Presentation at the OSCE PA Winter Meeting

As delivered by H.E. Ambassador Anne-Kirsti Karlsen to the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, Vienna, 26 February 2021.

Thank you very much for the opportunity to present our plans to the Parliamentary Assembly, (and) to the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions

The human dimension is an integral part of the OSCE comprehensive security concept. Fundamental human rights are under pressure. Functioning democratic institutions are vital for the well-being of all citizens of the OSCE area. Gender equality needs to be integrated in all our work. Aspects of social and economic rights need to be addressed in light of the pandemic. The safety and well-being of our citizens are important to uphold peace and stability.

Sweden has taken a holistic approach across dimensions in their Chairpersonship. In chairing the HDC, we have let this inspire us. We have to some extent planned our work programme in accordance with the Swedish monthly cross- dimensional topics.

However, there are many different views on what issues should be discussed in the HDC. Before taking over as Chair, we had consultations with many delegations to get a clearer picture of the priorities.

In January, the committee had an initial discussion on Human rights and the OSCE comprehensive security concept. It was a fruitful discussion on why there needs to be a human dimension to security, and how human rights and democracy relate to security policy in a broader sense. Together with the bilateral consultations we have had, this served as a base for creating a work programme for the committee in 2021. We will have a thematic approach each month, and no country specific issues.

Our first regular meeting, the February meeting last week, was on the topic of Media freedom, access to information, and disinformation. We were honored to have the new RFOM Teresa Ribeiro with us as speaker. We are now preparing the March meeting on Women’s political participation

Later this spring we are planning meetings on the Socio-economic impact of the COVID19-pandemic, with a special focus on the consequences of emergency measures, on combatting intolerance and non-discrimination, on the right of peaceful assembly, and a follow up of the MC decision in December on Prevention and eradication of torture.

After the summer, we plan meetings on trust in political parties, on National minorities and indigenous peoples and on public confidence in electoral processes. We plan no committee meeting in September, as we will need to focus on the Human Dimension Implementation meeting (HDIM).

We hope this programme will allow for valuable discussions on human dimension issues. Our focus is first and foremost to look at the commitments Participating States already have, and create space for exchange of experience on how to fulfil existing commitments.

The meetings of the committee are an addition to the overall human dimension work program of the Swedish Chairpersonship. Issues not included in the work program of the Committee, may very well be included in one of the Human Dimension events, or in special or ad hoc HDC meetings.

As HDC chair we hope to provide for good and substantial discussions and an atmosphere conducive to finding common ground in this important but sensitive dimension of our work. We believe that good and respectful discussions on relevant topics create the basis for further developing this field of work.

For this organization to remain relevant, we need to engage with society outside our own closed circles. We therefore plan on continuing the tradition of inviting different stakeholders in the work of the HDC, including contributions or speakers from academic institutions, civil society, OSCE Institutions and Field Operations, as well as representatives of other international organizations. We have already been in contact regarding possible participation from the OSCE PA and look forward to cooperation in the months to come.

I am probably not the only one who is getting tired of numerous video conferences. Therefore, we are experimenting with the zoom format to make meetings more interactive and dynamic. We will continue this endeavour in dialogue with the participants. So far I have experienced that the participating states have participated eagerly and constructively in, and between, the meetings

We find it of utmost importance that the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting HDIM is organized this year, and of course hope that the special circumstances which were the reason for not having HDIM last year, are changed when we come to the fall. We are much better prepared to find practical solutions compatible with whatever corona restrictions we have in the fall. We will do our best to support the Swedish chairpersonship in the discussions and preparations ahead about the modalities of and participation in the meeting.

The attention and interest of OSCE parliamentarians are vital to the work in the human dimension of the OSCE security concept. We need you to bring topics and discussions back to your respective parliaments and raise important issues there, with your constituences and with your governments.

The role that the OSCE PA has when it comes to election observation is of particular importance. I praise the work that you and ODIHR has done to implement the observations missions recently, and for the efforts made under the extraordinary present circumstances.

I look forward to hearing your views on the topics at hand, and to cooperation with you throughout the year.