Norway is one of the most robust democracies in the world. Elections are free and fair, and power regularly rotates between parties. Civil liberties are respected, with independent media and civil society actors holding the government to account. Discrimination against Roma and other marginalized groups remains a problem.
- In June, a person armed with a gun started shooting outside several bars in central Oslo, particularly targeting people emerging out of a well-known gay bar. Twenty-one people were injured and two people were killed. The Pride march scheduled for later that month was canceled by police due to security concerns. A Pride event was allowed to take place months later with police protection.
- In September, the government enforced the use of compulsory arbitration to end a strike put on by teachers. The move spurred public debate of whether the use of compulsory arbitration infringed upon workers’ rights. The strike had lasted for three months and included around 8,500 teachers.
- In July, the Transparency Law went into force, requiring companies to assess their own operations and supply chains’ compliance with human rights obligations. The law seeks to prevent corporations from being complicit in economic exploitation and human rights violations domestically and abroad, and to provide consumers with access to information based on companies’ human rights impact.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
The constitutional monarch, currently King Harald V, appoints the prime minister, who is the leader of the majority party or coalition in the parliament. While the monarch is officially the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, his duties are largely ceremonial. National elections were held in September 2021; the following month, Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre was appointed prime minister after the Labour Party and the Centre Party formed a governing coalition.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
Norway’s unicameral parliament, the Storting, has 169 members who are directly elected for four-year terms through a system of proportional representation in multimember districts.
In the September 2021 election, the Labour Party won the largest share of votes, taking 48 seats, followed by the Conservatives with 36 seats, the Centre Party with 28, the right-wing populist Progress Party with 21, the Socialist Left Party with 13, the Red Party with 8, the Liberal Party with 8, the Green Party with 3, the Christian Democratic Party with 3, and the single-issue Patient Focus party with 1 seat. The election saw a turnout of 77.2 percent.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?
Elections are regulated by the constitution and the Representation of the People Act of 2002. The National Electoral Committee, whose members are appointed by the king from all parliamentary parties, oversees the conduct of elections with the support of local-level committees. The 2017 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election monitoring mission noted a high degree of public confidence in the country’s electoral infrastructure.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
A range of political parties operate freely in Norway.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
Norway has a long history of democratic and peaceful transfers of power after elections. The center-left Labour Party, and center-right coalitions led by the Conservatives or the Christian Democrats, have typically rotated in and out of government. Smaller parties wield influence by participating in national and local coalitions.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?
Citizens are generally free from undue interference in their political choices, and no military, foreign, or religious entities exert undemocratic pressure on voters. Public funding is the main source of party revenue, though private contributions have increased in recent years, which critics say could allow wealthy donors to acquire undue influence over Norwegian politics.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?
Women and minority groups enjoy full political rights and electoral opportunities. Following the September 2021 elections, 50 percent of cabinet positions are held by women, and 45 percent of parliamentarians are women. Minority ethnic groups and the interests of LGBT+ people are addressed through robust antidiscrimination laws and various protections for same-sex couples.
The Indigenous Sámi population, in addition to participating in the national political process, has its own legislature, the Sameting, which has worked to protect the group’s language and cultural rights and to influence the national government’s decisions about Sámi land and resources. The national government has a deputy minister tasked specifically with handling Sámi issues. A 2021 Supreme Court case confirmed that Sami cultural rights take precedence over the expansion of windfarms that impact reindeer herding.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
The freely elected government and parliament develop and implement policy without undue influence from actors who are not democratically accountable.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?
Provisions of the penal code criminalizing corrupt activity are generally upheld. In January 2021, the Council of Europe (CoE)’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) recommended that the government introduce new accountability and enforcement mechanisms to prevent corruption among senior officials, including ministers, political advisers, and members of the police.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?
The government generally operates with transparency.
|Are there free and independent media?
Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed and generally respected in practice. Norwegians have access to news and commentary from a wide variety of independent outlets.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?
Freedom of religion is protected by the constitution and generally upheld in practice. However, religiously motivated hate crimes do occur.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?
Academic freedom is generally respected.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?
Private discussion in Norway is free and vibrant. A 2022 government-commissioned report agreed that freedom of expression is well-respected in Norway.
|Is there freedom of assembly?
The right to freedom of assembly is generally respected. Following a shooting targeting LGBT+ people outside a gay bar in Oslo in June 2022, the Pride march scheduled for later that month was canceled by police due to security concerns. A Pride event was allowed to take place months later with police protection.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) form and operate without undue restrictions.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?
