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Human Rights in IcelandIceland is a Nordic nation with a population slightly over 300,000 people. Despite its small size, Iceland stands out among other nations in a variety of ways. Geographically, the nation is known for its beautiful sights including volcanoes and hot springs. Economically, the nation boasts an impressive statistics, such as its four percent unemployment rate. Human rights in Iceland are protected fairly well, but certain aspects could be improved.

The United States Department of State’s 2015 Human Rights Report on Iceland concluded that the nation’s biggest failures in this context were to protect women and children from violence. These issues tended to stem from the criminal justice system. For instance, pretrial detainees were forced to share a cell with convicted prisoners, while juveniles were forced to share a cell with adults.

Unfortunately, the report found issues existing beyond the criminal justice system. Discrepancies in access to health care for certain individuals was noticeable. Researchers also found discrimination against people with disabilities in regard to employment and access to public locations. This report clearly demonstrates that Iceland must take measures so that human rights truly include everyone.

However, these few failures do not represent the entire situation in Iceland. In fact, the vast majority of human rights in Iceland are well protected. Freedom of speech and the press are protected by the constitution and the law in Iceland. The law is able to fine and/or imprison anyone who blocks people from this right.

Another area of success is Iceland’s protection of workers’ rights. The government effectively enforces laws that defend workers’ rights to form or join a union. Iceland also uses its laws to protect children from unhealthy work conditions. These laws are effectively enforced, and as a result, there are no known cases of child labor.

Iceland took a step forward in protecting the human rights of women this March by becoming the world’s first country to mandate that businesses demonstrate that they offer equal pay to employees regardless of their gender. This law affects all businesses, public and private, that employ over 25 people.

Human rights in Iceland are not perfectly protected. However, steps such as demanding equal pay for employees regardless of their gender shows that progress is being made.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Iceland

Iceland is a country with a small population of about 338,000, making the nation ideal for medical research. Due to a long period of isolation, natives are genetically similar. This means that identifying common diseases in Iceland is simple.

Below are the three most common diseases in Iceland according to the most current global health statistics.

  1. The number one cause of death in Iceland is Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). CHD is “caused by damage or inflammation of the blood vessels that supply the heart.” The result is a narrowing of the blood vessels that slows or prevents blood reaching the heart. Per 100,000 people in Iceland, about 139 people die annually from CHD. It also contributes to “1,696 annual years of healthy life lost per 100,000 people.”CHD persists in Iceland due to poor diet that contributes to 87 percent of the total deaths caused by the disease. Since 1990, the average years of healthy life lost due to CHD has dropped by 42 percent. This is most likely due to continued research on CHD and promotion of a healthier diet.
  2. Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is the number two cause of death in Iceland. AD is the most common form of dementia, which is the loss of memory and other important cognitive functions. AD is mainly caused by genetic predisposition, though many think of it as a normal part of aging. The disease worsens over time so that memory loss increases gradually over many years. The number of people with AD globally is increasing as more people live past the age of 65.In Iceland, AD-caused fatalities increased by 16.9 percent between 2005 and 2015. Iceland is more susceptible to AD because of its small population and limited genetic diversity. This population also makes it ideal for genetic study towards curing diseases like this. A genetics firm named deCODE based in Iceland has already sequenced the genomes of 2,636 inhabitants working towards this goal. Utilizing their genetic research, scientists have identified two genes, TM2D3 and ABCA7, that are risk factors for AD. Moving forward this information could be utilized to help end AD worldwide.
  3. After cerebrovascular disease, a cardiovascular disease, lung cancer is the fourth leading cause of death in Iceland. Not just one of the common diseases in Iceland, lung cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. A majority of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking tobacco products. In Iceland, tobacco smoke is the second ranking risk factor that “drives the most death and disability.”Iceland joined the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control on Feb. 27, 2005, in an attempt to combat this. Since then, Iceland has established smoke-free public places, banned most tobacco advertising and required warnings on tobacco products.

The three most common diseases in Iceland are also common to most developed nations, including the United States. Placing more attention on global health will be important in preventing and curing these diseases through collaboration and collective research.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Google


Iceland, a small island nation located in the North Atlantic northwest of the United Kingdom, went bankrupt in 2008 when global financial markets collapsed. Since then, the economy has recovered, but many factors affect its food-related economy. Here are 10 impacts on food and hunger in Iceland.

