2014-06-29-AS-SD-Emin-OmenOSCE PA Vice-President Emin Onen speaks alongside fellow parliamentarians during the debate on 29 June.BAKU, 29 June 2014 – The rising tide of extremism, radicalism and xenophobia and the challenge it presents to the OSCE area was the topic of a special debate today at the 23rd OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session in Baku.

Nearly 300 parliamentarians from more than 50 OSCE participating States were present to engage in brainstorming and share best practices on how to combat extreme intolerance, with many stressing the need to address not merely symptoms, but root causes of the problem.

In opening the debate, OSCE President Ranko Krivokapic called on politicians to consider the effect that their proposals may have to either foment or discourage extremism, radicalism and xenophobia.

“People will not follow radical leaders if they are convinced that there are still those who care for them and if there are policies in place that don’t leave them desperate,” he said.

Artashes Geghamyan, the Head of the Armenian Delegation to the OSCE, said during breaks at this year’s Annual Session in Baku, he had spoken with Azerbaijani colleagues “without the ice of distrust and fear.” That should prove, he said, that even despite deep-seated differences between groups of people, tolerance is still possible. He suggested that the OSCE study societies that are well-integrated in any effort to understand what works best against the fear and hatred of others.

Emin Onen, Vice-President of the OSCE PA and Head of the Turkish Delegation, recalled several resolutions agreed in recent years by participating States that pledge efforts to tackle radicalism and xenophobia or express support for improved education to help combat the problem.

“The commitments are there, so this is really an issue of implementation,” he said.

Michel Voisin, the First Deputy Head of the French Delegation, emphasized the responsibility of all individuals to reflect on their “fear of the other” and urged personal efforts to reach out to people who are different.

The debate capped a day that also featured initial meetings of the OSCE PA’s three General Committees to debate potential amendments to their respective draft resolutions. In their final form, the resolutions, along with supplementary items, will compose the Baku Declaration, containing policy recommendations for the OSCE and its 57 participating States in the fields of political affairs and security, economics, the environment and human rights.

In the Committee on Political Affairs and Security, parliamentarians consider how best to tailor their resolution to improve the existing politico-military mechanisms of the OSCE.

MPs in the Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment emphasized the need to make a strong case to participating States to increase investment in science and technology despite economic challenges.

The rights of migrants and the difficulties involved in agreeing a definition of “political prisoner” were among the topics addressed by the Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. 

The Committees will continue their work in the coming days.

For the programme of the Annual Session, as well as the text of all draft resolutions, supplementary items and amendments, click here.

The Session is being live-streamed on the OSCE PA homepage, www.oscepa.org , and recorded video is available at www.youtube.com/user/oscepa/videos.

Follow news from the Session on Twitter using the hashtag #BakuAS.