OSCE Permanent Council Address
Vienna, 21 November 2002
Discurso durante cerimônia de integração permanente ao conselho da OSCE em 21 de novembro de 2002
Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very grateful to you Ambassador Seixas da Costa for your kind invitation to address the Permanent Council of the OSCE, particularly so soon after being appointed to serve as High Commissioner for Human Rights. The partnership between my Office and the OSCE developed by my predecessor, Mary Robinson, remains of the utmost importance to me. I wish to assure you at the outset that I intend to accord great weight to our joint endeavour to promote and to strengthen respect for human rights. I am pleased that with the Secretary-General of the OSCE, Jan Kubis, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for a long time, we are in the process of very encouraging consultations on our cooperation.
I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts concerning the priorities I wish to emphasize in my new position and ways of enhancing our cooperation in those areas in the years ahead. As I told the United Nations Commission on Human Rights two months ago, I intend to stress, under the overarching principle of the rule of law, the themes of dignity, equality and security, which, to my mind, lie at the very core of the meaning of human rights. Needless to say, they are as pertinent in the vast OSCE region as elsewhere in the world.
Human dignity is a concept that underpins the entire corpus of human rights. It places the individual, as the holder of rights and responsibilities, at the centre of our concerns. As human dignity is an inherent quality, it is wrong to say that a person can be deprived of his or her dignity. On the other hand, we can – and all too often do – impose conditions of life on people that are incompatible with human dignity. Poverty, forced displacement, identity denial, discrimination against women, which remains widespread, lack of social services, lack of judicial protection, terrorism, persecution, rape and other forms of violence against women, the phenomenon of street children – these are only a few of the innumerable conditions that are intolerable from the perspective of human dignity.
Equality is conducive to mutual respect among people and harmonious relations between individuals and groups. Its absence is one of the root causes of contemporary conflicts and the suffering of millions. Racism, discrimination and intolerance, also in the OSCE region, are problems that we must tackle head on.
Nowadays, there is no need to explain the fundamental importance of security, which is at the core of the mission of the OSCE. No one can doubt the gravity of the threat to our security that we face today: the terrorist attacks of the last year-and-a-half are grim reminders of the new dimension of this threat.
I have said, and continue to believe, that exceptional challenges require exceptional measures. But precisely at difficult junctures in history, such as one we experience, we need to bear in mind that our efforts will only have a lasting positive impact if they are supported by respect for commonly agreed human rights standards. I am pleased to note that our two organizations are guided by the need for an effective struggle against those forces that attempt to subvert and destroy international and domestic security, while at the same time upholding the benchmarks of commonly held values as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the norms of other binding human rights instruments.
I would like to acknowledge the OSCE’s pioneering role in placing human rights – all human rights – very much at the core of the concept of security years ago. I fully agree that the security of States and regions flows in many ways from the security of the human being, and that security and respect for human rights go hand in hand. It is to help make this vision a reality that I look forward to working closely with the OSCE.
What are the challenges we face in moving closer to genuine respect for human rights? First and foremeost, we need to arrive at the universal ratification of human rights treaties. To achieve this in your region, it is imperative that all OSCE members urgently ratify all the six core human rights instruments. I also appeal for urgent accession to the new International Convention on Migrant Workers, dealing with a problem of particular concern to OSCE members, as I recall from the International Conference on Population Movements in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which we jointly organised in 1996.
To give effect to these international standards and to the rich body of commitments that has taken shape in the area of the Human Dimension of the OSCE process, we need to move beyond declarations and rhetoric, and seek to implement them in the most practical sense. Implementation, for me, means working with States to develop national protection systems, as my Office does through its programme of technical cooperation, and as the OSCE does through its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in Warsaw, through its important mechanisms (such as the High Commissioner for National Minorities) and through its intrepid field missions, organized from Vienna, which face the challenge of implementation at the country level.
I should also like to call particular attention to the need to deal resolutely in the OSCE region with the social cancer of corruption, which saps society of so much of its vital economic strength, and undermines the institutional protection of human rights. Societies cannot hope to develop their full potential until they meet the challenge of fulfilling fundamental human needs and ending corruption – this, too, is an essential prerequisite for regional security.
We need to focus with equal emphasis on the legal and democratic framework of society as a condition for sustainable development. The Declaration and Programme of Action for human rights adopted by the international community in this city, the tenth anniversary of which we will commemorate next year, put it in a nutshell: “Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.”
I would wish to coalesce with you in promoting a holistic concept of democracy. We should like to seek ways and means of building democracy combining popular participation in decision-making and control with accountability of those who govern, and a clear concept of the rights and responsibilities of those who are governed.
This triad – the rule of law, popular participation and responsibility, as well as accountable governance – will remain at the centre of my Office’s attention as crucial for our cooperation with Governments and civil society.
