Warsaw Human Dimension Conference Opening Remarks

Warsaw Human Dimension Conference Opening Remarks

As delivered by Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
 Warsaw, October 2, 2023

I would like to begin by thanking the North Macedonia Chair, Bujar Osmani.  Your principled leadership, Chair, brings us together to build democratic institutions, strengthen the rule of law, ensure tolerance and non-discrimination, and guarantee fundamental freedoms.  The United States is proud to join participating States and the hundreds of civil society representatives with us today to recognize our progress, hold one another to account, and translate these key OSCE human dimension commitments into action. 

As Secretary Blinken underscored to Secretary General Schmid this summer in Washington, the work of the OSCE is vital and must continue.  And never has the organization or its critical work been more relevant – especially given Russia’s ongoing egregious aggression against an OSCE member state.  Let’s not mince words — Russia has shredded the essence of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.  And its shattering of peace in Europe and undermining of stability globally is keenly felt in this organization, as Russia uses the consensus rule to chip away at the institution, to obstruct the human dimension meeting, and to impede the universal budget and selection of a Chair. 

Despite such strong headwinds and unrelenting obstructionism from Russia, the OSCE found a way forward – including in bringing us together today.  As our Acting Deputy Secretary told the OSCE Permanent Council last week, it is vital that this organization maintain the ability to convene civil society activists from across the region to discuss critical issues.  It creates a community of common action in defense of the Helsinki Final Act and UN Charter principles, and offers support and comfort to NGOs, many criticized and home and under threat.   

And it is no secret that the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, having bolstered regional and global security for decades, are actively under attack in many parts of this region.  Democratic backsliding is rising.  The sovereignty and territorial integrity of OSCE member Ukraine are under attack.  And fellow OSCE member Russia’s naked aggression, driven by President Putin’s craven lust for land and power, menaces the international peace and security meticulously built over decades.  The Kremlin’s extraordinary brutality – toward its neighbors and its own people – is a tragic reminder that domestic repression and external aggression are all too often dangerously intertwined.

But appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased – they must be opposed.  That’s why the United States has worked tirelessly to ensure Russia is held accountable.  We’ve deployed an unprecedented number of sanctions, export controls, and other severe costs on Russia’s war machine.  When Russia blocked renewal of OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, the United States and 27 likeminded states funded OSCE’s Support Programme for Ukraine – addressing critical needs like humanitarian demining, protection of displaced persons, human rights protection tools, and media freedom.  Russia will not escape responsibility – not here at this conference – not anywhere.  By choosing not to participate in this forum, the Kremlin and its enabler, the Lukashenka regime, only isolate themselves further. 

But again, let’s focus on those who came to the table today to roll up their sleeves, solve problems and advance this organization’s mission.  The United States’ dedication to the OSCE is steadfast.  By investing diplomatically and programmatically, we all invest in a secure, prosperous, and democratic future.  The OSCE’s experts, institutions, and field missions are helpful resources for us all and the United States is proud to contribute to projects strengthening democracy and rule of law, advancing human rights including promoting tolerance and nondiscrimination, combating trafficking in persons, and more.  These programs save and change lives.  For instance, the United States has provided nearly $1.6 million since 2011 to an OSCE program supporting women’s resource centers in Tajikistan.  In 2023’s second quarter alone, those centers provided legal support to 267 domestic violence survivors.

The United States also advances OSCE principles through our diplomatic engagements like President Biden’s historic summit with Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, where themes spanned the OSCE’s three dimensions of security.   To build on this momentum the United States will convene a C5+1 Regional Connectivity Ministerial this month to drive inclusive sustainable economic development.

Of course, as we meet we are acutely aware of the humanitarian crisis in the wake of Azerbaijan’s military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh.  More than one hundred thousand civilians have fled Nagorno-Karabakh.  Our OSCE values compel us to work collectively within the OSCE, as well as in our national capacities, and with humanitarian organizations to meet the growing needs of those affected by the crisis.  

To close, I want to underscore that the overwhelming majority of the OSCE’s 57 members have held firm in our shared values.  As President Biden said last month at the United Nations, the United States is “mobilizing strong alliances, versatile partnerships, common purpose, and collective action to bring new approaches to our shared challenges.”  This organization, its participating States, and its civil society partners are indispensable allies in our common endeavor to “strengthen democratic institutions, root out corruption, and reject political violence.”  The United States is dedicated to the OSCE, the principles that guide it, and the people of conscience and courage who give it life.  We will stand tall with you as we support Ukraine and advance the rules-based international order.