LUXEMBOURG, 4 July 2019 – The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 28th Annual Session opened today with calls for strengthening multilateral institutions to protect democracy, promote security and advance sustainable development. Nearly 300 parliamentarians from across North America, Europe and Central Asia have gathered in Luxembourg for the five-day meeting, being held under the theme “Advancing Sustainable Development to Promote Security: The Role of Parliaments.”
Speaking today at the opening plenary session, OSCE PA President George Tsereteli (MP, Georgia) noted that more than 40 years ago, the OSCE’s founding document, the Helsinki Final Act, called for enhancing the role of the United Nations in strengthening international peace and in promoting solutions to international problems. He pointed out that the UN’s landmark Sustainable Development Goals hold particular relevance for the Luxembourg meeting.
“The goals, which you all know very well, are founded on five pillars: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships. All five of these priorities are at the core of our Organization’s major activities. The OSCE is contributing but we have to do more. We can use the potential of our 57 participating States, our partners and our field missions to keep the development goals high on the agenda,” he said.
Tsereteli regretted however that too many governments set aside their responsibilities, noting that multilateralism is being undermined and international agreements violated with impunity. As many global challenges grow more entrenched, new threats emerge, he pointed out, highlighting the current tensions with Iran and climate change. “We cannot afford to ignore climate change,” he said. “Time is running out.”
In his welcoming remarks, Fernand Etgen, President of the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg, noted that in times of climate change, energy issues and scarcity of natural resources, sustainable development has become a key factor to promote security. “Our aim is not to ‘securitize’ sustainable development,” he stressed. “But we want to put forward the idea that we can avoid conflicts in the future if we take our sustainable development goals seriously.”
He noted that since these challenges are transnational in nature, international security organizations like the OSCE must step up. “There is a need to raise awareness and, as a parliament, we will take this unique opportunity of the OSCE PA meeting in Luxembourg to do so over the next days,” he said.
Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, spoke about the rule of law as part of the essence of what it means to be European. He emphasized the importance of human rights and the need for parliamentarians to promote respect for diversity within all of their countries. “Together we must take this work further,” Prime Minister Bettel said. “I should do this in my role and you should as well. Peace is always like a fertile sapling that we will lose if we don’t take care of it. Let us never forget our history and learn from our many mistakes.”
As one of the founding members of the Assembly when it was established 28 years ago, Congressman Steny Hoyer of the United States spoke about the need to strengthen multilateral institutions to protect democracy and the importance of legislators in leading the effort to demonstrate democracies’ ability to deliver a better life for their citizens.
“The success of this Assembly – and, indeed, the success of democracy – will depend not on what we did in 1991 but on what you will do today and in the years ahead,” Congressman Hoyer said. “It will depend on whether elected representatives deliver for the people and prove that representative institutions work. Or whether ‘government by, of, and for the people’ will transform into ‘government by, of, and for’ the powerful few.”
The best way to combat anti-democratic forces both from within and from without is to show that democracy works and to restore faith in electoral government, he said.
After the opening speeches, the plenary took up consideration of two supplementary items: The Role of Civil Society – Individuals and Non-Governmental Organizations – in Realizing the Aims and Aspirations of the OSCE, principally sponsored by Alcee Hastings (United States) and The Role of National Parliaments in Preventing and Combating Corruption in the OSCE Area, principally sponsored by Margareta Cederfelt (Sweden) and Irene Charalambides (Cyprus).
Following several days of intense debate and committee work, the Annual Session will culminate in the adoption on 8 July of the Luxembourg Declaration, containing recommendations to governments and the international community in the fields of political affairs, security, economics, environment, human rights and humanitarian questions.
The Annual Session also includes numerous bilateral meetings and side events, reports on recent OSCE election observation missions, and elections of Assembly officers, including the OSCE PA President, Vice-Presidents and committee officers.
This morning, the Assembly’s Standing Committee met and re-elected OSCE PA Secretary General Roberto Montella for a five-year term starting in January 2021. The Standing Committee also allocated 15 supplementary items to be debated in plenaries and general committees.
For more information on the Annual Session, please click here.