Norway increases funding for UNESCO's efforts to promote freedom of expression and cultural rights

Norway has entered into a new agreement with UNESCO on the provision of NOK 200 million to support efforts to promote freedom of expression, artistic freedom and world heritage.

'Protecting journalists and cultural practitioners and their work is extremely important at a time when freedom of expression and cultural rights are under pressure in many countries. In Ukraine, for example, we see the importance of UNESCO’s efforts to protect press freedom as well as artistic expression and cultural heritage', said Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt.

Norway provides support to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) through a number of programme cooperation agreements. The new agreement concerns voluntary Norwegian contributions to several UNESCO programmes and funds in the field of Culture and Communication and Information for the period 2022–2025.

'On UN day, UNESCO and Norway signed a new four-year agreement. I thank Norway for its support, which is more necessary than ever to promote peace and human rights in the world through heritage, artistic freedom, freedom of expression and safety of journalists', said Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay.

'Press freedom and the safety of journalists are absolutely essential to promote democratic development and peace. Independent media and investigative journalism play an important part in ensuring access to reliable information, and to facilitating the open and informed public discourse that is so crucial to building trust in society. This is why Norway is increasing its support for UNESCO’s efforts to promote media diversity, media freedom and the safety of journalists', said Ms Huitfeldt.

The new agreement represents an increase of NOK 3 million annually for UNESCO’s efforts to safeguard freedom of expression and information through the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.

Key role

UNESCO plays a key role in documenting and preventing attacks on journalists and combating impunity, in line with the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity as well as UN SDG target 16.10 on ensuring public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms.

Norwegian financial support to UNESCO in recent years has been used, among other things, to provide training for judicial actors in 150 countries with a view to strengthening legal safeguards for journalists. In a number of countries, UNESCO has worked to promote national media reforms as well as measures to enhance media and information literacy among the population.

Norway has actively advocated closer coordination of UNESCO’s efforts to promote freedom of the press and artistic freedom. Journalists and artists are often subjected to the same kinds of threats and attacks. Developments in digital technology have led to an increase in digital violence and censorship, as well as to other challenges such as inadequate compensation for artistic works and editorial content.

'Authors, filmmakers, musicians and other artists are often on the frontlines in defending freedom of expression and other human rights, and they have the same right to protection as others who are exercising their right to freedom of expression. Artistic freedom is also vital for building a diverse and inclusive society. Norway will continue to actively promote artistic freedom and cultural rights', said Ms Huitfeldt.

Through UNESCO, Norway has in recent years helped to promote an active cultural sector and diversity of artistic expressions, in addition to protecting artists and cultural heritage in areas of crisis and conflict.

The World Heritage Convention protects the world’s most important cultural and natural heritage. World heritage is under pressure, and the African continent is particularly vulnerable. For many years, Norway has provided support for the World Heritage Fund to strengthen the management of African World Heritage sites. Natural heritage is especially vulnerable due to factors such as climate change, development pressure and internal conflicts, and therefore has been given special priority. Norway will continue to strengthen these efforts under the multi-year agreement.

'World heritage consists of cultural and natural assets that are important to preserve for all of humanity’s sake. Norway attaches great importance to supporting other countries in their efforts to preserve and benefit from their World Heritage sites. The African continent represents some of the most significant cultural and natural heritage on Earth. But Africa’s natural heritage is also vulnerable. I am very pleased that Norway is able to provide support to help safeguard these valuable assets for our common future', said Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide.

The NOK 200 million in funding to UNESCO for the period 2022–2025 will be distributed between the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, the International Programme for the Development of Communication, the UNESCO-Aschberg programme for artists and cultural professionals, the Heritage Emergency Fund, and the World Heritage Fund.