The Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) is a thriving global community of people who share the common vision of making the world a more peaceful, prosperous, and free place. The first-ever Oslo Freedom Forum in New York took place on September 19, in New York’s Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, as a one-day version of the annual Norwegian event. Hundreds of participants joined us for riveting talks, world-class networking, interactive exhibits, music, art, comedy, and conversations between courageous activists and leaders from business, philanthropy, technology, and media.
Speakers included HRF chairman Garry Kasparov, Pakistani squash player Maria Toorpakai, Russian civil society organizer Vladimir Kara-Murza, Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef, British-Somali anti-FGM activist Leyla Hussein, Harvard cognitive scientist and “Better Angels of Our Nature” author Steven Pinker, North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho, Serbian nonviolence expert and “Blueprint for Revolution” author Srdja Popovic, Turkish author Elif Shafak, Jigsaw product manager Justin Kosslyn, Venezuelan protest violinist Wuilly Arteaga, and Iranian former prisoner of conscience and “Prisoner of Tehran” author Marina Nemat.
The day began at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, with an Interactive Expo, where participants met each other and explored projects and products of organizations working at the intersection of human rights and other fields like technology, fashion, and media. Examples included a virtual reality project from Committee to Protect Journalists taking us inside an infamous Iranian prison; an interactive exhibit from Witness showing us the latest tools in citizen journalism; and a fashion display by Dear Leader, showing off their new sunglasses line customized for various Oslo Freedom Forum speakers.
Programming also featured a series of working lunches focused on topics ranging from how to liberate political prisoners to how to recruit hackers to the human rights movement. A range of side events and networking opportunities accompanied the main programming, including a “Wear Your Values” fashion show on September 14, an opening press conference on September 18 hosted by the Norwegian government, and an Art in Protest exhibit.
Sponsors of OFF in New York included Jigsaw, Humanity United, Consensys, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Unlikely Collaborators, and the Eileen Fisher Community Foundation. Supporters and expo partners included Be My Rose, C2O Pure Coconut Water, Civic Hall, Committee to Protect Journalists, DEAR LEADER, DLX Marketing, Essential Living Foods, FIREWALL, HarperCollins, Hiball Energy, Highland Farm Foods, HoloTats, Knomo, Pacari, Private Internet Access, Raw Spirit Fragrances, Remake, Sockerbit, and WITNESS.