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Presentation of the program and priorities of the Human Dimension Committee in 2021

As delivered by H.E. Ambassador Anne-Kirsti Karlsen to the Permanent Council,Vienna, 11 February 2021.

Madame Chair,

 

Thank you for this opportunity to present to you the working program and priorities of the Human Dimension Committee for 2021 and for the trust put in us, and me.

Let me also thank my British and Austrian colleagues for presenting the priorities for the committees they will be chairing. We look forward to discussing 1st and 2nd dimension issues with you in the SC and EEC.

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.

 

Distinguished Colleagues,

The program presented today is based on a thematic approach, with one defined topic for each monthly meeting. As the chair of the HDC we have looked at the priorities of all the delegations and inputs received from you in the drafting of this program. And believe me, we have heard many different views on what issues should and should not be discussed in the HDC. However, I apologize that the draft working program was only circulated yesterday afternoon.

In drafting the program, we have been in close dialogue with the OSCE chair. Sweden has a comprehensive approach for their chairpersonship, with one overarching topic each month. We are highly supportive of this approach and have – when possible – let it inspire the topics of our meetings. At the same time, we have – as we best could see fit – included priorities and ideas put forward to us bilaterally and from January’s discussion in the HDC.

We will follow up on issues that were debated in the preparations to the Tirana ministerial. We will have to pick up on new issues that arise, for instance as a consequence of the pandemic. And we aim to make sure that the discussions reflect the interest of the participating states. While we will not succeed in pleasing everybody all the time, we believe that all participating states will find some topics of interest.

We intentionally made sure that our very first HDC meeting in January reflected on the role of the human dimension in the broader security concept of the OSCE. We had 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. Many ideas and perspectives came up and were duly noted, and we found the discussion valuable.

With this in mind, we have outlined the main topics for the nine remaining ordinary committee meetings scheduled for this year.

  • Media freedom, access to information, and disinformation
  • Women’s political participation
  • Human rights, including social and economic rights, in times of the COVID19-pandemic
  • Promoting Tolerance and non-discrimination
  • Public confidence in electoral processes
  • Political parties in the 21st century - eroding trust and regulatory responses
  • National minorities
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly
  • On follow up of MC.DEC/7/20 (Prevention and eradication of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment)

We have not planned a separate meeting of the HDC in September, as we believe the agenda for the third dimension will be well covered by this year’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. Also, the order of the above mentioned topics may still be somewhat altered.

The priorities of the committee should not be seen separately, but in addition to the overall human dimension work program of the Chairmanship. 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.

We believe that this program covers issues that are of critical importance to our efforts to sustain and reinforce the security and stability in the OSCE area.

 

Dear colleagues,

Each participating State understandably has unique perspectives, and relevant experts and representatives to listen to. There is a tradition for voluntary reporting in the committee, and we will encourage participating States to use this format to share useful experience. For instance, the pandemic has given all of us new challenges, also influencing human dimension issues. Voluntary reporting on experiences relevant to this and to the other topics of the meeting would be valuable.

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 a wide range of stakeholders in the work of the HDC, including contributions or speakers from academic institutions, civil society, OSCE Institutions and Field Operations, as well as other international organizations. We may also invite representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Whereas the discussions in the HDC meetings should be kept confidential and between participating states, we believe that transparency about the issues to be debated brings added value.

As I previously mentioned, we want to create an atmosphere that allows for fruitful and constructive discussions. We will also be ready to organise informal events outside of the formal meetings.

In organizing our meetings, we are open to look into the toolbox, to see if there are ways to vary the meetings that have not yet been exploited fully. For now, we will have to rely on Zoom, at least for a few more months. I am probably not the only one who is getting tired of numerous video conferences. Therefore, we are open to new angles to organise the meetings, in order for them to be more interactive and dynamic. However, we promise to keep an eye on the relevant rules of procedure.

Finally, it is important to make sure that the Human Dimension Committee can feed into the work of the Permanent Council, the different human dimension events, as foreseen in the mandate. We hope that substantial and constructive discussions can lay the ground both for future decisions and new commitments.

Even more, we aim for an exchange of experience on how to  fulfil existing commitments.

 

Madame Chair,

The human dimension is an integral part of the OSCE compehensive security concept. Fundamental human rights are under pressure. 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. Functioning democratic institutions are vital for the well-being of all citizens of the OSCE area. I look forward to chairing the Human Dimension Committee this year, thus also supporting Sweden’s chairpersonship. I look forward to our joint efforts and the continued co-operation.

A sincere gratitude is extended to the Czech Republic and ambassador Ivo Sramek for having chaired this work for the last two years, and for sharing experience and tips with us, thank you.

Our success as chair of the HDC relies on the support and the active participation of all participating states.

I look forward to comments from colleagues, which I will be happy to respond to.

 

This, Madame Chair, concludes my presentation.