  1. Natural disasters have a tremendous impact on Iceland’s food security. As a result of the April 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, for instance, hundreds of acres of local farmland were coated in four inches of ash.
  2. Food poverty among Icelandic children, measured by the inability to afford a meal with meat, chicken, fish or a vegetable equivalent every second day, was 6% in 2012.
  3. The depth of hunger is measured by the energy deficit in undernourished people using kilocalories. In Somalia, for example, the deficit is 490 kilocalories a day. In Iceland, the deficit is 130 kilocalories a day.
  4. High global food prices and the devaluation of Iceland’s currency following its bankruptcy weakened food security.
  5. Fears that the European Union would negatively impact food security in Iceland is among the reasons it dropped its bid to join. Among those who lobbied hardest against joining the EU were Iceland’s farmers, who used “food security” terminology to accentuate the need for more local food production.
  6. Though fishing accounts for 40% of its exports, Iceland produces just half of its people’s nutritional needs and relies on imports.
  7. After declaring sovereign bankruptcy in 2008, Iceland turned to its fishing industry to help it recover. Unfortunately, the price of fish fell 40% in some markets due to the global recession.
  8. Most of Europe has over-fished local waters, but not Iceland. It has an abundant supply. Unfortunately, fishing companies that had invested in domestic banking are now heavily in debt. What’s worse, recession in important markets weakened demand.
  9. The success of Iceland’s economy is heavily dependent upon other economies. That, coupled with its relative isolation, means that food shortages could result from disruptions in importing or exporting.
  10. Icelandic households are unprepared for food shortages. A 2011 survey indicated that most have a supply that would last for just a week. The situation is not much better for food suppliers. Their stores would be depleted in less than a month.

As these impacts on food and hunger in Iceland indicate, food poverty is not only a problem in the developing world, and it continues to have a disproportionate impact on children. In addition, even countries with plenty of food to export can be dependent on food imports and what it takes to produce food. What may be more, when talking about impacts on food and hunger in Iceland, is the effect of natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions.

Laurie Gold

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Iceland
Iceland, known for its breathtaking glaciers and stunning views of the Northern Lights, has an impressive quality of life. Additionally, citizens have long life expectancies due to extensive health care services. Most higher education is free, and the government’s welfare program aims to aid the unemployed, the disabled and young families. Despite these factors, over 6,000 out of 330,000 Icelanders live in extreme poverty. Many of the causes of poverty in Iceland stem from the 2008 recession.

When the economy crashed, almost all of the Icelandic businesses went under. The crash occurred when the banks collapsed, resulting from the banks owing immense debts to foreign countries and businesses.

After the recession in 2008, child poverty increased dramatically. Between 2008 and 2012, the number of children living in poverty nearly tripled. By the end of 2012, 31.6 percent of children in Iceland were living in poverty. According to UNICEF, this increase was the highest among rich countries.

In order to combat the rise in child poverty, Iceland replaced their flat taxation methods with a progressive form of taxation. The government also implemented policies that encouraged citizens to invest in businesses within the nation, improving economic growth.

While these efforts helped fight the causes of poverty in Iceland, tourism has jumpstarted the economy of Iceland and helped bring up employment rates. Last year, almost 2 million tourists came to visit Iceland and explore its beautiful attractions. This is partially a result of airlines offering cheap tickets from the United States to Iceland. Iceland has met this influx of tourists by increasing the number of attractions, restaurants and lodging opportunities to ensure a memorable trip.

The turn of events in Iceland can serve as a model for other countries. Tourism can help any country, but is particularly helpful for developing nations. The influx of money from tourists can benefit the extremely poor by creating jobs and providing them with the resources to pull themselves out of poverty.

While Iceland is still fighting to recover from the rapid increase in poverty from its economic crash, the implementation of policies and the dramatic rise in tourism has lifted Iceland out of the decline. By using tangible ways to fight the causes of poverty in Iceland, the number of people in deep poverty should drop within the next decade.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr


Education in Iceland is incredibly important. In a 2016 study, Iceland was ranked the third most literate nation in the world, trailing behind Finland and Norway. The small island country is home to a population of around 332,000 people.

Iceland is well known for being progressive. Its equality endeavors are evident in the structure of its education system. According to the nation’s website, “A fundamental principle of the Icelandic educational system is that everyone should have equal opportunities to acquire an education, irrespective of sex, economic status, residential location, religion, possible handicap and cultural or social background.”

Education in Iceland is a four-level system.

