Address at The Norwegian Helsinki Committee's 40th anniversary

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide celebrated The Norwegian Helsinki Committee's 40th anniversary 23 November.

Secretary General - dear Bjørn - excellences, friends, and last bit not least: dear award winners.

It is an honour to be among so many defenders of human rights.

Fighting for human rights is a long-term commitment. You need stamina, and you need determination to keep on going, even when there is little or no progress. And you need courage.

The network of Helsinki Committees arose out of the dialogue and negotiations in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in the early 1970s.

The first Helsinki Committee was established in Moscow in 1976. Just a year later, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee was established.

From the very beginning, there has been close cooperation between the Norwegian Committee and the Russian human rights movement.

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Today we are facing a more serious security policy situation than just a few years ago.

International norms and rules, as well as human rights and indeed democracy itself, are increasingly under pressure. And in some places: under direct attack.

That is precisely why we need organizations and individuals that are willing and able to fight the good fight for human rights.

The monitoring and reporting work of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee is now more important than ever.

You tell the stories of men and women who take great risk for the cause of human rights.

Support to individual human rights defenders is also crucial.

Earlier this week, the Norwegian-led UN Human Rights Defender Resolution was adopted by consensus in the UN General Assembly.

«Consensus» may sound a bit boring, but an increasing number of resolutions that until recently was adopted by consensus, is now subject to discussions, divisions and voting.

Hard work resulted in that 76 countries signed on as co-sponsors. The resolution is a clear and strong message in support of human rights defenders.

I would like to thank Norwegian and international civil society for their partnership in securing support for our resolution.

Human rights defenders will remain high on our human rights agenda.

We look forward to continued cooperation with civil society and human rights defenders in the follow-up of this resolution in 2018 – when we will mark the 20th anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

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Freedom of speech and the media is another key priority for Norway.

Journalists go to places where most of us are unable or unwilling to go. They shed light on atrocities and expose violations of human rights.

Journalists are threatened and imprisoned, and some are even killed for doing their job.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has this year chosen the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the organization Committee against Torture as worthy recipients of the Sakharov Freedom Award.

They are both excellent examples of how the media and civil society can play a crucial role in defending human rights.

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Dear friends,

I share your commitment to human rights.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has been active for 40 years and I've worked with you in different capacities for most of the last 10 years.

You have proven that you have the courage, stamina and determination to fight for human rights in the long run. I´m tempted to use an analogy from a field which I have no knowledge of: the Norwegian Helsinki committee is a marathon runner for human rights.

Which is nothing less than impressive.

It is a pleasure to congratulate you on the 40 years you have spent on a mission for human rights, and please continue your hard work for at least another 40 years!

Thank you.