Barnaþing in Iceland


We created a big conference for children to raise topics and explore solutions.

List people or organisations involved in producing the resource

Ministry of Social Affairs and Children and Ministry of Education and Children.

Building Participatory Environments
Collective Participation
Age range of target people
9-12 years
13-15 years
Characteristics of children and groups
All children

In 2019 the first Barnaþing was held in Iceland. Barnaþing is a children’s conference that brings together over 150 children from across Iceland. This exciting new initiative came as a result of a change in the law about the Ombudsperson in Iceland, where the office is now required to hold Barnaþing every other year. This year, 2023,will see the third Barnaþing.

The government puts considerable budget towards making the conference a good one. It is held at Harpa, Iceland’s biggest Conference venue – the same as hosted the Council of Europe Summit in 2023, where European leaders gathered in May 2023 to agree on actions related to the war in Ukraine. Barnaþing in a two day event where the first day is an opening ceremony and the second day is dedicated to group work between the child-participants. Icelandic Ministers, Parliamentarians and other adult stakeholders are invited to join the last session of the final day, to discuss the outcomes of the children’s work, and at the end of the day the children present their outcomes to Ministers responsible for the categories they are discussing. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of Iceland (1980-1996) and the world’s first female who was democratically elected as president is the guardian of Barnaþing, and the current President, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson, has opened both previous Barnaþing. 


For Barnaþing, great emphasis is put on inclusive participation. After much consideration it was decided that the children would be invited to the Conference based on a random selection. A request was sent in to the National Registry in Iceland, to pull out a list of a certain amount of children, divided evenly between the age groups invited (11-14 year olds) taking into account gender balance and a geographical balance. The children randomly pulled out are then sent an invitation letter to the Conference, and they are given a certain amount of time to accept the invitation or not. Once the selection process is finalized, the children participate in a voluntary online preparatory work, where many parts of the Conference are decided, such as the topics discussed and the entertainment in the opening ceremony. Additionally, the online preparatory work aims to teach the children about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and principles for their meaningful participation. 

Great emphasis is put on ensuring the children’s wellbeing throughout the whole process and they are allowed to leave the table talks at any time. There is a quiet space for them to take a break, and in there they will also find a nurse that can assist them if they are experiencing any difficulties.  The food is also carefully thought through by the catering team at Harpa, and has been a great hit in the previous Barnaþing. 

Next Steps

This all comes together to create a rich and meaningful experience for the children. The outcomes from their work is then handed to the government, and the Ombudsperson is responsible – by law – to follow up on them and report back at the next Barnaþing. 

Modes of participation
Countries this was based/targetted
Profile of target group
Educators (e.g. teachers)
Social Workers
Youth Workers
Municipality Staff
Local Authorities (Policy-makers; Decision-makers)
National Authorities