Thorolf Rafto

Last updated
Thorolf Rafto Thorolf Rafto.jpg
Thorolf Rafto

Thorolf Rafto (July 6, 1922 – November 4, 1986) was a human rights activist and professor in Economic History at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen, Norway. The Rafto Foundation for Human Rights was established in gratitude for his efforts and inspiration. [1]

Contents

Personal life

Thorolf Rafto was born in Bergen, Norway. His father, Robert Rafto was an Olympic gymnast and the winner of the Norwegian decathlon championships in 1918. In his younger days Rafto competed on national level in athletics, and won the Norwegian championships in decathlon in 1947. During World War II, Thorolf Rafto fled to Britain and served with the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Back in Bergen after the war, he earned university degrees in Languages and History. In 1950, at the age of 28, Rafto married Helga Hatletvedt with whom, he had four children. In 1956, Thorolf Rafto became a lecturer at the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen. [2]

Activism

His involvement in political activism in Eastern Europe started with the Prague Spring of 1968. Later in his life, Rafto got, particularly, supportive of the liberal ideas of the Czechoslovak reformists such as Alexander Dubček and Jiří Hájek. In 1973, Rafto travelled to Odessa, where he witnessed the persecution of intellectuals and Soviet Jewish refuseniks , who had applied for emigration to Israel. On the return from the Soviet Union, Rafto wrote an article criticizing internal Soviet politics in Italy's Corriere della Sera, that later was published in Norway and Denmark. In 1979, Rafto traveled again to Prague to hold a lecture for students excluded from the universities for political reasons. He was abused and later imprisoned by the security police which may have caused him lasting health damage. In 1981, Rafto made several trips to Poland to work closer with labour organisations there. By 1985 his health was weakening. In 1986, Thorolf Rafto died at 64 years of age. [3]

Rafto Foundation and Rafto Prize

After the death of Thorolf Rafto, his friends and colleagues agreed to establish the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights (Raftostiftelsen) which would continue Rafto’s work on a promotion of freedom of speech and political expression in Eastern Europe. It was also decided to introduce the Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize (Raftoprisen) for human right activists. [4]

The fall of the Iron Curtain and the consequential democratization of Eastern European states caused reconsider of the mission of the foundation. It also opened new possibilities to work with other geographical regions in a promotion of human rights. The initial idea of the Rafto Prize is to provide a basic informative platform for the laureates that would help to receive further attention from the international media and support from political and non-political organisations. [5]

By awarding the Rafto Prize, the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights seeks to bring attention to independent voices that due to oppressive and corrupt regimes are not always heard. In 1990, the Rafto Prize was awarded to a Burmese democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi who in the following year 1991 received the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. Four Rafto Laureates have subsequently received further international assistance and were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Aung San Suu Kyi, José Ramos-Horta, Kim Dae-jung and Shirin Ebadi were awarded the Rafto Prize prior to the Nobel Peace Prize. [6]

Related Research Articles

Aung San Suu Kyi Burmese politician

Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese politician, diplomat, author, and a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The first and incumbent State Counsellor of Myanmar, she is also the leader of the National League for Democracy and played a vital role in the state's transition from military junta to partial democracy.

National League for Democracy political party in Myanmar

The National League for Democracy is a political party in Myanmar (Burma), currently serving as the governing party. Founded on 27 September 1988, it has become one of the most influential parties in Myanmar's pro-democracy movement. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Special Honorary President of the Socialist International, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and current State Counsellor of Myanmar, serves as its chairperson. The party won a substantial parliamentary majority in the 1990 Burmese general election. However, the ruling military junta refused to recognise the result. On 6 May 2010, the party was declared illegal and ordered to be disbanded by the junta after refusing to register for the elections slated for November 2010. In November 2011, the NLD announced its intention to register as a political party to contend future elections, and Myanmar's Union Election Commission approved their application for registration on 13 December 2011.

Ole Danbolt Mjøs Norwegian physician and politician

Ole Danbolt Mjøs was a Norwegian physician and politician for the Christian Democratic Party. A professor and former rector at the University of Tromsø, he was known worldwide as the leader of the Norwegian Nobel Committee from 2003 to 2008.

