Media Contact: Neil Simon
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), Monday introduced a resolution marking the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, the landmark international accords that made human rights a guiding principle of international relations.
“The principles reflected in the Final Act have withstood the test of time and proven their enduring value as we seek to address lingering and new challenges,” Chairman Cardin said in introducing Senate Joint Resolution 37, which is co-sponsored by the Commission’s Ranking Republican Senator, Sam Brownback (R-KS), as well as Commission Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).
The Helsinki Final Act, signed on August 1, 1975 by President Gerald Ford and leaders of 34 other nations, helped bring about changes that ended the Cold War; established a comprehensive definition of security to include human rights, political, economic and environmental dimensions; and led to the creation of what is now the world’s largest regional security organization – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“The Helsinki Accords provided us a constitution for European security and rewrote how governments relate to one another on a host of humanitarian issues,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL). “The OSCE in its strength and flexibility has added meaning to the accords by continuing to take on new challenges to human rights, security, economics and the environment through the creation of effective programs and involvement of new partner countries in regions from the Mediterranean to Asia.”
Chairman Cardin added: “A survey of developments in the OSCE, now comprising 56 participating States, is a reminder of the scale of work that remains: from simmering tensions throughout the Caucasus region and so-called frozen conflicts elsewhere to violations of fundamental freedoms. There are a number of troubling trends that we must work to reverse, including the harassment, persecution and physical attacks on journalists and human rights defenders and the adoption of restrictive laws aimed at reigning in freedom of religion and other fundamental rights, like freedom of expression and media. Other longstanding concerns that the OSCE must continue to tackle include the plight of national minorities and Roma, as well as manifestations of discrimination and intolerance, particularly anti-Semitism.”
The resolution introduced in the Senate calls on President Obama to reassert the commitment of the United States to fully implementing the Helsinki Final Act and to urge all participating States to abide by their commitments under the Act and subsequent OSCE documents adopted by consensus.
In 1990 in the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, the participating States in the OSCE declared human rights and fundamental freedoms “the birthright of all human beings” and that their “protection and promotion is the first responsibility of government.”
View a pdf of the resolution by clicking here.