At the same time, the Oslo Center says in a press release:
– The center has not cooperated with authoritarian political regimes throughout its time.
It is in the same press release on Tuesday morning that the Oslo Center announces a review of operations.
The center writes:
– Recently, Dagbladet has written disturbing articles about the Oslo Center. The center views these accusations as serious and wants to clarify the foundation’s role and position.
The press releases are not signed. Chairman of the board Kjell Magne Bondevik confirms that it is from the center’s director Karolina Olofsson, but does not wish to comment further:
– No, I do not need it. The post from our director is fully covering my views, he writes in an email to Dagbladet.
Dagbladet has applied for director Karolina Olofsson – so far without success.
The press release highlights Olofsson’s role at the center:
– As of 1 June 2021, a new director took office to reform the Oslo Center. The foundation’s director has the main responsibility for leading the Oslo Center and its operations. With a new director, a reform process was initiated in a short time where the center works to strengthen its position in democracy assistance, the press release states.
The center writes that they have made changes to the cosmetic site – with a new visual identity and a new website. Now there is a new organizational strategy – which will be announced in mid-December. Work has also been initiated to develop strategies within communication, reporting and evaluation, which will be published in the new year.
– The reform plan that has been laid out for the next three years also includes evaluation of financial processes, assessment processes of partners, procurement and HR, the press release states.
The center continues:
– The Oslo Center’s management is working seriously on these reforms. The foundation attaches great importance to maintaining democratic values and the management agrees that the center should operate in an open and responsible manner. The reform process will of course be challenging and demanding, but the center is committed to evaluating previous processes and actions to ensure that the work takes place in accordance with the foundation’s current objectives.
The press release also states that the center will introduce clearer lines of responsibility for the business.
– Part of the Oslo Center’s reform entails clearer lines of responsibility for various management groups and employees. The board is responsible for evaluations of the Oslo Center’s activities and for financing, financial transparency and accountability.
The chairman of the board for the Oslo Center, Kjell Magne Bondevik, has previously told Dagbladet that he is taking on assignments outside the Oslo Center. He has stated that this was the case with the events he has led in collaboration with Dialogue for Peace and the Muslim World League. As Dagbladet has written, he has transferred large parts of the fee for this to the Oslo Center.
The press release states:
– The foundation appreciates all our board members and everything they have done to support the Oslo Center through its development. As individuals, they have the right under Norwegian law to engage privately in other activities without this representing the foundation, at the same time as they are obliged to act in accordance with the center’s guidelines (Code of Conduct).
Dagbladet has written about this:
- Dagbladet has revealed that Aamir J. Sheikh and the August 14 Committee awarded this year’s version of the “Bridge Builder Award” to the leader of the Saudi-based organization Muslim World League.
- This organization had paid almost 13 million kroner to the Sheikh Foundation, which in turn transferred 1.4 million to Bondevik personally and 5.4 million kroner to his organization Oslosenteret, according to Dagbladet’s documentation.
- Kjell Magne Bondevik has said that “There is no political connection to any of the fees I receive. The same applies to all support the Oslo Center receives. No matter what others say, we will never put ourselves in a situation where we can not say what we want. “
- Both Sheikh and MWL leader al-Issa have vehemently denied that MWL has paid the price. An MWL spokesperson called Dagbladet’s coverage «bizarre».
- Professional boxer Cecilia Brækhus, who was jury leader in the Bridge Builder Award, reacted strongly to the information and withdrew immediately from the post.
- Dagbladet has also revealed that Sheikh, with Bondevik in a copy of the e-mail, asked for money ahead of an honorary award to the Prime Minister of the authoritarian oil country Bahrain.
- Dagbladet has also revealed contact between Sheikh, Bondevik and several representatives of the Saudi authorities. Sheikh and Bondevik have also provided contact between the leader of the Muslim World League and four Norwegian ministers.
- Aamir J. Sheikh has written to Dagbladet that he has never had a hidden agenda for his work for peace and reconciliation: “No one can” buy “themselves at a price handed out by the 14 August committee. It is against our principles. Let me emphasize once again that no one has paid to meet Norwegian politicians. I have all the way been open about my relations with various organizations and countries ».
- The revelations have provoked strong reactions.
Criticizes the coverage
In the press release, the Oslo Center writes that they believe that the center “has not cooperated with authoritarian political regimes throughout its time”.
– Through state funding, the Oslo Center has over the years mainly received support from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Belgium. A large proportion of the financing is project-based, and is carried out in collaboration with institutional and organizational partners. Both private units and organizations are presented in our annual reports which are, and always have been, publicly available on our website, the center writes.
The center also criticizes Dagbladet’s coverage:
– The Oslo Center is an independent non-profit organization that has undergone various phases since its establishment. As Dagbladet has not investigated what the foundation actually does, the Center now wants to clarify this. The Oslo Center works with democracy assistance, writes Olofsson, and continues:
– The center’s main purpose is to support and strengthen democratic processes by strengthening political and public institutions. The foundation contributes to democratic systems being more inclusive and receptive to the needs of citizens, as well as respect for their political participation, community involvement, human rights and dignity.
Kjell Magne Bondevik and Aamir J. Sheik have also previously criticized Dagbladet’s coverage, when Dagbladet asked for comments on the Bahrain case.
– I have registered that Dagbladet is only looking to damage my work and reputation and have served fictional stories. I will therefore not answer Dagbladet’s many questions, where some are also based on incorrect grounds, Sheikh wrote in an e-mail.
Dagbladet has asked Sheikh to clarify what he thinks is wrong. He has not answered that. Bondevik wrote in an email that he would not answer questions because:
– With the experience I have with Dagbladet’s journalists in these cases, where I am presented with dishonesty and a biased agenda, I will not answer more questions. Several of them are based on the wrong premises and are unacceptably suspicious.