The UK Government values the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as a forum for political discussion and action on wider European security issues, including the protection and promotion of human rights across the OSCE area. We support the work of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), particularly its election observation activities, and that of the Representative on Freedom of the Media and the High Commissioner on National Minorities.
In 2012, the UK worked closely with EU partners, the United States and others to ensure that UK human rights priorities were reflected in the OSCE’s work. In particular, we identified the potential that the OSCE has to promote freedom of religion or belief. The UK has nominated strong candidates for the OSCE’s freedom of religion or belief advisory panel. Selection is due in early 2013. We also hosted a lively and well-attended event on this issue at the OSCE’s annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief participated, and the event provided practical suggestions on where the OSCE/ODIHR might best focus its efforts.
We continued to identify and provide UK nationals to fill key roles in the OSCE, including in the OSCE’s 16 field offices. In a busy year for elections in the OSCE region, we funded British nationals to take part in ODIHR election observation missions in several OSCE states, including Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, Serbia, Belarus, Georgia, Montenegro, Ukraine and the USA. The UK also contributed to an ODIHR fund that seeks to broaden the range of countries that participate in OSCE election observation missions.
The UK continued to lead in the OSCE in 2012 in responding to hate crime. Our support included involvement in the delivery of the Training Against Hate Crimes for Law Enforcement programme ‘TAHCLE’ in a number of OSCE-participating states, to improve police skills in recognising, understanding and investigating hate crimes. The UK also contributes to an ODIHR advisory group that will produce guidelines in 2013 on the gathering of hate crime data.
As Chair of the OSCE in 2012, Ireland set a focused and realistic agenda of human rights issues, with particular emphasis on freedom of the media and tolerance and non-discrimination. We strongly supported this agenda. The political dynamic in the OSCE remains a barrier to delivery of its significant potential to promote positive change. As happened in 2011 under the Lithuanian Chairmanship, the need for unanimous agreement continued to frustrate progress, particularly in attempting to reach agreements on human rights. We were disappointed and concerned that it again proved impossible to reach consensus on any new ministerial decisions in the Human Dimension at the OSCE annual Ministerial Council in Dublin in December. We had attached particular importance to the Irish Chair’s proposals for a decision on media freedom, particularly in the online context. We hope that Ukraine, who hold the Chair in 2013, will continue this work.
The UK is committed to contribute fully in 2013 to the OSCE’s work to protect and promote human rights, particularly where democracy remains fragile, or basic human rights appear under threat. We will support the work of the OSCE’s autonomous human rights institutions, publicly condemn serious human rights violations, seek to make OSCE activities more focused on core human rights issues and help to protect the important role of civil society in holding governments to account.