Iceland Leads the World in SDGs and Youth Organizations

Youth Time announced exciting news – this year’s #YTSummer School will be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, one of the most unique countries in the world. It has the smallest population of any NATO member and is the only one with no standing army. At the same time, Iceland ranks high in economic, democratic, and social stability as well as in equality. In 2018, it was ranked the sixth most developed country in the world by the UN’s Human Development Index, and it takes first place on the Global Peace Index. Furthermore, Iceland is a world leader when it comes to sustainability and youth organizations and initiatives.


Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

This small country of just over 360,000 people has made huge strides on a global level. Iceland is one of the most developed countries in Europe in terms of SDGs. According to the United Nations, there are 17 SDGs that include lack of poverty, gender equality, and various environmental standards such as clean and affordable energy.

Iceland aims at implementing the SDGs as part of its Agenda 2030. They have integrated these goals into their government policy on a social, economic, and environmental level. While they are motivated to accomplish all the goals, they have placed a special emphasis on building a peaceful and just society, free from fear and violence. They also aim for carbon-neutrality by 2040, if not earlier.

Iceland has attained a level of international expertise in areas of gender equality, land restoration, and the use of sustainable natural energy resources. They have shared their processes and policies with other countries around the world. The government of Iceland has acknowledged that implementing the SDGs requires cooperation with different groups and stakeholders. The Icelandic Youth Council has been instrumental in developing these goals. It gives young people a platform to express their voice to policy makers. Iceland empowers its youth by involving them in important sectors that directly impact their future.

Friends jumping on the road in Iceland
Friends jumping on the road in Iceland – Illustrative photo


The Involvement of Youth

The Icelandic Youth Council has conducted a campaign about a teenaged girl who visited Uganda to experience the cultural differences there. The campaign showed how teenagers in Uganda lived their daily lives and used the SDGs to reflect it. In December 2018, the documentary was broadcast on Iceland’s national network, RÚV. This played a big role in spreading public awareness about SDGs throughout Iceland.

In February 2019, a survey showed that 65.6% of participants had heard about the SDGs. Iceland has been diligent about campaigning to spread awareness specifically. These efforts have made a 20% difference in survey results in just a year. Their approach, unlike that of other participating countries, has been to involve the entire society in these efforts.

There has been a special emphasis placed on children when it comes to SDGs as they are the generation that will determine the country’s future. Iceland’s active youth have gathered together to insist on radical action against climate change. This has been a phenomenon that has been happening among youth all over the world.

12-person Council of Young People

Iceland has gone as far as setting up a 12-person council of young people to work closely with the Prime Minister’s Office. Over 140 people applied for the 12 spots, all of which were reserved for people between the ages of 13 and 18. All of the applicants had to come up with ideas on how to keep spreading publicity for the Sustainable Development Goals.

The involvement of youth in political, social, and environmental issues has made Iceland stand out among other countries. They have always focused on empowering their youth and making sure they are safe and healthy. Iceland has one of the lowest statistics of youth substance abuse due to their curfew implementation. This, combined with giving young people important roles in the government, has been vital to their growth as responsible future leaders.


Youth Organizations and Initiatives

The Icelandic Youth Council or LUF is an organization in which young people enjoy equal rights and are free from discrimination based on age, background, or any other demographics. It is a society in which young people are young democratic citizens and a valuable part in all decision-making processes – not only on issues that directly concern them, but also topics that have an impact on society as a whole.

The LUF is committed to ensuring that the voice of young people is heard. The entire board consists of young men and women. The organization also happens to be a full member of the European Youth Forum. The idea behind the LUF is that young people from the age of 18 are not protected by the Convention of the Right of the Child but can nonetheless be marginalised due to their age. This makes them one of the more vulnerable groups of society, requiring special attention.



Samfés is another great organization that is non-governmental. It oversees activities for young people between the ages of 13 and 25. It has 120 youth clubs as members and is funded by membership fees, private sponsorships, and participation income. This is an extremely well-known organization among young people in Iceland. Almost 30% of all Icelanders aged 13-16 attend the annual festival.

Their main objective is to encourage communication and cooperation between youth clubs domestically and internationally. They also aid professional development and education with conferences and seminars in the field of youth clubs. Samfés provides information concerning youth programs with the network and to other sections of society. Finally, they also influence discussion, policy, and law making around youth issues.


Icelandic Boy and Girl Scouts Group

Iceland has merged the new with the traditional. Iceland has a popular Icelandinc Boy and Girl Scouts group that goes back to 1911. The purpose of the group is to organize activities and community efforts in different areas of Iceland. There are approximately the same number of boys and girls participating in scouting in Iceland at any point in time. There are around 3,500 scouts ranging in age from 9 to 25.

The various youth organizations in Iceland keep young people engaged and entertained while also encouraging growth, maturity, and independence. Iceland has managed to involve its youth in every aspect of Iceland’s development and mission as a country. They clearly understand that the future belongs to the younger generation, which means that they should have a say and influence on how the community develops.

Youth Time Summer School in Iceland

The Chance to Attend YTSummer School in Iceland for Free
YTSummer School in Iceland

Iceland is an amazing country with an incredibly small population that has somehow managed to make a huge impact. They are global role models when it comes to SDGs and their focus on including young people in important discussions. Despite being so isolated from the rest of Europe, their progressiveness has made them known on a global scale. This beautiful country and its amazing inhabitants make Iceland an inspirational country to admire from afar, as well as to visit in person. You can do it already this summer!!! How?

Check out the International Youth Summer School in Reykjavik and don’t miss the chance to spend an exciting yet educational week in Iceland! The deadline to apply is on May 30th, 2020.


Photos: Shutterstock


Discover Iceland: the Land of Ice and Fire

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