Assistant Secretary Camuñez’ Opening Remarks at the OSCE Economic and Environmenatl Dimension Implementation Meeting
(Remarks as prepared for delivery at the Opening Session of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting)
On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank the Lithuanian Chairman-in-Office, Secretary General Zannier, Coordinator for Economic and Environmental Activities Svilanovic, and of course our Austrian hosts for convening this inaugural Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting and for providing a warm welcome to Vienna. It is an honor to be here today as head of the U.S. delegation to the OSCE, representing the U.S. Government in my capacity as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, and as a Commissioner to the U.S. Helsinki Commission. Since I joined the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration (ITA) in September of 2010, I have been responsible for helping lead the effort to open new markets for U.S. companies, identifying and eliminating market access challenges such as non-tariff barriers to trade, and helping to monitor and enforce U.S. trade agreements and commitments. The work of the Environmental and Economic Dimension, especially that focused on transparency of markets and good governance, is closely aligned with the work we undertake at ITA.
I am here today to deliver the message that the U.S. Government is highly committed to making the second dimension even more effective and dynamic, and that we will do our part in ensuring that our economic and environmental commitments receive the same level of attention and scrutiny that those in the political-military and human dimensions currently enjoy.
I will try to keep my remarks brief, but I think it is critical that we take a close look at the economic and environmental commitments as they were spelled out in the 2003 Maastricht Strategy. We still see Maastricht as the key blueprint for moving forward on all the commitments that have come before, and in particular, note a number of areas where we could pursue significant, substantive action over the next few years to achieve measurable progress.
Our commitments on economic cooperation have at their core the idea of connectedness to regional and global markets, to trade and investment networks, and to energy and transportation infrastructure, as a way to address emerging economic challenges and threats. In light of the global economic downturn, it is vital that we recommit ourselves to increasing cooperation through a variety of measures, including improving corporate governance and public management, eliminating unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to trade, continuing to harmonize our regulations and standards where appropriate, taking further steps to combat financial crimes like bribery and money laundering, and increasing confidence through the incorporation of transparency principles in all our public and private ventures. At the same time, in view of progress made this year worldwide on empowering women in the economy, first at the Invest for the Future Conference in Istanbul in January and most recently at the APEC Summit in San Francisco, we believe it is important to recognize the critical connection between women and strong economies, and remove all the barriers that prevent women from full and equal participation in the economy.
We have committed ourselves time and again to “good governance,” and while progress has been made, much work remains to be done. As stated in the 2003 Maastricht Strategy, achieving good governance will require a comprehensive, long-term strategic approach. In the view of the U.S. Government, good governance is the core theme within the economic and environmental dimension, and we are pleased that next year’s Forum will address the topic in a broad and detailed way.
What do we mean when we talk about good governance? Good governance is about governments having both the propensity and the competence to manage complex political and economic systems in a fair, fully inclusive, and transparent way. Anti-corruption is part of it, but not the whole picture. Having transparent, clear and predictable legislative and regulatory frameworks that foster efficient and low cost business formation and development, and most importantly allow and even encourage robust participation in the political and economic spheres by civil society, is the essence of good governance. Moreover, having well-trained, dedicated professionals implementing these frameworks is imperative, lest well-crafted laws and regulations become mere words on paper. Improving governance in all its aspects and in all areas of public life will contribute to mutual confidence and security.
Let me say a few words about my agency’s past and current work in this area, reserving greater details and the highlights of a new proposal for Session III tomorrow. From 1998-2008, the U.S. Department of Commerce launched a Good Governance Program, focused on partnering with the public and private sectors in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Central-Eastern Europe. This work, focused on promoting sound corporate governance and business ethics, culminated in the publication of a Business Ethics Manual, a Commercial Dispute Resolution Handbook, and a Corporate Governance Manual translated into several languages and disseminated widely throughout the OSCE region. Today, we continue to work on numerous initiatives around the world, within multilateral fora such as APEC and the G20, which involve OSCE members, promoting consensus based principles focused on anti-corruption. We have taken our business ethics work and branched out into new regions including Asia and Latin America.
The lack of good governance and systemic corruption remain some of the single most important market access challenges for companies engaged in trade around the world. This is especially true for small and medium sized enterprises, which are the engine of economic growth and innovation throughout the world. The United States believes that addressing these issues can only lead to greater investment, economic prosperity and security.
At these meetings we will discuss OSCE support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). I am pleased to report that the U.S. Department of Commerce played an important role in supporting the creation of the EITI in its initial phase. The OSCE now has a chance to follow in the steps of the G8 and G20, by endorsing the EITI, and I applaud the governments that have recently signed on as implementers, of which the United States has recently announced its intention to become one. The EITI is a great example of how shared commitments towards good governance and transparency in a vital sector to many countries can work and build sustained momentum and engagement between the private sector, governments and civil society.
Later today, I will share more concrete information about the work that the U.S. Government and my Department have undertaken to promote good governance and to combat corruption. I am also pleased to have an expert on business ethics and anti-corruption in the energy sector, as part of the U.S. delegation. Mr. Matthew Murray runs the Center for Business Ethics and Corporate Governance in St. Petersburg, Russia, and will speak to you later about a good governance initiative involving public and private stakeholders in the power generation sector in Russia, which may serve as a model for similar programs in other OSCE countries.
A month ago, the Economic and Environmental Forum discussed the concept of sustainability and where efforts to promote sustainable practices stand in our region. Those discussions remind us that our commitments on sustainable development encompass a broad spectrum of activities related to efficiency, sound resource management, and the full involvement of all stakeholders in decision-making. Just to cite an example from the Prague Forum, we recognize that in order to further develop economies and markets in such varied areas as the Black Sea region and Central Asia we will need to address several problems: improving the efficiency of border crossings and building construction, tilting the energy mix towards cleaner fuels, harmonizing standards and practices across the region, and, just as critically, ensuring broad involvement of civil society in the decision-making on project proposal, design, and implementation.
