Annual report 2019

The Rafto Foundation's annual report summarizes our most important work on human rights in the past year.

“In 2019, democracy and human rights came under pressure in many areas, and in many countries.”

Jostein Hole Kobbeltvedt, Executive Director in The Rafto Foundation

Refugees have the right to dignity and self-determination

The 2019 Rafto Prize spotlighted the daily lives of refugees in Lebanon by recognising the work of Rouba Mhaissen and the SDAID organisation. Millions of people have found themselves in limbo having been displaced from their homes, and Mhaissen is campaigning for their right to be able to shape their own lives and be treated with respect. During Rafto Week, her message reached a large international audience.

A voice for the voiceless in Kashmir

Following a major terrorist attack in February 2019, Kashmir’s population were collectively punished. Citizens were denied the right to participate in the regional election in May, human rights defenders were threatened into silence, and finally the region’s autonomous status was rescinded in August. The Rafto Foundation spoke up on behalf of the Kashmiris in the EU and at the UN.

Poland’s constitutional crisis

Throughout 2019, the Rafto Foundation coordinated and supported work to lobby the EU Parliament and the EU Commission to intervene to protect the independence of the judiciary in Poland. The EU Commission has initiated infringement proceedings in the Court of justice against the Polish government – immediately after and in accordance with the recommendations of our advocacy group.

Record high numbers for human rights education

The Rafto Foundation is one of seven national human rights centres in Norway who receive support from the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research – and the only one located in western Norway. The Rafto Foundation is experiencing increasing demand for education on democracy and human rights from schools across the whole of western Norway.

Attractive competence-raising measures for teachers

The Rafto Foundation is responsible for Dembra, a programme for schools for the prevention of racism, groupbased hostility and antidemocratic attitudes, in western Norway. A total of 14 schools have participated in the project since it was launched in the region in 2016.

Raising awareness of human rights in business

In 2019, the Rafto Foundation cooperated closely with the business community to strengthen the focus on human rights risks in the context of business activities. The Rafto Foundation has also made a major contribution to promotion of legislation.

Act to combat Modern Slavery and to promote due diligence

In 2018, together with the Norwegian Bar Association, the Rafto Foundation started work to highlight the problem of modern slavery. This contributed to the government pledging in the Granavolden Declaration to investigate the need for a Norwegian law to combat modern slavery.

Human rights presentations for managers of the future

The Rafto Foundation’s activities in 2019 provided more than 1,000 economics students at NHH, the Norwegian School of Economics, with an insight into how businesses can meet their human rights responsibilities. In March, 400 economics students organised the business conference the NHH Symposium.

Human Rights City Bergen

In January 2019, the new City Council pledged to follow up its unanimous decision from 2018 to make Bergen Norway’s first human rights city.

Building networks among human rights defenders

The Rafto Foundation regards contributing to Rafto Laureates and selected human rights defenders meeting and having the opportunity to cooperate to realise their visions as a particularly important task.