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2017 WM Opening plenary speakers smallDoris Bures, Christine Muttonen and Hedy Fry addressing the OSCE PA's Winter Meeting opening plenary session, Vienna, 23 Feb. 2017

VIENNA, 23 February 2017 – International terrorism, human rights and combating climate change are among the issues topping the agenda as some 250 members of parliament from more than 50 OSCE countries gather for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 16th Winter Meeting in Vienna.

Opening the meeting today, President of the National Council of Austria Doris Bures and OSCE PA President Christine Muttonen spoke about the work being conducted in Austria to advance OSCE commitments and values in addressing common challenges. In her remarks, Bures noted that “isolation and nationalism” are “not a path to a peaceful and secure future.”

“In the interests of our citizens, we must travel the more difficult but better road. Through dialogue and co-operation, we must seek solutions that embrace the ideals of our community: peace, security, prosperity and the guarantee of democratic values in the OSCE area on both sides of the Atlantic,” Bures said.

President Muttonen emphasized the unique opportunity provided by Austria holding the Chairmanship of the OSCE at the same time that she, an Austrian member of parliament, holds the Presidency of the OSCE PA. “We will be supplementing each other’s work and are working on ways to mutually support each other,” Muttonen said.

Expressing concern that the OSCE area today is simultaneously impacted by multiple crises, Muttonen noted in particular the deterioration of the security situation in eastern Ukraine as a growing concern, as well as recent escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the ongoing threat of terrorism affecting OSCE countries. Muttonen stressed the role of parliamentarians in enhancing the level of dialogue.

“Relationships need to be cultivated,” she said. “Aggressive rhetoric and nationalistic politics will only narrow the view and make more difficult necessary and global solutions. We should try to build bridges whenever possible and always seek to cultivate co-operation.”

Also addressing the opening session was OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues Hedy Fry (MP, Canada) who focused on the gender aspects of the refugee and migrant crisis, and specifically integration into host communities. “If we want to build secure societies we need to be sure that newcomers are integrated and feel secure,” she said, emphasizing in particular language training and health care as priorities, as well as the special needs of women and children.

She also described best practices from her country of Canada, noting the lessons learned about the importance of the host community showing hospitality and including cultural identity as an aspect of integration. “When people feel isolated they start to resent the society and this can lead to extremism,” she pointed out, urging parliamentarians to be bold and to speak out on behalf of migrants and refugees.

The OSCE PA’s general committees on human rights and economic and environmental issues are meeting this afternoon for briefings by government representatives of OSCE countries, as well as to hear preliminary reports from committee rapporteurs and hold debates on topical issues.

The Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions will hold a debate on “Protecting human rights amid growing populism” while the Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment will focus on “Managing natural resources, addressing water security and combating climate change.”

Meeting on Friday, the Committee on Political Affairs and Security will hold a debate on “Transnational security in the OSCE area: confronting terrorism.”

Also on Friday, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier are scheduled to address the joint session of the OSCE PA’s three general committees.

The Winter Meeting will conclude with a special debate on the topic “Protecting human rights in times of crisis,” with dozens of interventions expected to address the importance of upholding fundamental rights during periods of heightened security concerns.

More information about the Winter Meeting, including the full draft programme and selected speeches, is available here. The meeting is livestreaming at www.oscepa.org and photos are on the OSCE PA’s Flickr page. Follow the meeting on social media with the hashtag #OSCEPA.