Protecting the Environment
One thing that sets the OSCE apart from many other organizations addressing the environment is recognition of the clear connection between the environment and security. We recognize that many environmental disasters cannot be predicted or prevented. At the same time, greater transparency – through information sharing and civil society engagement – about possible security risks stemming from the environment will make it possible to prevent or mitigate more disasters, both natural and man-made. We also must recognize that failure to protect the environment is itself a security risk, putting increased pressure on populations facing dwindling resources of clean air and water, arable farmland, and adequate energy.
These next three days provide a critical juncture and platform for finding consensus on measures that will improve our implementation of the OSCE commitments in the economic and environmental dimension. The Vilnius Ministerial is only a month and a half away; now is the time to summon the political will to find a way forward. We look forward to building consensus on decisions on energy security, to include good governance and transparency, and we welcome constructive dialogue on additional measures proposed on confidence-building initiatives and sustainable transport.
Just one month ago, we found some convergence of opinion on discrete aspects of the second dimension. Let us expand that convergence to the entire dimension as we review our economic and environmental commitments over the next few days, with a view toward substantive deliverables for Vilnius.
Thank you, Moderator.
(Remarks as prepared for delivery at the OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 3: Good Governance)
The United States has viewed with keen interest the evolving discussions in recent years on what the OSCE’s priorities should be in the Economic and Environmental Dimension. As our friend and colleague Mr. Svilanovic pointed out during last year’s Vienna Review Conference, we appear to have come to an appreciation that good governance is the key linking theme across the entire second dimension. The Maastricht Strategy is very clear on this point: “Good public and corporate governance and strong institutions are essential foundations for a sound economy, which can attract investments, and thereby enable States to reduce poverty and inequality, to increase social integration and opportunities for all and to protect the environment. Good governance at all levels contributes to prosperity, stability and security.” As we consider the implementation of our second dimension commitments, we should keep in mind why it is important to implement those commitments.
The global economic downturn continues to put extreme pressure on people and governments across the OSCE region. To be sure, some countries have weathered the storm better than others. Still, no country can be forever immune to market forces, and even within those that have done well, there are always citizens left behind. This is a question we are trying to answer now in the United States: how do we get people back to work? We all know that trade and investment are critical drivers of economic growth. So the next question is, if growth is hindered by decreased trade and investment, what can be done to support these economic engines? The answer must include good governance.
Weak governance and lack of transparency constitute non-tariff barriers to trade, which we have committed ourselves to eliminating. Furthermore, the same issues that deter trade and investment also work against comprehensive security: a lack of transparency in governance leads to diminished confidence that problems and disputes will be addressed in a fair and impartial manner. Without trust and confidence in public institutions, there is little incentive for investors and companies to pursue trade deals or direct investment in those economies. The effect is stagnating economic performance, which we have seen in the past several months and years can lead to political upheaval.
The United States Government is deeply committed to fostering good governance and transparency in its political and economic institutions. President Obama has made the global fight against corruption a top priority. As he has noted, “In too many places, the culture of the bribe is a brake on development and prosperity. It discourages entrepreneurship, destroys public trust, and undermines the rule of law while stifling economic growth. With a new commitment to strengthening and enforcing rules against corruption, economic opportunity and prosperity will be more broadly shared. “For the global economy, corruption is dangerous. No matter where – or how – it happens, the corrosive result is the same: stalled development, loss of public trust, and distorted competition.
The World Bank estimates that more than one trillion dollars in bribes are paid each year out of a global economy of approximately 30 trillion dollars. That’s an incredible three percent of the world’s economy. Between 2005 and 2009, at least 305 contracts worth more than $230 million were allegedly affected by the bribery of foreign public officials. In 2009, companies lost nearly $30 billion to bribers, for deals for which the outcome is known.
Corruption is a global problem that knows no borders. And that’s why corruption demands a truly global response – one that knows no limits on collaboration. Because corruption is a significant non-tariff barrier, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the International Trade Administration (ITA) are committed, under my leadership, to working with our trading partners to level the playing field and to promote transparent and corruption-free markets globally. Our work to promote clean and ethical business environments occurs at both the multilateral and bilateral level. At the multilateral level, the ITA is pressing its counterparts to lead by example and to implement comprehensive anti-corruption measures.
The United States has participated actively at the OECD as a member of its Working Group on Bribery, responsible for monitoring whether countries that are parties to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention are living up to their commitments to implement the Convention and enforce their foreign bribery laws. Many of our peers who are Parties of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention need to step up enforcement of their laws, and ensure that their companies do not bribe public officials while conducting business overseas.
This past Fall, the United States was instrumental in persuading the G20 countries to adopt a comprehensive anti-corruption action plan, which includes a commitment focused on adoption and robust enforcement of anti-bribery laws, implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, greater engagement with the private sector, and support for transparency mechanisms, to name a few. Many of these commitments require our G20 partners to enact and implement new laws and preventive measures.
ITA, in particular, took the lead on proposals relating to the private sector and also on whistleblower protection, within the G20. Corporations from G20 countries engage in a large percentage of global trade and economic activity. It is vital for us to seek the partnership of these corporations to combat corruption.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has also been committed to fostering strong private sector integrity as an integral part of promoting good governance in markets worldwide. Companies are global corporate citizens, and as such, can work collectively and with governments to foster trust, and promote transparency.
