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«Statement at the Closing Session of the Parallel Civil Society Conference»

03.12.2014

Basel, 03.12.2014 - Statement by Mr Didier Burkhalter, Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE and President of the Swiss Confederation at the Closing Session of the Parallel Civil Society Conference - Check against delivery

Speaker: President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter (2014); OSCE CiO, Didier Burkhalter (2014)

Ladies and Gentlemen

I wish to start by saying thank you for this presentation and your input on what to focus on in the years to come. Thanks above all for having been close to the Swiss team during this year.

For our OSCE Chairmanship, we wanted to enhance your role and strengthen the voice of civil society – your voice. Why? – Because security, freedom and human rights is a matter for all of us. Therefore, a broad and inclusive dialogue is needed. Freedom and security are fundamental to human life. Human security is a building block of our common security. A security community for the benefit of everyone. Under this leitmotiv, the Swiss Chairmanship endeavoured to improve people’s lives.

We have initiated, organised and implemented various events and projects during the Swiss Chairmanship. In all aspects of human dimension activities, we included civil society – in the planning, on panels, and invited you to participate. The recommendations you presented at last year’s Parallel Civil Society Conference and the Kiev Declaration in particular, have guided our planning.

I was able to meet with many of you and your colleagues across the OSCE region for personal exchanges. We spoke together and I listened a lot. Whenever possible during my travels, meetings with representatives of civil society were arranged, such as in the United States, in the Balkans, in the South Caucasus and in Central Asia.

I felt that it was the most straightforward and logical thing to do as it is important for the OSCE to act not only in the interest of States but also of their citizens. All good politics is in the service of the people.

Strengthening the role of civil society is a permanent task and not a single-effort. Continuity is key. This is why I am particularly pleased to be with the Head of the Serbian OSCE Chairmanship Task Force. “Strengthening the links with civil society and promote its active involvement to ensure progress towards the participating States’ shared objectives” is a central element of the Joint Workplan we established together.

This leads me to the other Swiss priority in the human dimension: the implementation of existing commitments. The body of OSCE commitments is pretty solid, but the volume of recommendations you just presented underlines that there is a need to strengthen implementation.

The Basel Declaration you just presented directs at a key problem of our time and of all OSCE countries: how specific groups become targets of hate speech or even hate crimes. The sometimes violent reactions this summer to the tensions in the Middle East further underlined this. Therefore, in cooperation with our German colleagues and the ODIHR, we organised a conference focussing on responses to anti-Semitism last month in Berlin.

Anti-Semitism is only one part of a particularly tricky set of issues. It is important to remember that all forms of discrimination are unacceptable, including discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

For this reason, I welcome your thematic choice for the Basel Declaration.

Another field where implementation is lacking is in the field of torture. We were inspired by the Kiev Declaration you adopted last year and chose prevention of torture as priority topic. Based on the discussions in the four regional workshops, the recommendations you just presented demonstrate that this topic continues to deserve attention in the OSCE. Therefore, we suggested a Ministerial Council Decision on the prevention of torture. It is our goal to find consensus on this text in the coming two days.

This should not divert from the fact that implementing the commitments is sometimes not an easy task for Switzerland, too. One of the recommendations of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 Parallel Civil Society Conferences is that the Chairmanship should engage in a critical self-assessment. We took up this challenge and initiated a new process. From the beginning of the project, it was clear that Swiss civil society should play a major role.

Throughout the year, we have established a close relationship with the Swiss NGO Working Group OSCE which allowed for useful and open exchanges. The feedback they provided to the study by the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights is now an integral part of the self-evaluation.

We took good note of your recommendations. They have been given due consideration.

The commentary by the federal administration has been published together with the study and the NGO-Feedback on 20 November and will be presented in Vienna on 16 December.

An important part of the recommendations that you adopted at this conference point at an issue that is at the heart of Swiss human rights policy: the security of Human Rights Defenders. We have underlined the importance of protecting Human Rights Defenders at the Chairmanship Conference in Bern. By implementing the Swiss Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and by supporting ODIHR in its work, we will continue to be a strong advocate for realising human rights. Cooperation is crucial and I am convinced that together we can achieve progress. The constructive and positive cooperation during the Swiss Chairmanship gave the possibility for mutual learning through dialogue. It is normal that we might not always agree, but plurality of opinion is the trademark of the OSCE and also of a living democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for your work and for providing the Basel Declaration as well as this impressive set of recommendations to us. I will carry your thoughts, your concerns and your valuable input into the Ministerial Council meeting. Your voice is heard.


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Last update 26.01.2022