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Featuring a long Atlantic coastline and borders with Russia, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, Norway is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe. A constitutional monarchy with most executive power actually in the hands of the prime minister and parliament, Norway operates a vibrant multi-party system, often producing coalition or even minority governments. A keen promoter of human rights around the world and maintaining very high standards domestically, some issues do still remain - particularly around the separation of parents and children during detention.
Norway is one of three Scandinavian countries. It borders Sweden to the west, Denmark to the south and Russia and Finland to the far north-east. Norway has a long coastline, facing the North Atlantic Ocean and the Barents Sea. The capital of Norway is Oslo.
Population and language
Norway's population of approximately 4.9 million makes it one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe. The population includes a number of national minority groups such as the Sámi people, Jews, Kvens, Roma, Romani people/Tater and Forest Finns.
The official language of Norway is Norwegian (bokmål and nynorsk) which is similar to the other Scandinavian languages. Northern Sámi, Lule Sami, Kven and Southern Sámi are also recognised regional languages.
Norway united as a single kingdom in the ninth century. It formed a single political entity with Denmark, known as Denmark-Norway, which then included Iceland, from 1536–1814. In 1814, after a brief war with Sweden, the two countries entered into a union until 1905.
Today, Norway is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. King Harald V is the Head of State, and the Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, is the head of government. The constitution of Norway was adopted on 17 May 1814. Governmental elections for the Norwegian parliament (the Storting) are held every four years. The indigenous Sámi people exercise self-determination over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Norwegians have chosen not to join the European Union in two referenda, however, as a member of the European Economic Area, Norway still contributes to the EU budget.
Norway's economy is heavily dependent on large reserves of petroleum and natural gas discovered in the 1960s. In 2009, oil, natural gas and pipeline transport services made up approximately 50 per cent of exports, and constituted more than 20 per cent of the country's GDP, making Norway the fifth largest oil exporter in the world. In addition to its petroleum resources, Norway has large natural reserves of hydropower, fish, forests and minerals.
Media and civil society
Norway remains among the front runners of Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. Internationally, Norway works actively to promote human rights and is one of the biggest financial contributors to the UN. Norway was the first country ever to establish an Ombudsperson for Children.
Human rights and children's rights
Norway is known for its Scandinavian-style welfare system which includes universal healthcare, subsidised higher education and an extensive social security system. Many credit this system with Norway's its high performance in human development indicators – Norway is consistently ranked top of UNDP's Human Development Index.
Human rights issues raised by international monitoring bodies include discriminatory treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and discrimination against minority groups.
In terms of children's rights issues, the high number of children dying from overdoses remains a concern as well as the rapid increase in the prescription of psycho-stimulants to children for children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has also recommended that Norway include children in age discrimination legislation
- UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations, February 2010, paragraph 19
- National Report, Universal Periodic Review, December 2009
- Regjeringen (government website)
- World Bank Group: Norway Country Profile
- UNDP: Norway Country Profile
- "Guide to Legal Research in Norway"
- Statistics Norway: Focus on Oil and Gas
- UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations, February 2010