Speech/article | Published: 09.03.2012
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre's speech at the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement's(EGAM)annual meeting held in Oslo on 9 March 2012.
The Minister based his presentation on the following points:
· Begin by thanking you for inviting me to address you here today.
· The role of civil society is crucial in fighting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
· By joint action we all become stronger and stand a better chance of fighting back those dark forces that threaten the very heart of human rights – the right to non-discrimination.
· Thank you for choosing Oslo as the venue for this year’s annual meeting. A strong symbol of European solidarity and a manifestation of the importance of international and regional cooperation in combating intolerance and discrimination.
· One of the most important battles in Europe today is against fanaticism and extremism in all religions and ideologies.
· Also pleased to have Bernard Kouchner by my side here today. A strong international advocate in the fight against discrimination.
· I have 3 dimensions for my intervention here today: 22 July, integration and its opportunities and the protection of minorities exemplified by the “Arab spring”.
1. Let me first go back to the events that changed Norway last summer.
· 22 July will always be a day of mourning for Norway and the Norwegian people. It is, however, also a day that showed the strength of solidarity.
· 77 people were killed and many more were wounded. The attacks appear to have been fuelled by hatred towards a multicultural society – a society where different religions, cultures and people can live together in security, confident that their individual rights are respected.
· The deadliest attacks in Norway since the Second World War. The bombing of the government complex and the massacre of young people gathered for the annual Norwegian Labour Youth summer camp struck at the very heart of the Norwegian democracy.
· Norway stands united in its determination to uphold the values of democracy, openness, trust and participation, regardless of background or belief.
· 22 July was an attack on our values of equality and non-discrimination, as well as on other fundamental human rights and freedoms.
· I am proud to say, however, that the response of the Norwegian people to the terrorist attacks was a strong call for more democracy, more openness and more inclusiveness.
· I would say that in fact Norway has become a more tolerant society after 22 July. Young people from many different cultures were present at Utøya. Since the attacks, we have heard more immigrant voices in the public debate. And these voices have also become louder.
· Another response to 22 July has been a whole new wave of young people joining the youth organisations of our political parties. Not only the one that was attacked – the Norwegian Labour Youth (AUF) – but all the political youth parties, from left to right.
· I am thus optimistic for the future. Norwegian young people have stepped up for democracy, tolerance, multicultural society and non-discrimination.
2. Leads to my second point: pluralism, integration and its opportunities.
· Let me give you an illustration of today’s multicultural Norway:
· In 1945 when Trygve Lie – the great Labour politician from Furuset in Oslo – was appointed the first Secretary-General of the UN, the world had 50 states.
· Today the statue of Trygve Lie that stands in Furuset centre can be admired by people with backgrounds from 148 countries, who now live in this district of Oslo!
· Norway has become a pluralistic and diverse country. Of course this poses challenges. But it also enriches Norwegian society and creates new opportunities.
· All citizens have rights and obligations. We must give our new countrymen, women, young people and children opportunities. But at the same time we must not be afraid of setting certain conditions and requirements in return for the opportunities offered.
· Rights and obligations are mutually dependent. Certain principles apply to all – like universal human rights, rule of law and equal rights and equity.
· This is the platform for true pluralism.
3. Leads to my third point: protection of minorities, exemplified by the Arab spring.
· Arab spring – will last a generation ahead
· Political islam – how to dealt with it
· Global economy – universal human rights, rule of law and equity as key principles of a well-functioning market economy and democracy
· In times of great societal change, minorities are threatened. We have seen it time and time again, unfortunately in Europe as well. The ability of governments to protect minorities is the ultimate test of their democratic values.
· Against this backdrop, my Ministry has launched a project on minorities.
· A complex challenge, given the fact that minorities are such a broad category. The UN declaration mentions ethnic, national, religious and linguistic minorities.
· We are of course not in a position to bring about significant changes in all these fields. Consequently, we have chosen to narrow the focus of our project to minorities in terms of religion or belief, well aware of the fact that we most likely will see an overlap with ethnic or national minorities.
· We also know that sexual minorities are discriminated against within minorities, and this is a challenge we have to address as well.
· The essence of human rights is the protection of individuals. And a key factor for protecting minority groups is the rule of law. Consequently, concerted efforts to promote the rule of law must lie at the heart of our project.
· Moreover, religious minorities are coming under greater pressure in these times of political and economic change. This is exactly what we are seeing in the Middle East and North Africa. Consequently, it is important for the project to keep a close eye on this region.
· We have contacted all the relevant Norwegian embassies and asked them for information on the situation for minorities in their host countries.
· Norway is a small country. There are limits to what we can achieve on our own. Hence, we are searching for partners internationally, through the UN, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, and we are asking whether there are gaps in the normative framework that should be filled or initiatives that should be taken.
· Civil society has vital competence and, even more important, contacts on the ground.
· In your discussions on discrimination, I urge you to give minorities proper attention.
· Let me end my brief intervention by assuring you that the Norwegian Government will remain a strong partner in the fight against discrimination.
· Thank you.