OSCE summit ends with few strides in 'human dimension'

Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 00:00

Ireland’s year-long chairmanship of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe drew to a close yesterday with member states failing to agree any decisions in the area of human rights and civil liberties at a Dublin conference.

In his closing speech to the OSCE ministerial council held at the RDS, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore, who served as the body’s chairperson-in-office for 2012, said he was sorry that proposals under what is referred to as the OSCE’s “human dimension” were not adopted.

In OSCE parlance, the term is used to describe the norms and activities related to human rights and democracy that are regarded by the organisation as one of three dimensions of security, together with the politico-military and the economic and environmental dimensions.

Ireland had sought to present the OSCE’s 57 participating states with a balanced package of decisions, including on human rights, at the conference. Civil society activists and human rights groups had also lobbied delegations attending the Dublin event.

For proposals to be adopted as OSCE policy, the body requires that all 57 states be in agreement. The human rights dimension had the support of just over 50.

Lack of consensus

“The lack of a consensus to agree any decisions in the human dimension is a matter of regret,” Mr Gilmore said. “It is unfortunate that this worrying trend of recent ministerial councils has continued. Of even greater concern, is the sad reality that respect for basic human rights and fundamental freedoms is currently under great threat in many parts of the OSCE region.”

The Tánaiste noted, however, that those states that were in agreement had endorsed a commitment to protect media freedom in the digital age.

“So, the positive here is that while we didn’t get a formal agreement . . . we now have over 50 states that are signed up, committed to high standards of freedom in the media – particularly online media and digital media,” he said.

Mr Gilmore also welcomed a declaration on strengthening good governance. Describing this as a “significant achievement” for Ireland’s chairmanship, he told ministers that this would “enable the OSCE to deepen its engagement in preventing and countering corruption”.

During the two-day Dublin event more than 50 foreign ministers, including US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Russia’s Sergei Lavrov and Britain’s William Hague, also consolidated OSCE efforts to address transnational threats.

A significant achievement for Ireland was agreement on the so-called Helsinki +40 process, a strategic road map for the OSCE’s future direction that was developed during Ireland’s chairmanship. Mr Gilmore said the initiative would help “reinforce and revitalise” the OSCE in the run-up to its 40th anniversary in 2015.

Among the priorities of the Irish chairmanship were progress on the so-called “frozen” conflicts within the OSCE region and sharing the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process. Ministers declared their unanimous support for the Transdniestrian settlement process, giving new impetus to negotiations which resumed last year after a six-year hiatus.

“I am pleased to announce that all participating states have agreed on a joint statement reaffirming their strong support for a negotiated, comprehensive, just and viable solution to the conflict,” Mr Gilmore said.

OSCE secretary general Lamberto Zannier acknowledged “different visions of security” among member states but he welcomed the mandate given by the Helsinki +40 decision to develop a security community within the OSCE’s orbit. “We are very eager to work with the incoming chairmanship of Ukraine to develop this framework,” he added.