Oslo as a breathing space city for human rights defenders: FALL 2023

The Breathing Space City Programme had its second round of participants in the fall of 2023. Find some impressions from their stay in this article.

In the fall, two human rights defenders came to Oslo and were able to participate in cultural, social, and educational activities in Oslo as part of the Breathing Space City programme, a temporary relocation programme with the aim of creating a breathing space for human rights defenders living in stressful or hostile environments. Read more about the background and objectives of the programme here.

One of the guests was Syahrul, a lawyer from the Aceh province in Indonesia. He has been the director of Banda Aceh Legal Aid (LBH Banda Aceh) from 2019 to 2024, and he currently works as an internal consultant for the same organisation. When summing up his stay, he stated that he particularly enjoyed the cultural life as well as the opportunity to improve his English skills and learn about mental health. Read more about him and other former guests of the programme here.

The human rights defenders were able to meet both Mayor Marianne Borgen
...and, after the local elections this fall, current Mayor Anne Lindboe

In their own evaluations of the stay, the human rights defenders underlined that they had been offered a lot of opportunities for networking and making links with useful actors for them, such as NGOs, trade unions like Fagforbundet, institutions, politicians, and academia like the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights.

One activity highlight was the enriching experience in Bergen to attend the Rafto Prize Award Ceremony and related activities
and of course, enjoy the amazing views from the mountain Ulriken!
A stay at a Norwegian cabin to be able to relax for a weekend and connect with Norwegian nature and culture was a must.

As always, it was sad to say goodbye to our guests, but we are happy that, during their stay, they were able to focus on their well-being, exchange experiences with civil society organisations, expand their knowledge in different thematic areas, and enjoy the cultural activities of Oslo, as well as making new friends. We hope this experience will contribute to giving them the necessary tools to continue their great work as defenders of human rights.

We are now preparing for the next round of guests coming during 2024. Stay tuned for the latest updates on our social media channels!

Find more information about the Oslo Breathing Space City project here.