Statement in response to the report by the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)

As delivered by Ambassador Anne-Kirsti Karlsen at the Permanent Council, Vienna, 02 November 2023.

Mr. Chair, 

We are pleased to welcome Director Mecacci back to the Permanent Council and thank him for his report. We are impressed by the dedication of the whole ODIHR staff during a very challenging year. 

Mr. Chair,  

ODIHR is indeed a unique institution, a cornerstone of the OSCE structure that we must not jeopardize. The office provides an unparalleled avenue for dialogue. ODIHR offers genuine assistance and expertise — enhancing the quality of legislation, fortifying the abilities of national authorities and civil society, refining electoral processes, overseeing human rights, documenting hate crimes, and upholding rule of law standards among other things.

We commend the institution's assistance in organizing the second Warsaw Human Dimension Conference. The conference served as a valuable platform for civil society organizations (CSOs) to present their insights and recommendations to participating states in a structured manner. Building on this; we encourage all participating States in cooperation with ODIHR to explore ways to even better systematize and showcase recommendations from civil society. By doing so, we can enhance our post-conference follow-ups, both within the OSCE and in national policies. 

Mr. Chair, 

Norway continues to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders, and we continue to urge Russia to end its war (of aggression) and withdraw its forces from all territory within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. In this context, we commend ODIHR for its commitment to monitoring the human rights situation in Ukraine, especially in light of the many reports detailing torture, ill-treatment, and other severe violations of international law. ODIHR's efforts play a pivotal role in ensuring that violations are documented and that, at some point, those responsible are held accountable. The timely reports are guiding all OSCE participating states in upholding our commitment to international humanitarian and human rights law, during times of armed conflict.  

We are also concerned about the humanitarian challenges faced by the Armenians from Nagorno Karabakh. We resolutely advocate the protection of their human rights and the need for humanitarian aid. It's reassuring to witness ODIHR's readiness to aid this process through their monitoring expertise and legislative advisory tools. 

The security situation in the OSCE region, not least the Russian aggression in Ukraine, posts an increasing challenge to human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Our common principles are regularly violated in OSCE participating states. We are particularly concerned about the political repression and the high number of political prisoners in some states. We call on all states to respect the fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression, and to release all political prisoners. Election observations are crucial, and we need them to continue. 

Mr. Chair, 

We are painfully aware of the difficult economic situation for ODIHR. While we commend ODIHR for their innovative way of dealing with decreased financial resources, it is on us, the participating states, to resolve this. Norway remains steadfast in its support of the comprehensive concept of security in all three dimensions. The work of ODIHR must not be compromised. We should also provide the institution with the best possible leadership.  

In conclusion, let me commend the personal efforts and engagement of Director Mecacci in his role at the helm of ODIHR. 

Thank you.