King Harald V has spoken out against bullying on several occasions, and used his annual New Year’s Eve address to blast it once again. He called on his fellow Norwegians to turn their country into a bullying-free zone.
“Think what it could mean if we just decided that in Norway, we don’t bully one another,” the monarch, who turned 80 last year, mused in his annual nationally broadcast speech. He’d begun it by quoting a poem by Åse-Marie Nesse about great human will in the world,
“It means that we generally will offer help when we see that someone needs it,” King Harald said. “It means that most of us get up to a new day regardless of what will face us.”
Yet many Norwegians, especially children and youth, wake up facing another day of bullying and harassment. Despite living in a country with “a relatively stable economy, a solid system of leadership and a society based in large part on mutual confidence in one another,” the monarch believes far too many still experience bullying. He said it pains him “to hear about all the young people who struggle mentally, and that some, in the end, can’t manage to live any longer.”
He recalled meeting a young woman in Lillehammer last summer, during one of his many birthday parties, who called for a more caring society. “I couldn’t agree more,” King Harald said, adding how that could in fact save more lives.
“I have spoken a lot about bullying through the years, and I’m not about to stop,” he said. He claimed that strong human will can be used “to decide for ourselves to stop bullying, to behave properly towards one another.” All it requires, he noted, is the same human will summoned by others to get up every day “even though they know what may come.”
King Harald, speaking after months of reports about harassment that emerged as a result of the international “MeToo” campaign, claimed that even those who bully or harass others “have something good inside themselves” and can use their human will to change their behaviour.
The king’s annual speech on New Year’s Eve won praise from advocates for victims of bullying. Irma Rustad, leader of Mobbing i skolen (Bullying in the schools) told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that it was “enormously powerful to hear the king’s words. He spoke more clearly than before, and that he has no intention to drop the issue. We value that highly.”
Rustad called the king’s New Year’s address “different,” and “not just a formal speech but a sign of deep commitment.” She called for “action to follow the words,” and is glad that also Norwegian prime ministers have taken up the issue. Current Prime Minister Erna Solberg, for example, spoke two years ago about how a 13-year-old boy named Odin had committed suicide after years og bullying. King Harald first addressed bullying back in 2002.
A new anti-bullying law took effect last fall that has led to a quadrupling of complaints filed by children and youth who don’t feel safe going to school, They’re speaking up, just like women who’ve been harassed, and can now approach county administrators directly instead of having to file complaints with school leaders if they feel their complaints aren’t being addressed.