I am aware that this is a shared vision and I am also mindful of the OSCE commitments in this regard. I recall in this context the important OSCE Ministerial Declaration agreed at Bucharest last year, which underscored the need to “safeguard the rule of law, individual liberties, and the right to equal justice under law”. We recently established in our Office a rule of law and democracy promotion capacity to ensure that in cooperation with our partners such as OSCE we translate these concepts into effective programmes of assistance to Governments and societies. We see our efforts as complementary to, not duplicative of your ODIHR.
How then can we, in practical terms, advance our common goals? Both our organizations are strongly engaged in technical support to States and I intend to give priority to the development of human rights law and the consolidation of national capacities and institutions. The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, in his recent report “Strengthening of the United Nations: an agenda for further change”, called the promotion and protection of human rights a bedrock requirement for the realization of a just and peaceful world. In the context of the Millennium Declaration, he placed the strengthening of national capacity at the centre of the United Nations human rights programme.
I know that our offices have had very useful exchanges on the way forward, including at last year’s International Conference on Human Rights and Democratization in Dubrovnik. At that conference, the need for closer partnership between the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the European Union, and ourselves was recognized. With the ODIHR, our Office has looked at comparative advantages in order to strengthen our complementarities.
One important area of focus for us is improving follow-up by the OSCE Member States to the recommendations of the United Nations treaty monitoring bodies and special procedures. We have already received support from the OSCE through training and assistance to law-making. Another example is the project on practical training tools to raise awareness throughout the region – among Governments and civil society alike – of the universal human rights instruments and ways to use them effectively.
The OSCE has also been a vital partner in the coordinated effort to confront the vicious phenomenon of trafficking in human beings. We have advocated a common approach, emphasizing the human rights of victims of such practices, rather than treating them as criminals. I believe that the report issued by our organizations, together with UNICEF, on trafficking in human beings in Southeastern Europe will assist in improving the situation in the region.
I am glad that our organizations share a priority interest in assisting democratic transformation in Central Asia. You are aware, Mr. Chairman, that our Secretary-General undertook a mission to the region during which discussions on human rights issues figured prominently.
We have established good cooperation with the Governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and we have worked with them closely in designing a programme of technical cooperation that should be ready to start in early 2003. This programme will concentrate on national capacity-building, with a special focus on human rights education. We intend to refine and expand this programme, which I hope will include Turkmenistan, and I am requesting my Deputy to undertake a mission to the sub-region in early 2003, building on Mr. Annan’s recent talks with the Central Asian leadership.
In Central Asia, we have received strong support from the OSCE field missions. The OSCE mission, the United Nations Office for Peace-Building, and my Office assisted Tajikistan in fulfilling its human rights treaty-reporting obligations. In Southeast Europe and in the Southern Caucasus, we are also working closely. In Croatia, where the OSCE provided support to our office on Roma rights issues, as well as on developing a vision for the future of our presence. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, we have worked with your mission on rule of law, the protection of national minorities and Roma rights, and the implementation of a national plan of action on trafficking. In the Abkhazia region of Georgia, we continue to operate jointly the Human Rights Office of the United Nations Mission in Georgia. We have also consulted on training activities in Azerbaijan, where we have a technical cooperation project.
I would like to see an expansion of our cooperation in those and other areas. I am thinking here about regular policy consultations and assessment of needs, not only between ODIHR and my Office, but also at the level of the political leadership and such units as the OSCE Representative on Freedom of Media and the Conflict Prevention Centre and their counterparts in my Office. We must examine joining forces in priority areas, involving also other partners, in particular the Council of Europe and the European Union. Assistance to legislators and judicial system reform, training of law enforcement agencies and armed forces, strengthening civil society and assistance to human rights defenders should be high on our common agenda. Further developing freedom of expression and information as well as free media deserves special mention, as we celebrate, in Vienna today, the 10th Anniversary of the International Press Institute. Exchange of staff might also benefit our organisations, allowing us to learn from each other.
We all know that much work still lies ahead. The OSCE region is not free from tensions and conflicts. I am appalled, as I return three and a half years later from my Kosovo and East Timor missions, by the sad fact that little, if any, progress has been achieved in the search for political solutions to crises such as those prevailing in Abkhazia, Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and neighbouring areas. I know that we share a common concern over the suffering of hundreds of thousands of victims, including obviously the internally displaced and refugees.
Over three decades of exposure to wars and internal strife have taught and taught me again that negotiated political solutions, rather than military ones, could have been reached much earlier than was as a rule the case, thus avoiding unnecessary, horrendous and protracted human plight. The most difficult healing, I am speaking of mutual incomprehension, mistrust and hatred, would likewise have been easier to attain. I offer the modest support of my Office to your conflict resolution mechanisms in the search for an early end to all existing conflicts in the region.
Four years ago our Office signed an agreement on cooperation with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, committing our organizations to exchanging information, developing joint projects and providing mutual support in a range of areas.
Such a cooperation as I said must not only continue, it must be significantly and substantially expanded. That alone more than justifies my presence here today. But, I could not conclude without sharing with you my frustration over the conflicts I have just mentioned and the huge human rights toll and despair they continue to inflict.