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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to commend the Romanian Chairmanship as well as ODIHR Director Stoudmann and his colleagues for their organization of the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw this year. Both the formal sessions and the information meetings between delegates and NGOs were important to discuss human rights conditions throughout the OSCE region. As our leaders agreed in Istanbul, OSCE "States are accountable to their citizens and responsible to each other for their implementation of their OSCE commitments."
This Human Dimension meeting, like all aspects of our work in recent weeks, was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in the United States. Human rights and democracy are central to the OSCE, even more so today than they were before September 11. Winning the war against terrorism will not be possible without universal observance of human rights. Democracy, human rights and economic liberty and the campaign to combat terrorism are complementary, not competitive.
Regrettably, many OSCE countries have not yet taken steps to uphold their human rights commitments. Despite commitments to "build, consolidate and strengthen democracy as the only system of government for our nations," there remain people in the OSCE region who do not yet enjoy the right to choose their own government and to hold these governments accountable. Human rights proponents and media outlets continue to face harassment or worse. And even in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, freedom of religion itself remains under attack. To this, we again reiterate that the war on terrorism is not a war on Islam or a war of religions.
The vast majority of issues and specific cases raised during the meeting arise from governmental policy and action or inaction. The burden of correction, therefore, rests squarely on the states concerned, not with the OSCE or its institutions. In those instances where there is a genuine technical or information gap, the OSCE States and institutions can help bridge those gaps. But, no amount of technical assistance will substitute for the political will to make needed changes in domestic law and practice.
As we made clear at the meeting in Warsaw, lifting onerous registration requirements for NGOs would be a first step to support civil society. We also suggested that States might consult with ODIHR's expert panel on the prevention of torture to consider concrete steps that would address the problem of impunity. We believe States should also investigate and punish acts of intolerance and racially motivated attacks. With respect to legislative issues, criminal defamation law, we believe, should be replaced with civil defamation laws. Laws proscribing violence against women and the criminalization of trafficking should also be adopted throughout the OSCE region.
More important than the discussion itself, however, will be follow-up to the meeting. In this regard, we look to supplementary meetings to examine specific human dimension issues, such as the role of domestic observers in the electoral process, the role of community policing in building confidence between minority communities and authorities, and the methods of census conduct and data collection. Additionally, we would propose that ODIHR hold a seminar next year on the civil and human rights of internally displaced persons.
We believe the Ministerial Council should also address human dimension issues and concerns. As such, we are encouraged by efforts to include references to the need to strengthen our capabilities to deal with issues related to refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as Roma/Sinti, in the ongoing work on OSCE reform. We look forward to progress on this work at the Bucharest Ministerial.
Finally, we would like to note that like many States we believe this meeting is imperfect, but it remains an invaluable forum to allow non-governmental organizations and States directly to raise issues and systematically to review implementation of all OSCE human rights commitments. We agree that steps need to be taken to improve the meeting, and are prepared to discuss options to strengthen the meeting next year. We are intrigued by some of the suggestions that have been made by Mr. Stoudmann this morning and we look forward to discussing those as we seek to strengthen this meeting and make it a more effective part of our dialogue here.
Again, Mr. Chairman, we would like to thank you and ODIHR for organizing this important meeting and to reiterate that we believe it plays an invaluable part in encouraging States to move forward in their human rights commitments.
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