  1. Preschool is the first level of education, which children attend between one and six years of age. There are fees for preschool, but they are largely subsidized.
  2. Compulsory education follows preschool education. Compulsory education is free and mandatory for children between the ages of six and 16. Unlike in the United States, homeschooling is not an option.
  3. Upper secondary education is the third level. It is available to anyone who has completed compulsory education, and is mostly compromised of students 16 to 20 years of age. The upper secondary level is essentially the equivalent of high school in the United States and is free with the exception of one private school.
  4. The fourth tier is education at a university, otherwise known as higher education. To apply for university, a student must first have completed upper secondary education. For the most part, universities in Iceland are required to accept all students with an upper secondary degree. Public universities in Iceland are tuition-free; the only costs associated with higher education are registration fees.

With a literacy rate of 99 percent and an unemployment rate at around 2.7 percent, perhaps the rest of the world can learn from the system of education in Iceland.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Top Diseases In Iceland
Like all countries, Iceland is affected by a number of diseases that harm the nation’s citizens, putting their lives at risk. For the most part, the circulatory system is the most in danger for the Nordic island nation, as data published by Statistics Iceland suggests. In fact, close to half of the number of Icelanders who passed away in 2009 died of ischemic heart diseases and cerebrovascular disease.

Of course, there are a number of other top diseases in Iceland about which the country is most concerned, other than ones that affect the circulatory system. In 2009 again, for example, 175 people died of diseases that affected the respiratory system, such as cystic fibrosis, pneumonia, and emphysema.

Additionally, cancer affects a large percentage of the population, though one could argue that cancer poses a problem for many developed countries. According to Global Health Grove, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and neurological disorders are included in the top diseases in Iceland, causing the most harm overall for the country’s population.

Perhaps most surprising is the large effect of infectious diseases on Icelanders. This is surprising because the country enjoys a well-developed and prosperous economy, with a healthcare system provided by the state. All Icelanders who register for the healthcare system and contribute to it through their taxes are able to enjoy emergency services, screenings and exams, as well as many other services.

Yet, diarrhea, lower respiratory diseases and nutritional disorders still affect the population, killing nearly 200 Icelanders every year. One can look at the risk factors for these diseases and find a correlation. For instance, Iceland is in the top 10 list of countries that have the unhealthiest diets. This can explain the common nutritional disorders and circulatory diseases that killed more than 700 Icelanders in 2009.

Additionally, dietary risks, high blood pressure, and smoking tobacco are the main culprits in killing Icelanders every year.

Iceland has a relatively small population compared to other developed countries, which is why the number of deaths caused by the top diseases in Iceland may seem minuscule. In fact, as of 2017, Iceland only has around 333,000 people living on the island.

Until risk factors are assessed and accounted for, the diseases listed above will continue to pose a threat to the small population. Luckily, health services in Iceland are working hard to warn the dangers of an unhealthy diet and cigarette smoking, which will hopefully have a positive effect and limit the number of deaths caused by these factors in years to come.

Jacqueline Nicole Artz

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Iceland
As Iceland stands geographically remote with wisps of chilly Arctic air and an intimate population of 323,000, refugees in Iceland who have been granted asylum have experienced a unique assimilation. In a Telegraph article, a Syrian refugee commented, “For us, [Iceland] is the freezer” while Audur Magnuscdottir, a biochemist helping a family settle said, “[Iceland] is dark, it’s cold and it’s windy – it must be hell. Just to get used to going out in the cold is a huge step.”

Yet in light of Iceland’s unusual characteristics, the majority of Icelanders have welcomed refugees with open arms. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Iceland:

  1. Since Iceland’s refugee policy first initiated in 1956, the country has accepted a grand total of 584 refugees, a rate lower than other Nordic countries. According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there has been a total of 17,785 refugees accepted in Denmark, 142,207 in Sweden and 47,043 in Norway.
  2. Since 1956, groups and families of refugees have arrived from a diverse range of countries — Vietnam, Poland, Hungary, former Yugoslavia and Serbia.
  3. Post-recession, Iceland’s economy has recovered at a four percent growth rate per year. However, according to a PBS report, Iceland would require 2,000 new immigrants a year to maintain that level of growth — refugees would contribute to this number. Mayor of Akureyri, Iceland, Eirikur Bjorgvinsson, explains that refugees contribute more to Iceland’s economy than the amount of assistance that they are actually receiving.
  4. In order to become assimilated in Iceland society, the government offers financial assistance, education, health services, housing, furniture and a telephone for up to one year to refugees in Iceland.
  5. According to the Ministry of Welfare, the policy in Iceland has welcomed a quota of 25 to 30 refugees every year. However, this quota has changed in the last few years with the crisis in Syria, protests from Icelandic citizens and an exception in 1999 with the outbreak of the war in Kosovo.
  6. The largest group of refugees accepted together in Iceland was comprised of 75 people, who were all from Kosovo in 1999. The smallest group to migrate to Iceland in a single year was comprised of five people in 2014, who hailed from Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Uganda and Syria.
  7. In September 2015, via Facebook, 11,000 Icelanders called on the government to increase its intake of refugees. At that time, the Icelandic government had only pledged to accept 50 refugees.
  8. Amid the conflict in Syria, with 4 million Syrians fleeing the country and a further 7.6 million being displaced inside Syria, 48 Syrian refugees from the United Nation’s refugee camp in Lebanon have found new homes in Iceland since January 19 of this year. An additional 40 refugees will be arriving in Iceland this fall.
  9. A refugee committee suggested that the municipalities of Reykjavik, Árborg and Hveragerði, Iceland receive Syrian refugees due to its strength in employment opportunities, housing and abundance of Red Cross chapters.
  10. Although many refugees in Iceland have found peaceful relocation to Iceland with citizens embracing the new diversity created with the influx among their predominantly white and Christian population, many who have entered Iceland with false and forged passports have been jailed due to a violation of international law. The typical sentence is 30 days in jail, legal fees from 50,000 to 125,000 ISK.

Priscilla Son

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Iceland
According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Better Life IndexIceland‘s quality of life is very high. The country also has the highest employment rate of any OECD country. Simultaneously, however, poverty in Iceland affects 6,000 residents.
According to the Iceland Review, as of early 2015, around 9 percent of the population in the small country of Iceland fell into the low-income category. Recently, that number is steadily dropping thanks to a booming tourism industry. In 2011, upwards of 13 percent of the population fell below the poverty line.

 

Tourism Fights Poverty in Iceland

 

The 2008 financial crisis took a major toll on Iceland’s economy, leading to homelessness and unemployment. As a result, a Welfare Watch was created the following year in order to help alleviate these conditions.

In addition, the recent popularity of Iceland as a tourist destination has helped bounce the economy back towards its former financial success. The growing tourism industry has also created many new jobs for Icelandic residents. Unemployment rates have fallen and 45 percent of the jobs created within the past five years are related to the tourism industry.

There is no rest for the tourists — rental cars and lodgings are rapidly booked, even during the coldest months of the year, and Airbnb locations are second only to increasingly booked hotels. However, a host told Grapevine that he does not believe that even Airbnbs (in combination with traditional lodging vacancies) can meet the high demand.

The Icelandic bank, Islandsbanki’s projected future tourism rates estimate that in 2016 alone visitors will equal, or surpass, the number of people who live full-time in the island nation. Iceland’s growing fame has been attributed to volcanoes, inexpensive flights and layovers through Icelandair, as well as pop culture references like Game of Thrones.

Although many Icelanders are rejoicing at the tourism industry’s success, others are still wary of the future. The waterfalls and volcanoes of Iceland are major tourist honeypots, but increased crowding to these areas may be dangerous to both the environment and its visitors.

In the future, tourists may be discouraged to visit Iceland if the Icelandic Krona appreciates, causing prices to rise, or if the economy takes another hit.

There is also the fear that Iceland may lose part of its charm and culture as foreigners flock in. This is a trade-off for alleviating poverty in Iceland. Iceland is in need of money and, in the words of Bradley Turner of Grapevine, “The market doesn’t care much for memory, nostalgia, sentimentality, history.”

Poverty in Iceland continues to decline as a result of increasing visitors, but financial security comes at a price. Ironically, the Icelandic landscape and culture may be negatively affected by the country’s newfound popularity.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

Celebs Speak Up for Refugees
The migrant crisis appears to escalate more and more each day: more stories of migrants crossing borders, fleeing war-torn, violent fragments of communities on foot and by boat. As governments, particularly in the E.U., struggle to determine how to handle the situation, many celebrities are advocating for governments to treat the refugees with due compassion and kindness.

JK Rowling is promoting a petition in the U.K. that advocates for the acceptance of asylum seekers. She tweets, “If you can’t imagine yourself in one of those boats, you have something missing. They are dying for a life worth living. #refugeeswelcome.”

She also is criticizing the press for not giving the issue enough attention and coverage. Rowling is a known philanthropist and also spent some time as a researcher with Amnesty International. Samantha Morton, who is starring in Harry Potter spinoff “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” also advocated for the U.K. to reconsider its position on refugees.

