The National Youth Council of Iceland
‘Landssamband ungmennafélaga’ (LUF)
ABOUT – The National Youth Council of Iceland (LUF) is an umbrella organization with 41 children and youth organizations as members. The member organizations of LUF range from human rights organizations to political youth organizations, voluntary social organizations, cultural organizations, environmental organizations, organizations for youth with disabilities and many more.
VISION – A society where young people enjoy equal rights and are free from discrimination based on age, background or any other characteristics. A society in which young people are respected as active democratic citizens and are included in all decision-making processes, not only concerning them, but also society as whole.
MISSION – To be committed to ensure that the voice of young people is heard – as LUF is the only existing body that serves the role of being a platform of cooperation and consultation for youth-led NGOs in Iceland. LUF advocates for the common interest of youth and acts as a stakeholder for young people in Iceland, including representing them abroad. LUF strengthens youth work and encourages youth leadership. Besides fostering a societal discussion and the creation of knowledge on youth affairs. LUF works to empower young people with skills, knowledge and confidence to develop their opinions and advance their ability to practice their rights. With such capacity building, LUF believes that we can foster democratic consciousness and a meaningful participation of young people that contributes to society as whole.
Young people face discrimination in accessing their civil, political, economic and social rights. There is a need to face the fact that young people are marginalised due to age and is often the most vulnerable group of the society. Young people from 18 years old do not enjoy the legal protection of the Convention of the Right of the Child and therefore require special attention. Besides, ‘Young people’, as a group of society is diverse and within it are marginalised and minority groups that face multiple discrimination.
1.1. Social Inclusion
LUF adheres to multiculturalism, applies to social inclusion and works to protect and strengthen the participation of marginalised and minority groups. LUF condemns hate speech and all forms of discrimination based on gender, gender orientation, gender expression, religion, political or other opinion, language, national or social origin, disability, age, race, colour, financial status, family, and status in any way. LUF sets it as a condition that all groups have a voice in society within all work that relates to them. Nothing should be implemented nor decided without their consultation.
1.2. Gender Equality
LUF builds its work on gender mainstreaming. LUF speaks against gender based income inequality and works systematically against gender based violence. Both with a contingency plan in the code of ethics (that also applies to the MOs) and by speaking against all forms of violence publicly. Full gender equality has not been achieved and LUF recognises the eternal risk of a setback, that should be prevented. LUF thinks there is a need for explanations on why young men are less likely to vote and are more likely to commit suicide. LUF is in favor of adding gender- and diversity studies to the curriculum in upper secondary schools and thinks there is a need to strengthen sex education in primary schools.
It is the right of young people to participate in society. Social exclusion, inequality and ageism is hindering young people to enjoy active and meaningful participation. Young people are critical of the political systems, they tend not to participate in conventional politics and are less likely to vote. Young people rather opt for modern methods to express their opinions. The access of young people to policy and decision-making is vital for democracy to thrive. LUF recognises that youth organisations play a key role in contributing to youth participation in society, democratic citizenship and sustainable development.
2.1. Democratic Participation
LUF fights for democracy reform, supports democratic development, encourages youth participation in elections and politics, and promotes accessible information. LUF is in favour of lowering the voting age in presidential, parliamentary and local elections. At the age of 16 individuals bear criminal liability, finish compulsory education, decide for further education and the first steps on the job market are taken – bound with income tax and increased contribution to society. That being said, LUF believes it to be serious to exclude the age group from decision-making in a society that they contribute to and are responsible towards, especially decisions that have the most and long-lasting effect on them compared to other age groups.
2.2. Empowerment and Training
Participation in society is a learned behaviour and young people need to be empowered in order to recognise, practice and protect their rights – to be able to participate and enjoy full democratic citizenship. LUF shall be in the forefront in human rights and democracy training via volunteering, courses, workshops and other non-formal learning methods. LUF focuses on peer to peer education and aims to strengthen leadership skills among young people.
2.3. Sustainable Development
Consequences of decisions made today make a difference for the welfare of youth in the future. Environmental, economic and social sustainability is necessary for the benefit of future generations. The usage of natural resources should not be damaging for the planet. LUF speaks for sustainability and renewability, for future generations to enjoy the natural resources of the planet. With the advent of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, require commitments of member states and institutions to promote sustainability. Most is in stake for the youngest generations and therefore, sustainable development requires meaningful youth participation. LUF calls for actions and implementations in close consultation with young people.
No universal or institutional definition of youth exists, but institutions, states and scholars identify a process of transition to autonomy. The young people of today become independent later than previous generations, leaving them stuck in a interval condition of ‘adultolescence’ that needs to be recognized. The capacity of young people to become responsible for their own life at the age of 18, democratic citizenship and access of social and economic rights go hand in hand. If the needs of young people are not met, there is a risk of their belief in democracy declines. LUF calls for actions in regards of health, employment, education and housing, with a special consideration of youth and believes there to be an urgent need for a national youth policy.
3.1. Health and Wellbeing
LUF believes there is need to react to the high rate of youth that suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. It is highly alarming that the third of university students suffer from mental illnesses, especially anxiety and depression. LUF calls for preventive measures and treatments that support mental health and the wellbeing of youth. Additionally, prevention and treatments to combat addiction of e.g. alcohol and drug abuse. Then LUF is in favor of decriminalising drugs. The health system needs to be arranged to embody both physical and mental illnesses. The access of youth to health services should be ensured regardless of geography and financial status, as well as guaranteed appropriate treatments functioning as preventive and protective against chronic illnesses. Likewise, there is a need to work against bullying and social exclusion that has harmful effects on the wellbeing of young people.
