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Helsinki Commission Releases U.S. Statement on the Human Dimension in the work of the OSCE at OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

WARSAW, POLAND– The following statement on the Human Dimension in the work of the OSCE was delivered by the United States at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation currently being held in Warsaw, Poland:

Human Dimension in the work of the OSCE

Statement Delivered by Janice Helwig

U.S. Delegation to the

OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Mr. Moderator, I would like to address the functioning of the OSCE as an organization in fostering participating States’ implementation of their human dimension commitments. As we see it, there are two main components of an effective OSCE: the political will of the participating States, and the professionalism of OSCE staff and mission members. The first component cannot be overstated; the OSCE is only as effective as we, the participating States, make it. We are the ones who decide its policies; we are the ones who decide what action is taken after a meeting such as this one, we are the ones who have the means to react to cases of non-implementation of human rights commitments.

As our leaders acknowledged in the Istanbul Charter, the “participating States are accountable to their citizens and responsible to each other for their implementation of their OSCE commitments. We regard these commitments as our common achievement and therefore consider them to be matters of immediate and legitimate concern to all participating States.”

Against that backdrop, it is vital that when the participating States take decisions, a professional and effective OSCE is there to assist where appropriate. Over the past several years, the OSCE has become an increasingly operational organization engaged in field activities and assistance and training programs. The performance of these tasks is dependant on the capabilities of its Secretariat, institutions, and field presences.

One of the most important ways to ensure good performance is to hire effective, professional personnel. The staffing process must be fair and transparent at all levels. Indeed, transparency may be even more important for positions at higher levels. We strongly believe that high-level positions — including that of the Secretary General — should be widely and publicly advertised to attract the best qualified candidates. Good management skills are also crucial to an effective organization.

All of our States expect our resources – both financial and personnel — to be managed effectively and with accountability. Professional staff should be given clear guidance — both from within the Organization and from the participating States. Management training should be mandatory at higher levels — including for Heads of Mission. OSCE field presences and Institutions have been given more and more tasks as a result of desire of participating States to address various problems through projects and programs. While these may be quite important, we should be mindful of the fact that the OSCE cannot do everything; and for each task we add, we must provide sufficient resources, personnel, and oversight.

We also need to ensure that our missions practice exemplary standards of behavior and resource management. Unfortunately, some international organizations are abused by individuals within and outside the organization for such purposes as smuggling, logistical support for organized crime, money laundering, graft and theft. One of the most recent public examples of this was allegations that IPTF personnel in Bosnia were involved in trafficking in human beings. It is imperative that such allegations be fully investigated and that international organizations – including the OSCE – treat instances of corruption and malfeasance with the same seriousness we expect of individual governments. We need to ensure that our activities assist in correcting problems in host countries, not compound them.

We are also concerned that there may be efforts to exploit NGOs for purposes other than those intended by the human rights advocates who work in this field. We hope NGO activists will be diligent in protecting themselves from such exploitation through their own internal oversight.

We should also look at ways to improve implementation of our OSCE commitments other than through programs of institutions and field presences, particularly to address specific, well-defined cases. For example, the Moscow mechanism has been underutilized. It allows for a participating State to invite a rapporteur mission of up to three experts to contribute to the resolution of human dimension questions in its territory. In addition, it allows for one or more participating States to inquire whether another State would agree to invite experts to address a particular, clearly defined question. In case this recommendation is not accepted, a participating State can, with the support of nine other States, establish the rapporteur mission. The rapporteurs will determine the facts of a situation, report on them, and may give advice on possible solutions. In support of the Moscow mechanism, participating States have contributed to the list of experts from which potential rapporteurs are drawn. Due consideration should be given to utilizing the Moscow and other human dimension mechanisms when circumstances warrant.

In addition, it is worth recalling that in order to safeguard human rights, democracy and the rule of law, the participating States may take action, if necessary in the absence of the consent of the State concerned, in cases of clear, gross and uncorrected violations of relevant OSCE commitments.

The Permanent Council also remains one of our best tools for pointing out concerns and discussing solutions to both specific cases and more general trends and problems. This ongoing dialogue must be maintained and developed. Any proposals to change the existing structure should not take away from the work in the human dimension currently being done in the PC. It also should not add a layer of bureaucracy or make the PC less transparent. In fact, we should also look at ways to open the Permanent Council as much as possible. In the interest of increasing OSCE transparency, the United States supports the opening of regular meetings of the Permanent Council to the press and public.

I would like to discuss the importance of the meeting we are currently attending as a tool for strengthening implementation of our OSCE commitments. As you all are aware, there have been proposals to restructure and shorten this meeting. The United States continues to believe that a full discussion of all OSCE commitments is vital, and that this warrants our time and effort. We welcome the new modalities agreed in the Permanent Council in July, and particularly look forward to the new follow-up procedures. However, we must remember that procedures are nothing without political will — in the end, it is the participating States which must take action. We note that we already have concerns about the experimental grouping of topics under “core discussion themes.” This made it difficult to arrange the sessions in a logical order or to accommodate minor scheduling changes as the groupings could not be split. Concerning the Supplementary Human Dimension Implementation Meetings, we would repeat the view we put forward last year: these meetings need to have a narrower focus. They were created as a follow-up tool to allow for more in-depth discussion of recommendations made on specific topics during this meeting . We believe that objective still holds merit.

Finally, in the wake of the horrific attacks in New York and Washington last week, there is a special Permanent Council taking place in Vienna today to discuss ways in which the OSCE can contribute to the international fight against terrorism. I would like to share with you one of the United States proposals; most of our proposals are not directed specifically at OSCE human dimension mechanisms. We believe that the OSCE – possibly through the ODIHR – might pursue the possibility of examining national legislation in our countries and of providing advice on how it might be tightened, as well as providing a framework for an exchange of information on the subject. In this context, I want to emphasize that we have an obligation – to live by the words that we have spoken and the values we have embraced – when it comes to democracy, the rule of law, and the safeguarding of basic freedoms. As President Bush stated last week, it was not Islam that carried out the attacks against the United States, it was extremists. The global struggle against terrorism must not be used to justify political repression.

Mr. Moderator, I note that you have urged us to enter into discussion, and it is in this spirit that I would like to comment on the statement made by our distinguished Russian colleague regarding elections in Belarus. Regrettably, the authorities of Belarus did, in fact, put significant obstacles in the way of OSCE election observers. I would refer you to the statement we made on Democratic Institutions for specifics. We urge all States to cooperate closely with ODIHR on election observation, and to work closely with ODIHR to implement resulting recommendations.

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