High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges

Statement by Ambassador Hans Brattskar, Permanent Representative of Norway

Thank you chair,

Norway would like to thank High Commissioner Grandi and UNHCR for the timely choice of topic for this year’s protection dialogue. This is a topic that we attach great importance to. Children are the most vulnerable among us, and also represent the future.

Norway would like to emphasize our appreciation for the UN high level meeting on 19 September this year. We urge all states to follow up on the New York declaration in general, and on the topics relating to children in particular.

Norway supports a principled approach to the topic of children on the move, an approach based on human rights, and where the interest of the child is a primary consideration. Protection of displaced children must be central in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and the following Global Compact on Refugees.

Our approach should be holistic, not only looking at how children are treated on the move or upon arrival in destination countries, but also on why they are moving in the first place, either alone or with their family. Conflict resolution is key in this respect. Education is also of great importance. Solutions for most must be found at home.

Children on the move are entitled to all the rights guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Further, they have specific vulnerabilities that should be recognized and addressed. We all know, however, that this is not the reality today. There is need for improvement in many areas: registration, safe shelter, livelihoods support, education and health care to mention some. When applications for asylum are lodged, there should be adequate procedures with personnel with child specific competences. To secure this internationally, we need cooperation and coordination.

We also need to bear in mind that a minor would not necessarily meet the criteria for being a refugee according to the 1951 Convention based on the mere fact that he or she is a minor. It is therefore also necessary to have well-functioning systems for return of minors who do not meet these criteria or other criteria for permissions to stay. It may also be in the best interest of unaccompanied minors to return and reunite with family, rather than being alone in a new country with a new culture and a new language. There are challenges relating to tracing of parents of unaccompanied minors as this must be done with the consent of the minor. However, the minors will often not give their consent. The question arises whether it would be in the best interest of the minor to try to trace the parents anyway, for instance with the consent of the guardian or representative of the minor.

I would like to take the opportunity to emphasize the importance of education. As UNHCR has mentioned in the background papers for this meeting, missing out on education is something refugee children refer to as a great concern. We recall our common commitment in the New York Declaration from 19 September to provide quality primary and secondary education in safe learning environments for all refugee children within a few months of the initial displacement.

Only 50% of refugee children have access to primary education, compared to a global average of 90%. The gap increases as children get older. In crisis-affected countries 37 million children and young people are out of school. Norway emphasizes the need for increased support to education in emergencies and protracted crises.

More than 8% of Norway’s humanitarian budget is earmarked for education, and more than 20% of our humanitarian assistance to the Syria situation goes to education. We are pleased to continue to provide support for UNHCR and its partners in this field. We helped initiating the Education Cannot Wait fund, launched at the World Humantiarian Summit, and we support it. We encourage donors to join the fund in order to efficiently address the challenge.

Norway also promotes enhanced protection of education in armed conflict through the Safe Schools Declaration that has so far been endorsed by 56 countries. We encourage all countries to endorse and implement the declaration in order to address the urgent issue of military use of and armed attacks on schools.  Access to education can be an important protection tool for children in crisis situations and children on the move by providing a degree of safety and normalcy, in addition to greatly increasing young people’s possibilities and opportunities for the future, and their ability to contribute to their communities.

Thank you!