Speech/statement | Date: 06/05/2022 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Minister of International Development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim (Utøya 6 May)
Welcome address by Minister for Nordic Co-operation, Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, at Nordic youth camp at Utøya arranged by Nordic Youth in Sustainable Communities (NUBF).
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Thank you very much for your warm welcome, and for the opportunity to speak here at the Nordic youth camp at Utøya.
This is a very special occasion. Nordic cooperation is very close to my heart. Nordic cooperation must be renewed – or strengthened, expanded – for each new generation. We cannot take the strong Nordic family spirit completely for granted.
As some of you may know, I grew up on a farm, near Halden, which is very close to the border to Sweden, a border we hardly can notice. I have in my whole life felt how useful, practical, and natural that close Nordic cooperation really is.
Now, after two years of travel restrictions and working from home, due to Covid and its digital meeting platforms, it is a relief that we finally can meet and see each other again, in person. As well as being out here in nature, on a beautiful day of spring.
Utøya is like a continuous workshop of engagement, discussions and political thoughts, inputs, and ideas in Norway. Since many decades. Especially for the Norwegian Labour Party, which is my coalition partner in today’s government in Norway. And for many NGOs.
However, Utøya also carries a gruesome, yet important history, as you know well via media, books, and films. A history of how extreme radicalisation led to the most unspeakable violence.
More than a decade has passed since the killings of 69 innocent young people took place at this island – on 22 July 2011.
It is important to talk about what happened and why it happened. Try not to be afraid of it, talk about it, share your thoughts and feelings with some friends while you are here.
So, Utøya is a place for commemoration – but also a learning centre. A place meant for youth engagement, inclusion, tolerance.
Your engagement and you just being here during this weekend are important. We all have a personal and collective responsibility to work to combat antidemocratic forces, wherever they are, and the use of political violence, terror.
Quite a few of the hundreds of young people who survived 22 July 2011 at Utøya continued their political work and engagement. Some straight away, others after some years. Two of them are members of the Norwegian government today, others are elected members of the Norwegian Parliament, or engaged in local government bodies.
Whilst the atrocities that took place here in 2011 represent a very dark moment in our history, we are witnessing dark moments in Europe’s present, in the heart of Europe. While we are gathered here, in peace and friendship across, there is a brutal war raging in Ukraine, destroying lives and cities, and leaving millions in despair, shaking the backbone of our continent. Many of us feel powerless.
In the invitation to this year’s youth camp, rethinking the Kalmar union was referred to. That’s interesting.
As perhaps many of you are aware of, a movie about Queen Margrete I of Denmark is currently being screened in cinemas in the Nordic countries. I had the honor of opening the premiere in Oslo. It tells the story of a strong woman (1353-1412) who was to become the founder and ruler of the Kalmar Union – with Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. At that time the union reached from Iceland in the west – via Shetland, the Orkney Islands, the Faroe Islands – and all the way up to Finnmark in the high north, and Åland and Finland in the east.
Queen Margrete was indeed a great political talent – full of courage – and what we today would call a visionary.
The movie brings our shared Nordic history to life. Our Nordic region has experienced alliances – as well as divisions and wars.
However, in the modern era the Nordic region can surely be associated with close cooperation, peace, progress, and prosperity.
All five Nordic countries are at the top of the UN Human Development Index. So, we must have done something right. It seems that we have succeeded in building stable and secure welfare-based societies. They have managed to meet the needs and aspirations of their inhabitants.
Moreover, we share a set of core values, values that bind us together.
We are all open, liberal societies, where there is a high degree of trust – both within and between our countries.
We have well-functioning institutions and a strong tradition of cooperation.
But we cannot take these values for granted. We experience that those fundamental values of liberal democracy themselves are under attack, also on the European continent.
All the while, climate change and a new global economic uncertainty linger. With Russia’s war in Ukraine, we can expect millions to become more food insecure. A lengthy crisis will affect all countries. And especially – yet again – the world’s poor, the less affluent countries the most.
