Norges hovedinnlegg under høringen av FNs rasediskrimineringskomité (CERD) i Genève 5.12.18.
Members of the Committee,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first sentence in article one states:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Unfortunately, this is not true in practice. Too many women, men and children around the world are daily denied their freedoms, their rights and their dignity. As long as this is the case, the Norwegian Government will never stop to fight for the protection and realization of human rights.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity on behalf of the Norwegian Government to present Norway's combined 23rd and 24th report.
It is with great respect that I will present the Norwegian policies, and answer the questions and the concerns of the Committee. I am the State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Children and Equality. My Ministry is responsible for the coordination of the implementation of the Convention, including the work on Norway's report.
Our delegation consists of members from:
- The Mission of Norway to the UN in Geneva
- The Ministry of Justice and Public Security
- The Ministry of Health and Care
- The Ministry of Education and Research
- The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation
- The Ministry of Children and Equality
The delegates will introduce themselves as they take the floor.
I would like to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Sami Parliament, the civil society organisations, the Norwegian National Human Rights Institution, the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman, the Sami Council and Kvenlandsforbundet who have all prepared supplementary reports to the Committee.
Together with our state report, the supplementary reports form an important basis for our dialogue today and tomorrow, as well as for our continuous work at home. In particular, I'd like to mention that the report from the recently established National Human Rights Institution raises several important issues, where the government recognizes there is a need for further measures, and where work is already underway.
In the Government's political platform, the Government confirms that we will fight racism, religious discrimination, anti-Semitism, social control and prejudice based on gender, sexual identity and ethnicity. Equality is the underpinning principle in all government policies. Everybody in Norway shall have opportunities for personal development, participation and self-realization on an equal basis. Norway wants to be a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background.
Over the past few years, the Government has implemented measures in several areas that will contribute to a society without discrimination.
In recent years, the framework for the protection of human rights in Norway has been strengthened through certain important developments. In 2014 a new human rights chapter was added to the Norwegian Constitution. The human rights provisions are inspired by the corresponding articles in international conventions, and must be interpreted in light of their international models. The amendment to the constitution represents a clear strengthening of human rights in the Norwegian legal system.
Furthermore, the promotion and protection of human rights has been strengthened by the establishment of a new National Human Rights Institution in 2015. The institution is considered to be in full compliance with the Paris Principles, and has been granted A-status accreditation by the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions.
In the preparatory works, the Parliament underlined that the protection of Sami and minority rights should be an important part of the institution’s work.
In 2017, the Parliament adopted a new comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act. The new Act replaces the four previous equality and anti-discrimination acts. The Act applies to all areas of society, and prohibits discrimination on the grounds of
- parental leave in connection to birth or adoption
- caring for children or close family members
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and
To strengthen the anti-discrimination efforts, the enforcement regime has also been reformed, by the adoption of a new Act in 2017. Under the new regime, the Equality and Discrimination Act is enforced by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal and the courts.
The Tribunal can impose fines, and it can award compensation in cases concerning discrimination in employment matters. This is a big step forward in making the protection against discrimination more effective.
In 2017, 55 700 children received support from the child welfare services in Norway. 82 per cent of the cases involved a voluntary support measure, while 18 per cent concerned a decision about alternative care without the parents consenting. A Council of Europe report shows that Norway is among the Member countries with the lowest proportion of children in alternative care. Seven out of ten children who are in alternative care in Norway live in a foster home.
Children and youth with an immigrant background are over-represented among those who receive help from the Child welfare services. They constituted 18 per cent of the child population in Norway in 2017, while 28 per cent of the children and adolescents who received help from the child welfare services in 2017 had an immigrant background.
A research report documents that care intervention measures differ little between children with an immigrant background and others. When it comes to voluntary assistance measures, however, the level of measures in the immigrant population (particularly refugees) was substantially higher than in the general population. The nature of these measures were primarily advice and guidance, as well as poverty reduction measures.
A Competence Strategy for the Municipal Child Welfare Services (2018–2024) has been launched. One purpose is to promote greater understanding and sensitivity in the follow-up of children and families with minority backgrounds. Issues such as violence, the use of interpreters and cultural knowledge are covered.
Integration is one of the main priorities in the government's political platform. The aim of the government's integration policy is to provide opportunities for refugees and other immigrants to participate in the workforce and in community life. One of the most important measures to improve the living conditions for refugees and immigrants, is employment and education.
In October the government launched an integration strategy - Integration through education and competence. The integration strategy shows the direction of the government's integration policy and how we will reach our goal of getting more immigrants employed and to participate in Norwegian society.
The Introduction program and the Norwegian language training and social studies are our most important instruments in helping immigrants to access work and education. In 2019 the government will reform the Introduction Program, with clear expectations of better results and more work-related measures.
As a part of its integration policy, the government is also working to prevent negative social control, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Everyone has the right to live free lives. Most immigrants adapt to the laws, regulations and values of the Norwegian society. However, some boys and girls grow up in Norway without the freedom to decide over their own life, their own body or whom they can marry.
The Government works both with support for victims of negative social control, female genital mutilation and forced marriage and with preventive measures. There have been successive Action Plans to combat these issues over the last 20 years, resulting in a system of measures that aims to prevent, protect and provide health care for victims of these practices.
Regrettably, the world continues to see incidents of hate crimes and hate speech, racist attacks, harassment of Jews and Jewish property, and of neo-Nazis marching the streets. History has demonstrated that we must not allow these forces of intolerance and discrimination to define our societies.
