UN reviews human rights situation in Norway

12/4/2009 // “Demanding, stimulating and challenging” were Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre’s description of the three-hour review of the human rights situation in Norway in Geneva Wednesday 2 December. This was the first time Norway was examined under the UN’s new system of Universal Periodic Reviews of member states’ national efforts to respect and ensure human rights.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Assistant Director General Helga Fastrup Ervik (left) og Bente Angell-Hansen (right) during the hearing on 2 December. 
Photo: DSS.
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Assistant Director General Helga Fastrup Ervik (left) og Bente Angell-Hansen (right) during the hearing on 2 December.. Photo: DSS 

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process starts with the individual member state submitting a report on its national implementation of human rights to the UN Human Rights Council. In addition to the national report, which Norway submitted on 8 September this year, the UN submits a compilation of relevant UN documents recommendations and a summary of civil society stakeholders' information and recommendations.

After the reports have been published, the country under review is subject to examination by the Human Rights Council. This is where UN member states have the opportunity to ask questions and make recommendations to the country being reviewed. Each country is subject to review once every four years. No less than 54 countries had questions and recommendations for the Norwegian delegation, and Norway received more than 100 recommendations. These will now be studied by the Norwegian Government to determine which can be met or considered more closely.

The Foreign Minister commented:” Nearly all the countries that spoke during the review commended the openness of Norway’s report and its willingness to exercise self-criticism as an example to be followed. It was noted that the Vice-President of the Sami Parliament made part of Norway’s opening speech, and several speakers emphasised the role civil society had played in producing our national report. We also received positive feedback on our commitment to human rights and gender equality. But human rights are not achieved once and for all, and we also received a whole range of questions about the challenges we face in areas such as racial discrimination, domestic violence, violence against women and hate speech.

Foreign Minster Støre headed the Norwegian delegation, which included representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Police, the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion, the Ministry of Children and Equality, the Ministry of Health and Care Services, the Ministry of Education and Research and the Sami Parliament. A number of NGOs were also present during the review.

“The Universal Periodic Review is a good opportunity for all countries to look ahead and prepare for the human rights challenges of tomorrow. Although Norway has achieved a lot in the field of human rights, we still face challenges. There are people on the streets and in local communities in Norway who feel stigmatised and discriminated against. We must fight exclusion, discrimination and marginalisation resolutely and wisely,” said the Foreign Minister.

More information about Norway’s UPR can be found on the home page of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

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