Statement in response to the ODIHR annual report 2021

Delivered by Minister Counsellor Henrik Malvik at the Permanent Council, Vienna, 24 March 2022


Thank you, Mr. Chairman,

Norway was aligned with the EU statement, but please allow me a few remarks in my national capacity.

Mr. Chairman,

We join others in warmly welcoming Director Mecacci back to the Permanent Council and thank him and his team for the annual report. It gives a good overview of the extensive work of ODIHR in yet a difficult year and shows the institution’s ability to respond timely and adequately to new challenges. This ability has been proven again in the last few weeks, when ODIHR has redirected its work and made itself relevant in an unforeseen and rapidly deteriorating situation in Ukraine.

As you mentioned, Director Mecacci, in 2021 we celebrated the 30th anniversary of ODIHR. Participating States established ODIHR to assist us in ensuring full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law, and all other human dimension commitments. That mandate is still pivotal.

ODIHR has long-established competence in areas which are of great importance in the current situation and will be needed in the time ahead. This competence stretches from a human rights-based approach to border management or a victim- and survivor- centered approach to trafficking in human beings, via human rights monitoring, to the promotion of diversity and inclusion.  

Mr. Chairman,

Last year, we as an organization again failed to organize the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. This time around due to the blocking by one participating State. Once again, participants from governments, international organizations, and civil society lost an essential arena for meeting and discussing human dimension issues. It is more important than ever to have such a venue for dialogue.

In the meantime, let us make the most of other Human Dimension Platforms, such as the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting next week.

As regards ODIHR’s election observation, it is our conviction that it is fundamental for both safeguarding and strengthening democracy in the OSCE region. We congratulate ODIHR on deploying observers to 19 elections in all parts of the OSCE region in 2021. Norway continues to strongly support this work.

It is also encouraging to hear that an increasing number of participating States make use of the competence of ODIHR.

Mr. Chairman,

As we are on the topic of human rights and democratic institutions, I feel compelled to make a few comments on the human rights situation in Russia, because the domestic human rights situation has severely deteriorated.

Russian citizens have a right to know the truth about what is happening in their own country and in Ukraine. The right of access to information and to freedom of expression must be protected.

The violent crackdown on recent protests across Russia is a violation of Russia’s international commitment to guarantee freedom of assembly and expression.

We are deeply concerned about the brutal arrests of peaceful protesters as we have witnessed Russian authorities’ undignified arrest of elderly persons, young women, and even little children.

Norway is deeply disturbed by yet another harsh verdict against opposition leader Aleksey Navalny. We will continue to hold Russia accountable for its politically motivated persecution of Navalny. Russia must adhere to its international human rights obligations and stop the persecution of dissidents and political opponents.

We support the Russian people’s right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Norway urges the Russian authorities to protect the fundamental freedoms of its citizens in line with the OSCE’s fundamental principles and other international commitments Russia has signed up to.

Needless to say, the Russian leadership should also allow the citizens of Ukraine to enjoy protection and human rights, by withdrawing its forces and stopping the military attacks. It is also important that the ongoing violations of human rights and humanitarian law are well documented, and we attach great importance to the Moscow mechanism process in this regard

Mr. Chairman,

All participating States need assistance and advice to implement common commitments. I can assure Director Mecacci and ODIHR that they have Norway’s full support in assisting the participating States in upholding our human dimension commitments.

We agree with Director Mecacci that we should stand up for and defend the multilateral institutions and make sure that they are sufficiently funded.  Democracy and rule of law is not something to be taken for granted, but rather something we must choose and work towards every single day.

I ask that this statement be attached to the journal of the day.

Thank you.