Mayor of Oslo: I Hope that Baltic Pride 2022 is a Start of a Long and Fruitful Cooperation Between Oslo and Vilnius

Marianne Borgen, the Mayor of Oslo, says that the Baltic Pride 2022 will become a platform for cooperation between Oslo and Vilnius municipalities on the topic of equal rights for all. The Mayor insists that it is essential that the local government take an active role in promoting equal opportunities and diversity for citizens and guests.

For the first time in the history of Baltic Pride, Vilnius and Oslo became partners of the festival, which will take place in Vilnius on 1-5 June. What is the role of municipalities in promoting equal opportunities and diversity? Are such examples of cooperation essential in promoting equal opportunities for city residents and guests?

Vilnius and Oslo have a long-standing friendship going back over 30 years. We have cooperated in many different sectors, and this is the first time we are cooperating on the topic of equal rights for all, for which I am thrilled. The municipal level is the government level closest to the citizens, and I believe it is essential that the local government take an active role in promoting equal opportunities and diversity for citizens and guests. Through these efforts, we are creating cities that are good to live in – for everyone.

Oslo is a diverse city, home to more than 200 nationalities. The vision for Oslo is that our city will be an open, inclusive, and tolerant city, and equality, equal opportunities are important assets. Various minorities feel that structural conditions lead to them systematically faring less well than other parts of the population. It is difficult for anyone who is not experiencing these mechanisms to perceive them for themselves. The City of Oslo is actively combating all forms of discrimination, racism, harassment, restraint, and suppression.

Oslo has been working on equal rights and inclusion for a long time. OXLO – Oslo Extra Large is a long-term awareness-raising campaign initiated by the Mayor of Oslo in 2001 in response to a racist murder. Through this campaign, the City of Oslo is striving to make Norway’s capital a more tolerant city, free from racism and prejudice. It is based on the City of Oslo’s special value document, which focuses on both citizen and municipal activities. The cornerstones of the documents are tolerance, mutual respect and understanding. OXLO is a part of the City of Oslo’s Action plan against Hate Speech and Hateful Attitudes.

In April 2020, the City Council in Oslo adopted “Proud and Free – Action plan for gender and sexual diversity – 2020–2023”. I am very proud of this Action plan, that will strengthen and sharpen the City of Oslo’s efforts to combat intolerance and discrimination so that everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, who one falls in love with or chooses to live with or how one chooses to express one’s identity, feels safe and as full and free citizens. I strongly encourage other cities to adopt similar Action plans, and I look forward to sharing our experience with this work during Baltic Pride in June.

Norway is keen on supporting LGBT rights both at home and abroad. Is it important for the City of Oslo to support events aiming to raise visibility of the LGBT community and foster equal opportunities in other European cities? What best practices could The City of Oslo present when it comes to its local support for the Oslo Pride?
One of the initiatives in the Action Plan is that the City of Oslo will collaborate with state authorities on new knowledge and dissemination of expertise and experience in national and international networks such as Intercultural Cities, Rainbow Cities Network and InterPride. Through international cooperation, we can share good practises, and be inspired by other cities experience and examples. I believe we have a lot of valuable experience on supporting Oslo Pride. The City of Oslo have celebrations during Oslo Pride, we participate in the Pride House seminar programme, and we encourage the use of OXLO and the rainbow symbol in city buildings, on public transport, in senior centres and nursing homes, schools, libraries and youth clubs. The City make sure that Oslo Pride has predictability in the Oslo Pride festival’s use of public urban spaces.

Vilnius and Oslo are twin cities. Could Baltic Pride in Vilnius serve as a platform in strengthening cooperation between Vilnius and Oslo?

Yes! My hope is that this is the start of a long and fruitful cooperation on the topic of equal rights for all between Oslo and Vilnius.

EEA-and-Norway_grants 2Article was prepared under the framework of the project “Mainstreaming equal opportunities in twin cities (Vilnius-Oslo)”. The project is funded by the Fund for Bilateral Relations of the EEA and Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2014–2021.