Learning from Norway

Spent a sunny, yet chilly, day in beautiful Oslo last week. I had been invited to speak at Responsibility Works, a conference hosted by Right to Play, a remarkable organisation set up by Norway’s speed skating legend and Olympic Champion Johan Olav Koss. Right to Play, in their own words, uses “the power of play to educate and empower children to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict and disease in disadvantaged communities”.

It’s a great mission, and I was immediately reminded of the “growth mindset” that is so central to Big Change, the charity that my children Holly and Sam have set up in the UK.

As is often the case when I travel around the world, we try to see what else we can do to help local organisations drive positive change. In Norway, drug policy ranks highly on the public agenda, also because the country tragically has one of the highest per-capita rates of heroin deaths in Europe. Thankfully, there is much open and informed public debate, with some calling for heroin-assisted treatment (HAT) to turn the tide on the crisis.

So I joined Thorvald Stoltenberg, Norway’s former foreign minister and a fellow member of Global Commission on Drug Policy, for a morning tour of Oslo’s streets with a team of mobile nurses, who provide clean needles and simple medical care to drug users. Speaking to a few people that morning, I realised just how important evidence-based drug policies are that centre on people’s health and not on the needless criminalisation of those in urgent need of help. Norway is far more progressive than others in this regard, but I hope that further reforms will find the support they need.

In the afternoon, I had the pleasure of meeting HRH Crown Prince Haakon for a brief chat at Oslo’s Royal Palace. The Crown Prince has been a champion of the Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted by the world’s nations at last year’s UN Summit, and Norway’s commitment to global development is second to none – in word and deed. I also have the honour of serving on the Board of his Global Dignity initiative, which promotes the idea that human dignity lies at the centre of personal growth, development and the way we all interact with each other.

Leaving Oslo that night, I felt thoroughly inspired. The Norwegians seem to get some things right about the human condition, and we can all learn from that.

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