The theme for Olavsfest 2024 is POWER

We surround ourselves with power. The exercise of power is necessary, but at the same time complex.

We all have to deal with power, in social life and privately - both as unique individuals and as citizens of an increasingly complex world. Different societies are built on different degrees of political, religious, economic or military power. Power is a complex concept and gives room for a number of thoughts and interpretations, which is why it is the theme for Olavsfest 2024.

We are in a period where since 1967 Israel has occupied a neighboring country, built separation walls and practiced systematic violence and harassment. Right now, i.e. after 56 years of occupation contrary to international law, they are taking the lives of people who have no opportunity to escape from the prison they are in in the West Bank and Gaza. Aftenposten reports that "89 UN staff have been killed and the number of children killed in Gaza exceeds the most we have seen in recent times". VG has made a summary, and writes that "no age group on the list of those killed is more often represented than five-year-olds". Five-year-old children are being killed while the world community allows this to happen. People in the area feel completely powerless, and in our neighboring countries Germany and France, people are sent to prison when they demonstrate to end the slaughter.

Russia continues the war in Ukraine, they exercise a power that forces people to leave their country in order to survive. We experience systematic abuse of power.

Olavsfest want to contribute to create reflection around human rights and value issues that are relevant to all people, regardless of background and who you are. When we choose a theme, it is important that it helps start the minds of the public who visit us, read about us, listen to us on the radio, or follow us on social media.

In Norway we are lucky to live in a state governed by the rule of law and in a country where democratic principles are held in high esteem. We can express ourselves as we want, and we trust that others can make decisions on our behalf. Democracy is the most comprehensive institution of power relations in modern society. It sets limits on the kind of exercise of power that is permitted and it forms the framework for our freedom and expression.    

Recently we've been through a local election where we have voted for individuals and party groups who will represent us in matters that concern each and every one of us. In working life we have managers who are responsible for running the companies we have committed ourselves to work for, and in organizational life we have volunteers who must exercise and accept power. In the family, at school, on the football field, at the concert and everywhere else, we have to deal with a large set of visible and invisible rules.

At the same time, we see that powerlessness – the feeling of not being seen and heard, the feeling of lacking influence over one's own life, is a growing force in the West as well. Many new social and political protest movements are rooted in a rebellion against what is often called the "elite", people who hold power primarily on the basis of their status.

The Youth City Council represents our future elected representatives. Here we find engaged young people, who at times probably feel powerless and discouraged. At the same time, they represent renewal, and choose to stand up and fight for the world to become a better place. A minority of our politicians have abused the trust we have given them and several have left their posts. The absolute majority continue to contribute on behalf of all of us, and together with new generations, they will exercise power and shape the social debate in a demanding period. Power is necessary, and legitimate power is absolutely essential for society to survive.

Last summer, Little Amal visited Olavsfest. At the time of writing, she is wandering in Mexico after visiting 35 cities in the United States. The three and a half meter tall refugee girl from Syria continues her tireless fight for human rights and against abuse of power. The foundation of Amal is the very simple human rights: "All people are born free and are of equal value. Therefore we have the same rights".

Last week, Russia abandoned the last of three major agreements on disarmament and arms limitation between East and West. The world is unsafe, and abuse of power breaks down human rights. We believe that Olavsfest is more important than ever. We will develop further, and through good collaborations we will continue to set the agenda and emphasize the issues of value that are so important to us all.

Steinar Larsen
Director, Trondheim International Olavsfest