The Norwegian National Human Rights Institution (Norges Institusjon for Menneskerettigheter, NIM) has published a report about local governments and human rights in Norway. The purpose of this report is to place the human rights responsibilities of municipalities on the agenda, clarify the nature and scope of these responsibilities and highlight opportunities to strengthen local human rights implementation.

The report, which is in Norwegian, also includes a summary in English.

The municipalities are in the front line, and this means that human rights can both be strengthened and violated in the municipalities. Proximity to citizens means that the municipalities are in a special position to take care of local needs and ensure human rights, NIM believes.

The survey conducted by NIM shows that most mayors, municipal directors and other leaders in the municipalities acknowledge that the municipalities have human rights responsibilities, but the respondents' knowledge of human rights varies.

Increased awareness and knowledge

- I welcome this report. It is important to increase awareness of human rights in the municipalities. As political leaders, one must have an understanding of the responsibility we have, says President of KS, Gunn Marit Helgesen.

She was recently a guest on KS's podcast "Der livet leves" (in Norwegian) together with the director of NIM, Adele Matheson Mestad.

- There is a lot of ethical questions and many dilemmas. We must be aware of the abuses you can do when caring for others, says Helgesen.

Experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic

The NIM director points out that the coronavirus pandemic has provided new experiences related to the handling of human rights in the municipalities.

- We saw some examples of inadequate assessments of human rights requirements when infection control measures were introduced. For example, a restraining order was introduced in care homes without any legal basis for it, says Mestad.

The purpose of the report was to create a toolbox to be able to contribute to the municipalities working more systematically.

- Our experience is that all municipalities are interested and want to learn, says Mestad.