Innlegg på seminaret "Teachers under Attack"

Oslo, 17. juni 2015

Statssekretær Morten Høglunds innlegg på Arthur Svensson-seminaret i Oslo 17. juni der årets vinnere av Arthur Svenssons pris for faglige rettigheter fikk sine priser.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to address this important seminar here in Oslo.

I would like to start by paying tribute to this year's winners of the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights, leader and deputy leader of the Bahrain Teacher Association, Mr Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Ms Jamila al-Salman.

I want to thank you, Jamila, for informing us about the human rights situation and the lack of labour rights for teachers in Bahrain.

'Teachers under attack' is the theme for this seminar today. Support for education is not only a matter of realising basic human rights, it is also a means of strengthening democracy. Attacking teachers is the opposite of strengthening democracy. In countries affected by conflicts, we often see that teachers are subjected to violence. Governments should protect institutions of learning. This is why our Ministry recently organised a conference called Safe Schools – Protecting Education from Attack.

Over the last years, the Government has expressed great concern over developments in the human rights situation in Bahrain. Norway is deeply concerned about the increased number of people being given long sentences for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the lack of any sufficient guarantee of a fair trial.

Norway is concerned about the repression of legitimate and peaceful demonstrations and about the harassment and imprisonment of people who have simply been exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression, including human rights defenders and journalists. Reports of torture are worrying.

On several occasions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has received human rights defenders here in Oslo. In January, I had the pleasure of meeting the highly respected Bahraini human rights defender Ms Maryam Al-Khawaja.

In the fight for human rights it is crucial to make use of the international system set up for this purpose, first and foremost the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which is Norway's main arena for raising questions related to human rights. In his address to the Human Rights Council on 2 March, State Secretary Bård Glad Pedersen expressed Norway's deep concern by the continued harassment and imprisonment of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

As some of you already know, the Norwegian Government recently presented in December a white paper on human rights to the Norwegian parliament. Human rights is on the top of our foreign policy list of priorities. Human rights should be integrated into all aspects of Norwegian foreign policy. In this context, we will work with the UN, regional organisations, Norwegian organisations and bilaterally.

I also want to underline how important and positive it is that Norwegian trade unions engage and support unions abroad.

Norway is a close partner of the ILO, which plays a key role in promoting the decent work agenda. Part of Norway's financial support to the ILO has a strong human rights profile. We also aim to involve business communities in the protection and promotion of human rights, in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles.

For years, Norway has made substantial contributions to international efforts to promote freedom of speech and a free media, and will now intensify its efforts in this area.

Developments in the Arab world over the last four to five years reflect a unique mobilisation of people seeking to realise their aspirations for democracy and human rights.

This important seminar today focuses on two of the Government's main priorities, namely education and human rights. There can be no alternative for Bahrain and the other Gulf countries:

Respect for human rights is essential for building a successful future, and teachers must be allowed to convey this message to the next generation.

This seminar today can be one of many small contributions. I wish you every success with this important event.

Thank you.