As I mentioned during my opening remarks yesterday, the United States, led by the Department of Commerce, has championed business ethics and corporate governance reform since the early 1990s, following the fall of the Berlin Wall. Our Business Ethics Manual has been translated into Chinese, Spanish and Russian and is still one of the most widely used resources on this important topic. We have partnered with business associations and chambers of commerce to develop collective action and business ethics program in many markets.
Our work on business ethics has grown. This past year, the ITA has focused on trying to heighten awareness of good governance, transparency and business ethics in sectors of vital importance to many economies – by taking a “sectoral” approach to combating corruption and promoting good business practice, the challenge of dealing with corruption becomes less daunting. The ethical issues specific to different industries vary greatly – and there is no one size fits all approach to the problem. Within the G20, for example, the United States, at the initiative of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has taken the lead in calling for the G20 to endorse additional sectoral approaches to fighting corruption, beyond the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). We have asked G20 governments, for example, to consider supporting the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (COST) – a new multi-stakeholder initiative, developed by the World Bank. COST uses similar approaches to EITI to promote greater transparency in public infrastructure projects and government procurement. I hope that the OSCE might similarly consider COST and other multi-stakeholder approaches to promoting transparency under the Irish chairmanship.
Within APEC, the ITA has focused on developing new ethical principles for key sectors within the APEC region. I am pleased to report that under the APEC SME working group, we have coordinated a project with APEC countries and businesses to develop principles of business ethics in the construction, medical devices and biopharmaceutical sectors. These voluntary principles are meant to be used by businesses and trade associations – large and small – to guide their ethical interactions with public officials and institutions. I hope that within the OSCE framework and the EEDIM, we might also consider focusing on business ethics in specific sectors of interest to all of our economies.
I would like to note also the role that women play in ensuring good governance. Women’s political participation is a crucial indicator of women’s equality. Around the world, women are entering the field of politics and government in growing numbers, yet their gains have been uneven and their leadership often goes unrecognized. All too often, important decisions that affect women, their families, and their societies are made without their having a voice. We believe that integrating women in political structures is another way to encourage good governance.
I want to close by suggesting some activities to take the theme of good governance and transparency forward. As I noted above, I hope that we will look beyond EITI to see if there are additional sectoral initiatives that merit support from the OSCE, including the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative. The United States Government also strongly supports the Irish Chair’s goal to develop a Statement or Declaration of Transparency Principles to help guide our governments in their future activities.
I want to encourage us to consider new models of bilateral cooperation to promote good governance such as the model Mr. Murray has just discussed, leading to a public-private initiative in the Russian power generation sector.
We at the U.S. Department of Commerce are working closely with the Center for Black Sea/Caspian Studies at American University to convene a conference in May of next year that would seek to address the challenge of developing mechanisms to ensure good governance and transparency, while also balancing the goals of protecting national security and accelerating economic development faced by the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia, as they seek to assert their role as a gateway between Europe and Asia. In addition, the conference will also focus on specific market access challenges to regional integration and economic development in the Caucasus and Central Asia such as transparency in Government procurement and privatization, and trade facilitation challenges, including customs and lack of regional harmonization. It is our hope that the OSCE will join us for this event – focused on critical areas such as transport and infrastructure – to work on tangible ideas for projects and collaborations in the OSCE region.
We look forward with great interest to the 20th Economic and Environmental Forum, where we will delve deeper into all the facets of good governance. We also thank the Lithuanian Chairman-in-Office for ensuring that their draft Ministerial Council decision on Energy Security incorporates transparency in the energy sector – in our view, considering the vital role that energy plays in modern economic life, there can be no confidence, and thus no security, without energy transparency. In the year ahead, we envision an even broader focus on transparency principles across the entire spectrum of economic and environmental activities, and will work with all of our colleagues in the OSCE to make that vision a reality.
Thank you, Moderator.
(Remarks as delivered at the OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 4: Field Presences)
Thank you, Mr. Coordinator.
You and your team deserve to feel a sense of satisfaction. This session is the realization of your vision to bring EEOs to Vienna and share their accomplishments and experiences, and the United States applauds your initiative and hopes to see this become a regular feature of 2nd dimension meetings.
Colleagues, we have just heard a number of very compelling statements from the OSCE’s field presences. As evidenced by their depth of knowledge, it is clear that we have a great pool of expertise and talent to draw on as the OSCE seeks to assist participating States to fulfill their commitments. The women and men who directly assist with the implementation of commitments truly are on the frontline, and we should listen carefully, as we have, particularly during this inaugural meeting, as we seek to better understand how we are performing in implementing our commitments and, more importantly, what tools and initiatives are needed to better implement those commitments.
In the time available, it is of course not possible to address all the fantastic work being done across the OSCE region, so we would like to highlight a few exemplars of their high-quality work.
The field operations must of course interpret their mandates in the light of the OSCE’s core tasks, so that longer-term projects can be sustained, yet offices also need to maintain agility to respond to emerging problems. Often activities are started based on themes put forward in the Economic and Environmental Forum, but then are left without subsequent support and follow-through. This is just one of the reasons why we continue to track and support the activities of the long-standing field presences and newer institutions like the OSCE Academy in Bishkek and the Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe. With specific reference to the economic and environmental dimension, we welcome and support the growing role of the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, with its new master’s degree program focusing on economics and development. We believe programs like those at the Academy will ultimately facilitate economic activity that can not only improve licit trade within the OSCE space, but crucially also help neighboring Afghanistan to do so.
