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Historical archive

Opening address at 10th Human Rights Dialogue between Indonesia and Norway

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Oslo, 21 June 2011

- Today our human rights dialogue represents a cornerstone in our bilateral relationship, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said when he opened the 10th Human Rights Dialogue between Indonesia and Norway.

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Director General Retno Marsudi,
Director General Harkristuti Harkrisnowo,
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,  

It is a great honour to welcome you all to Oslo and to the 10th round of the Indonesia–Norway human rights dialogue.

My colleague Marty Natalegawa had to in the last minute remain in office in Jakarta due to urgent political matters in the Parliament – and, as you know, when the Parliament “calls” then you have to stay – that is how democracy works.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of our bilateral human rights dialogue. When the dialogue first started, Indonesia had just embarked on its journey towards democracy after years of autocratic rule.

As a testimony to the sincerity of your quest, Dr Hasballah M. Saad was appointed Indonesian Minister of Human Rights. At that time, there were only three ministers of human rights in the world, Norway’s Hilde F. Johnsen being one of them (as Minister of International Development, with human rights as part of her portfolio). Today, in democracies, we should consider all ministers to be human rights ministers. And human rights are universal obligations.

And so, 10 years ago, the annual human rights dialogue between our two countries was born.  

In just a decade and a half, Indonesia’s development has been remarkable. The Indonesia – in political terms – that I visited with Prime Minister Harlem Brundtland in 1995 no longer exists, if I may say so.

Indeed, Indonesia has become one of the world’s largest democracies and a major political and economic force in ASEAN – which is a fact that inspires us with a mixture of admiration, curiosity and respect. It plays a key role in promoting human rights in the Asia–Pacific region and actively participates in international forums and world politics. All of this gives Indonesia a greater voice.

I would like to congratulate you on your country’s significant progress. Yet challenges still remain. Just as they do in Norway, if not necessarily in the same areas. Among the issues been discussed with UN bodies in that regard are – for Norway – related to integration, discrimination against vulnerable groups and violence against women.

Anyone who has travelled between Indonesia and Norway can testify to the distance and differences between our two countries. Yet there are many similarities; we face many of the same foreign policy challenges, and we are both working to promote peaceful solutions in areas of conflict – issues that we will be discussing in bilateral meetings later this week.

Today our human rights dialogue represents a cornerstone in our bilateral relationship. Firmly based on mutual understanding, respect and partnership, it has laid the foundation for our close cooperation on a wide range of other issues – from non-proliferation to health and foreign policy, climate change, democracy and human rights.

I would like to highlight three examples.

Last November, Foreign Minister Natalegawa and I co-hosted a regional Workshop on International Humanitarian Law and the Protection of Civilians in Jakarta. Just a decade after the painful process of Timor Leste’s independence, Indonesia has become a close partner in this context, strongly supporting Timor Leste’s quest for membership of ASEAN. 

The Global Intermedia Dialogue is another example. It was initiated by Indonesia’s President – and supported by Norway’s Prime Minister – after the cartoon controversy, and resulted in a series of meetings hosted by Norway and Indonesia that examined tolerance, freedom of expression and the role and responsibilities of the media in a globalised world. Today it continues, with a regional focus and links to the Bali Democracy Forum.

And thirdly, in 2010, Indonesia and Norway signed a letter of intent regarding the conservation of Indonesia’s rain forest – a milestone event. Although the main focus is on climate change, this kind of cooperation could not have taken place without our human rights dialogue. However, these things are difficult to measure.

A decade ago this would have been difficult to imagine. Indonesia is an important country, and Norway wants to deepen and strengthen our relationship further in the years to come.


Since the Second World War, the United Nations has provided us with a number of important guiding principles and tools. Of particular importance is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. This, together with the various conventions, instruments and special procedures that we as member states have developed over the years, helps us respect, protect and fulfil fundamental freedoms and human rights. 

We need concerted action to defend and promote the UN platform. I met this morning with the UN Foundation, an impressive group of global leaders, who said that the historic achievements of the UN (international law, UNCLOS, universal human rights, etc.) could probably not have been made today. Today the UN needs reform, but how do we reform the organisation in the best way?

Working with human rights is sensitive and politically controversial. And there are cultural and ideological reasons for viewing human rights differently. This work is often marked by polarisation between regional groups, and increasingly we have to fight for principles we thought were firmly established.

We – Indonesia and Norway – should deepen our dialogue in Geneva and in New York, as well as between Jakarta and Oslo, with a view to supporting the integrity of the UN and the UN platform. One important step in this regard was our first bilateral security dialogue in January.

