Greenland, Denmark ministers receive 16 recommendations for improving child welfare in Arctic

A view of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, in 2013. Over the next four years, Greenland aims to increase services for vulnerable children in communities throughout the territory. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
The social affairs ministers of Greenland and Denmark have received recommendations for improving child welfare in the Arctic and pledged on Friday to start implementing them starting in September.

The 16 recommendations are the product of a joint Greenland-Denmark working group put in place last year after Greenland asked for Denmark’s assistance in addressing high rates of childhood sexual abuse and neglect in the Arctic territory.

“We are very grateful for the Danish contribution, and I’ve been pleased to note how well and equally the collaboration has worked,” said Greenland’s Minister of Social Affairs Martha Abelsen in a news release.

“We’re working for all children in Greenland to have a safe childhood. With the working group’s good proposals that build on what we already have in progress, I believe that the goal is within reach. Now it’s important to make the good recommendations come true, so that children and young people will feel a difference. ”

Denmark’s Minister of Social Affairs Astrid Krag (left) and Greenland’s Minister of Social Affairs Martha Abelsen (right) at Friday’s news conference. (Government of Greenland)

Greenland is a self-governing autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark, with Denmark responsible for Defense and Foreign Affairs. But in 2019 Greenland asked for Denmark’s cooperation to address the social crisis in order to access additional resources and expertise.

Like in many of the world’s Arctic regions, including Canada, the colonial past in Greenland has lead to intergenerational trauma, culture loss and substance abuse that continues to impact young children.

In a news release on Friday, the Greenlandic government said every third child in Greenland experiences neglect, one in five children born after 1995 experience sexual abuse and that the suicide rate amongst young people was “despairingly high.”

More services, increased legal support among recommendations

The Danish parliament has allocated 80 million Danish kroner ($16.7 million CDN) to help implement the recommendations.

Overview from the working group report:

The 16 recommendations fall into four main categories:

  • early intervention and prevention
  • more robust case processing at the municipal level
  • more services for vulnerable children throughout Greenland
  • more legal security for child victims of sexual abuse

“I have heard the most heartbreaking childhood stories of neglect, which we simply must not close our eyes to,” said Denmark’s Minister of Social Affairs Astrid Krag. 

“We owe it to Greenland’s vulnerable children to create real change. That is why I am glad that we are now taking a large number of initiatives that will help both now and in the long term. And even if we can’t solve all the problems at once, it will help more people have a safer childhood.”

The full report is available online in Kalaallisut (Greenlandic) or in Danish.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: New program to tackle child sexual abuse in Canada’s Nunavut territory, CBC News

Finland: Swedish-speaking Finnish women launch their own #metoo campaign, Yle News

United States: Archdiocese in Alaska orders independent review to address possible sexual abuse, Alaska Public Media

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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