WASHINGTON —During the course of the Annual Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA), held in Belgrade, Serbia, from July 6-10, 2011, two resolutions introduced by Helsinki Commission Chairman Chris Smith (NJ-04) and one by Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD) were among the 26 resolutions adopted and incorporated in the session’s final declaration. Senator Cardin also fielded several amendments to various resolutions which were adopted, and he used the occasion of the meeting to comment on issues of importance in U.S. foreign policy.
The schedule for the U.S. House of Representatives precluded Representative Smith from attending the Belgrade meeting, but both of his resolutions were well-received by the parliamentarians and were successfully managed on his behalf by the heads of the Lithuanian and Italian delegations.
The first resolution dealt with combating labor trafficking in supply chains, urging governments to ensure that all goods they procure are free from raw materials and finished products produced by trafficked labor and to press corporations to verify that their supply chains are free of exploitation. Two amendments authored by Senator Cardin welcomed a recent OSCE meeting on the issue and urged diplomats to put it on the agenda for a meeting of foreign ministers later this year.
“Few of us have ever come face-to-face with a trafficking victim,” noted Chairman Smith in welcoming the resolution’s passage, “but all of us come into contact with products that have been tainted in whole or in part by forced and bonded labor. We must be vigilant to ensure that we do not profit those who enslave others. This resolution, adopted without opposition, promotes accountability, both in government and the private sector.”
The second Smith resolution focused on international parental child abductions and passed without amendment. Its core focus was to press OSCE states to become parties to the 1983 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and to implement its provisions.
“The growing incidence of international parental child abduction must be recognized for the serious human rights abuse that it is,” Chairman Smith remarked as he welcomed the passage of the widely supported resolution which “puts the issue on the agenda of the OSCE and helps to strengthen efforts to protect our children.”
Co-Chairman Cardin’s major initiative was a resolution on Mediterranean political transition, which directs the OSCE and its participating States to make their expertise in building democratic institutions available to Mediterranean Partner States: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. The Senator collaborated with the head of the Spanish delegation on numerous additional amendments to demonstrate the real priority this should be for the organization, and the initiative received wide praise among the approximately 300 delegates.
“We have all been inspired by the movements for freedom and change sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa,” Senator Cardin noted while introducing the resolution, “and we support the citizens of the countries in the region as they demand respect for their basic human rights, economic opportunity, and open and responsive government…the OSCE and our Parliamentary Assembly have substantial capacity to assist our Mediterranean Partners…we also must condemn in the strongest terms the unbridled violence unleashed by the governments of Libya and Syria against their own citizens.”
As Head of the U.S. delegation, which included fellow Helsinki Commissioner Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Senator Cardin also worked on several detailed issues, such as amending the final declaration to include welcoming the arrest in Serbia of at-large war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic and to discourage an investigation of trafficking in human organ from becoming a political rather than legal issue. He also successfully added language to the text urging Turkey to allow the reopening of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate’s Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay. During the course of debate, the Senator also suggested granting Mediterranean Partner countries a greater ability to participate in OSCE PA sessions, and highlighted U.S. policy on cyber security in light of OSCE work on this important issue.