As the State Secretary of Slovakia said last week when opening the Forum for Security Co-operation:
“Every chairmanship should start with a proper level of ambition.”
I opened this Committee early last year with a promise of ambition to deliver, in support of the Austrian Chairmanship, a programme of topical, interactive and inclusive discussion of topical issues relevant to everyday lives.
Approaching this as a common endeavour of the whole committee, I think I can say we achieved this: thank you to all delegations for engaging in this spirit throughout the year.
My intention for 2018, in support of the Italian Chairmanship, is to do even more of the same. To steal a word from our Chairman, Ambassador Azzoni, our programme and our discussions should be dynamic: we should address evolving and emerging challenges and contribute to finding effective responses.
My ambition is that our discussions should have a positive influence upon our own domestic policy and practice and in turn bring benefits for the people of the countries that we represent.
Our proposed programme of discussions will address human rights, fundamental freedoms, shared human dimension commitments and some of the topical challenges confronting our states and societies.
At the HDC I reflected briefly upon the Vienna Ministerial Council.
Our Ministerial Council discussions did not lead to new Human Dimension Commitments but they helped us better understand evolving issues, emerging concerns and diverging experience.
They will inform our work in the coming year.
For example, on some complex and evolving issues relating to Media Freedom in the contemporary landscape, by giving a clearer picture of the priorities and motivation of states on the important issues of combating intolerance and discrimination upon grounds of religion or belief.
Some new cross-dimensional commitments also had an important Human Dimension angle, notably Trafficking in Human Beings, where the HDC will want to be involved in follow up, working with the other committees.
It was disappointing that it was not possible to conclude an agreement on Violence against Women, an obvious issue of common concern. I propose to discuss with the Chairmanship how this Committee might best contribute to productive follow up.
HDC Indicative Programme
We have circulated and discussed an indicative list of topics for the HDC in 2018.
We have talked to Chairmanship delegates and institutions involved in developing the overall OSCE Human Dimension calendar for the coming year. The HDC programme can never be fully comprehensive, but other important issues will be covered in other ways through Chairmanship plans or through side events – or mainstreaming throughout our programme.
As in 2017, each meeting will have a thematic focus that will be set out in an advance Concept Note, with guest speakers, OSCE institutions, field missions and voluntary reports from participating States all addressing aspects of the same issue. These have proved very popular with Delegations, helping them prepare for discussions.
We may adjust the order of discussions as we go through the year in order to complement – or de-conflict with – Chairmanship and institution events.
We begin with a meeting on Fundamental Freedoms in the round. This will look at responsibilities for ensuring the right of individuals to know and ‘act on their rights’ as set out in OSCE commitments. This follows on neatly from our final HDC of 2017 focused on Civil Society.
Our March meeting is provisionally scheduled for a discussion of Democracy in a Changing Landscape. This will build upon discussions last year in the HDC, and for those of you who were able to attend, with members of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Delegations. We plan to invite ODIHR Director Gisladóttir to reflect upon some of the evolving challenges she and her team face and relating to the democratic engagement of young people.
Looking further ahead we plan meetings on Freedom of Expression/Freedom of the Media, [when I hope Representative on the Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir might join us], on gender, on FORB, on Roma and Sinti issues, Freedom of Association and the Rule of Law, and Tolerance and Non-Discrimination.
The final months of 2018 will be provisionally set aside for supporting any Human Dimension plans the Italian Chairmanship may have for the December Ministerial Council.
I look forward to the coming year and working together to strengthen our Human Dimension.