At OSCE PA Winter Meeting, parliamentarians tackle anti-Semitism, intolerance, protracted conflicts, climate change and human rights

VIENNA, 21 February 2020 – In the wake of a racially motivated attack in the German town of Hanau on Wednesday, OSCE parliamentarians gathering in Vienna for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 19th Winter Meeting today held a timely debate on combating anti-Semitism, discrimination and intolerance in the OSCE region.

21 Feb PR Rabbi BakerRabbi Andrew Baker addresses OSCE PA Winter Meeting in Vienna, 21 February 2020The debate, held in the closing joint session of the Winter Meeting, was opened by President of the Austrian National Council Wolfgang Sobotka and the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism, Rabbi Andrew Baker, and included the participation of some 30 parliamentarians. Rabbi Baker described his work around the OSCE area, noting that anti-Semitism is a rising problem throughout the region. He stressed that anti-Semitism takes many forms and can be seen across the political spectrum.

OSCE PA Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism and Intolerance Ben Cardin (United States) addressed the joint session by video link from Washington, noting that hatred and intolerance pose threats to democracy. He highlighted troubling trends of discrimination against minorities and migrants. “It is our responsibility as leaders to safeguard our democracies by speaking out and using our tools and voices as legislators against those who would divide our societies,” he said.

Also speaking at the closing session was OSCE PA Special Representative on Gender Issues Hedy Fry (Canada).

In her report, Special Representative Fry applauded the significant strides and improvements the OSCE PA and OSCE countries have made in the pursuit of gender equality, but noted that significant challenges remain and must be addressed. She highlighted in particular violence against women, including a rise of violence against female journalists and politicians.

“Gender-based violence affects all women, regardless of position or status, but can manifest in dangerous and alarming ways for women in the public eye,” she noted.

21 Feb PR first committeeMeeting of the Committee on Political Affairs and Security, 21 February 2020The OSCE PA’s three general committees met over the past two days to hear from experts and discuss issues such as how to efficiently leverage the tools and mechanisms of the OSCE to resolve protracted conflicts, the security implications of climate change, and multilateral human rights co-operation.

OSCE PA Rapporteur Laurynas Kasciunas (Lithuania) presented to the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security his ideas and intentions regarding the report and draft resolution he is preparing for the 29th Annual Session in Vancouver. Top priorities he identified included the resolution of conflicts in the OSCE area.

Following his presentation there was a lively exchange of views on his proposals, with the need to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine through the implementation of the Minsk agreements featuring prominently in parliamentarians’ remarks.

Chaired by Costel Neculai Dunava (Romania), the meeting featured presentations by Amb. Neil Bush, Chair of the Security Committee of the OSCE Permanent Council; Amb. Rauf Engin Soysal, Chair of the Forum for Security Co-operation and Permanent Representative of Turkey to the OSCE; and Amb. Lamberto Zannier, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. The OSCE representatives shared their working programmes and priorities for 2020.

Opening a special debate on “Resolving ‘Protracted Conflicts’: The Tools and Mechanisms of the OSCE,” Amb. Tuula Yrjölä, Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre, described the diverse set of tools of the OSCE to address the overlapping security challenges faced today. She highlighted the CPC’s systematic and structured approach to collecting, analyzing, and communicating early warning signals to prepare for appropriate preventive action in response to crises.

In the economic and environmental committee, members heard a report from Rapporteur Elona Gjebrea Hoxha and held a debate on “The Security Implications of Climate Change and the Role of Parliamentarians.” Gjebrea Hoxha highlighted several priority issues that she intends to focus on in her report and draft resolution for the Annual Session: water and energy security, renewable energy, economic connectivity, innovation and technology, good governance, migration management, and climate change.

21 Feb PR 2nd commSpecial Representative on Arctic Issues Torill Eidsheim addresses the economic and environmental committee, 20 February 2020Opened by OSCE PA Special Representative on Arctic Issues Torill Eidsheim, the special debate focused on the need for action on climate change. Parliamentarians stressed that governments should declare a climate emergency and redouble efforts to address climate change, including through the rapid development of clean energy.

“Climate change is not merely an environmental problem,” said Committee Chair Artur Gerasymov. “It is an issue which is transforming the way we, in the OSCE region and worldwide, think about our own security.”

The committee also heard presentations by Amb. Sherzod Asadov, Chair of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Committee; Amb. Vuk Žugić, Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities; Lukas Rüttinger, Senior Project Manager at Adelphi; and OSCE PA Vice-President Pascal Allizard. Allizard, who serves as the PA’s Special Representative on Mediterranean Affairs, discussed the Belt and Road Initiative and related challenges and opportunities.

In the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, parliamentarians heard a presentation from the UN’s High Commissioner on Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Speaking on the subject of international human rights co-operation, Bachelet noted that the work of the OSCE and UN are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

21 Feb PR third committeeHuman rights committee meeting in Vienna, 20 February 2020“I believe that the extensive expertise in impartial and objective human rights monitoring and reporting, which my Office has developed, can also be of great benefit to the OSCE – including in contested territories and in the context of protracted conflicts,” she said. “Both our organizations know how vital it is to ensure accurate monitoring of the human rights impact of these situations, and to advance the protection of civilians and of detainees – irrespective of political issues or legal status.”

Presenting her proposals for the report and draft resolution to be prepared for the Annual Session this summer, Committee Rapporteur Kari Henriksen (Norway) highlighted four major issues that she intends to address: confidence, inclusion, protection, and legislation.

Stressing that the levels of accountability for human rights violations vary greatly among OSCE countries, she noted that the Parliamentary Assembly should press for parliamentarians to be the watchdogs of human rights. “MPs from countries where human rights are regularly violated with impunity have an additional obligation to work to build a system that better adheres to the commitments we have,” Henriksen said.

Chaired by Kyriakos Hadjiyianni (Cyprus), the meeting of the human rights committee also included presentations by Amb. Ivo Šrámek, Chair of the Human Dimension Committee of the OSCE Permanent Council; Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; and Harlem Désir, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

The Winter Meeting opened Thursday with speakers underlining the importance of multilateral co-operation and inter-parliamentary dialogue in tackling common problems facing the region. Nearly 250 parliamentarians have participated in the meeting, including from OSCE participating States and Partners for Co-operation.

21 Feb PR migration committeeHedy Fry addresses the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration in Vienna, 21 February 2020On the margins of the Winter Meeting, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s ad hoc committees on migration and countering terrorism met to discuss ongoing work.

OSCE PA President George Tsereteli and Secretary General Roberto Montella have held a series of bilateral meetings and participated in numerous side events. Tsereteli and Montella also reported to the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Thursday. (President Tsereteli's report is available here. Secretary General Montella's report is available here.)

For more information on the Winter Meeting, please click here.

Photos are available for public use on Flickr and videos are being posted on the PA's YouTube channel.



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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