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Oslo Freedom Forum

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Title: Oslo Freedom Forum  
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Oslo Freedom Forum

Oslo Freedom Forum
Official Logo
Founded 2009 (Oslo, Norway)
Organised by Human rights foundation

Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) is an annual human rights conference founded by Thor Halvorssen Mendoza, CEO of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.[1] One of the aims of the conferences is to bring together notable people including former heads of state, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize and prisoners of conscience as well as a number of other prominent figures in order to network and exchange ideas.

The conference was funded with a grant from the Templeton Foundation.[2]


Thor Halvorssen the conference’s 33-year-old founder explained to the Wall Street Journal in 2009: “We all should want freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom from torture, freedom to travel, due process and freedom to keep what belongs to you.” Unfortunately, he explains, “the human-rights establishment at the United Nations is limited to pretty words because so many member countries kill or imprison or torture their opponents.”[3] John Fund writing in the Wall Street Journal about "Human Rights Beyond Ideology" said it "was unlike any human-rights conference I've ever attended. As at other such gatherings, racism and gender discrimination were on the minds of plenty of participants. But there was no desire to blame such problems on the U.S. or other Western nations. The emphasis was on promoting basic rights in all nations at all times."


Speakers at the 2010 forum included Rebiya Kadeer, Kang Chol-Hwan, Clara Rojas, and Lubna al-Hussein, Lech Walesa, Anwar Ibrahim, Mart Laar presented, WorldHeritage founder Jimmy Wales, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Other notable speakers included Russian democracy advocate and chess master Garry Kasparov, Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, abolitionist and explorer Benjamin Skinner, former Cuban political prisoner Armando Valladares, and Chechen lawyer Lidia Yusupova, hailed as the bravest woman in Europe.[4]


The third OFF took place in May 2011 in Oslo.

Speakers at the 2011 conference included Iranian Nobel Laureate Wael Ghonim gave his presentation live from Cairo via satellite.[4]


The 2012 OFF, now in its fourth year, took place from May 7–9, 2012, in Oslo. Supporters included the Fritt Ord, the Nobel Peace Center, and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Some of the speakers at the 2012 conference included WorldHeritage co-founder Jimmy Wales, women's rights activist Manal al-Sharif, Tunisian activist Lina Ben Mhenni, Moroccan journalist Ahmed Benchemsi, Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan, British journalist and author Nick Cohen, former South African politician Andrew Feinstein, Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, Cambodian author and human rights activist Somaly Mam, leading Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir, and former Canadian Minister of Justice and Attorney General Irwin Cotler.

The inaugural Václav Havel Prizes for Creative Dissent were awarded in a special ceremony during the forum. An HRF initiative, the prize was awarded to three individuals who "With bravery and ingenuity, unmask the lie of dictatorship by living in truth," said Havlova, Havel's widow, and a member of the prize committee. The three recipients were Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.[7]

Despite some mixed feelings from Norwegians about the forum, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry donated $80,000 to the conference this year. Norway's foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre claimed, "As I see it, this conference lifts the cases of individuals.”[8]


The conference was held May 13–15, 2013 in Oslo, Norway.

The forum ended with the presentation of the second Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent to Ali Ferzat, a Syrian political cartoonist, the Ladies in White (from Cuba) and Park Sang Hak, a North Korean democracy advocate.[9]


Speakers at the 2014 conference include Marcela Turati Muñoz, Yeonmi Park, Hyeonseo Lee, Iyad El-Baghdadi, Ti-Anna Wang, Suleiman Bakhit, Julia Marusjevska, Jamila Raqib, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Aljokhina and Mikhail Khodorkovskij.[10]



The Forum is criticized mostly by international supporters of leftist governments in Latin America, who condemn the attention with which it views the social and political situations of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.[11]

Media coverage

In 2009 Norwegian daily Klassekampen declared the conference as "an impressive assembly of people."[12]

The Economist called the 2010 Forum "a spectacular human-rights festival" and described it as "on its way to becoming a human-rights equivalent of the Davos economic forum." Standpoint magazine says that the Oslo Freedom Forum "provides an intimate space for dissidents and human rights defenders from around the world to meet each other, to talk to internet entrepreneurs, academics, politicians, journalists and to draw inspiration and encouragement."[13] Elsewhere coverage and mentions of the 2010 Forum can be found at CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, The Huffington Post, The Associated Press, The National Review, The Daily Beast, Reason Magazine, Foreign Policy, Front Page Africa, Standpoint Magazine, Aftenposten, Real Clear Politics, Radio Free Europe, TEDFellows, Current TV, Illume, and SBS Dateline.[1]

According to the Economist, the 2011 OFF was “a glittering gathering of veterans of human-rights struggles.”[14] Peter Thiel (of Facebook, PayPal, and Linkedin) praised the Oslo Freedom Forum “because [its] focus on dissidents engages the intellectual debate as well as the moral cause.[15]

According to Wired Magazine, "If the global human-rights movement were to create its own unified representative body, it would look something like this." They also later wrote, "The power of the event -- whose sponsors include Sergey Brin's and Peter Thiel's charitable foundations -- lies in the seamless mix of grassroots activists, many of whom have risked their lives to speak out, and the top-level policymakers and influencers who can act on what they learn."[16]

Sponsorships and endorsements

The Oslo Freedom Forum is supported by Fritt Ord, the City of Oslo, the Thiel Foundation, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Sundt AS, the John Templeton Foundation, the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fredskorpset, Amnesty International Norway, Human Rights House Foundation, and Ny Tid. It is endorsed by several groups including the Nobel Peace Center, the University of Oslo, the Norwegian Author's Union, and the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.[17] It also received financial support from the government of Norway.[18]

In 2011 the sponsors included the City of Oslo, Color Line AS, the Thiel Foundation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fritt Ord, the Nobel Peace Center, Helly Hansen, and Voss Water.[17]


  1. ^ a b "Official website". Oslo Freedom Forum. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  2. ^ Human Rights Beyond Ideology," about the JTF-funded Oslo Freedom Forum News""". John Templeton Foundation. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  3. ^ Fund, John (5 June 2009). "Human Rights Beyond Ideology".  
  4. ^ a b c "Oslo Freedom Forum video". Youtube. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  5. ^ "Ali Abdulemam profile". Oslo Freedom Forum official website. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Huffington Post"
  7. ^ "Inaugural Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Awarded to Ai Weiwei, Manal al-Sharif, and Aung San Suu Kyi". The Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  8. ^ Lake, Eli (11 May 2012). "Oslo Freedom Forum: The Davos For Do-Gooding Dissidents".  
  9. ^ "Program". Oslo Freedom Forum. Retrieved May 29, 2013. 
  10. ^ Kronikk: De har blitt torturert, voldtatt, kuttet til blods, truet og banket opp
  11. ^ Frihetsforum med politisk slagside - Aftenposten. (1970-01-01). Retrieved on 2013-10-23.
  12. ^ Fund, John. "Human Rights Beyond ideology". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  13. ^ Foreman, Jonathan. "Oslo: Signing OFF on Human Rights". Standpoint. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  14. ^ "Nothing new under the sun". The Economist. 14 May 2011. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  15. ^ Mont, Joe. "Peter Thiel Urges Investing in Human Rights". The Street. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  16. ^ Rowan, David (14 May 2012). "Oslo Freedom Forum brings together the global human rights movement".  
  17. ^ a b "Official website, supporters section". Oslo Freedom Forum. Retrieved December 18, 2012. 
  18. ^ Berg, Thomas (11 March 2010). "Ytringshelter samles i Norge".  

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