Editorial comment: A Boundless Failure

It is our own damn responsibility to provide secure frames for the weakest among us. We can no longer evade that responsibility, says our Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm.
In the euphoria over the Arctic being increasingly seen by the rest of the world, we run the risk of ignoring the human degradation that hides beneath the surface in our la-la-land, Arne O. Holm writes.

In the shadow of ambitious High North initiatives, we have forgotten the most important actors. Our children. Both on Greenland and in Northern Norway massive abuses against our weakest have been revealed. In the euphoria over the Arctic being increasingly seen by the rest of the world, we run the risk of ignoring the human degradation that hides beneath the surface in our la-la-land.

This week, Greenland’s authorities released yet another shocking report about neglect and abuse of children. At the same time, police investigations reveal an ever-increasing number of abuse and abusers in Tysfjord municipality, Northern Norway.

Those of us who care about the development in the High North repeat indefinitely that the humans in the North are our most important resource. We discuss climate and climate changes on behalf of our children with our gravest concern.

Public neglect

The disaster that is already striking children in some communities leave us powerless so far.

The authorities on Greenland nevertheless demonstrate what appears to be brutal honesty when they time and again submit reports that reveal public neglect towards an increasing number of children.

More than anyone, the local politicians also recognize and admit the problems they face.

It just does not seem to make any difference.

Because nothing happens.

As a newspaper, we follow the developments on Greenland closely. Also when it comes to other issues than politics and business. The report which we refer to today, an inspection report from Nuuk, leaves the reader shaken. 

“This public neglect emerges when children, who with the knowledge of the municipality are in immediate danger of having their lives/their future destroyed through their e.g. being exposed to significant physical violence and sexual assaults – without the municipality having brought this to an end or having efficiently trying to bringing it to an end” says one of the paragraphs in the inspection report, which was published earlier this week.

In Tysfjord, Norway, the police dismissed 82 percent of the Vice matters between 1997 and 2014.

Hard to believe

However, though Greenland appears more honest than e.g. Tysfjord, in its description of what we expose our children to, the ability to bring the children out from the hell they have been led into appears to remain as limited as ever before.

The recent report from Greenland makes an extra impact this time, as it focuses on the country’s capital Nuuk, where there is actually aid available.

Former reports from smaller communities on Greenland tell more or less the same story. But when the capital is described as a place where “the municipality receives reports about children in immediate danger, but nothing happens”, I struggle to believe what I read.

It can hardly be more brutally described.

How this is perceived by those who are in the middle of it, is unfathomable.

Yet the abuse continues.

Abusers can continue

Greenland’s authorities have earlier tried to allocated funds to ease their way out of the problems. However, when facing the new report’s conclusions they are left gaping on the sideline, much like people do when facing their own inadequacies.

In Tysfjord, the abusers could go on for decades without anything stopping them. Only when the Norwegian daily VG gave their victims a voice in thorough cover stories did the matter become a national one and the cases transferred to a different police office. That has proven both necessary and thorough. While it appears that the former most important ambition was to fill the archives with dismissed cases, there are now at present 120 open cases about sexual abuse. There is, so far, a total of 70 victims, most of them girls who were under the age of 16 when the abuse took place.

This reveals that a nearly systematic dismissal of children’s experiences has had one outcome only: the abuse could go on. The ambitions have, like many times before, been to archive one’s way out of the problems, rather than trying to solve them.

A similar picture is currently drawn in Nuuk.

Our own responsibility

Everyone have nevertheless known what has been going on, both on Greenland and in Tysfjord – as well as in other parts of the Arctic.

We have known so well what was happening in our midst that turning our back on the victims became everyday routine, allowing the abusers continue their massive destruction of their own and other people’s children.

That is how the authorities prolong and strengthen the abuse, also when the abuser has moved on and found new victims.

The international High North initiatives can only be successful if it benefits the people in the North. That is a recognition that slowly, but steadily dawns on the actors operating in the Arctic.

However, it is our own damn responsibility to provide secure frameworks for the weakest among us.

We can no longer evade that responsibility.

(Translated from Norwegian by Elisabeth Bergquist, HNN)