3.2. Education and Employment
The competitiveness of icelandic youth needs to be ensured and as well as their access to a diversified education in Iceland and abroad. The overemphasis on general academics needs to be reduced and vocational studies should be encouraged. LUF is worried about that young people that graduate with a university degrees don’t get suitable jobs considering the increasing rates of university educated people, as well as the relative difference in income of university educated persons and others is decreasing. This is why the educational system needs to be structured towards the modern needs of the job market and the cooperation between the educational system and the private sector should be strengthened. LUF suggests that opportunities to exchange studies should be reinforced and thinks there is a need to multiply opportunities of quality internships. LUF strongly opposes unpaid internships, but suggest that the government and private companies should support paid internships or offer credits at upper secondary school and university levels. With such arrangements, opportunities are created to develop evaluation system of non-formal education where NGOs can also contribute.
Young people do not gain full financial independence and security before they reach the job market and suitable employment is not guaranteed after graduation. Consequently, job security comes before financial autonomy. The first steps at the job marked are the most fragile and the access of young people to information regarding their rights and duties should be ensured. LUF emphasizes the importance of considering that with the emergence of the state of adultolescence, that somewhat originated because people stay longer in education and arrive later to the job marked, young people have been markedly left out in the growing prosperity in recent years. That appears e.g. in the fact that the median real income of the age group of 16-29 increased 2% from 2000 to 2016, but at the same time about 21% for 30-64 years old and 45% for 65 and older.
A part of the process towards full autonomy is the ability to access housing, maintain a home and establish a family. Young people today live for a longer period of time with their parents than before and even until after the first steps at job market are taken. The reason is a shortage of small apartments and high rental and house prices. This condition hinders youth autonomy and the ability of young people to take full responsibility for themselves. Considering the needs of young people and that they have lower incomes than other age groups, there is a need for specific measures. LUF calls for actions that aim to increase affordable housing with good access to public transport and local services.
It is the right of young people to enjoy freedom of association. The lack of commitment and political will to support, cooperate with and utilize the civil society of youth: social and interest work of youth organisations and the value that they create is a waste of human resources and hindrances youth participation in society. LUF underlines the urgent need of youth organisations for steady and acceptable income, inadequate legal environment and political recognition. With more cooperation with the youth sector as well as the support of the government to youth organisations, their role will be more effective and therefore they will create more social benefits. Participation in social work of youth organisations strengthens leadership skills and citizenship awareness, works against social exclusion and is a platform for youth to develop communication skills and exchange opinion. LUF believes it to be necessary that the government supports interest and social work of youth legally, financially and socially.
4.1. Fair Funding
LUF thinks the unequal governmental funding to NGOs to be unacceptable and therefore it is one of the priority of the council to fight for governmental funding on an equal basis. Until now, the governmental budget for youth affairs is controlled by the arbitrary decisions and interest of the Minister of Education, Science and Culture, causing the inability of young people to develop capacity and knowledge to build a strong advocate. LUF wants to adopt an objective system based on a Nordic example where all youth organisations, that meet certain requirements, acquire funding in a consideration of number of registered members and will be able to build their work on future prospects. There equality and proportion of youth within boards is also taken into account. This arrangement also strengthens the establishment of new youth organisations. Moreover, LUF supports competitive grants for projects, though such grants (e.g. The Icelandic Youth Fund) are barely competitive if the equality of governmental support is not ensured. Consequently, the NGOs with the strongest infrastructures (because of governmental support) receive most from the fund, while the organisations that are only based on volunteerism fight to survive.
LUF encourages youth-led boards of youth organisations where young people make the decisions or democratic youth councils of organisations with larger structures, that have real power. Without youth-led boards, youth mainstreaming will never be a reality. The Directorate of Internal Revenue though rejects NGOs registration duty to announce new elected boards that include individuals under the age of full legal responsibility, contrary to the human rights article of the Constitution of the republic of Iceland no. 33/1944 on freedom of association and equality. Also against children’s rights of freedom of expression and participation, ensured by articles 12 to 17 of the Convention of the Right of the Child, cf. law no. 19/2013. Accordingly, children are ensured independant right to establish and participate in associations. LUF has no tolerance for such human rights violations and discrimination based on age, which is contrary to the principle of equality no. 65 of the Constitution. LUF challenges NGOs to create more space for young people in their boards and other power positions. Young people are an asset to the third sector with renewal, modernisation, technological advances and innovation.
4.3. Cooperation with Stakeholders
With the main role of being a platform for cooperation and consultation for youth organisations, LUF promotes collaboration between all stakeholders, within the youth sector and beyond at both local and global levels. Efficiency and success maximises with the cooperation of stakeholders towards common goals and knowledge and experience grows. LUF aims to collect more MOs, foster united youth sector, reinforce cooperation with institutions and increase international collaboration. LUF is accessible and an open umbrella organisation that functions as a bridge between NGOs, sectors, generations and countries. LUF prioritise cooperation with democratic organisations that ensure the involvement of young people in decision making and harmonise with the objectives and policies of LUF.
Download the full policy document, adopted by the General Assembly 2018