Introductory Statement by Check against delivery.
Mr. Hans Brattskar
Mr. Chair, distinguished members of the Committee,
My delegation is pleased to meet with the Committee for further dialogue on Norway’s implementation of the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The UN treaty bodies play a crucial role in helping states implement their international human rights obligations. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for the work of the Committee.
In our legal system, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stands on an equal footing with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The provisions of the Covenant take precedence over potentially conflicting provisions of national legislation. This demonstrates that human rights is not a separate issue to us, it is indeed an integrated part of our justice system and our daily lives. Human rights are at the core of our society.
Please allow me to acknowledge that the Norwegian delegation have representatives from many different ministries, a testament to how economic, social and cultural rights are at the centre of different policy areas. All have been involved in drafting the Norwegian periodic report.
I would like to convey our gratitude for the contributions made by the Norwegian National Human Rights Institution, the Sami Parliament and Norwegian civil society representatives. We appreciate the open and constructive dialogue we have had from the outset, including during the preparatory meeting in September of last year. The supplementary reports constitute an integral part of the preparations for this hearing.
Norway appreciates the simplified reporting procedures that allowed us to respond to the List of Issues in advance of the dialogue now ahead of us. The relatively short time period between the submission of the report and the dialogue meeting makes it possible for all parties to be more efficient in our preparations.
I would in the following like to highlight a few areas considered particularly timely for this dialogue meeting. I would also like to draw the Committee’s attention to some new developments since the submission of our report in October 2019.
2020 is an important year for the promotion and protection of women’s rights and gender equality. We celebrate and mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform of Action, but we do this in challenging times. Gender equality, as for human rights in general, can never be taken for granted.
Norway has come a long way towards gender equality and ranks number 2 out of 153 countries in this year's Global Gender Gap Report. We are moving steadily towards an even more gender equal society. More women work full time. The number of women in management positions is growing. And the gender pay gap has been reduced.
Still, challenges remain, such as: gender segregation in education and in the labour market. Gender equality in education and in the labour market is essential to release the full potential of our society. We are therefore working on a strategy for gender equality in education and the labour market for the period 2021-2024. We have strengthened the duty of employers and public authorities to work actively to promote gender equality and report on their efforts. We have also established an enforcement system for sexual harassment cases.
Discrimination occurs at various levels of our society. Reports show negative trends concerning attitudes towards Muslims in Norway, and we are working to address discrimination on grounds of ethnicity and religion. The Norwegian government developed a Strategy against Hate Speech in 2016, and a new Action Plan against Racism and Discrimination on the grounds of Ethnicity and Religion was presented in December 2019. The Action Plan includes 50 measures in a range of areas, including the labour market, housing and health sectors. We are also developing a national action plan against discrimination and hatred against Muslims.
The Government’s Action plan against anti-Semitism (2016–2020) was presented in 2016, and sets out a number of measures aimed at reducing anti-Semitism in Norway. The Government has decided to prolong and renew the Action plan period after 2020.
We continue our efforts to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. The Government has launched the strategy "A society for all" which seeks to ensure equality and human rights for persons with disabilities. We are currently working on a White Paper for the Norwegian Parliament about the human rights situation of persons with intellectual disabilities.
The Government works continuously with developing and strengthening the policies towards the Sami and the national minorities. Consultations and participation are fundamental principles in indigenous people's rights. Consultations between State Authorities and Sámediggi (the Sami Parliament) have been formalized since 2005. A number of consultation processes take place every year. Agreement is often reached, although not always.
The Government is preparing additional statutory rules, which will further strengthen and clarify the Sami people's right to be consulted in matters that may affect them directly. A draft law is currently undergoing public consultation to be concluded by the end of this month.
The committee has raised questions about access to healthcare for irregular migrants in Norway. Anyone who is staying or living in Norway, regardless of citizenship, permanent residence or illegal stay, is entitled to healthcare in emergencies. Everyone is also entitled to an assessment from the specialised healthcare service as to whether healthcare is necessary.
The Norwegian government continues to prioritize mental health care and substance abuse treatment, by facilitating increased user influence, shorter waiting times, better access, predictability and quality in the services. Non-consensual measures in mental health care are subject to strict and detailed regulations.
In 2019, the Government received the report from an appointed legislative committee on the use of coercion in health care. Among many things, the committee suggested to remove diagnosis-specific terms in the legal basis for coercion. These should be replaced with requirements related to the absence of decision-making competence and a «strong need» for relevant measures. The report was submitted for public consultation last summer, and the Government aims to present a bill to Parliament as soon as possible.
Norway is currently under the scrutiny of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg in 35 child welfare cases. So far, there have been seven judgements, of which the Court ruled no violation in two cases.
The Norwegian Government takes the criticism very seriously. The protection of children is highly prioritised in Norway. The judgments of the Court have provided important input to improve the Norwegian child welfare system. The principle of “the best interests of the child” is a fundamental consideration, which is enshrined in the Norwegian Constitution, and the Child Welfare Act. Norway is committed to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which also commits the Government to consider the best interests of the child and to make decisions for the benefit of children.
We look forward to an open and constructive dialogue with the Committee. We will do our very best to address any questions and concerns you may have. To enable this, the Norwegian delegation would appreciate a short break after questions raised under Cluster I. We would also kindly request a short break after questions raised under Cluster II.
As raised with the secretariat in advance, it would truly facilitate our preparations for cluster IV if questions for this cluster also could be raised with us before the end of today.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.