«Only those who listen can make great things happen!»

Thor Halvorssen, the founder of Oslo Freedom Forum, spoke in poetic terms about his work, teardrop visibly falling on his cheek when Leah Siegel performed at the Vaclav Havel Prize 2012 ceremony. This all from a new TV-serie on the Norwegian channel TV2 that aired tonight.

The story about the Oslo Freedom Forum’s history as well as about it’s almost none-existing relation with the Norwegian centre-left government was told in few but clear words in the program «Vårt lille land» (Our little country), by the well known journalists Gerhard Helskog and Tonje Steinsland.

Halvorssen started out by telling the international press about the false allegations against his father who ended up imprisoned by the government of Venezuela, after years of success in business and public service. The media attention created by Halvorssen helped release his father. And to think what could happen to less fortunate people if it could happen to someone like his father.

Halvorssen created Oslo Freedom Forum in 2009, and it will celebrate its 5th anniversary this year in May 13, 14 and 15. Giving the centre stage of the world media attention to the human rights activists, the dissidents and the former prisoners of conscience, Halvorssen places himself in the shadows. Listening.

Much to many Norwegians’ shame, listening is exactly what the Norwegian Foreign Ministry doesn’t want to do. The foreign minister was invited to attend every year, but Mr. Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labour party never found time in his busy schedule. Last year, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten wrote about this fact. How it surprised the founder and his staff. But they didn’t want to give it much attention. Better to focus on the activists on the stage, and their strong and moving stories. The Oslo Freedom Forum is not a reality-show. It’s real life.

The opposition-parties of the Norwegian parliament attend the conference every year. Listening, learning to know the activists and their environment. This unique event has been considered by The Economist as equal in its importance with the World Economic Forum in Davos. An event giving the possibility for activists, NGOs, politicians and media to know (about) each other and to bond. To learn, to swap experiences and to make alliances. The greatest threat to your life and security as a dissident is when nobody knows or cares about you.

As Thor said it: Only those who listen can make great things happen.

An incredible story about a magnificent event told in a brilliant way!

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