High Level Conference – "Towards Childhoods free from Corporal Punishment"

1-2 June, Schloss Wilhelminenberg, Vienna

Your Majesty.

Excellences. Ladies and Gentlemen. 

Thank you, Austria, for this initiative - and for the opportunity to commend and acknowledge the 10th anniversary of Mr Pineiros UN-study on violence against Children.

 This was a milestone to create global understanding on this important issue.

A good childhood lasts a lifetime. This is the name of the Norwegian action plan launched in 2014, as we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the UN convention on the rights of the child.

This work is a joint effort between the Government, different NGOs and representatives of young people themselves.

The plan has the following target areas: 

  • prevention and good parenting
  • the responsibility of the public authorities
  • child and youth participation
  • cross-professional collaboration and the voluntary sector
  • right help and treatment at the right time
  • research and expertise 

Following up UNs Sustainable Development Goals is an important task for Norway as well.

Our common targets on ending violence and exploitation against children is a part of our ambitions and efforts to reach the 2030 SDGs as the world agreed upon last year.

Children are individuals with their own rights.

Adults have a responsibility to provide for their protection.  Violence against children, including corporal punishment, has been banned in Norway since 1972, and parents are convicted.

We have clarified the law in 2008 to make it undisputable that any slaps of children are legally impermissible.

In Norway, we have come a long way through legislation. This has had an important impact on how we raise children. Still, we have challenges.

Recently I attended the opening of a unique government supported foundation in Norway.

Stine Sofie Stiftelsen, being a place where children exposed to abuse and violence can seek help.

This is not only unique in what it offers to children and their families. It is the result of an impressive work of a mother violently bereaved of her daughter.

In combating violence, it is important to strengthen the work regarding preventive efforts. 

Good parenting is the most preventive strategy.

Parents and the family are a child`s most important framework for a good childhood.

The parent-child-relation is stronger than all other relationships. Good and stable parental relationships provide the best conditions for the upbringing of our children.

Safe parents lead to safe children.

It is important to give the parents the best help and tool to be good parents. Doing this we also give children the best possibilities for a safe upbringing without violence.

A major development in Norway over the last few years has been the strengthening of the Family counselling service.  The service includes counselling, guidance and therapy. It is a low threshold service at no cost for the users. Offered to couples, families or individuals that experience difficulties, conflicts or crises within the family.

I call it our hidden jewel – available to families at a very early stage. Small challenges and problems, being solved with professional help before growing and getting more complex and difficult to solve for both the families and the services helping them.

Through the family counselling service parents can receive positive parenting program, courses like Circle of security and other methods for parental support.

Positive parenting method is also used with minority-families and in shelters where abused women and men seek help.

We have experienced good results with this method. 

In addition, the government has expanded the mandate of the family counselling services, which will now devote more resources to prevent violence and abuse.

Selected family centers will build up a high degree of expertise on violence and assist other counselling services.

When talking about corporal punishment of children, it is important for me to underline that the Family counselling service is only one of the public services that provide parents of concrete alternatives to violence as a part of their children's upbringing.

The cooperation between the different services in the municipalities is important to prevent and combat violence and abuse. We are testing this kind of cooperation with good results.   

Health clinics available for families, children and youth – in local communities and in schools – play a key role in detecting violence and abuse.

We have strengthened the health clinics financially.

Asking all pregnant women routine questions about experiences of violence and abuse is one way of using innovative service for preventing harm against young children in Norway.  

One sensitive and difficult topic we to seldom discuss is the challenge of young people being offenders themselves.

Treatment of these 'young offenders' is another vital task of the health services.

We know from research that young people commit a significant part of violence and abuse against children.

These children are often both offenders, and they are victims of abuse and violence themselves.

We are now considering establishing more targeted help and treatment of 'young offenders'.

Our aim must be to break the vicious circle where victims become offenders.

Those having their daily work with children such as teachers in kindergartens and schools must have sufficient knowledge about how to detect and reveal abuse and violence.

As a government, our responsibility is to ensure some safety nets for parents or children that need help:

-         Over the last years, we have established ten Children's Houses that conduct medical assessments and formal interviews of abused children.

-         We have implemented the internationally acclaimed parenting program Nurse Family Partnership, as a pilot trial. The target group is young first time mothers – and fathers – at risk. Parents will receive assistance by specially trained nurses, during the period between early pregnancy and the child´s second birthday.

The child welfare services is another important part of our safety net.

We have recently seen that the Norwegian child welfare services are criticized repeatedly in many countries.

From international media you could get the impression that Norway places more children in alternative care than other countries, and that families with a foreign citizenship or background is especially targeted.

This is not true.

Placing a child outside the home against the will of the parents, shall always be a measure of last resort.

The child welfare service should always try to help the parents in their role. However, sometimes assistive measures are not enough to protect the child.

Before I finish, I would like to share a little story with you.

I met a Somali mother in Norway.

Living in her new country, she had learned that is prohibited using corporal punishment against children.

However, she had not been taught any alternatives in how to handle difficult situations.

Her child had behavioral problems, especially in school.

When the child's teachers came to her home she feared the worst.  Fortunately, wise and sensitive teachers gave her advice and guidance on how to bring up a child without resorting to violence. She was so grateful to learn other, more sensitive ways to handle her boy.

I will never forget her story. Today this Somali woman is a resource guiding other minority parents herself.

To conclude:

We must give parents the tools that they need to become good and safe parents.

Parents need support. Children need love.

Early prevention is better than late reconditioning.

We can all make a difference in the lives of children and youth at risk.

There is no excuse for looking the other way.  

A good childhood really lasts a lifetime.

Thank you!