Vienna, 23 January 2003 - Today the Dutch OSCE Chair appointed Ambassador Dr. Christian STROHAL, currently Head of the Austrian Diplomatic Mission in Luxembourg, as new Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Ambassador Strohal will assume his new office on 1 March 2003.
Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner welcomed today's appointment of the Austrian diplomat stressing that she was delighted about this decision not only because she had been able to propose a first-class candidate for this office, but because her counterparts had chosen among all candidates the one with the strongest human rights profile. "In view of the new security challenges we are facing, the importance of effective protection of human rights is only too obvious. I am convinced that this decision will help the Organization to continue its successful management of the increasing number of challenges in this area in the future."
Alongside the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the ODIHR is one of the main tools at the OSCE's disposal for the fulfilment of its mandate. The ODIHR is actively involved in election observation and in the development of national election and human rights institutions; it provides technical assistance to local authorities in the OSCE participating states, promotes the development of non-governmental organisations and the civil society and provides training for journalists and OSCE staff on human rights monitoring and the observation of elections. Moreover, the ODIHR serves as the OSCE contact point for Roma and Sinti issues and prepares and organises OSCE meetings and technical seminars. The ODIHR is based in Warsaw (Poland) and has approximately 100 employees.
Ambassador STROHAL is replacing Ambassador Gerard STOUDMANN (Switzerland), whose term in office expired in November 2002.
Ambassador STROHAL was born in Vienna in May 1951 and has dedicated most of his professional career to international human rights, in which field he has acquired substantial specialised knowledge. Among other offices, Ambassador Strohal was the Austrian Representative to the UN Human Rights Conference and Commission, whose Vice-Presidency he also held. He has been a member of Austrian delegations at numerous OSCE and Council of Europe conferences, and from 1994 to 2000 Ambassador Strohal headed the department for human rights and minority issues at the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.