Project: Monitoring Serbia’s OSCE Chairmanship

The inconsistent implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments

The OSCE annual human dimension implementation meeting on human rights and democratization, dedicated to assessment of commitments within human dimension was held in Warsaw, from 21st September to 2nd October, 2015. Human dimension refers on comprehensive understanding of security issue, which includes protection and promotion of human rights and democratic process, i.e. “the third basket” of the OSCE.

The discussions of governmental and non-governmental actors about the implementation of the OSCE commitments were organized in 20 sessions, plenary or working, as well as on numerous side events dedicated to the pressing issues, and other themes of engagement of certain number of participating states or human rights in OSCE region in general.

Keeping in mind the Serbian OSCE chairmanship, the presence of representatives of the Government, independent institutions and civil society from Serbia, was noticeable. The speech of Minister of foreign affairs, Ivica Dacic in the introductory part was covered by significant number of journalists from Serbia. However, it doesn't mean that the public in Serbia has been substantially informed on the nature of the meeting and the assessments of human rights in region. The participants of this conference from various OSCE departments and non-governmental sector neither journalists were not informed on discussion on self-assessment process - the assessment of implementation of the relevant commitments in Serbia, which Serbia has been conducting according to the model introduced by the previous Swiss Chairmanship.

The coordination group of the civil society organizations for the monitoring of implementation of OSCE commitments in human dimension, including the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), Public Policy Research Center, Humanitarian Law Center and Forum for Ethnic Relations, contributed to the discussion at the Implementation Meeting. This biggest international conference on human rights and democratization was used also for continued communication with various OSCE departments, the Civic Solidarity Platform, and bilateral actors. Izabela Kisic, executive director of Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, Svetlana Djurdjevic Lukic, director of the Centar, Jelena Krstic from Humanitarian Law Center and Milena Vasic from YUCOM have participated at the panel discussions marked as priorities for the civil society in Serbia, and were speaking on the topics of their expertise. The representative of Humanitarian Law Center was speaking on the panel discussion for missing persons. The Director of Center was speaking at the panel discussion about extinguishing the flame of propaganda, and at the presentation of self – assessment process in implementation of commitments within OSCE human dimension in Serbia.

Civil society is identified in numerous documents as OSCE' s partner in ensuring the respect of human dimension commitments in participating states, and the civil society organizations as significant internal actors whose active engagement should be facilitated. However, it has been noticed the concern of non-governmental organizations in relation with reducing the area of engagement of civil society in participating states. There is substantial gap between declarative increasing of engagement of civil society in OSCE region, and minimal influence on certain number of participating states to indeed open the area for the representatives of civil society in general, and in specific areas within the Human Dimension. Heterogeneity of political cultures and structural differences between participating states doesn't allow for the general evaluation of the implementation of HD commitments in the OSCE region.

Ideological confrontation which has been recently demonstrated by substantial number of participating states, i.e. revival of geopolitical matrix regarding the security in region, are leading to creation of new division with the OSCE region. The problems of implementation of relevant Human Dimension commitments and OSCE's action plans in this area exist in certain EU states as well. Particularly it was noticed during the discussion of the acting of police structures on Roma population when examples of the representatives of non-governmental organizations from Slovakia, Hungary and Romania were put forward.

Regarding the Serbian OSCE chairmanship in the first nine months in 2015, the impression is that the need for the cooperation with civil society was identified by the Government, but that CSOs contribution is not considered as priority. It is related to the limitations in administrative capacities and financial constrains which influence the Chairmanship. The Chairmanship is understood as an obligation resting practically only on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Furthermore, there is no a strategy for foreign affairs in Serbia is not adopted, or a structure providing for the influence from the expert community in the area of foreign policy.  The context which includes crisis situation in Ukraine, uncontrolled migration flows and numerous frozen conflicts, as well as financial, administrative and other constraints in Serbia, doesn't leave a space for substantial expectations for the role of civil society and its priorities to be prominent during the Serbian OSCE Chairmanship, beyond some examples related to youth engagement and a conference on protection of journalists.