Human rights in focus at first meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 2021 Remote Session

Remote Session photo 300621OSCE PA staff co-ordinate the meeting at the International Secretariat in Copenhagen, 30 June 2021COPENHAGEN, 30 June 2021 – The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 2021 Remote Session kicked off today with a virtual meeting of the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. Focused on issues such as the state of multilateral discussions on human rights, intolerance and discrimination, and the role of health care in contributing to the enjoyment of human rights, the meeting featured a wide-ranging debate in which more than two dozen parliamentarians from across the OSCE area participated.

In his opening remarks, Chair Kyriakos Hadjiyianni (Cyprus) highlighted the tragic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had over the past year and a half, not the least of which being its effects on democratic institutions. “We have all become used to the daily tragedies and complications caused by the pandemic, but the societal consequences are also significant,” Hadjiyianni said. “COVID profoundly impacts our democratic functioning but doesn’t necessarily impede it. The distinction between these two comes from the political will to overcome the challenges.”

Presenting her report, Committee Rapporteur Kari Henriksen (Norway) said that many OSCE countries have experienced increases in authoritarianism, restrictions on freedom of the media, attacks on journalists, surging domestic violence cases, and “a virtual pandemic of hate speech towards minorities, refugees and migrants and other people made vulnerable.”

She stressed the importance of multilateral diplomacy in reviving faith in institutions. “Unilateral approaches are often easier in the short-term, but they fail to provide sustainable solutions,” she said. “We must reinforce dialogue, even in an online format, centered around delivery of humanitarian goals and communities’ interests, if we want lasting fixes. We can all benefit from each other’s experiences and advice through the OSCE PA platform.” Henriksen also encouraged all parliaments to utilize the other tools that the OSCE has at its disposal, including expert legislative review through the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as well as recommendations offered by the OSCE’s High Commissioner on National Minorities and the Representative on Freedom of the Media.

Henriksen drew particular attention to the consequences of unresolved conflicts in the OSCE region, including by referencing the massive humanitarian impact of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the illegal annexation of Crimea, as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “We see from other areas, such as in Georgia, that the humanitarian impact continues even long after the guns have fallen silent,” she said. “To this end, I urge parliamentarians to demand that their governments find the political will for mutually beneficial resolutions to these conflicts.”

In the debate on Henriksen’s report, parliamentarians stressed that as the world’s largest security organization, the OSCE can and must play a key role in a renewed focus on human-centered conflict resolution in a post-COVID era. Several parliamentarians voiced their concerns about the human rights situation in Belarus and the Russian Federation, including the ongoing imprisonment of opposition figures. Members highlighted the scapegoating of Asians for the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise in domestic violence, the issue of universal health care as a human right, freedom of the media, and the situation of migrants and refugees in the OSCE area.

Committee Vice-Chair Michael Georg Link (Germany) spoke about election observation, noting the difficulties that the pandemic has posed to this important OSCE activity. Link urged colleagues to participate in future missions and stressed the importance of follow-up to ensure that OSCE recommendations are duly considered by participating States.

The OSCE PA’s 2021 Remote Session is taking place in a hybrid format over the next several days. It is streaming live on the Assembly’s Facebook and YouTube channels. The plenary session, taking place 6 July, will consist of addresses by OSCE PA President Peter Lord Bowness (United Kingdom) and OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Ann Linde, as well as consideration of Urgency Items, review of OSCE PA activities, open debate, and announcement of election results for OSCE Parliamentary Assembly officers.

For draft programmes and the reports of the three general committees, please click here.

Video of today’s meeting is available here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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