2 December 2009 (morning) For use of information media; not an official record
The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfillment of human rights obligations by Norway this morning, during which fifty-four Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.
This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on Eritrea, following the review of the country on Monday, 30 November.
Presenting the national report of Norway was JONAS GAHR STORE, Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said the advancement of human rights was a core value for the Government, and was deeply rooted in Norwegian society. However, as in every country, there remained challenges, and the Universal Periodic Review had been seized as an opportunity to improve the situation. Improved modes of dialogue should be developed between the authorities and representatives of minorities to prevent exclusion and promote dialogue. Norway had gained experience of diversity, but was grasping a more complex state thereof, and this caused challenges, as changes in people's perceptions and minds did not change as fast as did the factual situation. Good governance of societies required a deep understanding of how social capital was preserved and enriched.
Several States had asked Norway about the involvement of civil society in the preparations for the State's national report- civil society actors had been involved at several stages of the drafting, and their comments had been taken into consideration during the drafting of the report. Victims of human trafficking could be granted temporary residence in Norway in order to give them protection, and they were provided with safe housing and appropriate follow-up. Parents could combine work and family life due to various advantages such as paid paternity leave, which also contributed to Norway having a high participation of women in the labour market. However, the market remained clearly segmented, and equal pay for equal work was a challenge for the Government which still remained, although it was the Government's ambition to achieve this goal, and had recently issued an Action Plan for early childhood education.
The Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman was a driving force for equality and non-discrimination, and protected the rights of individuals. Members of the delegation made further comments, including that the Sami Parliament was concerned about safeguarding the Sami language, and that the Government had created an Action Plan for the safeguarding of the Sami language. Cases where traditional Sami ways of living were in conflict with modern industrial developments existed, and ways were being sought to remedy these.
During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included that the report was very self-critical, and this was a positive attitude; the establishment of measures to improve the living conditions of immigrants through employment and integration; the measures imposed on employers to promote gender equality and harmony; the adoption of the Government of the Action Plan to Promote Equality and Prevent Discrimination for 2009-2012; the remarkable contribution of one percent of the Gross Domestic Product to Overseas Development Aid; that Norway was a country with a very high level of human rights and fundamental freedoms; and innovative activities in the country to deal with men and women and issues of equality.
Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, that domestic violence in the home continued to be a problem in Norwegian society, and had exacerbated consequences in minority families; the increase in rape by thirty-four percent over the last five years and what measures were being taken in order to remedy this as well as the fact that ninety percent of rapes were not reported; that there was a disproportionate rate of unemployment for those of immigrant origin, especially young people; what were the intended aims of the proposal to introduce a requirement to pass a citizenship examination for Norwegian nationality; if the irregular stay of migrants was considered a criminal offence in Norway; and could the Government provide further information on efforts to provide Sami language teaching personnel and materials in schools.
A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These included: that Norway collect records on hate-crime offences committed by public officials; that the Government intensify its efforts for solidarity on the right to food and education in countries that could not supply this; that Norway accede to the Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities among others; that incarcerated minors be separated from adults; that efforts continue and be intensified to eliminate all forms of discrimination against minorities and those of ethnic origin; that comprehensive reporting and statistical analysis of the scale of domestic origin be undertaken to verify whether the Action Plan was contributing to curb this phenomenon; that penalties for rape and domestic violence be increased as they were not harsh enough; and that efforts be pursued to counter trafficking in women and children.
Other recommendations included: that the Government work to create programmes for law-enforcement officials to teach them how to deal with the problem of the lack of trust felt in their regard by young people and immigrants; that all detainees and prisoners, including those that were mentally ill, were given access to appropriate care, including where necessary by being transferred to specialised health institutions; how the Government ensured that investigation of allegations of female genital mutilation did not become cases of racial profiling; that Norway consider utilising the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' Guidelines on Human Trafficking as a reference; that Norway remain open to the possibility of fine-tuning its legislation on negative portrayals in the media of immigrants and those of foreign ethnic origin; to withdraw reservations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and that steps be taken to collect and analyse gender-disaggregated data on racial discrimination.
Responding to questions and issues raised, Mr. Gahr Store said that Norway respected the principle of non-refoulement. With regards to the status of migrant workers and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, Norway decided not to ratify this in 2002, as the wording of the Convention had at that time been considered vague and imprecise, and there was also concern that it might undermine existing commitments under other Conventions. Norway participated actively in the United Nations and other fora where migrant rights were on the agenda, and gave high priority to improving the situation of migrants. The Government's aim was to prevent and eradicate homelessness, and a number of improvements had been made, with new groups eligible for housing allowances, ensuring that women and children were in a better situation. The delegation noted that the policy on integration had three main axes, and an introduction programme had been developed for grown-ups designed to prepare refugees for their life in Norway, a key part of which was language training. There was an extraordinary escalation in the number of detainees on remand, which had caused problems with inmate housing, and to meet this acute challenge, various measures had been introduced, including the use of electronic monitoring as a sanction. The Government was working hard to eliminate ethnic discrimination by the police and other public officials, Mr. Gahr Store said.
Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Belgium, Egypt, France, Pakistan, Brazil, Russian Federation, Chile, United States of America, Italy, India, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cuba, Netherlands, Japan, China, Ukraine, Slovenia, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Argentina, Jordan and Qatar.
Observer States participating in the discussion were Algeria, Canada, Belarus, Turkey, Denmark, Iran, Uzbekistan, Spain, Australia, Serbia, Sweden, Germany, Portugal, Israel, Viet Nam, New Zealand, Colombia, Finland, Morocco, Republic of the Congo, Switzerland, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Malaysia, and Burundi.
The thirty-eight-person delegation of Norway consisted of representatives from the permanent Mission of Norway, the Norwegian Sami Parliament, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, of Children and Equality, of Justice and the Police, of Labour and Social Inclusion, of Health and Care Services, of Children and Equality, of Education and Research, as well as several Members of the Norwegian Parliament.
The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of Norway are Pakistan, Ukraine, and Nigeria.
In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on Norway can be found here.
The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of Norway on Friday 4 December.
Adoption of report on Eritrea: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on Eritrea are Italy, Angola, and Saudi Arabia. Introducing the report, LARA MIRACHIAN, Permanent Representative of Italy, said the troika unanimously recognised the commitment of Eritrea during the Review Process, which was an encouraging signal of the importance that it attributed to the process and which was reflected in the report, the recommendations of which should be constructively implemented. Representing the State under review, GIRMAI ABRHAM, Economic Advisor, Ministry of National Development, said the report was a true reflection of the interactive dialogue, and Eritrea had taken note of all the recommendations, and would respond in due time after having examined them- several were already acceptable.
When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m., it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Albania.
Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.
To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp
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