbrella body to be in line with our mission and policy and established and run on the right premises.”

26. What support do you personally need from such an umbrella body and/or what support do you think the social enterprise sector requires?The social sector is pretty much working well together, what would benefit the most would be financing and also use of expert knowledge in some instances although most NGOs have experts in their field at their disposal.”

27. How would you like to see social enterprise develop in Iceland?

“As I have stated before, the way I interpret the concept we already have social enterprises in Iceland, but more development is a positive thing.”

28. Can you recommend a company (NGO) that you may know of that has a social and/or environmental mission?

“Landsvirkjun, albeit the largest Electrical Powe company in Iceland, has an environmental mission.  I have already mentioned a few NGOs with a social mission, I might add Siðmennt (the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association) the Women’s Counselling, the Association of the Elderly, and the Association of Single Parents.”


Note: Social Enterprise Iceland does not in any way imply that the interviewed company is a social enterprise. The definition for social enterprise in Iceland is still work in progress through these research interviews. The purpose of sharing these interviews with the public is in alignment with our values of transparency as we share our process of discovery with those who are interested.

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