The right to strike is legally guaranteed—except for members of the military and senior civil servants—and is generally respected in practice. All workers have the right to engage in collective bargaining. However, there has been an increase in the practice of forcing unions into compulsory arbitration to avert strike actions. For example, in September 2022, the government enforced the use of compulsory arbitration to end a strike put on by teachers. The move spurred public debate of whether the use of compulsory arbitration infringed upon workers’ rights. The strike had lasted for three months and included around 8,500 teachers.
|Is there an independent judiciary?
The judiciary is generally considered independent, and the court system, headed by the Supreme Court, operates fairly. The king appoints judges on the advice of the Judicial Appointments Board, which is composed of legal and judicial professionals as well as representatives of the public. In April 2021, then–prime minister Erna Solberg was fined for breaching COVID-19 rules. She paid the fine and apologized for her actions.
Additionally, in May 2021, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court found that since Norway became an EFTA member in 1994, the government had illegally denied welfare payments to people who had traveled to other EFTA countries while receiving benefits. The Norwegian Supreme Court confirmed that authorities had acted unlawfully in a July 2021 ruling.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?
Law enforcement agencies and the courts generally observe legal safeguards against arbitrary arrest and detention. Criminal defendants have access to counsel at the government’s expense, and the principles of due process are typically respected during trial.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?
The police are under civilian control, and physical abuse by law enforcement is rare. Prison conditions generally meet international standards.
Far-right and extremist violence is a recognized threat in Norway. In June 2022, a person armed with a gun started shooting outside bars in central Oslo, particularly targeting people emerging out of a well-known gay bar. Twenty-one people were injured and two people were killed. Police declared it to be a “terrorist attack” and “hate crime.”
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?
Laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population, including for LGBT+ people. However, the shooting at a gay bar in June 2022 pushed the government to create a four-year action plan focused on improving LGBT+ people’s quality of life.
The equality and antidiscrimination ombudsman enforces the Gender Equality Act, the Antidiscrimination Act, and other laws designed to protect the basic rights of women, minorities, and other groups at risk of mistreatment. These laws are generally upheld in practice. However, in a February 2021 report, the CoE recommended that Norwegian authorities put more resources into supporting victims of discrimination, particularly Roma people.
Norwegian authorities reported a seven percent increase in hate crimes between 2020 and 2021, the majority of which were based on race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.
The national government also supports Sámi-language instruction and media outlets in the relevant regions. The Norwegian national human rights institution, however, has highlighted that Norway does not currently disaggregate statistical data by ethnicity or Indigenous status, which limits the evidence base for human rights monitoring and improving policy and service delivery for Indigenous groups such as the Sámi.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?
Freedom of movement in Norway is generally respected. People can change their place of residence, employment, and education. However, some EU- and EEA-born welfare recipients living in Norway reportedly refrained from traveling abroad for fear of losing benefits; in 2019, local NGO Caritas reported that several thousand were discouraged or stopped from traveling abroad in recent years.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?
The rights to own property and operate private businesses are established in Norwegian law and upheld in practice.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?
The government generally does not restrict personal social freedoms. The Gender Equality Act provides equal rights for men and women with respect to marriage, divorce, and other personal status matters.
Domestic violence is a problem. In 2019, Norway’s Institute for Human Rights (NIM) estimated that 150,000 people experience domestic violence annually. Amnesty International has also expressed concern that the penal code does not use a consent-based definition of rape and imposes a limited set of qualifying circumstances.
The government banned the wearing of face coverings, including the niqab and burqa, from teaching environments at all levels of education. The ban did not apply outside classroom settings, for instance during recess or staff meetings.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?
Legal protections against economic exploitation are generally upheld. The US State Department’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report notes that though Norwegian authorities make significant efforts to fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, they do not report official numbers of identified and assisted victims and have not developed formal identification procedures for trafficking victims. Authorities have also focused on the undocumented status off migrants who are potentially being trafficked, penalizing the victims rather than the people who were exploiting the trafficked individuals.
In July 2022, the Transparency Law went into force, requiring companies to assess their own operations and supply chains’ compliance with human rights obligations. The law is intended to prevent corporations from being complicit in economic exploitation and human rights violations domestically and abroad, and to provide consumers with access to information based on companies’ human rights impact.
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