As a response to incidents both in Norway and in other European countries, the Government issued an Action Plan against anti-Semitism in 2016. Several ministries and government agencies work together in implementing the action plan with a particular emphasis on prevention and education. Recent surveys show a decrease of anti-Semitic prejudice in Norway. Nonetheless, challenges remain.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, and key to all democratic societies. Freedom of expression challenges us, because it also covers statements that could be perceived as controversial, offensive or shocking. We must tolerate being provoked in a democratic society.
But we shall not accept hate speech or incitement to hatred and violence. The work against hate speech is high on the Norwegian Government's agenda. In 2016, the Government launched a strategy against hate speech outlining specific actions for the period 2016-2020. The Government's strategy against hate speech aims to prevent hate speech on the basis of gender, ethnicity and religion, disability and sexual orientation.
The focus areas of the strategy are children and youth, the legal system, employment, the media sector, knowledge and research and forums for discussion. The implementation of the strategy is progressing well.
The Government will work to ensure that everyone can participate in the public debate without being exposed to hate speech. The Prime Minister has encouraged all politicians to take their part of the responsibility, and recommended them to go through their Facebook pages and remove hateful comments.
The Government has started drafting a new action plan against racism and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and religion. We plan to launch the action plan in the autumn next year.
Hate crime is serious crime against individuals' integrity and against groups of the population, protected in the Criminal Code. The police define hate crimes as "a criminal offense motivated by hatred or negative attitudes to religion or belief, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, homosexual orientation, or disability.” In 2017, 549 cases of hate crime were reported to the police, an increase of 17 per cent since 2016.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has in its goal and priority paper for the criminal proceedings for several years made explicit that hate crimes shall be given priority in all 12 police districts, in line with other serious crimes to be investigated.
This year, The National Police District published guidelines for use in police districts, to ensure uniformly, proper registration of hate crimes.
The Norwegian Police University College offers a new course for further education in the field of prevention and investigation of hate crime.
The police asks the public on their websites about tips on racist, discriminatory and hateful speech on the internet, and about information about websites that generate hate crime. Inquiries are forwarded to the appropriate police district for further follow-up.
Those who report hate crime might be in need of professional assistance for their own safety. In 2017, twelve crime support centers were established for crime victims, one in each police district. This is meant to provide better follow-up of victims and relatives throughout the prosecution.
Meanwhile, preventive work must take place in many areas of society, including school and upbringing, culture and sport and political parties.
In May this year, amendments to the Immigration Act regarding detention of minors accompanied by their parents came into force, guaranteeing several minimum safeguards.
Furthermore, the provision in the Immigration Act protecting women victims of domestic violence, to avoid the law having the effect of forcing them to stay in abusive relationships, has been strengthened. The right to a residence permit has been extended to also include abuse by other persons than the applicant’s partner. The provision now includes conduct by other members of the family in the migrant’s household and by in-laws living elsewhere. The amendments entered into force on 1 November this year.
As the Committee is aware of, several amendments were made to the Immigration Act in 2015 and 2017, due to the large influx of asylum seekers that Norway – and many other European countries – experienced in this period. The Committee has in its List of themes mentioned the amendment regarding the ability of asylum seekers to seek asylum in the State party when they have entered through a country in which they were not persecuted. We are glad to be answering any questions regarding these issues, as long as they fall within the scope of the Convention.
However, it is not evident to us how the mentioned measure – and also other measures from 2015 and 2017 – could entail racial discrimination according to the Convention.
Consultations and participation are fundamental principles in indigenous people's rights. In Norway, consultations between State Authorities and Sámediggi (the Sami Parliament) have been formalized since 2005, through a political agreement with Sámediggi. A number of consultation processes take place every year. Agreement is often reached, although not always.
In September, the government presented to the Parliament a bill on amendments to the Sami Act concerning consultations. Sámediggi and the organization for Norwegian reindeer herders have been consulted in this process. The matter is now under consideration in the Parliament.
The Norwegian government is dedicated to combat violence in close relationships in Sami communities. A report about victims' support in Sami communities shows that Sami victims may experience specific challenges in their use of support services. The Government has allocated funds for research and preventive measures. The follow-up will be in cooperation with Sámediggi. An expert group has been established to counsel the Directorate of the Police and the relevant police districts on issues connected to Sami culture and language.
Currently, the Government works on the follow up of the Sami Language Committee report, presented in 2016. The Committee proposed several schemes and measures in a number of areas within the public sector. Additionally, the Government has presented a targeted plan to revitalize the Kven language. The Kven minority was involved in the work with the plan, through a reference group.
As an outcome of the collective reparation to the Norwegian Roma, a Roma Culture and Resource centre has been opened in Oslo. The centre includes a mediator service and an after-school club for children and youth. Both Roma and non-Roma work there. The aim is that the centre can be a meeting place where Roma and the majority population can meet and get to know each other's lifestyle and culture.
I am pleased to inform the Committee that Norway has signed the Convention for the Protection from Enforced Disappearance. The Government is currently working with a view to submitting a proposal to Parliament to ratify this Convention.
Even though we do much to prevent racism and discrimination in Norway, we are aware that many individuals still have bad experiences and are still discriminated against due to their skin colour and ethnic origin. Combating prejudice and intolerance is fundamental to my government.
By way of concluding, I would like to reaffirm our committment to combat racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance, as state party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and through our foreign policy as member of the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
We need to confront extremist ideologies, prejudice and stereotypes in the public debate by underlining the positive messages of inclusion and tolerance. Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are amongst our most powerful tools in the fight against racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance.
Today, we will be focusing on progress made since our last dialogue meeting – and on the challenges we still face. I am looking forward to listening to your interventions and engaging with the distinguished members of the Committee.