For the majority of children, Norway is a good place to grow up. There is consensus in society to prioritize the living conditions for children and young people, and Norway has made significant steps to implement children’s rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has a strong legal position through the incorporation into Norwegian law in 2003, and from 2014 the Constitution has a special provision on the rights of the child.
Despite high awareness, strong legal status and a general high level of social services, there are still challenges to secure fundamental rights for all children in Norway. Children in vulnerable situations are the ones facing the highest risk of breaches in the fulfillment of their rights, many of them described in this report. Here, The Ombudsman wants to emphasis three main challenges;
In January 2017, the Norwegian Parliament voted against ratification of the Third Optional Protocol on an individual complaints procedure under the CRC. The decision was made on recommendation of the Attorney General, against the advice of a unified group of external actors, among them lawyers and civil society. The Ombudsman highly regrets this decision, as we for the last ten years have been documenting lack of effective national complaints procedures for children. The Ombudsman believes that endorsement of the Protocol would encourage the development of more accessible and child-friendly complaints mechanisms at national level. It is also highly regrettable that Norway, traditionally a champion of children’s rights internationally, is sending this signal to other countries.
Despite a legal band of all forms of violence, many children still experience violence and abuse. This has major consequences on their education, health and development. In addition it has great costs for society. The Ombudsman strongly advocates for higher efforts to combat all types of violence against children, and that preventative work must be significantly strengthened. An extremely important measure is to ensure that children – regardless of age – are aware that their body is theirs alone, and that no-one can do anything to their body that they don’t want them to. The Ombudsman is pleased that a national escalation plan has been adopted in relation to violence against children. However, this plan is yet to be followed up with adequate resources. The plan must ensure increased efforts and targeted measures to strengthen the ability of society to prevent and protect children from violence and abuse.
Many children experience bullying at school. Bullying has a detrimental effect on children’s lives, including their health and learning. Consequently, it represents a threat to the child’s ability to reach his/her full potential. Despite measures in recent years, statistics have remained high over time. Efforts remains to establish a system that effectively – and in a child-friendly way – can handle complaints and provide measures to end bullying both online and face to face.