Secretary Kerry Meets in Solidarity with Civil Society at OSCE Ministerial in Belgrade, Serbia

PRESS RELEASE | December 3, 2015

Today, Secretary of State John Kerry met with a group of civil society activists from Europe and Central Asia who had gathered in Belgrade during the Ministerial Meeting of the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The activists were participants and leaders of the parallel civil society conference convened by the Civic Solidarity Platform, a network of more than 80 non-governmental organizations from the OSCE region. Championing President Obama’s global Stand with Civil Society initiative, Kerry expressed solidarity with the activists, calling their work “essential to the advancement of human rights, democratic development, prosperity and security in the OSCE region.”

The Secretary welcomed the recommendations presented to him by the group, which identified areas for action by the 57 OSCE participating States and by OSCE institutions. The activists from Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine also had an opportunity to discuss with Secretary Kerry specific cases of concern and broader trends in their countries and regions.

The Secretary assured the activists that they had “the steadfast support of the United States” and that we will continue to raise concerns about increasing pressure on civil society and independent media, including restrictive laws and practices impeding the operation of non-governmental organizations, the persecution of human rights defenders and independent journalists, and the false labeling of civil society organizations as “foreign agents.”

The Secretary also noted the important role played by civil society in Ukraine and the western Balkans in advancing needed reforms and helping build a European future for their countries.