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Denmark and Greenland: UN expert calls for greater effort to create inclusive societies

10 February 2023

GENEVA (10 February 2023) – A UN expert* today called on the Governments of Denmark and Greenland to address the negative impact of colonial legacy that translates into structural and systematic racial discrimination against the Inuit People, as a key measure to tackle past injustices and create a more inclusive society.

“Despite significant progress, the Inuit people still face barriers to fully enjoying their human rights in both Denmark and Greenland,” UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Cali Tzay, said in a statement at the end of a 10-day official visit to the two countries.

“I was particularly appalled by the testimonies of Inuit women who reported that Danish health care providers had inserted intrauterine devices (IUDs) without their knowledge or consent. Some of them were as young as 12 years old," the UN expert said.

Cali Tzay recalled reports of Inuit women living in Denmark whose children had been taken from them without their knowledge and consent and placed in Danish foster care. He urged Denmark to review its procedures for assessing out-of-home care for Inuit children and address structural bias within social authorities.

“Greenland society still faces numerous challenges that relate to poverty and lack of adequate housing, appropriate quality education and scarce mental health support,” Cali Tzay said. “Around 20 percent of children in Greenland are estimated to have been exposed to violence and sexual abuse,” he said, adding that Greenland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.

The Special Rapporteur observed a lack of established mechanisms to implement Inuit's right to free, prior, and informed consent, including when allocating tourism concessions, implementing business projects, and adopting legislative and administrative acts in Greenland.

“I urge Greenland's government to consult with the Inuit People whose traditional livelihoods will be directly affected by plans to expand mining, tourism and infrastructure,’’ the expert said.

“Greenland's extensive self-governance is an inspiring example of an indigenous self-government in practice and a peaceful process towards self-determination for Indigenous peoples worldwide,’’ Cali Tzay said.

Mr. José Francisco Cali Tzay, was appointed Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in March 2020 and took up the role on 1 May 2020. A Mayan Cakchiquel from Guatemala, he has represented indigenous peoples at the United Nations since the early 1980s, addressing human rights violations against indigenous peoples in Guatemala and around the world.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

See the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Denmark

For more information and media requests, please contact Lilia Petrosyan ([email protected])

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) or Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected])

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