About us

The European Conference on Democracy and Human Rights is an annual conference which normally takes place on Europe Day on 5 May in Kristiansand, Norway. This year's conference takes place on Monday 6 May. 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 which takes place 2 to 8 May every year. 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.


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


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

Press accreditation


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. 



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 secretariat:

Gro Kvanvig, Kristiansand municipality, head of the secretariat

Torbjørn Frøysnes

Øyvind Lyngen Laderud, Kristiansand municipality

Tore Løvland, Kristiansand municipality

Kristin Wallem Timenes, Kristiansand municipality

Stein C Salvesen, Arkivet peace and human rights centre

Erle Wright Severinsen, University of Agder

Knut Hjorth-Johansen, KS

Maja Fleck Baustian, Youth for Diversity in Agder


The program committee:

Torbjørn Frøysnes (Chair), fmr. Ambassador

Marja Ruotanen, Director General of Democracy and Human Dignity, Council of Europe  

Frode M. Lindtvedt, Director of Department of Local Democracy, European Politics and International Affairs, The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities

Stein Christian Salvesen, head of dialogue and society, Arkivet Peace and Human Rights Centre  

William Nygaard, Honorary Vice President PEN

Anne Elizabeth Stie, Associate Professor. Department of Political Science and Management, University of Agder 

Maja Fleck Baustian, Youth for Diversity in Agder


European Conference – State of Artistic Freedom: 

Sara Whyatt, expert on artistic freedom, editor of Free to create, artistic freedom in Europe (2023) 

Sverre Pedersen, Freemuse, Head of board  

Paul Dujardin, president of Europa Nostra and Commissioner General for Heritage & the Art Nouveau Year, Brussels  

Amalie Nilsen, Head of program, Arkivet Peace and Human Rights centre 

Karl Olav Sægrov Mortensen, Head of program, KUNSTSILO  

Kenneth Andresen: associate professor, University of Agder 

Siemke Böhnsich: professor, University of Agder 

Valborg Frøysnes, Artistic director, Kilden teater  

Gro Kvanvig (Secretary), Kristiansand municipality 

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: 10. mai 2024 21:07