This hearing has been convened by the Helsinki Commission to review U.S. policy toward the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – the OSCE. The Commission remains keenly interested in the OSCE as a tool for promoting human rights and democratic development and advancing U.S. interests in the expansive OSCE region. The terrorist attacks of September 11 represent an assault on the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law -- core principles at the heart of the OSCE. It is crucial that we redouble our efforts to advance these fundamental principles throughout the OSCE region even as we pursue practical cooperation aimed at rooting out terrorism.
The OSCE provides an excellent framework for advancing these vital and complementary objectives.
First, the OSCE’s comprehensive definition of security recognizes human rights and democracy as a bedrock for peace.
Second, the Helsinki process redefined diplomacy to include the frankest of exchanges on issues of concern, including the human dimension. As a result, the OSCE countries have come to acknowledge that “commitments undertaken in the field of the human dimension ... are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concern.”
Third, the OSCE redefined participation to include not only the states officially represented, which have gone from the original 35 to 55 today, but also the relevant and valuable role of private citizens and non-governmental advocacy groups.
These developments remain as relevant today as they were when the Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975. I would also underscore the importance of the close working relationship that has been forged between the Commission and the Department of State over the past 25 years. As Chairman, I am committed to building upon this cooperative partnership and urge that hearings such as this one be convened on a periodic basis to update the Congress and the American people on the ongoing work of the OSCE and how it advances our national interests across the spectrum of the security, economic and human dimensions.
During my chairmanship, the Commission has paid increasing attention to the multidimensional threats posed by corruption and international crime. Earlier this year I proposed that the Bucharest OSCE Ministerial, scheduled for early December, explore ways to promote practical cooperation among the 55 OSCE countries in combating corruption and international crime, major sources of financing for terrorist groups. I urge the Department to review my proposal as it plans for the Ministerial.
Today’s hearing will examine U.S. priorities and human rights concerns in the OSCE region. Hopefully, the discussion will address how to institutionalize the OSCE while avoiding the bureaucracy that plagues so many other international organizations, as well as how the organization can remain faithful to the original Helsinki principles while dealing with the challenges of this new century.