Ministry of Welfare doubles funding to Samtökin ’78

Samtökin ´78 and the Ministry of Welfare have signed an agreement of 12 million ISK in public funding for a year. This means that the ministry is doubling it’s funding to the organisation.

Daníel Arnarsson, Executive Director of Samtökin ´78.

“It´s been a dream of ours for a very long time. Up until now, Samtökin have only received a sum which is allocated to several small organisations from a non-specified fund from the ministry. The amount is 12 million ISK per year, but last year it was 6 million,” says Daníel Arnarsson, Executive Director of Samtökin ´78. “That´s only part of the actual basic running cost of the organisation.”

He explains that Samtökin haven´t been able to offer as much service as they would have wanted to, because of lack of funding.
“We provide a lot of education and consulting services and have an important input into Icelandic society but most of it has been voluntary work on our behalf. We have a contract with Hafnarfjörður (neighbouring town of Reykjavík) and recently renewed our service contract with the city of Reykjavík, where we continue providing consultation to schools, both pupils and staff, and now we´re extending that work to include preschool staff too. But we´ve never had such an agreement with the state itself.”

“It´s been a dream of ours for a very long time … we can now increase our services and even finally commence work on projects that we´ve wanted to do for a long time …”

Daníel says that former Minister of Welfare, Þorsteinn Víglundsson from the Reform Party, got the ball rolling to begin with. “We requested a meeting with him and he visited us in October. After reviewing how vast our work is and how important it is to the society, he agreed that the organisation should get public funding and put negotiation talks into motion.” As most people remember, Iceland´s former government collapsed and a snap election was held in October, with a new coalition government being formed in December.

“And the coalition agreement specifically states that the government wants to put Iceland in the lead when it comes to queer matters. And that´s a first, that it is actually mentioned in a coalition agreement,” Daníel points out and adds that he´s already met with the new Prime Minister, Left Greens’ Katrín Jakobsdóttir, where she stressed her wishes to improve the laws revolving around queer human rights in Iceland.

Samtökin ’78, established in 1978, is finally a state funded organisation.

“Because, as we know, Iceland has been falling behind other European countries when it comes to queer matters; we´ve plummeted down the Rainbow Chart, only fulfilling 47% of the conditions there. In comparison, Norway fulfils 78%, Great Britain 71%, France 73% and Malta is at the top with 88% of the conditions. Iceland can´t even compare with the Nordic countries any more, we´re on par with Hungary and Slovenia instead.”

Daníel says that with the help of public funding, the organisation can now provide the government with more consultation and other services. “It´s not like such an agreement is a one-way street and we get funding for nothing. Instead we can now increase our services and even finally commence work on projects that we´ve wanted to do for a long time but never had the time or manpower for.”

Some of those projects include more education for health staff, secondary school teachers, input to the National Centre for Educational materials, developing more information material for seniors and services to queer elderly citizens. “These are all projects we´ve been dreaming of getting into so hopefully we´ll now be able to get started on some of them and not just cover minimum services.”

“… the coalition agreement specifically states that the government wants to put Iceland in the lead when it comes to queer matters.”

Currently, Samtökin ´78 only have 1,5 position for employees but in order to function properly, Daníel estimates that four positions are needed. “If we keep looking toward the Nordic countries and compare ourselves to them, we see that in Finland the national queer association has 13 employees and yet they´re not the ones receiving the highest public funding in Scandinavia. That would be our Norwegian friends, who receive around 330 million ISK per year.”

With this new agreement, which new Minister of Welfare, Ásmundur Einar Daðason from the Progressive Party, finalized and signed on behalf of the new government, Daníel is optimistic that Samtökin can work together with authorities to improve and ensure more civilian rights and services to the citizens, and thereby move to the lead of countries that provide equal rights and opportunities for queer people. “We are were happy with Ásmundur’s role in this, which marks a step forward for the National Queer Organization of Iceland and look forward to working with him in the future.”

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