About us

The European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights is an annual conference which takes place on Europe Day on May 5th in Kristiansand, Norway.  The conference is aimed at decision-makers, opinion leaders, as well as national and international political and social institutions.

The venue for the conference is the iconic Kilden Performing Arts Centre. Built right at the water’s edge of the Kristiansand fjord, it is one of the largest cultural institutions in Norway.

The conference is the main event of Kristiansand’s Democracy Week. For seven days, various venues and cultural institutions all over Kristiansand host panel discussions, presentations and exhibitions. Additionally, there are bilateral and multilateral meetings between leaders from across Europe to address current challenges relating to democracy, human rights and freedom of expression.


The European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights are cornerstones of trust and confidence for our citizens in times of uncertainty – a trust which the Council of Europe is committed to defend and uphold. In light of recent events and trends, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is all the more important to draw attention to the importance of European values and cooperation.

The Council of Europe has stressed the crucial role of local initiatives which raise awareness of significance of democratic practices and human rights. Therefore, Kristiansand has entered into an agreement with the Council of Europe to convene a European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights every year on the occasion of Europe Day on May 5th. 


Steering committee:

Jan Oddvar Skisland (Mayor of Kristiansand), Camilla Dunsæd, Sunniva Whittaker, Harald Furre, Kirsti Hjemdahl Mathiesen, Kristine Storesletten Sødal, Reidar Fuglestad, Kristin Tofte Andresen, Bjørn Ropstad, John Olsen and Gro Kvanvig.



The European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights is founded upon a partnership between a variety of local and international actors. 

You can find them here.


The program committee:

The committee is chaired by Torbjørn Frøysnes. Its members are: Sara Whyatt, Magnus Takvam, Frode Lindtvedt and Anne Pintch.


The secretariat:

Gro Kvanvig is head of the secretariat. Its members are: Torbjørn Frøysnes, Øyvind Laderud, Jørgen Skauge, Stein Christian Salvesen, Kristin Wallem Timenes, Kenneth Mørk.


Gro Kvanvig
Head of secretariat
Mobil: +47 98 44 86 39


Torbjørn Frøysnes
Head of program
Mobil: +47 90 70 92 90

Previous conferences

The first conference took place in Kristiansand in 2020. Due to the pandemic, the conference had to take place entirely online. The conference was devoted to the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights. Keynote speakers were fmr. Prime Minister of Sweden Carl Bildt and President of the European Court of Human Rights, Linus-Alexandre Sicilianos, as well as fmr. Prime Minister of Norway and Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland.

The 2021 conference addressed the conditions of freedom of speech, media freedom and democracy in Europe in the wake of the pandemic. The conference was opened by President of Stortinget, Tone Wilhelmsen Trøen. Key speakers included the president of the European Court of Human Rights, Robert Ragnar Spano, Secretary General Christophe Deloire of Reporters sans Frontières, Director General Christos Giakoumopoulos of the Council of Europe and Chair of the Norwegian National Commission for Freedom of Speech, Kjersti Løken Stavrum. You can watch the recording from the conference here.

In 2022, it was for the first time possible to hold the conference with physical attendance. The topics addressed ranged from the impact of digitalization on human rights and democratic practices, to the implementation gap and the European order, to media freedom and artistic freedom of expression. Speakers included Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, former president of Ukraine Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko, Deputy Secretary General for the Council of Europe, Bjørn Berge, Iranian-Norwegian performance storytelling artist Mehda Zolfaqari and Minister for European Affairs of Ireland, Thomas Byrne. Find the full live-stream and the program from the conference here.

Publisert: 15. mars 2022 9:58
Oppdatert: 23. mars 2023 13:38