Sakharov Prize award honouring individuals and groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, commonly known as the Sakharov Prize, honours individuals and groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. Named after Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize was established in December 1988 by the European Parliament. A shortlist of nominees is drawn up annually by the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on Development. The MEPs who make up those committees then select a shortlist in September. Thereafter, the final choice is given to The European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents and the laureate's name is announced late in October. The prize is awarded in a ceremony at the Parliament’s Strasbourg hemicycle in December. The prize includes a monetary award of €50,000.

The Rafto Foundation for Human Rights was established in 1986 in memory of Thorolf Rafto, a professor of economic history at the Norwegian School of Economics (NHH) and a human rights activist. The main objective of the Rafto Foundation is the promotion of freedom of political expression and enterprise. The work of the foundation consists of different educational and informative projects, including the annual award of the Rafto Prize (Raftoprisen) each November. The foundation is based in Bergen, Norway and run by a small team of professionals and volunteers.

The Professor Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize (Raftoprisen) is a human rights award established in the memory of the Norwegian human rights activist, Thorolf Rafto.

Lidia Muhtarovna Yusupova is the Coordinator of the law office of the Moscow-based human rights organization Memorial. Formerly, Yusupova was the director of the Grozny office of Memorial. Currently, Yusupova is completing a two-year law fellowship in Moscow.

Nobel Peace Center Museum in Norway

The Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, Norway is a showcase for the Nobel Peace Prize and the ideals it represents. The Center is also an arena where culture and politics merge to promote involvement, debate and reflection around topics such as war, peace and conflict resolution. The Center is located at the City Hall Square in Oslo, Norway.

National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma

The National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma was an administration claimed to be the government in exile of Burma (Myanmar). It had its headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, United States. It was formally established in December 1990, with Sein Win as its first prime minister. It was dissolved in September 2012.

Human Rights Foundation non-profit organization

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a non-profit organization that describes itself as promoting and protecting human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. HRF organizes the Oslo Freedom Forum. The Human Rights Foundation was founded in 2005 by Thor Halvorssen Mendoza, a Venezuelan film producer and human rights advocate. The current chairman is Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, and Javier El-Hage is the current chief legal officer. The foundation's head office is in New York City.

Hanne Sophie Greve is a Norwegian judge.

Jack Healey American activist

Jack Healey is an American human rights activist. Called "Mr. Human Rights" by U.S. News and World Report, Healey's focus has been on inspiring the youth to support non-violent activism that would push back oppressive governments and societies.

Human Rights House of Bergen

The Human Rights House of Bergen is based in Bergen, Norway. It is located near the student centre (Studentsenteret) of the University of Bergen and is owned and operated by the Egil Rafto House Foundation.

The Norwegian Burma Committee is a Norwegian advocacy group.

Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) is a series of global conferences run by the New York-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation under the slogan “Challenging Power.” OFF was founded in 2009 as a one-time event and has taken place annually ever since. One of the key objectives of the conferences is to bring together notable people, including former heads of state, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, prisoners of conscience, as well as of other public figures in order to network and exchange ideas about human rights and exposing dictatorships.

Alexander Myint San Aung Aris is the elder son of Aung San Suu Kyi and Michael Aris. He is also a grandson of Aung San, who achieved the independence of Myanmar. Alexander Aris has one younger brother called Kim Aris who was born in 1977. But, all about his information is missing so far. He had visited Myanmar frequently.

Tim Greve was a Norwegian historian, biographer, civil servant, diplomat and newspaper editor.

Frank Mugisha Ugandan LGBT rights activist

Dr. Frank Mugisha is a Ugandan LGBT advocate and Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), who has won the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and Thorolf Rafto Memorial Prize 2011 for his activism. Mugisha is one of the most prominent advocates for LGBT rights in Uganda.


Aung San Suu Kyi has received numerous honours and awards throughout her life for her peace and freedom activism in Burma. However, since the 2016 Rohingya persecution in Myanmar many of these honours have been revoked due to her perceived inaction to stop the crisis.

References

  1. "Thorolf Rafto". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  2. Norwegian championships in decathlon Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine (in Norwegian)
  3. Arnljot Strømme Svendsen. "Thorolf Rafto". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  4. Jon Gunnar Arntzen. "Raftostiftelsen". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  5. "The Rafto Legacy". The Maritime Executive. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  6. Vibeke Blaker Strand. "Raftoprisen". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved November 1, 2017.

Other sources