PRESS RELEASE, December 5, 2014
Yesterday, Secretary of State Kerry met with civil society activists from Europe and Central Asia who had gathered in Basel 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 regional non-governmental organization Civic Solidarity and SwissPeace. Championing President Obama’s global Stand with Civil Society initiative, Kerry expressed solidarity with the advocates and activists, declaring independent civil society organizations such as theirs “essential to the defense and advancement of human dignity and freedom.”
The activists each had an opportunity to discuss with Secretary Kerry specific cases of concern and broader trends in their countries. The Secretary solicited their recommendations on what the United States and other members of the OSCE can do to support progress on human rights and democratic development through bilateral diplomatic efforts and the OSCE.
The Secretary assured activists from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan that the United States will continue to raise concerns about restrictions on civil society, including restrictive laws and practices impeding the free operation of non-governmental organizations and independent media, the persecution of human rights defenders and journalists, and the false labeling of civil society organizations as “foreign agents.”
Secretary Kerry also heard how activists in Ukraine are working with the new government to advance needed reforms and how non-governmental advocates in Serbia plan to leverage their government’s upcoming Chairmanship of the OSCE to further advance post-conflict reconciliation at home and in the Balkans region.