Author John Green declared a commitment to matching up to 20,000 pounds toward fellow author John Ness’s donation page for organization Save the Children. Green is famous for Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska; he also carries a strong Twitter and YouTube presence.

Actresses Olivia Wilde and Sophia Bush criticized GOP nominee Donald Trump’s attitude toward immigrants while praising Iceland’s recent commitment to taking in refugees.

The Icelandic government is reviewing a recent Facebook appeal from citizens to increase the number of refugees permitted asylum in 2015 and 2016. Sophia Bush tweeted, “Wow. While we try to throw people out and build a wall, others are opening their homes to refugees. True humanity.” This was later re-tweeted by Olivia Wilde.

For those who are not celebrities, social media is serving as an equally powerful means for advocacy. The outcry following the publication of the drowned Syrian boy shows the power of social media to fight for human rights and support refugees.

Furthermore, advocacy organization Sum of Us created a catch-all page compiling relevant links for donation pages, fundraising opportunities and event listings. Through petitions, advocacy and pledges for support, hopefully refugees can receive the care and support needed to gain stability after such a long time in crises.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: Global Post, JK Rowling, Sum Of Us, TIME
Photo: Google Images

iceland_financial_crisis
During the financial crisis seven years ago, while many countries were struggling to stay afloat, Iceland was already at the bottom of the sea. A tiny country with a population of only 320,000, Iceland experienced near-total bank failure in the span of three days and a 95% decrease in stock. While monetary policies in the United States and Europe let large amounts of cash flow into the economy, Iceland let enormous amounts of dollars flow through. When the Icelandic krona crashed in 2008, the country’s three biggest banks had amassed wealth more than 10 times the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As a result of this “loose money” policy, 85% of the economy tanked. The lack of cash flow regulation in the economy led to its downfall and hindered the rebuilding process.

Iceland’s attempts at becoming an international banking powerhouse also factored into its demise. With very high interest rates, international investors could borrow dollars at 5%, exchange them for krona, and buy Icelandic stock at 9% interest. They would profit off the difference in interest rates. Without any governmental controls on the flow of money, all cash could have exited the country, further depressing the economy. However, with help from the International Monetary Fund, the Icelandic government began to impose strict capital controls, barring krona from leaving the country or residents from buying foreign currency or international stock. In the years immediately following the crash, the government raised taxes and provided debt relief to mortgage holders, but not to social services.

It also did something most developed countries have failed to do: jail bankers.

International hedge funds purchased claims for pennies at the height of the crash. Once financial recovery started, their assets grew, giving them a large share of power over the financial system. Due to continued cash control policy, this control affected the lives of Iceland’s residents as well. Residents were especially limited in the amount of foreign cash they could spend, which became a problem when traveling abroad or investing in international stock. “You have a feeling that there’s a system watching you and telling you what you can do with your money,” noted Gudmundur Kristjansson, a fisherman.

However, cash flow restriction and the devaluation that resulted posed some benefits for the economy as well. Exports became cheaper and imports more expensive, allowing residents to produce more goods rather than depend on foreign manufacturers. Devaluation caused wages to fall, so unemployment did not reach the soaring heights it did in Europe. Tourism increased as more people began to travel to Iceland for its cheap prices and its currency independence from less developed European countries.

However, the bars that once held Iceland in restricted success must soon be lifted. “We are enjoying the longest sustainable growth period in recent history,” commented Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, but cited lacking international investment and competing foreign companies as reasons for lifting the restrictions that helped foster the country’s success for so many years. “[Such controls] are not a sustainable situation for an economy,” said Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson.

Today, unemployment in Iceland is at 4%, GDP is expected to grow 4.1% in 2015, and tourism is a flourishing industry. Despite the uncertain future of the country’s economy, it is certainly faring better than other European countries that suffered under the crash. For Greece, whose citizens voted against a deal with creditors and potentially face a future of exiting the Eurozone and financial security, tight monetary restrictions would not be a likely solution. It has a population of 11 million to Iceland’s 320,000, and a GDP 16 times that of the tiny island. When Iceland was preventing its people from spending money, Greece was throwing it around in all directions. Yet Iceland serves as an example of how unorthodox financial practices—controlling the cash flow, granting influence to international hedge funds—can unfreeze a nation and help it rebuild. Restoring a country to financial security is a process of understanding its government, citizens and industries. For Greece and other struggling countries, it will be a struggle, but not a failure.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IMF, New York Times
Photo: The Automatic Earth