The deployment of field missions in the Balkans and other conflict areas has been among the OSCE’s greatest contributions to security and cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic region in the last two decades, and we support efforts to improve the effectiveness of OSCE’s field presence. The organization needs to develop the flexibility to transfer resources and expertise as needed to address problems and emerging crises before they erupt into conflicts. Even as we in the United States and other countries seek to right-size the Balkans missions while augmenting the resources at other field operations, we will continue to support all the OSCE field presences as they carry out their mandates.
The field presences have focused on real-world problems. Their projects are not usually large in scope, but they do have an outsize human impact. For example, when the Centre in Bishkek set up a program to help labor migrants understand their rights and learn how to avoid becoming the victim of a trafficking scenario, they had maximum impact on a very vulnerable population.
The field missions also help build capacity, and we are particularly supportive of the work that is done to promote good governance. For example, the OSCE office in Baku has helped implement effective outreach programs on combating corruption for both citizens and officials. Azerbaijan’s ratings on the World Competitiveness Index have improved, setting the groundwork for real progress in combating corruption. And, the presentation we have just heard on the Guillotine Project in Armenia provides much to consider in thinking of where else this approach could be applied.
The economic and environment officers in the field continue to serve a vital function in assisting participating States to meet their OSCE commitments. Of all the critical work areas our distinguished panelists have just presented, we would like to highlight one issue we all know has the power to overshadow all others in the second dimension. We noted yesterday that good governance is more than just anti-corruption, but without a focus on the pernicious effects of corruption on political and economic systems, all other field work is at risk of being robbed of its value. Graft, bribery, favoritism in public procurement, and other drags on the economy reduce the financial resources and political capital available to governments working with the private sector and civil society to solve problems in energy production and consumption, transportation systems, and environmental protection and restoration. To that end, we strongly support both the Lithuanian Chair’s efforts to capitalize on this year’s Forum topics of sustainable energy and transport and the incoming Irish Chair’s focus on good governance during their Chairmanship year. We look forward to continuing robust discussions on how all participating States can learn from the experiences and best practices from the field.
In closing, the role of the field missions in this area will continue to be important for years to come, and we hope to see even greater involvement and support for initiatives in the field.
Thank you, Mr. Coordinator.
Despite assurances from the Government of Kazakhstan that the new law on religion would be in keeping with its OSCE commitments and its international obligations and commitments regarding freedom of religion, the United States wishes to express its serious concern that the new law appears to fall short of those measures.
The new law, passed by the Kazakhstani Parliament on September 29, requires that existing religious organizations submit re-registration documents within one year via a procedure that subjects them to an examination of their religious literature. The United States is concerned that this process could be used to restrict the activities of religious groups thereby negatively impacting religious freedom in Kazakhstan.
The new tiered registration system appears to prohibit the registration of religious groups with fewer than 50 members in each location. Other provisions appear to allow strict oversight of missionary activity, government reviews of religious literature and texts, and restrictions on the location of places of worship.
When governments unduly restrict religious freedom and freedom of expression, or when societies fail to take steps to promote tolerance and curb discrimination based on religious identity, they risk alienating religious believers and emboldening extremists.
We urge the government of Kazakhstan to work with ODIHR to address these concerns in order to ensure that this law does not improperly restrict freedom of religion or belief in any way that is inconsistent with the country’s OSCE commitments and its international obligations and commitments.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Statement by Chargé d’Affaires Robbins on the Invitation by the Russian Federation for International Observers for the Duma Elections
The United States welcomes the timely invitation by the Russian Federation Central Election Commission for international observers, including an Election Observation Mission from OSCE/ODIHR and Parliamentary Assembly, for the December 4 State Duma elections.
Free and fair elections that adhere to international standards are a necessary part of a healthy democracy. OSCE’s participating States have an obligation to ensure that elections throughout the region meet these standards and that citizens have the freedom to cast their votes. We are committed to the support of free and fair electoral processes that allow political parties to operate freely, that allow citizens to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and protest, that enshrine the importance of an independent media, and that enjoy the protections of an effective judicial system.
All OSCE participating States have committed themselves to the implementation of free and fair elections. As set forth in the 1990 Copenhagen Document—and reaffirmed at the Astana Summit—this includes universal and equal suffrage; secret ballots; and non-discriminatory access for parties to the media.
Domestic and foreign observers play a critical role in documenting that these principles are upheld during elections, and ODIHR has become the gold standard for election observation.
We urge all participating States to support the secondment of long-term observers to follow the elections process throughout Russia and to contribute to the provision of short-term observers to follow Election Day proceedings. We would also welcome robust participation by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. We urge the Russian Federation to facilitate timely visa issuance to all Mission members.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Statement to the OSCE Permanent Council
The United States continues to support the Geneva Discussions as an important forum for improving security and humanitarian conditions in Georgia. We urge all of the parties to continue constructive engagement in the Geneva Discussions and the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) in order to foster agreement on international security arrangements, to enhance confidence-building measures, and to promote both strengthened humanitarian initiatives and a sustainable and peaceful resolution to the conflict.
We continue to call on Russia to abide by its commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreement and its September 2008 implementing measures, including the withdrawal of Russian troops to positions held prior to the start of hostilities and the facilitation of humanitarian access to the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia.
The EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia is a crucial stabilizing factor, and plays a key role in the implementation of the IPRMs. The EUMM also is critical to the international community’s efforts to monitor compliance with the cease-fire and implementing measures. Unfortunately, these efforts cannot be fully realized as long as Russia denies international observers access to the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia.
The United States continues to urge free and unhindered humanitarian access to the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia, as agreed in the August 2008 cease-fire. We call for full respect of all individuals’ human rights in the conflict areas, and for the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of internally displaced persons.
