The sixth annual OFF, themed “Defeating Dictators,” took place in Norway on October 20-22, 2014. Profiled in The New York Times as the place where “The World’s Dissidents Have Their Say,” the latest conference brought together a diverse crowd of activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, media, and philanthropists from more than 50 countries.
Jordanian cartoonist and
entrepreneur Suleiman Bakhit
The New York Times focused on how OFF’s community draws “strength from one another,” and it showcased how the conference goes beyond networking, by providing attendees with “broader exposure” and connecting them with “prominent financiers and technologists.”
Ukrainian democracy activist Yulia Marushevska
In a 6-minute video produced by the BBC for its flagship evening show “Newsnight,” OFF was profiled as a “school for revolutionaries” where “pro-democracy activists share ideas and learn about agitating for positive change.” Chief correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said the event was a place where “activists gather to share secrets of successful protest.”
The Economist called OFF “an annual festival for human rights defenders and advocates of more open societies,” praising the event for bringing together “an extraordinary array of courageous people who have defied authority—be it political, ideological or religious or a combination—at a high personal cost.” Many styles of nonviolent protest were remembered and discussed, while the magazine also observed the unique diversity of speakers, noting: “many of the most impressive were young and female.”
North Korean defector Yeonmi Park
OFF amplifies the messages of its speakers and attendees, generating press coverage of human rights issues across the world. Beyond The New York Times, the BBC, and The Economist, speakers were profiled in outlets such as The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, The Intercept, and The Miami Herald. Norway’s most prestigious paper called OFF speakers “the next generation of heroes,” and summarized the conference as a “contribution to world freedom.” Another profile said OFF provides “the humbling experience of meeting the individuals behind the international headlines,” and that “from Cubans to Chinese, North Koreans to Ghanaians, the Oslo Freedom Forum featured some of the bravest and most captivating activists in our time.” OFF was covered by Norwegian television networks TV2 and NRK, with two speakers headlining the country’s most watched morning news show.
Egyptian satirist and talk show host Bassem Youssef delivered the keynote address, emphasizing how satire is often the only form of protest that makes sense in the face of the absurdity of a dictatorship’s propaganda.
OFF participants attend a
workshop with YouTube’s head of
culture and trends Kevin Alloca
This year’s conference featured two workshops designed to increase the power and effectiveness of human rights promotion. One brought together YouTube’s head of culture and trends, TED’s former head of media relations, and the founder of StoryMaker to help participants learn how to craft a successful viral video campaign. Another was a presentation from security firm Rift Recon, which focused on teaching the arts of encryption and physical safety.
2014 Havel Prize laureates (L to R): Lhamo Tso, accepting on behalf of her husband, Tibetan
filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen; Turkish choreographer Erdem Gunduz;
and Pussy Riot members Nadezhda
Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina
This year’s Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent was awarded at the close of the conference. The 2014 laureates were Turkey’s “Standing Man” Erdem Gunduz, Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, and Russia’s Pussy Riot, represented by Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina. Each laureate was honored with a bronze statue inspired by a sculpture built by protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The prize winners also share a cash award of 350,000 Norwegian kroner.
American folk rock singer-songwriter Lissie performs with the Norwegian
OFF is also an interactive experience. This year, viewers tuned into the live stream 26,854 times from 116 countries. Others joined the conversation online by using the hashtag #OsloFF, which was so popular that it became a trending Twitter topic in the U.S. on October 21. More than 13,000 posts about OFF across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram reached nearly 200 million people. Find out more on our Tumblr liveblog, which features mini-interviews with speakers and dozens of updates from the conference.
If you are interested in joining the OFF community in Norway next year or would like more information about the conference, please send an email to [email protected].