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Address by H.E. the Austrian Foreign Minister
Ms. Benita Ferrero-Waldner
at the 431st Meeting of the Permanent Council
Human Security Network
Vienna, 16 January 2003
Mr Secretary General,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is both a pleasure and honour for me to address the Permanent Council for the first time since Austria held the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2000. I would like to thank the Netherlands for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today in my capacity as Chairperson of the Human Security Network.
During this week I had the opportunity, in several discussions with the former as well as the new Chairman in Office, to get an update on the newest OSCE developments and perspectives. I am more than ever convinced that the OSCE is a natural ally for questions of human security. OSCE is a highly operational organization and is dealing with very similar problems to those of the HSN. I am therefore confident that we shall together implement the concept of human security in the OSCE activities.
Today I am going to outline what the Human Security Network is and what it stands for, focus on objectives that the OSCE and the Human Security Network share and inform you in particular on the priorities of the Human Security Network during the Austrian presidency.
What is the Human Security Network?
This Network is a group of thirteen countries from all regions of the world who have joined together at the level of foreign ministers to promote the concept of accepting responsibility to protect the life and freedom of human beings. This in essence means that more emphasis is given to the promotion and defence of the freedom from fear and the freedom from want. The Network includes Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa as an observer, Switzerland and Thailand and of course my own country, Austria.
Achieving a world where people can live in freedom from threats requires coalition building among like-minded states as well as with non-State actors around an expanded security policy approach. It is an approach to foreign policy - a kind of a `new diplomacy', so to speak - that puts people, their rights and safety and their lives first.
The Human Security Network grew out of the landmines campaign and the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court and was formally launched at a Ministerial meeting in Norway in 1999. The human security agenda includes issues such as small arms, children in armed conflict, implementation gaps of international humanitarian and human rights law, the exploitation of children, the safety of humanitarian personnel, trans-national organized crime, human development and human security, human rights education, non-state actors, HIV/AIDS and conflict prevention.
In the four years of its existence progress has been achieved in mainstreaming the human security focus into the agenda of many international organizations and structures.
Apart from the United Nations, where thanks to a Canadian initiative the Security Council had been seized for the first time of a human security agenda - in fact the Council has discussed the problem of children and armed conflict only two days ago and the Austrian presidency delivered a statement on behalf of the HSN - also other agencies such as the UNDP, WHO, the UNU, ILO and UNESCO have espoused this new focus on human security.
As the only inter-regional grouping the Network is particularly qualified to carry issues and priorities into inter-governmental negotiating processes and organizations thanks to its structure as a flexible coordinating framework to foster cross-regional cooperation on human security related issues. The central objective is to provide coherence for human security initiatives and to strengthen and build momentum around them.
What is the purpose of my presentation today?
As members of the Human Security Network we have concluded that human security should be pursued not only in global fora but that we should also increase our discourse on human security concerns in our respective regional frameworks. Chile has lead this effort by introducing the human security agenda in the Group of Rio. I presume that comprehensive and systematic approaches to enhancing the security of people in the future will form part of the agenda of all regional groups.
My main message today is that there are significant parallels between the aims and objectives of the Network and the OSCE and that the work of the OSCE, in particular in the field, should fully benefit from considerations and concepts developed by the Human Security Network.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world we are living in offers human beings important new blessings but also a host of new perils. Conflicts of long standing are still not solved, new crises may lie ahead. The nature of conflicts is changing in a way that it affects all aspects of civil society and the lives of individuals anywhere. There is an increasingly blurred distinction between criminal and political violence in many parts of the world. A new generation of threats related to human security such as terrorism, the unchecked proliferation of small arms, the trafficking in human beings and the forced recruitment of children by armed groups pose a challenge to the international system and to humanity as such. This is in particular true for a security organization like the OSCE which sees the ultimate aim of all the efforts in the improvement of the security of the individual - an understanding of security which was confirmed in the Istanbul Summit Declaration of 1999.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
One of the more striking parallels between the Network and the OSCE's human dimension is the prominent role of civil society. Measures that the Network has taken so far have to a large extent been initiated and nurtured by academia and NGOs. They played a key part in launching the process that lead to the adoption of the Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines and to the negotiations creating the International Criminal Court. It was during that period, that human security became to be looked at in the way we see it today - as a crosscutting theme encompassing human rights, global development and disarmament.
One of the core concerns of both the Human Security Network and the OSCE is the promotion and protection of human rights. The respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law is indeed at the heart of OSCE's comprehensive concept of security. When the Network was created in 1999, I argued for the inclusion of human rights education in its agenda. Let me explain why: In line with the general move from reaction to prevention we strongly believe that human rights education is a powerful instrument of preventing human rights from being violated with often costly consequences. A "culture of human rights" is only achievable if it is not left to international fora alone but promoted and observed in all spheres of life within the education, administration and defence systems involving state officials and the judiciary as central agents of governance.