In closing, let me reiterate that the United States remains committed to helping Russia and Georgia find a peaceful resolution to the conflicts in Georgia, and we will continue to support Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Johnson’s Remarks at the Closing of the OSCE Human Dimension Implemenation Meeting Plenary
(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Closing of the Plenary Session)
As we mark the close of this two-week session, we should reflect for a moment on what makes this annual encounter so special, and indeed so essential. There is inherent value in a focused discussion among participating States on the implementation of our shared Human Dimension commitments. But, more importantly, the HDIM exemplifies the critical role that the OSCE has always played in engaging and inspiring civil society, and the necessity—not the nicety—of these links.
As Secretary Clinton stated in Astana last year: “Strong democracies, thriving economies, and stable societies cannot be built by governments alone. There must be a partnership between governments, vibrant institutions and free societies that work together to solve the problems that we face in the 21st century.”
During this meeting, we have heard from members of civil society from across the OSCE space. In plenary sessions and in a wide range of side events they have shared compelling and eloquent testimony. We learned from a Belarusian journalist about the perils of speaking out in a country ruled by a repressive regime. We heard stark accounts from European Roma of growing anti-Roma sentiments and violence. A human rights defender told us about her visit to Kyrgyz activist Azimjan Askarov, serving a life sentence based on a confession coerced by torture. These sorts of exchanges, and the efforts that ensue as a result, are precisely what are needed if we are to grasp and solve 21st century challenges.
As has been the case in previous years, the level of participation in most sessions was so high that the time allotted for interventions and replies had to be curtailed multiple times. Attendance at the diverse array of nearly fifty side events was broad and engaged. These indicators suggest that we should maintain, or even expand, this event, and we should seek ways to increase attendance by non-governmental organizations. The United States believes the participation of NGOs is integral to this process and therefore has a longstanding practice of inviting U.S. NGOs to join our daily delegation meetings. Over the past two weeks, some of these NGOs highlighted areas of concern regarding United States implementation of our human dimension commitments. We welcomed these interventions and the opportunity to engage constructively with civil society, even when we might disagree.
The discussions over the past two weeks have helped shine a spotlight on issues of concern in the OSCE Human Dimension, and, in some cases, have highlighted differing perceptions among participating States regarding the proper role of the OSCE and how our shared commitments are best met.
The ongoing political repression in Belarus, which led to the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism in April, is one such example. This year’s HDIM served as a rallying point for Belarusian activists and a vibrant coalition of international NGOs committed to the support of democratic ideals and practices in Belarus. Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting the newly-opened “Belarus House” here in Warsaw. It is run by a courageous group of young Belarusian activists who assist Belarusian refugees; unite, through culture and dialogue, the Belarusian diaspora; and support activists and political prisoners in Belarus. These young men and women made abundantly clear to us that united, firm support from the United States and Europe is essential and profoundly appreciated.
We’ve concentrated a great deal of our attention on Belarus at this year’s HDIM because the regime’s practices flout OSCE principles and commitments. Civil society, a bellwether of democracy in contemporary states, has drawn ample attention to the plight of Belarusian democratic leaders, human rights activists, and indeed regular citizens there. The Freedom House report on Belarus, issued at a side event this week, highlights the Lukashenka government’s clear intent to minimize political rights and civil liberties in Belarus.
There was a lively exchange between members of the United States and Russian Federation delegations about election observation. This is a timely subject, as ODIHR is engaged in preparations to observe historic elections in Kyrgyzstan in a few weeks time. As the U.S. delegation noted in its right of reply to the question “why do we need election observers?” the answers lie in the Copenhagen Document and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They both say that the authority of government derives from the will of the people expressed in democratic elections. So, citizens, in effect, own elections, because that is where sovereignty truly resides. Observers confirm whether or not their elections are free and fair and help identify areas to improve in future elections. That is what the ODIHR does, based on impartial criteria applied consistently throughout all states.
The United States was gratified to hear from Russian Central Election Commission Chairman Churov of his intent to issue an unrestricted invitation to ODIHR to observe the December 4 Duma elections. Looking forward, the United States will issue an unrestricted invitation for our 2012 Congressional and Presidential elections, and will work, through appropriate bodies, to facilitate effective election observation by the OSCE and other appropriate organizations, free from barriers.
Discussions at the HDIM are also informed by events transpiring in our midst. The past two weeks have seen violent anti-Roma protests and rhetoric in Bulgaria and violence against the international presence in Kosovo.
The recent events in Bulgaria echo similar unrest and targeting of Roma that have occurred in the Czech Republic and in Hungary, and remind us of the debates surrounding evictions and expulsions of Roma from throughout Europe. The HDIM’s focus on Roma and Sinti issues was thus extraordinarily timely. In numerous sessions, experts, NGOs and individual Roma discussed growing intolerance toward Roma and highlighted the potential for ethnic tensions to devolve into ethnic violence.
The bigotry exhibited against Roma can also be linked to a disturbing trend of growing radical racist ideologies across several countries in the OSCE space. In some countries, those receptive to extremist political ideologies may make up more than 20 percent of the populace; this is an alarming development. Responsible political leaders should publicly condemn intolerance and prejudice. They should avoid inflammatory language that once was the province of fringe parties. Unfortunately, this rhetoric is increasingly echoed by mainstream politicians, such as the admonition by one Western European leader that if a certain Mayoral candidate were elected in his country, a large city would turn into a “Gypsytown.”
