10 years commemoration of 22 July

Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

  • 22 Jul. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 22 Jul. 2021 10:52

Your Majesties,
Dear bereaved
Dear next of kin 
Dear everyone

Today we remember the 77 people brutally killed on 22 July 2011.

Eight of them in the government quarter in Oslo.
The heart of our democracy.
Men and women at the service of our country and its people.

Sixty-nine of them on the island of Utøya.
The future of democracy.
Young people gathered at a summer camp.

Together they represented the will of the people in our open democratic system.

We miss them all.


Terror struck the innocent.
Randomly, but not blindly.
It visibly targeted the Labour Party and its youth wing ­– the AUF.
It was a political attack.
People were killed because of their opinions.
The intention was to change our country using violence.
So it was also an attack on Norway.


Ten years ago, we met hatred with love.

But the hatred is still present.

We saw it when the memorial of Benjamin Hermansen was brutally desecrated.

We saw it again when Johanne Zhangjia Ihle-Hansen was killed because of the color of her skin, and the Al-Noor Mosque in Bærum was attacked.

Survivors are still being threatened.

People are afraid to express their opinion.

Time and again, we are reminded that democracy has not been won once and for all.

We need to fight for it. Every single day.


A father in Bardu misses his son.
A mother in Mortensrud misses her daughter.
A big sister in Trondheim misses her little brother.
They are among the many who lost their loved ones on 22 July 2011.

Lives that could have been saved that day, were not. It worsens the despair.

In Brussels, I met a woman who misses her husband. She lost him on 22 … March 2016.
When terrorists took many lives in the city I now live in.

I have met people who have lost their loved one in terrorist attacks in Paris, New York, Kabul, Baghdad, Christchurch, and many other places.

It hurts just as much every time.


Terror comes in many forms and wears many different guises.
Political ideologies and religions are distorted to justify horrible acts.

In the hours after the bomb went off in the government quarter, many believed that Islamist extremists were behind it.

But the perpetrator was a right-wing extremist.
He misused Christian symbols.

He grew up in our neighborhood, believed in the same God, and had the same skin color as the majority in this country.

He was one of us.
But he is not one of us – respectful of democracy.

He is one of them.
Who believe they have the right to kill to achieve their political goals.
It does not matter if they place themselves on the right or left side of the political spectrum, calling themselves Christians or Muslims.

They have more in common with each other than they have with any of us who follow the rules of democracy.


Freedom of speech is at the very core of democracy.
But the freer we are to express ourselves, the more we allow extreme opinions to also be expressed.
This is the paradox.

The answer is not to restrict freedom of speech.
The answer is to use it more.

We must counter extreme opinions.
We must speak up against them.
And not allow prejudice to spread.

That responsibility lies especially on those of us who have power and a platform to speak from.


Terror must be fought with many means.
With police, intelligence, and other security services.
And with military power, as we have done in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
But even the world's best special forces and fighter jets cannot eradicate the threat of terror.

And soft targets, like young people at a summer camp, will still be vulnerable.


Our most powerful weapon is our values.

Trust in each other.
Trust in democracy.
Solid communities.

It gives extremism less fertile ground, and it gives us the strength and self-confidence to resist when terror strikes.


Dear survivors.

I am so grateful that all of you are still here today.

In my office I keep a picture of Utøya.
I look at it every day and think of you.
I think about how you have fought your way back to life.
I think about the daily struggle many of you must still endure.
And about how you have reminded us of what actually happened that day.

The AUF has borne too much of that responsibility for too long.
But we will tell the story of 22 July together with you.


Life is all about choices.
I am often in doubt about what to choose.
Privately and professionally.
Compromise is usually the answer.

But sometimes the choice is clear.
There is no room for doubt.
And no space for compromise.

Terrorists can decide to take lives, but we decide they cannot take our democracy and our free and open society from us.