Thank you, Chair,
Norway would like to express its appreciation for the Secretary-General’s report on the rights of the child, with its particular focus on indigenous children. We welcome this timely report on a highly important issue, including the recommendations for the way forward.
Norway is concerned about the well documented fact that indigenous children throughout the world suffer from exclusion and discrimination, which leads to curtailment or loss of their basic rights, such as access to education, and health services. It is distressing to read in the report that indigenous children continue to be overrepresented among the poor, the illiterate and the unemployed, not least due to these obstacles.
We agree with the comment in the report that constitutional amendments may be a way of ensuring that the rights of indigenous peoples are recognised. The rights of the Sámi people in Norway to maintain and develop their language, culture and way of life have been protected under the Norwegian Constitution since 1988. We believe that constitutional recognition is an important step towards guaranteeing inclusion and promoting the rights of indigenous people.
Norway particularly welcomes the report’s focus on education. We agree that education is of crucial importance to indigenous children and indigenous peoples as a whole, in terms of survival, development and participation. We are concerned about the fact that indigenous children are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in relation to education.
The importance of mother-tongue education must be appreciated. Norway has recently conducted a comparative appraisal of mother-tongue basic education among the Mong and Khmer communities in Vietnam. Our findings indicated clearly that mother-tongue education increased performance in all subjects at primary level.
The report also underlines that research has shown that children attain better results if they receive instruction in their mother tongue. In addition, research has also shown that children attain better results in second languages when mother-tongue instruction is the norm for at least the first six to eight years of schooling. This suggests that mother-tongue instruction should be recommended for a minimum number of years.
As the report also highlights, significant obstacles also remain regarding the access of indigenous children to basic health services. We commend the Secretary-General for pinpointing some of the root causes of this problem, namely discrimination, and physical, economic and information inaccessibility. We also note the good practices of Australia, Mexico, and Brazil in this regard.
Norway believes it is of fundamental importance that children are included in decision-making processes. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children have the right to be heard in all decisions that affect them as well as the right of freedom of association and peaceful assembly. Participation empowers children and young people, as it encourages them to become active citizens and gives visibility to their concerns. Furthermore, it helps develop their capacities and self-esteem. In the end it also leads to better decision-making outcomes.
The right of the child to participate is therefore important not only for the individual child but also for the society as a whole, at local, national and international level. It is of utmost importance that steps are taken to ensure the full participation of children from indigenous groups.
It is clear that, despite the obvious value of indigenous culture for indigenous children, there are some traditional practices that are harmful and impede both gender equality and children’s rights. We are particularly thinking of the practice of early marriage and female genital mutilation, which are addressed in the report. There are thus limits to the respect that can be shown for culturally rooted practices, when such practices conflict with the most basic and universal human rights.
Norway sees birth registration as an important starting point in the chain of human rights as well as for achieving development goals. We share the concern of the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, referred to in the report of the Secretary-General, about the lack of birth registration in indigenous communities. It seems likely that increased birth registration would improve the literacy level in these communities. Birth registration may also serve as a useful tool for protecting children from armed conflict.
Thank you, Chair.