‘Human rights are under pressure internationally. Norway will therefore step up its efforts to promote and protect human rights,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende. A white paper on human rights in Norway’s foreign and development policy, the first on the subject for 15 years, was presented earlier in December.
The white paper, which is entitled “Opportunities for All: Human Rights in Norway’s Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation”, makes it clear that a commitment to human rights must lie at the heart of Norway’s foreign and development policy.
‘There is a gap between the commitments states have made and the respect shown for human rights in practice. I am concerned about the situation. Human rights are increasingly under threat in many parts of the world, especially civil and political rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Failure to respect human rights is an infringement of the rights of the individual. This impedes social development and has negative consequences at local, national and international levels,’ said Mr Brende.
Individual freedom and public participation, the rule of law and legal protection, and equality and equal opportunities are fundamental principles for all societies. It is the responsibility of each and every state to protect human rights and prevent all forms of discrimination and violence, including against women, children, religious minorities, indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and sexual minorities.
‘In order to counteract deliberate attempts to undermine respect for human rights, we need to strengthen the multilateral mechanisms for protecting human rights. Reprisals against people and organisations who cooperate with the UN and other international organisations constitute serious violations of their rights and are unacceptable attacks on the institutions that the international community has built up and must defend,’ Mr Brende said.
The current international mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights are not strong enough. The Government is therefore advocating:
a significant increase in the share of the UN’s total resources that is allocated to human rights efforts;
clear criteria for countries applying for membership in the UN Human Rights Council;
efforts to enhance individual countries’ ability and capacity to fulfil their human rights obligations and follow up the recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic
‘Norway will play a leading role in efforts to ensure that the UN puts human rights first in all its activities, not least at country level. We are actively supporting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’sHuman Rights Up Frontinitiative. With the new white paper, the Government is putting human rights at the top of the agenda in Norway’s foreign and development policy,’ said Mr Brende.
Norway is giving high priority to education in its development policy, with a particular focus on girls, children with disabilities, the poorest children, and children in crisis and conflicts. This is an important element of Norway’s efforts to strengthen human rights.
The Government will pursue a coherent policy for human rights, where efforts to promote and protect human rights are integrated into our work at global, regional and bilateral levels. It is essential that efforts in different policy areas pull in the same direction and are mutually reinforcing. Respect for human rights is not only a foreign policy goal, it is also a means of achieving lasting development and security throughout the world.
‘I would like to thank the nearly 40 organisations that have provided almost 400 comments and suggestions for this white paper. This demonstrates the strength of the Norwegian commitment to human rights. I look forward to further cooperation in implementing the vision and priorities set out in this important document,’ said Mr Brende.
In the white paper, the Government announces a number of priorities, including:
setting clear requirements for the recipients of Norwegian aid as regards their willingness to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and making it clear that serious violations of human rights or an unwillingness to comply with human rights obligations will have consequences for further cooperation;
actively using the EEA and Norway Grants to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights in the European Economic Area, and strengthening the efforts of the Council of Europe and the OSCE in these fields;
reinforcing efforts to eliminate child labour, child marriage and genital mutilation of girls;
working systematically to ensure that programmes Norway supports in the UN and World Bank systems promote the protection of human rights;
striving to ensure that the human rights perspective is clearly integrated into the new UN sustainable development goals;
strengthening efforts to protect human rights defenders and promoting a strong and independent civil society;
drawing up a strategy for the promotion of freedom of expression and independent media in foreign policy and development cooperation.