Recent violence in Kosovo was a subject of several exchanges during the context of discussions on freedom of movement. On September 27, a group of up to 500 Serbs—with a heavy truck, firearms, pipe bombs, grenades, and rocks—attacked KFOR troops in northern Kosovo. They wounded nine KFOR soldiers, eight of whom were American. This attack heightened tensions and risked the lives of U.S. and Allied forces, as well as local civilians. In these halls, this attack gave rise to heated exchanges and unfounded accusations from Serbian and Russian representatives against KFOR, which is comprised of troops from 39 participating States. The fact that our Serbian and Russian colleagues, instead of condemning the violent attack, would call into question the legitimate authority of KFOR to carry out its mandate and to act in self-defense is troubling on many levels. This incident was an assault on an international institution, whose presence in Kosovo, like that of EULEX and the OSCE Mission, is to provide support and security for ALL of Kosovo’s citizens.
While all states have the obligation to protect their citizens from violent extremism and other threats, our delegation has noted that several OSCE states interpret that obligation in ways that restrict the rights of their populations. In the past year, Tajikistan has adopted a new “Law on Parental Responsibility” which restricts participation in religious activities by children under the age of 18. This is in addition to restrictive registration requirements for religious groups already in place. Other OSCE states, such as Russia, define extremism so broadly that its laws are used to ban peaceful religious groups and literature. We are also concerned by the growing number of participating States that have adopted or are considering bans on religious expression, including attire.
The HDIM, like the OSCE writ large, has always been a venue for frank debate and for the open airing of concerns among the governments and citizens of participating States. That is its strength and its enduring value. We look forward to discussions of ways in which we might further enhance the effectiveness of this forum, including by exploring new avenues for expanding the opportunities for access by members of civil society, many of whom may not be able to afford to make the trip to Warsaw. We would be particularly interested in exploring ways to use new technologies such as streaming video or social media, to broaden access to our discussions.
Looking ahead to Vilnius and beyond, we believe that it is essential that OSCE participating States confirm in a Ministerial-level decision the application of longstanding commitments on fundamental freedoms to new media. As Secretary Clinton has emphasized: “The rights of individuals to express their views freely, petition their leaders, worship according to their beliefs—these rights are universal, whether they are exercised in a public square or on an individual blog. The freedoms to assemble and associate also apply in cyberspace. In our time, people are as likely to come together to pursue common interests online as in a church or a labor hall.”
It is no coincidence that authorities, who try to restrict the exercise of fundamental freedoms by their people, impede the work of human rights defenders and civil society organizations, control the press and obstruct the flow of information, tend to be the same authorities who try to restrict, impede, control and obstruct their citizens’ peaceful use of new digital technologies. In her remarks to this gathering, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, voiced concern about Internet regulation policies proposed by several participating States.
Equally important, we believe is a renewed commitment at the Ministerial level to the protection of journalists. On October 5, the Representative on Freedom of the Media issued a new report detailing the threats and responses to attacks against journalists in the OSCE region. “The right of journalists to carry out their work in safety, without fear of being harassed, attacked, beaten or killed is fundamental to the protection of all other human rights. As long as journalists are afraid for their lives and the lives of their families while doing their job, we do not live in a free society.” One of the shocking statistics in this report is the fact that in the last five years only three out of almost thirty cases of murdered journalists in the OSCE region have been successfully prosecuted.
We must do better.
We also must continue to make progress in the fight against human trafficking, and look forward to working with other participating States toward a Ministerial Declaration in Vilnius that will help us build on the good work of the OSCE and participating States in fighting this scourge.
Finally, I would like to recall an extraordinary scene from the opening plenary. The keynote speaker, Khadija Cherif, the International Federation for Human Rights Secretary General, spoke about the revolution in her native Tunisia, and then offered heartfelt expressions of support for political prisoners in Belarus. It is time that we consider additional ways in which the OSCE can support not only the aspirations of democrats in the heart of Europe, but also those of our Mediterranean Partners. A Ministerial Declaration along these lines would send an important signal and is a good first step.
Ambassador Johnson’s remarks at the Closing Plenary of the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Other Business at the Closing of the Plenary Session)
The United States for several years has used this agenda item to follow up on the recommendations made by the fact-finding mission resulting from the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism. In April, the Moscow Mechanism was invoked concerning Belarus. Fourteen participating States took this unusual step due to the crackdown by the Lukashenka government following the election in Belarus on December 19, 2010.
We regret the Belarusian authorities’ refusal to comply with that country’s commitments by placing obstacles to implementation of the Moscow Mechanism. Notwithstanding this unwillingness to cooperate, sole rapporteur Professor Decaux, who ultimately constituted the OSCE’s fact-finding mission, was able to meet formally and informally with OSCE institutions and numerous diplomats and members of civil society, including representatives of NGOs from Belarus. His comprehensive report illustrates the seriousness, duration and scale of gross and systematic human rights violations that have taken place since December 19, 2010.
In particular, the report documents the non-compliance of the Lukashenka government—from the December 19 elections until early May—with Belarus’s OSCE commitments in the following areas: the conduct of the December 19th elections; harassment of candidates and their relatives since the election; restrictions on freedom of association, including registration requirements for political parties, NGOs and trade unions; restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including arrests and detentions of those exercising their right to freedom of opinion as well as harassment, arrests and detention of journalists as well as searches of their homes and offices; restrictions on the freedom of movement, right to peaceful assembly, and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, including torture and ill treatment, and the right to a fair trial and the independence of lawyers. The government of Belarus must address the serious concerns raised in Professor Decaux’s report, and we urge the authorities to implement the recommendations.
We continue to be concerned about the situation in Turkmenistan. It has shown little progress since the Moscow Mechanism was invoked in 2003. Basic human rights and fundamental freedoms remain severely restricted. Turkmenistan remains the only OSCE participating State that officially has a one-party political system. There is virtually no space for civil society to operate. All media is tightly controlled by the government, and the Internet is censored and monitored. According to Reporters without Borders, journalists often were “summoned for questioning, threatened with prosecution, and fired from their jobs, while relatives are also exposed to the possibility of reprisals.”
