By Jutta Wolf
BERLIN (IDN) – More than 300 parliamentarians representing the collective voice of one billion people from Vancouver to Vladivostok adopted a 76-page declaration on July 11 expressing deep concern about unresolved conflicts and nuclear weapons threats, and proposing measures that should be taken to rebuild peace and security in Europe.
The members of 53 participating States and four partners for co-operation were in Berlin for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which was held in the Reichstag building, the seat of the German Bundestag, from July 7-11, in the run-up to the NATO Summit in Brussels and the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki.
In the keynote address Wolfgang Schäuble, President of the German Bundestag, drew attention to new international challenges such as cyber-attacks, hybrid threats and climate change, and lamented the tendency of deviation from international rules and standards. He stressed the need for enhancing multilateral co-operation and compromise.
The Declaration, adopted following an amendment process carried out over several days of committee meetings, calls essential the “commitment to the fundamental principles of international law, human rights and the rule of law enshrined in the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act.” It urges renewed efforts to resolve conflicts, with a particular focus on Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and its declaration “provide reminders that there are possibilities and processes for peaceful resolution of conflicts between Russia and the West, rather than ratcheting up the war machine which would just exacerbate the problem,” noted Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament (PNND).
The Berlin Declaration calls on nuclear armed and allied states to agree to no-first-use of nuclear weapons, adopt other disarmament and confidence-building measures, increase direct military-to-military contacts, and engage in structured dialogue to address the conflicts in the region.
However, Ware added, the Assembly rejected other nuclear disarmament proposals, including the removal of all nuclear weapons hosted by non-nuclear (NATO) countries and support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
PNND circulated a backgrounder ‘Dialogue, détente and disarmament: The Role of parliamentarians and the OSCE’ to the delegates. This included an update on key nuclear weapons issues and upcoming events (such as the Trump/Putin Summit) and action ideas for parliamentarians.
“PNND members also played key roles in advancing specific issues and proposals for peace, security, nuclear risk-reduction and disarmament,” noted Ware.
The Danish parliamentarian Soren Sondegaard co-sponsored the text supporting the aim of a nuclear-weapon-free world and full ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The other text he co-sponsored supported the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It was rejected.
The Declaration further calls on governments to ensure that human rights are respected by all security and intelligence services, both public and private, and urges parliaments to establish bodies for scrutinizing these services’ activities. Parliaments should also support the OSCE’s “structured dialogue” process, the Declaration says.
The text supporting the Structured Dialogue initiative to counter the risk of military escalation was co-sponsored by Stephane Crusniere, a Belgian parliamentarian, Margret Kiener Nellen of Switzerland and Hedy Fry of Canada.
Fry and Kiener-Nellen were also signatories of Common security for a sustainable and nuclear-weapon-free world, an appeal by 50 women parliamentarians, released on May 24 International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament, which calls for nuclear deterrence to be replaced by diplomacy, international law and common security mechanisms, and which highlights the important role of the OSCE to achieve this.
As the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Gender Issues, Fry also proposed a text, that was adopted, on ensuring effective participation of women at all levels of security management. She also submitted a detailed report and supplementary resolution on Preventing and Combating Gender-Based Violence.
The resolution, which was adopted, calls on OSCE countries to undertake various measures to prevent gender-based violence, implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and encourage men and boys to take an active role as both powerful agents and beneficiaries of gender equality and an end to gender-based violence.
Kiener-Nellen, who was elected to be the new chair of the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, also submitted a supplementary resolution, which was adopted, on Strengthening the OSCE’s Approach to Supporting Security Sector Governance and Reform in Participating and Partner States.
The resolution provides a detailed outline of how to advance structured dialogue on current conflicts and future risks in ways that engage all relevant sectors including government, legislators, military and civil society.
In the economic and environmental dimension, the Declaration stresses the unique role of parliaments in promoting reforms to implement OSCE commitments, in particular by fighting corruption, increasing transparency and cracking down on organized crime, money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Recalling the nexus between the environment and security, the Declaration calls on parliaments “to promote universal ratification of the Paris Agreement on climate change and to boost the implementation of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions to strengthen the global response to climate change.” It also urges parliaments to implement policies that promote environmental good governance.
International humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld during armed conflicts and the right of safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons must be respected, the Declaration says. It further calls for investigations into the serious human rights violations of people in conflict zones and occupied territories, including in the South Caucasus, Ukraine, and Cyprus.
The Declaration calls for all OSCE countries to “protect the rights of migrants and refugees, especially their freedom from arbitrary detention, and to actively work on the integration of refugees and protect their right to family reunification, with particular consideration for unaccompanied minors.”
The Declaration also recalls the commitment of non-refoulement as a principle of customary international law, emphasizing that refugees and asylum seekers must not be forcibly returned to countries where the could face torture or inhumane treatment.
OSCE is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections. Its participating states are 57, including the Holy See. It recognizes 11 countries as Partners for Co-operation: Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, (South) Korea, Morocco, Thailand, and Tunisia.
OSCE employs around 3,460 people, mostly in its field operations but also in its secretariat in Vienna, Austria and its institutions. It has its origins in the 1975 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) held in Helsinki, Finland. It was created during the Cold War era as an East-West forum. [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 July 2018]
Photo: OSCE parliamentarians voting in plenary session in Berlin on10 July 2018. Credit: OSCEPA.
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