Norway scolds itself in UN report
September 21, 2009
In an unusual report to the United Nations, the Norwegian government has turned a critical spotlight on itself. It admits, for example, that it has violated human rights, hasn’t achieved equal pay for equal work and hasn’t managed to curb domestic violence.
These are just a few of the areas that Norwegian officials highlight as troublesome areas that require more time, attention and funding.
Some might liken the report to self-flagellation, but it offers a refreshing change from most government reports that either defend government policy or the government’s track record. This one, the first Norway has prepared for the UN’s human rights council, offers an honest assessment of where and how Norway itself needs to improve.
Newspaper Aftenposten reports that much of the report was prepared by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. He and other government colleagues, who just last week secured enough votes to continue their ruling coalition, noted that there is too much family violence in Norway, too many assaults and rapes, and pay gaps between men and women that are too wide.
The report goes on to claim that immigrants in Norway face discrimination, that there are too many hate crimes in the country and that children are poorly treated in custody.
Even though Norway has made headlines around the world for its quota system to get more women on boards of directors, the report claims women remain “underrepresented” in top management positions, that women still earn on average 85 percent of men’s average salaries and that too many women work only part-time because of too many demands at home.
Human rights groups have applauded the candid report, saying it may show other countries like Russia and China how to admit mistakes and be critical of themselves.
“Usually the various members of the UN are very quick to brag about about how good they are,” said Elin Saga Kjørholt of the Norwegian Center for Human Rights. “It’s important to dare to expose that we also have made mistakes.
“If we’re not open about our own challenges, it can be even harder for China, for example, discuss theirs.”