Speech/statement | Date: 04/10/2021
By Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide (Oslo, 4 October)
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ine Eriksen Søreide, opened the Oslo Freedom Forum 2021 with this statement.
Friends and partners,
Human rights defenders,
journalists, artists, and entrepreneurs.
It is an honour for me to open the Oslo Freedom Forum 2021.
For thirteen years, courageous human rights advocates have taken part in this forum with one key objective:
To discuss the best ways to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Rights and freedoms that are essential to our societies, and that are coming under increasing pressure.
We are currently experiencing a global decline in liberal democracy.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated a trend where leaders expand their power at the expense of fundamental freedoms and individual rights.
Many leaders have tightened their grip on media and the civic space.
But democratic backsliding does not necessarily mean a decline in popular support for democracy.
On the contrary, the many voices like your own show us that the opposite is the case.
That there are still many of us who will defend democracy.
We welcome the theme of this year’s forum: Truth Ignited.
It speaks to the lived reality of many of today’s participants.
People who have taken a personal risk to speak truth to power, and in doing so, have stood up for human rights.
It is your courage that inspires us to continue our efforts.
Freedom of expression is essential in order to uncover human rights violations and to ensure that other human rights are being respected.
Freedom of expression is the foundation on which all other democratic freedoms rest.
Sadly, freedom of expression cannot be taken for granted anywhere in the world.
Not thirteen years ago, and not today.
As long as freedom of expression is under threat across our world, we cannot and will not reverse our course.
That is why Norway recently launched a new international strategy for promoting freedom of expression.
And in this forum, this is relevant in relation to many of the country situations that will be discussed.
The strategy outlines how Norway will work to safeguard the rights of all people to freedom of expression.
We will continue to protect journalists, artists, human rights defenders, and those who speak truth to power.
When crimes are committed, we will work to ensure that no stone is left unturned in the quest for justice.
We renew our commitment to combating intolerance, hate speech and discrimination.
And we will strive to ensure access for all to reliable information.
Because people must be well-informed in order to participate in democratic processes.
In Norway’s view, respect for human rights is essential to achieving sustainable development, and implementing Agenda 2030.
We will continue to push for states to comply with their human rights obligations.
And we will maintain our strong support to our partners on the ground, who are working tirelessly to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Democracy in its truest sense is by the people and for the people.
And a true democracy – where everyone has the same opportunity to participate in society – cannot exist without freedom of expression.
I am confident that you will continue to grow your communities and networks, expanding the space for individual freedoms around the globe.
I wish you every success with your discussions. Thank you.