Promoting and safeguarding universal human rights is the responsibility of every state. At the same time, violation of these rights is of common concern to all members of the international community. Human rights are therefore not just a matter of national interest, but a set of standards that unites us all, as human beings.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) represents a unique opportunity to undertake a general and critical review of the human rights situation, also in Norway – as for Indonesia and very soon for all states. We received 91 recommendations (73 of which were accepted and 18 rejected), and we have now embarked on the work to prepare a midterm report, to be submitted to the Human Rights Council during the first half of 2012. (As I already mentioned, some of the challenges Norway’s report will address are related to integration, discrimination against vulnerable groups and violence against women).

I am pleased to note that one of the many things that connect our two countries is our common commitment to protecting universal human rights – and to promoting democracy.


In all the world’s states, including Indonesia and Norway, there may be a gap between the pledges and commitments made at the international level in international conventions and realities on the ground. The purpose of our dialogue is to help to reduce and bridge this gap. Both our countries aim to fully implement national legislation and international law on human rights.

We can only meet our common commitments if we work together, share our best practices and take part in open and frank discussions in the pursuit of appropriate solutions.

The format of our dialogue with Indonesia includes consultations at political level, a comprehensive exchange of views at expert and civil society level – of which there are many representatives in this room – and last but not least, concrete project cooperation in the field.

Our bilateral dialogue has covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from corruption and economic crime to the role of the judiciary in democracy, human rights education, freedom of religion and human rights in the security sector.

As you know, there are three topics on the agenda for our dialogue this year, building on previous dialogues:

  • First, human rights and the armed forces,
  • Second, interfaith dialogue and a culture of tolerance, and
  • Third, the promotion and protection of the rights of children in conflict with the law.

These topics will be presented in the plenary and then dealt with more thoroughly in the working groups.

They are all important, and require – in our experience – a continuous, and at times challenging and dedicated process. The topics are also examples of global interconnectedness: they are as relevant for Norway as they are for Indonesia, although they present themselves in different shapes or guises.

This dialogue meeting is an arena for developing creative ideas and new areas of cooperation in this field. I am confident that you will make effective use of these three days in Oslo to this end. We have still many challenges to address, and I am certain that there will also be a 11th, 12th and 13th round of dialogue.


Ladies and gentlemen, having talked about the background and our expectations for the dialogue these coming days, I would like to share a few thoughts on the future of the dialogue.

In Norway there is regular public debate about our human rights dialogues – on whether they are useful and effective and the results they achieve. In addition to this very comprehensive dialogue with Indonesia, we also have human rights dialogues with China and with Vietnam.

Questions raised the public debate are: Should they be continued? Do they make a real difference? Do they produce tangible change and results?

In my opinion they do, as our dialogue with Indonesia clearly demonstrates.

Our dialogue has resulted in many concrete project activities, many of which are described in the 10th anniversary brochure for the Indonesia programme, at the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, will be handed out to you tomorrow.

The training of over 500 Indonesian officers in human rights and the law of armed conflict is one example.

The Indonesian textbook on human rights, published in cooperation between the Indonesia programme and the Centre for Human Rights Studies at the Islamic University in Yogyakarta, is another. The textbook is now used in more than 100 law faculties in Indonesia.

But equally important, our bilateral dialogue provides a platform for discussing topics of mutual interest and for examining common – as well as differing – views of issues of relevance to both nations. Through our dialogue, the public and private sectors, academia and civil society have the opportunity to meet and expand their horizons. This leads to increased contact, understanding and cooperation. And perhaps – inevitably albeit slowly – change.

That is not to say that we shouldn’t strive to improve even further, to become even more focused and result-oriented in the years to come.

We must and we will do that. 

And I am confident that you, the experts in the working groups, will assist us in this task, as we all strive to make this dialogue and our human rights cooperation even better, i.e. even more useful for you – and for us, giving us an opportunity to cooperate in an even wider range of fields.

Finally, I would like to underline my high regard for the important work the members of our working groups are doing. You are the backbone of our dialogue, the one element that sets our dialogue apart from others. Many of you are working full time on human right issues; others have regular jobs and are working on a daily basis to incorporate human rights into your work; and some of you are involved in concrete cooperation projects.

All of you are dedicated. You are truly agents of change.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am sure I speak for both you and myself when I say that respect, openness and frankness, even – and especially – where our views differ, are the most valuable aspects of this endeavour. They are also the guarantees for its continued success and progress.

I wish you all engaging and constructive meetings – and I look forward to the 11th round of talks even before the 10th one has started.

Thank you. Terima kasih.

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