We have commended Turkmenistan’s registration of the Catholic Church in 2010. However, there continue to be significant restrictions on freedom of religion. Several religious groups remain unable to register, and the government has placed restrictions on registered groups’ ability to own property and print or import religious materials. Current law prohibits foreign missionary activity and foreign religious organizations, and the private publication of religious literature. Freedom of movement also continues to be restricted.
We remain concerned about the lack of access to persons in prison, including political prisoners. Last fall, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention publicly released its opinion that the arrest and continued detention of journalists Annakurban Amanklichev and Sapardurdy Hajiyev violates international law, and that they should be released immediately. We have received no information about former civil activist Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, who was arrested in June 2008 after returning to the country from Norway, where he had received asylum. One very concrete step Turkmenistan could take that would be a clear signal of the government’s intention to move forward with reform would be to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and other independent observers’ access to prisons. Finally, as we have for the past seven years, we again request information about, and access to our former OSCE colleague, Batyr Berdiev. I last saw him in Vienna when the Austrian Foreign Minister honored him before his return to Ashgabat to take up his post as Foreign Minister in Turkmenistan. Many of us who have sat at this table have called him a friend. This organization bears a special burden to press for information about him, and access to him, since not so long ago, he was one of us.
The invocation of the Moscow mechanism remains an extraordinary measure, the use of which demonstrates extraordinary concern by a group of participating States for the situation in one of our countries. Belarus and Turkmenistan should follow-up on the recommendations made through this mechanism, and demonstrate their respect for their OSCE commitments, and, indeed, the OSCE process.
(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 17: Humanitarian Issues; Trafficking in Human Beings)
The United States strongly supports the goals of our OSCE commitments to combat trafficking in persons through prosecution, protection and prevention. For our part, we are working to achieve the goals of the OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, and, we are addressing recommendations from the Alliance Against Trafficking conferences coordinated by the OSCE Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in drafting its recommendations. While the 2010 Astana Summit did not yield an Action Plan, it did establish the political will for updating commitments associated with labor trafficking and combating the demand for goods and services produced by trafficked persons at the upcoming Ministerial Council meetings.
In recent years, the OSCE has addressed the demand that drives modern slavery, as well as the unique vulnerabilities of domestic workers. This year, the Alliance against Trafficking considered the scope of trafficking for labor exploitation. The United States commends Special Representative Giammarinaro for her efforts to address emerging trends in trafficking and to identify new mechanisms for cooperation, particularly in the field of labor trafficking. In February of this year, the OSCE Special Representative launched a publication entitled: “Unprotected Work, Invisible Exploitation: Trafficking for the Purpose of Domestic Servitude,” (ref. 1) which included key recommendations on victim identification, and on improved regulation and monitoring of recruitment and placement agencies. Additionally, the Special Representative collaborated on the development of recommendations for “The Implementation and Enforcement of Codes of Conduct in the Private Sector to Reduce the Demand for the Services of or Goods Produced by People who have been Trafficked.” We strongly support these initiatives, which provide ample background to enhance efforts established by the 2007 Madrid Ministerial Decision on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for Labor Exploitation (ref. 2). We ask participating States to join the United States in advancing a strong Declaration decision based on these recommendations for the Vilnius Ministerial Council in December.
As we move past the first decade since the adoption of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, much still needs to be done. We are encouraged, however, that most countries have enacted either comprehensive anti-trafficking laws or separate anti-trafficking provisions in their penal code. Now our focus must shift to implementation.
Unfortunately, some OSCE States remain far from achieving the fundamental goals set by our shared OSCE commitments, as documented in the U.S. Department of State’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report. Azerbaijan, Russia, and Uzbekistan have demonstrated inadequate progress from previous years in combating trafficking in persons. In the Russian case, the country has remained as a source, transit, and destination country for forced labor and sex trafficking with limited government efforts to protect victims or prevent trafficking. This is all the more concerning as we approach the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which may present a risk of the use of forced labor in construction projects. Minimal progress to address domestic forced labor during the cotton harvest remains a substantial challenge in Uzbekistan, while proactive victim identification and effective investigations and prosecutions of traffickers have not been adequately prioritized in Malta or Azerbaijan. Belarus, Cyprus and Estonia lack effective programs to investigate, prosecute, and sentence traffickers, paired with weak victim-centered approaches to assistance and protection. Estonia remains the only European Union country without a law that specifically addresses human trafficking. We urge Estonia to quickly pass its draft trafficking-specific criminal statute, provide better assistance for repatriated Estonian victims, and improve awareness of victim services. Additionally, we call on Belarus to provide greater victim assistance and protection while providing more information on, and clearly delineating their anti-trafficking efforts from their efforts on trafficking related work such as illegal migration. We urge Cyprus to actively prosecute and convict traffickers, improve front-line services to victims, strengthen NGO partnerships, and provide responder training for victim identification.
