Warsaw Human Dimension Conference: Opening Statement

Delivered by Senior Advisor Merete Kristin Wilhelmsen, Warsaw, 26 September 2022.

Chair/moderator, excellencies, ladies, and gentlemen,

Civil society brings academic and practical competence on topics, deep knowledge of the situations on the ground and broad experience in handling those situations.

As chair of the OSCE Human Dimension Committee for the last 1.5 years, we have experienced how fruitful dialogue with civil society can be.
Civil society representatives have described to the Human Dimension Committee a reduced appetite for this dialogue in the OSCE. This happens in parallel with a continuously shrinking space for civil society in our region. We, as participating States, must find ways of further strengthening modalities for contact between NGOs and States. For equal partnerships to be built, a civil society representative told the Committee, there is a need for trust, a safe space and open discussions.

In chairing the committee, we have sought to include civil society representatives - experts in their fields - in the panels of all committee meetings. Some of those representatives are also present here in Warsaw now. I extend my appreciation to them for what they have conveyed to the delegates of the committee and their governments.

Thematic discussions have value, even if the political situation for the time being is not conducive to new decisions and commitments. They function as confidence building measures and increase our insights into the issues at stakeThis year, some of the returning topics have been accountability for war crimes, violence against women, children in conflict, and human rights in the digital sphere.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Promotion and protection of human rights, including women’s rights, is at the core of Norway’s foreign policy. A true democracy – where everyone has the same opportunity to participate in society – cannot exist without freedom of expression and free media. Ending hate speech, and discrimination and violence against sexual and gender minorities, are also priorities. Let me also state very clearly that human rights apply equally offline and online, and they apply to all.

Norway strongly supports the work of the OSCE independent institutions – ODIHR, the RFoM and the HCNM. They represent an added value of the OSCE to the global multilateral system. The institutions and OSCE’s field operations offer competence and capacity to participating States and assist us in implementing our commitments.

We highly appreciate recent years’ visits to Norway from the Personal Representative of the OSCE CiO on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims, the Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, and ODIHR election observation missions. The Norwegian government has taken valuable lessons from them, and we encourage all States to make the most of the OSCE (human dimension) toolbox. Together we can strengthen the human dimension of security in the region as a whole – if the political will to cooperate exists and the OSCE is given sufficient budgets.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year, the work in the OSCE human dimension has been heavily affected by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It creates enormous humanitarian and human rights consequences in Ukraine, and new challenges in neighboring countries. In times of conflict, civil society organisations are often the only ones with access to those most affected.

In the human dimension committee, we have heard several recommendations on building long-term trust for maximum effect of cooperation when a crisis occurs. Good agreements with civil society already existing before a crisis occur, have helped governments respond adequately to the crisis.

We strongly support and respect Ukrainian civil society and independent media doing invaluable work in a war zone. This also goes for the representatives of Russian civil society and independent media who have kept working under extremely difficult conditions.


We are very pleased that we once again can gather in Warsaw together with civil society representatives from across the OSCE region. We are particularly grateful to the Polish Chair for organising this conference under demanding circumstances and in a situation when HDIM was made impossible by the refusal of one state to come to consensus.

It is my pleasure to invite you all to the two networking lunches, as described in the conference programme, hosted by Norway and Poland.

Thank you.