Some 200 parliamentarians from more than 50 nations gathered in Geneva for the OSCE PA's 2014 Autumn Meeting. (courtesy of the Swiss Parliament/Fabio Chironi)Some 200 parliamentarians from more than 50 nations gathered in Geneva for the OSCE PA's 2014 Autumn Meeting. (courtesy of the Swiss Parliament/Fabio Chironi)
GENEVA, 5 October 2014 – Human rights and humanitarian issues were the focus of presentations and parliamentary debate on the final day of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 2014 Autumn Meeting in Geneva.

In opening the session, Mehmet Sevki Kulkuloglu (MP, Turkey), Vice-Chair of the OSCE PA’s General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, referred some 200 parliamentarians from more than 50 nations to the enduring connection between human rights standards and overall security.

Kulkuloglu also expressed condolences on behalf of the OSCE PA to keynote speaker Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, on the death of a Swiss Red Cross worker in eastern Ukraine on the eve of the Autumn Meeting.

Addressing the Assembly, Maurer urged parliamentarians to help better link international humanitarian challenges to their national legislation.

“When politics cannot prevent or stop conflict, the minimum we need from you is to help humanitarians have necessary space to help those in need,” he said.

In another keynote address, Gianni Magazzeni, Chief of the Americas, Europe and Central Asia Branch of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged parliamentarians to support the creation of national human rights action plans in their home countries.

Margaret Wahlstrom, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Guy Rhodes, Director of Operations of the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, also addressed delegates.

In wide-ranging debate, parliamentarians from across the OSCE area took up issues ranging from human rights in Ukraine to the humanitarian crisis in Syria to the impact of frozen conflicts on people’s lives.

Oksana Kaletnyk, of Ukraine’s Delegation to the OSCE PA, underscored the need to ensure the human rights and freedom of political expression to all citizens in her country in the context of upcoming parliamentary elections.

Emin Onen (MP, Turkey), Vice-President of the OSCE PA, described his country’s experience in hosting refugees from Syria and emphasized that a strengthened OSCE means also means a more positive impact on surrounding conflicts.

OSCE PA Vice-President George Tsereteli (MP, Georgia); Azay Guliyev (MP, Azerbaijan), the Vice-Chair of the OSCE PA’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security; and Artashes Geghamyan, the Head of Armenia's Delegation to the OSCE PA, all described their respective countries’ experiences with displaced persons and human rights challenges as a result of frozen conflict.

Nico Schrijver (MP, Netherlands) emphasized the importance of strengthening international mechanisms for providing humanitarian assistance, asking parliamentarians to consider, “How realistic is it for national governments to be responsible for the provision of humanitarian assistance when in some cases the government itself is party to the conflict?”

OSCE PA President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland); Head of the Swiss Delegation to the OSCE PA Andreas Aebi; and Speaker of the National Council of Switzerland Ruedi Lustenberger all offered remarks to close the final major gathering of the Parliamentary Assembly this year.

The Meeting’s opening day on 3 October featured a keynote address by OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter as well as a parliamentary debate on the crisis in Ukraine. Day two featured presentations and debate on environmental and economic issues.

For more on the Meeting, including speeches and photos, click here.

Videos will be available shortly on the OSCE PA’s YouTube page