Back to our agenda: In 2019, the Nordic prime ministers adopted a new vision for Nordic cooperation:
The Nordic region is to become the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. Nothing less.
We should work together to build a
- and socially sustainable Nordic region.
These are the three strategic priorities at the core of the Nordic Vision 2030.
So, we will increase the pace of the Nordic green transition.
We will put particular emphasis on the links between climate and nature.
We will stress the importance of reducing the loss of biodiversity.
We will highlight the ways in which nature-based solutions contribute to the green transition.
The Nordic countries are in several areas at the forefront of green technologies. As a parallel to the more unfortunate fact that we have forefront seats to the rapid climate changes which are visible for instance in the Arctic.
Norway currently holds the Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The key objective for us is to intensify all the efforts to translate the vision into action. Because that’s what counts.
To reach our vision, civil society, private sector, minority groups, social partners and other stakeholders must all be included.
And representatives of youth groups, like yourselves, must have a seat at the tables where decisions about our – your – future are being made.
As part of the strategy, the Nordic cooperation ministers last year established a network of around 40 civil society organizations. Nordic youth organizations are represented in this network.
The civil society must have a strong voice in Nordic cooperation. We need to ensure that the Nordic governments’ work is relevant and in sync with the priorities and views of ordinary Nordic citizens.
Furthermore, the Nordic Council of Ministers’ cross-sectoral strategy for children and young people states that “the Nordic region must be the best place in the world for children and young people”.
The youth’s rights and perspectives are therefore integrated in all aspects of Nordic cooperation. This means that your voice and your views are always of great importance. – Use it, tell me, tell us, what is relevant and urgent for you, with the aim of making Nordic cooperation even more in sync and updated.
The well-being of children and young people and the opportunities to exercise their rights are prerequisites for the sustainable development of the Nordic region.
Most children and young people in the Nordic countries enjoy safe and secure lives. They have friends, families, they feel they master activities in and outside school, and lack little in terms of material goods.
Nonetheless, the welfare model that represents the backbone of our Nordic societies are also facing challenges – challenges that have been made worse by the pandemic.
Some families are left behind due to a lower standard of living or poor financial situation. Many children growing up in low-income families face a greater risk of dropping out of school. They have fewer opportunities to take part in holidays and recreational activities. Some are subjected to violence and abuse. The mental health of youth is an area of concern for us all.
The Nordic governments have a special focus on vulnerable children and young people. However, we must acquire more knowledge about how the Nordic countries have safeguarded the right of children and young people to be heard and involved.
No young person should feel excluded from society in the Nordic region.
Dialogue and the exchange of views are essential to encourage an open and informed debate, to promote transparent, democratic societies.
The internet and social media have provided a wide array of new platforms for people expressing their views. At the same time, hate speech, disinformation and propaganda can fuel polarization and undermine trust in democratic values. We must play a proactive role in promoting respect for human rights online as well.
Gender-based hate, threats and harassment on the internet represent a problem that all the Nordic countries are struggling with. The phenomenon is connected to several other challenges in our societies and threatens equality, democracy, and the freedom of speech.
If young people can’t bring themselves to speak up in the public debate, democracy is threatened.
Efforts to strengthen democracy, inclusion and security in our countries have for several years been a priority for the Nordic cooperation.
There is an important connection here – between inclusion, community, and democracy. To succeed in preventing racism, discrimination and hate speech, we must succeed in creating fully integrated societies. The “we” must be fully inclusive.
When groups become marginalized and are left behind, it reduces the trust between people and authorities.
So, this is a serious matter. Our societies are built on trust. Trust fuels commitment and participation and is an essential component of a peaceful society.
I guess that this is a highly relevant topic that you will discuss and dig deeper into during your stay at here at the island. How to build trust.
I am sure that you will have many good experiences, fruitful discussions, and new friendships during this weekend.
More information about the youth camp:
Youth training at the Youth Island - NUBF: Nordic Youth in Sustainable Communities - Nordic Youth in Sustainable Communities