Oslo Freedom Forum

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Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) is a conference about human rights first held in May 2009 in Oslo, Norway. Founded by the Human Rights Foundation. According to Thor Halvorssen (founder of the Human Rights Foundation), "the Oslo Freedom Forum is an intimate gathering where leaders who are transforming the world present effective solutions and inspiring testimonies that impact human rights and freedom. Speakers share diverse perspectives and expertise, from those individuals with first-hand experiences in the fight for human rights to those offering insight based on academic research and political and non-profit leadership".[1]

The forum aims to bring together world leaders including former heads of state, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize and prisoners of conscience as well as a selection of authors, together with business, political and cultural leaders from both Norway and internationally. According to the Forum website, the Oslo Freedom Forum is supported by Fritt Ord, the City of Oslo, the Thiel Foundation, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Sundt AS, the John Templeton Foundation, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fredskorpset, Amnesty International Norway, Human Rights House Foundation, and Ny Tid. It is endorsed by several groups including the Nobel Peace Center, the University of Oslo, the Norwegian Author's Union, and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.[2] It also received support from the government of Norway.[3]

The second OFF took place in April 2010 in Oslo. Every speech was filmed and is posted at youtube.com/oslofreedomforum. It is supported by Norway's Fritt Ord, Amnesty International, the Nobel Peace Center, the Norwegian Author's Union, University of Oslo, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, the Thiel Foundation and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.[3]In 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum will take place from May 9th to May 11th.


The OFF is produced by the Human Rights Foundation.[4] The conference was funded with a grant from the Templeton Foundation,[5] and also received support from the Norwegian government and the City government of Oslo.[6] Partners for the 2009 are listed as Civita, Human Rights Action Center, International Society for Human Rights, Laogai Research Foundation, and Reporters Without Borders. In 2010 the Forum's partners include Norway's Freedom of Expression, Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, Amnesty, Civita, The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Human Rights House Foundation.[3]

The Forum's mission is to be the place where human rights defenders and social entrepreneurs from around the world can network and exchange ideas - where extraordinary human rights advocates lacking international support and recognition are given a platform to share their work with a global audience - where those with first-hand experience as survivors of human rights violations are able to share their insights with leaders who are shaping the world through journalism, business, philanthropy, and politics.[7]

2009 Forum

Thor Halvorssen the conference’s 33-year-old founder explained to the Wall Street Journal in 2009: “We all should want freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom from torture, freedom to travel, due process and freedom to keep what belongs to you.” Unfortunately, he explains, “the human-rights establishment at the United Nations is limited to pretty words because so many member countries kill or imprison or torture their opponents.”[8] John Fund writing in the Wall Street Journal about "Human Rights Beyond Ideology" said it "was unlike any human-rights conference I've ever attended. As at other such gatherings, racism and gender discrimination were on the minds of plenty of participants. But there was no desire to blame such problems on the U.S. or other Western nations. The emphasis was on promoting basic rights in all nations at all times." The article by Fundamentions that "Even Oslo's leftist newspaper Klassekampen (Class Struggle) overcame its initial skepticism, declaring the forum "an impressive assembly of people."[8]

2010 Forum

The Economist called the 2010 Forum "a spectacular human-rights festival" and described it as "on its way to becoming a human-rights equivalent of the Davos economic forum." Standpoint magazine says that the Oslo Freedom Forum "provides an intimate space for dissidents and human rights defenders from around the world to meet each other, to talk to internet entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, journalists and to draw inspiration and encouragement."[9] Elsewhere coverage and mentions of the 2010 Forum can be found at CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, The Huffington Post, The Associated Press, The National Review, The Daily Beast, Reason Magazine, Foreign Policy, Front Page Africa, Standpoint Magazine, Aftenposten, Real Clear Politics, Radio Free Europe, TEDFellows, Current TV, Illume, and SBS Dateline.[10]


Participants 2009

Among those present at the 2009 conference were:

After the conference, each contribution was published on the internet. Due to illness, Vaclav Havel and Elie Wiesel each participated through a video segment recorded for the Oslo Freedom Forum. Additionally, Ramón José Velásquez, 94-year old former president of Venezuela, participated by video.

Participants 2010

Among those present at the 2010 conference were:


External links