We are particularly concerned by the Turkmenistan government’s unwillingness prosecute traffickers and disregard for the work of IOM and anti-trafficking organizations which seek to provide protection for victims. We urge Turkmenistan to implement its 2007 anti-trafficking law and Article 129(1) of its criminal code and develop a reliable victim identification and referral mechanism. Forced labor, including forced child labor, in Central Asia remains a challenge that must be addressed, particularly for cotton cultivation in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The citizens of the OSCE region deserve a future free from exploitation. The United States urges Uzbekistan to stop the practice of using forced labor to pick cotton, and urges Tajikistan and Kazakhstan to continue efforts to eliminate the use of forced labor in the cotton harvests.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of State’s 2011 TIP Report for the second time features a full tier-ranking and country narrative for the United States, so that our initiatives can be openly compared to other States. Government self-reporting can be a useful tool, but is only meaningful when a vigorous civil society can also independently and safely voice its views—as exemplified in the U.S. narrative. The 2011 report on the United States is a reminder of how much further our government still has to go in the fight against modern day slavery.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) has been active in promoting new avenues for our efforts to combat human trafficking throughout the OSCE region. The recent Belgrade Declaration of the OSCE PA included proposals to enhance implementation of United Nations protocols on trafficking and specific efforts to combat trafficking for labor exploitation. This resolution also unanimously called on participating States to adopt a ministerial decision or declaration on labor trafficking, demonstrating the broad political will for such an action. As we update the Madrid Ministerial Decision we must consider more specific regulation for recruitment agencies, appropriate oversight of supply chains to prevent exploitation, measures to prevent abuses of domestic workers—including by diplomatic personnel—measures to encourage corporate codes of conduct, and to promote consumer awareness. We ask participating States to consider these recommendations as we negotiate updates to our OSCE commitments in the coming weeks.
(ref. 1) – http://www.osce.org/cthb/75804
(ref. 2) – MC.DEC 8/07 http://www.osce.org/mc/29464
(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 16: Tolerance and Non-Discrimination; Equality of opportunity for women and men; Implementation of the OSCE Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality; Prevention of violence against women)
OSCE commitments concerning equality of opportunity for women and men go back to the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, in which participating States agreed to “respect human rights and fundamental freedoms…. for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” In 2000 and again in 2004, we adopted OSCE action plans on gender issues, addressing both the situation in participating States as well as management and staffing within the OSCE itself. Although there have been several ministerial decisions strengthening our commitments, OSCE documents are not enough. The question is whether the human rights of women in our countries are protected both in law as well as in practice, and whether women have the same opportunities as men—to get an education, to find employment, or to take part in political life. Unfortunately, these opportunities are not yet available in every participating State.
In some participating States, the legal framework to protect women from human rights abuses is still incomplete or not fully implemented. Sometimes, law enforcement authorities do not respond adequately to physical or sexual assaults against women, particularly if those are perpetrated by spouses or other family members.
Although some States prosecute domestic violence under general assault laws, more specific legislation would strengthen authorities’ ability to hold abusers accountable; these laws can be drafted to take the onus of pressing charges off of the victim. We commend Azerbaijan for passing a law on domestic violence. OSCE states that do not have specific laws against domestic violence include Andorra, Armenia, Belarus and Uzbekistan. Tajikistan drafted laws several years ago which still have not been adopted. Russia has no legal definition of domestic violence, making prosecution difficult.
Like all persons, women should make their own informed decision about how they dress, regardless of religious or cultural diktats. A March Human Rights Watch report details violent attacks on women whose clothing is considered immodest. Human Rights Watch further noted that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has condoned the documented attacks by unidentified men, some believed to be law enforcement officials. We urge Russian federal officials to address this troubling development.
Spousal rape is not specifically outlawed in several participating States. It only can be prosecuted under general rape laws. Specifically criminalizing spousal rape strengthens the response of law enforcement authorities, who often view it as simply a family matter. States in the OSCE region with no specific law against spousal rape include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, Tajikistan, and Kosovo. (I would note that although Kosovo continues to be the only country in Europe deprived its place at the OSCE table, the United States still holds Pristina accountable for adhering to OSCE principles and commitments.)
Several participating States also lack specific laws addressing sexual harassment, including Armenia, Belarus, Kosovo, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Kyrgyzstan’s legislation deals only with physical assault, not verbal harassment such as threats and intimidation.
However, there are positive recent examples. France has passed a law on combating violence against women which strengthens protection for victims by providing a provisional “protection order” for at-risk women. It also provides for increased legal protection for foreign nationals and undocumented immigrants who are victims of abuse. Moldova has amended its criminal code to better promote the safety and well-being of victims and their children by requiring an abuser to leave housing shared with the victim regardless of who owns the property, providing for victim counseling, forbidding the aggressor from approaching the victim either at home or at a place of business, and forbidding visitation of children pending a criminal investigation.
Laws, of course, are not enough. States should do more to train law enforcement officials, judicial sector officials, social workers, healthcare providers, men and boys, religious and community leaders, and communities at large to address and prevent domestic violence, and violence against women more broadly. Victims should be able to quickly obtain information and assistance, and governments should commit resources to help them do so, as well as support similar civil society efforts. We strongly support OSCE programs in these areas, and believe the OSCE should increase its assistance to participating States, including those which do not host field missions.
Women in all OSCE States have proven over and over that given the same opportunity as men, they will succeed. And equality of access for women to education, healthcare, political participation, and economic opportunities is key to a country’s competitiveness and prosperity.
Moreover, women need to be represented at the policy- and decision-making table, including at the senior levels of OSCE itself. Many OSCE activities focus on conflict prevention, crisis management and resolution, and post-conflict rehabilitation. It is important that women be involved in all stages of conflict- and post-conflict-related work. OSCE staff dealing with conflict management should be trained to identify and include women in these efforts.
As you said in Kyrgyzstan in July of this year, “Women play a critical role in achieving peace and security.” We applaud your joint visits to participating states with the Special Representative and Coordinator for Combatting Trafficking that highlighted gender inequality and conflict as contributors to human trafficking.
All citizens, men and women alike, are entitled to equal protection in the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms. We all must work harder to ensure the rights of women and men are respected equally.