Freedom in the World 2017 - Norway

Freedom Status: 
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 
Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 

Norway has one of the most robust democracies in the world. The government regularly rotates through free and fair elections. Candidates have largely equal campaign opportunities and represent the interests of broad segments of the population. Civil liberties are upheld, and journalists and other civil society actors call attention to weaknesses and hold the government to account in addressing them.

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • The government further tightened asylum laws in June, though legislation was less restrictive than draft bills tabled in the spring.
  • In April, a Norwegian court ruled that prison authorities had violated the human rights of convicted mass murderer and right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik by keeping him in solitary confinement, despite what could be argued are luxury conditions by global prison standards.
  • In June, the legislature passed a new health law that will allow transgender people to self-declare their legal gender, rather than first undergoing evaluations and surgery as in the past.
Executive Summary: 

Norway is a well-established democracy with regular free and fair elections. Political power generally alternates between the Labor Party and Conservative-led coalitions. The indigenous Sami population, in addition to participating in the national political process, has its own legislature. Freedom of expression is strongly defended, with several court cases involving violent extremists testing the boundaries of this freedom.

Rule of law is upheld. Despite Norway having some of the best prison conditions in the world, a controversial district court ruling in April 2016 determined that authorities had violated the human rights of convicted mass murderer and right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik for keeping him in solitary confinement; the case is under appeal.

The continued influx of refugees and other migrants has dominated the political debate in Norway in 2015 and 2016. The government further restricted access to asylum through 2016 legislation that builds on a stringent law from the previous December, though the tightening was scaled back from bills tabled in April. Amnesty International and other watchdogs have criticized the laws. In January, after Russia temporarily stopped patrolling certain border checkpoints, Norway returned a swell of refugees and migrants to that country without individually reviewing their cases, thus violating the principle of nonrefoulement. 

Political Rights

Political Rights 40 / 40

A. Electoral Process 12 / 12

A1. Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
A2. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
A3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?


B. Political Pluralism and Participation 16 / 16

B1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
B2. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
B4. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral opportunities?


C. Functioning of Government 12 / 12

C1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
C2. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?
C3. Is the government accountable to the electorate between elections, and does it operate with openness and transparency?


Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties 60 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief 16 / 16

D1. Are there free and independent media and other forms of cultural expression?
D2. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free of extensive political indoctrination?
D4. Is there open and free private discussion?


E. Associational and Organizational Rights 12 / 12

E1. Is there freedom of assembly, demonstration, and open public discussion?
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations?
E3. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?


F. Rule of Law 16 / 16

F1. Is there an independent judiciary?
F2. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Are police under direct civilian control?
F3. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?


G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights 16 / 16

G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of travel or choice of residence, employment, or institution of higher education?
G2. Do individuals have the right to own property and establish private businesses? Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political parties/organizations, or organized crime?
G3. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?
G4. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?


Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Explanatory Note: 

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Norway, see Freedom in the World 2016.