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Open Letter to the Foreign Ministers of the 57 participating States of the OSCE, by former Directors of its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

By the five former Directors of ODIHR
Opinion 22 July 2020

Open Letter to the Foreign Ministers of the 57 participating States of the OSCE, by former Directors of its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights

 

Dear Ministers,

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Human rights, the rule of law and democratic governance are at the heart of every human being. They are also at the heart of the comprehensive security concept of the OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Without these fundamental tenets, there can be no security. Therefore, the OSCE, the world’s largest regional security organization, has developed, over the years, a broad and detailed range of commitments for its 57 members, the participating States, for the benefit of their population of over one billion.

In order to help them live up to these commitments effectively, governments have also created several institutions: next to the organization’s Secretary General, these are the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the High Commissioner on National Minorities, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media.

Today, these commitments are under severe stress. And these institutions will be weakened for months, as their leadership has not been extended by your 57 ambassadors in Vienna. It was in that same place that you, the Foreign Ministers, appointed them, by consensus, three years ago.

Since then, ODIHR Director Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, High Commissioner Lamberto Zannier, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, have done, together with Secretary General Thomas Greminger, an outstanding job in fulfilling their mandates, often under increasingly severe challenges. And yet, against all common sense, they have not been extended. The search for successors will take several months.

We have headed the ODIHR previously. We know of the challenges to remind governments of their commitments. We know of the difficulties to ensure these commitments in all participating States. We know of the reluctance of many governments to respond, when faced with serious shortcomings with regard to the implementation of their commitments. And we know of the difficulties that those face who speak up, the human rights defenders in civil society. But we also know of the importance of these commitments and of their implementation.

This is true today more than ever: we see the weakening of the multilateral system that has served the world so well over the last decades, if not always in preserving peace, but in managing crises and in advancing rules and their implementation.

The mandate is clear: remind governments of their commitments and assist them in improving their performance. The message is not always positive or convenient. But it is a necessary and mandated message. It has been delivered in good faith. And it is not going to go away.

So, governments should heed the message. They should not shoot the messenger.

Sincerely,

Audrey Glover (1994-1997)

Gérard Stoudmann (1997-2002)

Christian Strohal (2003-2008)

Janez Lenarcic (2008-2014)

Michael Link (2014-2017)

Comments

2 responses to “Open Letter to the Foreign Ministers of the 57 participating States of the OSCE, by former Directors of its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights”

  1. Steven Wagenseil says:

    As a former First Deputy Director and (briefly) Acting Director of ODIHR, I fully concur with the opinions expressed in this Open Letter.
    Then as now, I encourage all participating States to live up to their commitments, no matter how painful that may be. The world will be a better place.

    • Simone says:

      Dear Sir, could you explain me why living up to the commitments would be painful? Or is it the fact that ministers are supposed to hold each other accountable, something they don’t like and consider that painful? Or is it something else? Would really appreciate your response.

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