The OSCE has made important contributions to the development of comprehensive approaches to peace and security and to the promotion of human security.
As an example, I would like to mention the valuable work done by the OSCE in addressing the excessive and destabilizing accumulation and uncontrolled spread of small arms and light weapons. The OSCE Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons is a landmark in the development of international principles, norms and standards in this field. Initiatives like this have been launched by several HSN-Partners with the support of civil society and NGOs and have been introduced in a number of relevant multilateral fora. Recently, the thirteen Ministers of the Network issued a Declaration on Promoting the universalization of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and their Destruction. Initiatives of the HSN during the next UN Commission on Human Rights and other relevant upcoming international gatherings, such as this year's International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the Conference on Disarmament and the Fifth Conference of State Parties of the Ottawa Conference are also contemplated.
The OSCE is a case in point for cross-regional co-operation on human security. The organization in geographical terms is unique not only because it comprises Euro-Atlantic and Euro-Asian communities, but also because of its institutional links with other regional organizations of the world. It is only through a concerted approach that it is possible today to develop new norms and mechanisms and even more importantly to effectively implement existing ones to which a majority of countries has subscribed.
Let me now give you a brief outline of the programme and activities of the Network:
Under the Austrian presidency the Human Security Network has decided to direct this year's focus to two issues of human security which we feel are of special relevance to the Agenda we are trying to deal with: the globally shared acquisition of a culture of human rights through human rights education and addressing more effectively the enormous plight suffered by an ever growing number of children in the world exposed to the horrors and destruction on body and mind by armed conflict. With the issue of children affected by armed conflict we are exploring new possible partnerships and cooperation with relevant inter-governmental as well as non-governmental organizations.
On the first priority theme let me stress that human rights education permeating all strata of society is a central prerequisite in promoting and safeguarding human rights standards in a sustainable way. Making universal human rights work does not only mean equality, indivisibility, non-discrimination or political participation but also accountability and governance in a manner that is transparent and accessible for the public.
To this end, substantial work has started on the elaboration of a `Declaration of Principles on Human Rights Education' and, as a practical contribution, on a manual on `Understanding Human Rights' to be globally used for human rights training. This combined concept will provide a guiding framework for all HSN partners and beyond in the broad area of human rights education. The plan is to use these tools in order to enhance human rights education in all the regions of the Human Security Network partners with the help of human rights centers and especially also in cooperation with international organizations and NGOs.
A special role will accrue to the human rights cities, such as Graz as the Austrian human rights city, which is taking this responsibility very seriously.
On the second priority theme - children and armed conflict - we are currently working on the elaboration of a `common support strategy' for children affected by armed conflict identifying a set of operative principles as well as a training curriculum for child rights monitors and rehabilitation experts. One of the results envisaged by the Network is to contribute to the creation of a pool of child experts for possible use in conflict areas. The `common support strategy' aims at reinforcing international action in all appropriate fora. The political commitment for children affected by armed conflict is inspired by the overall goal of bridging the gap between obligations of or commitments for universal human rights standards and their implementation, between information and action, between programmatic concepts and systematic response both in international fora and on the ground. In this spirit, key elements have been identified as priority areas for strategic intervention by HSN Members, including an alarm function.
As far as children in armed conflicts are concerned, we work very closely with the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Olara Otunnu, and his office. In effect, the support strategy of the Human Security Network, which we are elaborating, is designed to strengthen the efforts by the Special Representative. It also is supposed to help bridge programmatic, institutional and level-of-interest gaps, gaps between information and action as well as gaps between political will and the capacity to act.
The presidency - in cooperation with the Special Representative Otunnu - is also working on publishing a collection of the most important legal instruments with regard to children in armed conflict as an additional tool to enhance awareness and knowledge of the issue.
In my opinion - and this view has been supported by the latest Ministerial Meeting in New York last fall - it is important for the Human Security Network and the priorities it tackles to add value to the work of the existing fora and international organisations. I am confident that the concept of human security and the current priorities of the Human Security Network will also add value to the important work of the OSCE.
The documents that I have mentioned, the Declaration on Human Rights Education, the Human Rights Education Handbook as well as the support strategy for children in armed conflict, are to be endorsed by Ministers at their next meeting in May 2003 in Graz. The Network will make them available to the OSCE as we believe that they address issues of particular importance for your work. I trust that they will prove useful, including in relevant OSCE field operations and institutions, namely ODIHR. Let me express our sincere wish that the documents on children in armed conflict, in particular through their practical scope, will give new impetus to the discussion in the OSCE on child rights in armed conflict.
In closing, I would like to express the hope that this will mark the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between the Network and the OSCE. I further hope that this will in turn strengthen the human security agenda in the OSCE. After all it is the individual whose interests must always remain at the centre of our attention.