Five Peace Prize laureates gathered at The Nobel Peace Conference & Festival 2023

After the Nobel Peace Conference, Oleksandra Vyacheslavivna Matviichuk released a dove for peace.
Photo: Julius Grasaasen / Nobel Peace Center

For the third year in a row, we are ending what we at the Nobel Peace Center call the "Peace Prize Year" with a conference and festival celebrating the recipients of last year's Nobel Peace Prize. This year's edition was called "Human Rights Heroes” and brought together five peace prize laureates and some of the world's leading experts on human rights to discuss the situation for human rights defenders in a world where democracy is in decline.


In 2022, the Nobel Peace Prize went to the Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, the Russian organization Memorial and the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties. During the conference, representatives of all three returned to Oslo, gathered on the same stage, to talk about the situation in their respective home countries. The first keynote of the day was given by the Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Prize in 2003), who now supports the women's activists in her home country from exile. Guatemalan Rigoberta Menchu ​​Túm (Nobel Peace Prize in 1992) and Sami Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen had a conversation about the rights of indigenous peoples, and Swedish Beatrice Fihn (Nobel Peace Prize in 2017, on behalf of ICAN) and the leader of Nature and Youth Gina Gylver discussed the importance of networks and community between activists and organizations when you as a “small” acitivist is up against the force of the state or powerful business interests.

A fully packed conference hall at the National Museum followed the event physically, while a large audience, with viewers from over 37 countries and all corners of the world, followed via online streaming.

"It is an honor to be surrounded by true heroes. (…) The efforts and the sacrifices of human rights defenders benefit all of us—not just in one country in one moment, but for generations to come. They need and deserve our support—because they are truly in the fight for freedom for us all. "
Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Vice President of Freedom House

It is vital that we maintainthe focus on the issues of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates. The people who are defending our common rights, need our support and protection.That is why the Nobel Peace Center, together with the prize winners' organizations and other experts on human rights, havefacilitated "The Sunflower Declaration", a plan for the protection of human rights defenders at risk. The content of the declaration was made public during the conference, and includes concrete recommendations to governments, multilateral organizations, businesses, cities and universities. Among the measures is a simplified system for visas that will enable them to continue the important work they do even if they must flee their home country. Another measure is the expansion of the scheme for short-term stays in cities or at universities, such as Oslo's Breathing SpaceCity-programme.

As director of the Nobel Peace Center, Kjersti Fløgstad said from the stage, the hope is that "The Sunflower Declaration" will become a tool for everyone who fights to protect human rights defenders at risk.

Ten peace prize winners have already signed the declaration. It also holds the signature ofseveral organizations, cities, universitiesand businesses. We encourage everyone to sign it and spread the word about the declaration to friends and acquaintances!

Oleksandra Matviitsyuk released the dove of peace that flew out over Town Hall Square
Photo: Julius Grasaasen / Nobel Peace Center

After the conference, the Nobel Peace Center invited to a festival at Rådhusplassen with music, quiz and an inspiring talk to celebrate human rights, democracy and peace.

The audience got the chance to hear the Peace Prize winners Oleksandra Matviitsjuk, Jan Ratchinskij, Natallia Pintsjuk (on behalf of her husband, Ales Byaljatski), Shirin Ebadi, Rigoberta Menchu ​​Tum and Beatrice Fihn in conversation with editor Christian Kjelstrup.

In addition to hearing from five Peace Prize laureates, the audience enjoyed a concert with Ghawgha and Marit Larsen, a quiz with Hasse and Tophe, a podcast recording with Galvan and Sandeep from "Med All Respekt" and a DJ set.

More about the conference