Every year Utøya and our partner institution The European Wergeland Centre (EWC) invite young activists, educators, and community leaders between 18-26 years from across Europe to The Thorvald Stoltenberg Seminar at Utøya. The seminar is a training course to support young people’s actions to foster co-existence, trust and dialogue among people living in diverse societies.
For this years seminar we received over 1000 applications from across Europe, Asia and Africa! Following a long and careful selection process, we ended up with 26 participants. They all have in common that they are youth leaders who are working with creating peace, coexistence and trust among people in the diverse societies of their home countries.
Former Norwegian Minister of Defence, Minister of Foreign Affairs and diplomat Thorvald Stoltenberg was a pioneer for peace diplomacy. He strongly emphasized the importance of dialogue, often exemplified by his “kitchen meetings”, where he would invite state leaders and foreign ministers to his home to enjoy a cup of coffee, relax and have a talk at his kitchen table. Thorvald Stoltenberg passed away in July 2018. In his memory, and to honour his strong belief that knowledge and respect could overcome xenophobia and hate, the annual Thorvald Stoltenberg seminar takes place at Utøya, Norway. The seminar was first arranged in 2019, and has become an important international meeting place for young people engaged in democracy and human rights.
Honouring the legacy of Thorvald Stoltenberg and his struggle for peace and dialogue is unfortunately timely in a time of war in Europe. At the same time, polarisation, anti-democratic sentiments and distrust in democratic institutions and between people across and within states seem to be on the rise in many European countries.
The Thorvald Stoltenberg seminar aims to address these common European challenges by creating a platform for young people from where to strengthen their democratic engagement for peaceful dialogue and co-existence in Europe.
Most people believe that individuals who shy away from conflict are poor leaders. But I say, when you meet a person who tries to avoid conflict in order to solve a problem, keep that person, because we need them, they are not so many”