The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is a non-governmental organisation working to ensure that human rights are respected in practice. They do this through monitoring, reporting, teaching and democracy support.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee works in the belief that documentation and organisations such as theirs are vital to enable states to protect human rights in their own countries, as well as in others. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee particularly works on countries in Europe, Central Asia and North America. For the past few years their international work has focused on states in the former Soviet Union and the West Balkans.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was established in 1977 and today has 15 employees, with a head office in Oslo. They are also represented in Central Asia.
NHC bases its work on international human rights instruments adopted by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), including the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.
Monitoring and reporting
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee combats human rights violations through monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation in individual countires. The NHC places particular emphasis on freedom of speech, freedom of association, the right to self-determination, minority rights, the right to freedom of thought and religion, and personal security.
The NHC publishes reports and presents them to the authorities in each country, as well as to Norwegian authorities, international organisations and other relevant stakeholders. The working methods of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee include first-hand contact with central stakeholders in the countries in which they are involved. This is why they travel regularly to all the countries they are working on, and are up-to-date when important events take place. They also have a large international network through which they coordinate their efforts on important areas with the most important international human rights organisations.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee has particular expertise in observing elections. They have observed and reported on numerous elections over the past 20 years. They have also organised election observation missions in Norway.
Information and campaigns
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee aims to influence public opinion and authorities in important issues through media and participation in public debate. Via their own website, their annual report and Human Rights Magazine they contribute to raising human rights issues on the political agenda.
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee participates in meetings of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations (UN). Over the past few years they have been concerned with how they can use international legal institutions such as the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to promote individual cases and cases that are of principal importance.
The aim is to contribute to documentation of human rights violations in the OSCE region, to help individuals as well as to influence authorities and international organisations to make human rights a priority.
Human rights education
Human rights education is an important part of the activities of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. For several years they have organised human rights schools, which are 9-day courses on human rights, multicultural understanding and conflict resolution. The schools are particularly aimed at youth, but they also organise courses for teachers, journalists and other groups. Through lectures, discussions, drama and group work, participants are encouraged to actively engage in the learning process. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee organises human rights education in the Balkans, Russia and Ukraine and for Belarusian participants. Since 1998, they have organised such schools and courses for several thousand participants. This makes the Norwegian Helsinki Committee one of the most profiled organisations working in this area.
Through democracy support, such as transfer of knowledge and financial support, the Committee contributes to the development of independent organisations, media and institutions. Financial support for projects implemented by local human rights organisations is an important contribution to the promotion of human rights. In this way. they contribute to strengthening civil society, which they consider to be of vital importance to the development of democracy.