The Week in Review: January 22nd to January 26th
Economic and Environmental Forum: The Digital Economy and Security
The link between the digital economy and security was the focus of this year’s first conference in the 2018 Economic and Environmental Forum (EEF) cycle in Vienna on Monday and Tuesday.
We see great opportunity for collaboration on this issue, and encouraged the OSCE and Italian Chairmanship to increase the Organization’s focus on the ‘gender digital divide’ — or women and girls’ lack of access to, use of, and development of information communication technologies. We also stressed the importance of the rule of law and good governance to success in this conversation.
The EEF is an annual series of conferences that gives driving force to new OSCE action in the economic and environmental realm.
Human Dimension Committee: UK Presents 2018 Work Plan
On Tuesday, the UK delegation to the OSCE presented its work plan as Chair of the Human Dimension Committee (HDC) in 2018, a role it is taking on for a second consecutive year.
We thanked the UK for its effective approach in 2017, and welcomed the inclusion in 2018’s work plan of several thematic sessions of extra significance, such as sessions on freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief; gender equality; Roma and Sinti rights; and freedoms of expression and association.
We also noted the UK’s skill in engaging civil society in the HDC in 2017, and encouraged to the extent possible a similar approach in 2018, enabling grassroots organizations to enrich our discussions with their expertise and knowledge.
At the Permanent Council: President of the OSCE PA Addresses the PC
George Tsereteli, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA), visited the Permanent Council on Thursday to outline his institution’s planned activities for 2018. In his address, Tsereteli also stressed the importance of civil society’s contributions to the OSCE’s work.
Responding to Tsereteli, we recognized the contributions of the OSCE PA, highlighting how its work served as a basis for an important decision on combating child trafficking adopted by OSCE States in Vienna in December. We also welcomed Tsereteli’s support for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, and expressed appreciation for his comments on the role of civil society and non-governmental organizations.
The OSCE PA was founded in 1990 to enable greater involvement in the OSCE by the region’s national parliaments.
At the Permanent Council: Russia’s Ongoing Violations in Ukraine
Recounting the civilian toll in the Russia-initiated and perpetuated conflict in eastern Ukraine, we called on the sides to prioritize measures to ease civilian suffering on both sides of the line of contact. We also commended the positive role the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM) played in restoring Vodafone’s mobile telecommunications services in areas of Donetsk and Luhansk controlled by Russia-led forces. These services were disrupted on January 11.
Unfortunately, for all of the SMM’s successes, it is constrained in its activities by Russia-led forces, and restrictions on its movement continue unabated. We called on Russia and its proxies to end interference with SMM patrols, equipment, and monitoring capabilities.
We also spoke out about the situation in Russia-occupied Crimea, which remains appalling. Court verdicts continue against those who individually and peacefully protested the authorities’ repression of Crimean Tatars on October 14 — of which there are now at least 65 — and, noting information from the Crimea Human Rights Group that at least 10,000 Crimean residents have been conscripted into the Russian army, we called on Russia to end this practice.
At the Permanent Council: Russia Blocks Expansion of OSCE Border Observation
The Permanent Council adopted a decision on Thursday extending for a further four months the deployment of OSCE observers to two Russian checkpoints on the Russian-Ukrainian Border.
Following adoption of the decision, we expressed our deep regret that Russia continues to block the geographic expansion of the Mission, restricting it to just two border checkpoints that account for only a few hundred meters of the 2,300 kilometer border — much of which Ukraine does not control.
Russia’s restrictions mean the Mission will still be unable to ascertain the full extent to which Russia is participating in or facilitating the flow of arms, funding, and personnel to support the separatists in eastern Ukraine.