Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : UK response to Report by the Director of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) [November 2023]

The press release issued by the Foreign Office on 2 November 2023.

Ambassador Neil Holland reaffirms UK support for the OSCE human dimension and calls on Russia and Belarus to cease human rights violations.

Thank you Mr Chair,

Welcome back to the Permanent Council, Director Mecacci, and thank you for your remarks. And thank you for your leadership which the UK highly values. Against a background of worsening human rights and democracy indicators in our OSCE region and worldwide, the UK continues to regard the human dimension as a critical part of the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to Euro-Atlantic security.

We continue to support you Director, and the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), in your work to support and encourage participating States to implement our shared Human Dimension commitments. From tolerance and non-discrimination to work on democracy, elections and human rights, ODIHR makes an important contribution to ensuring the OSCE lives up to the ambition we set at Helsinki to foster “peace, security, justice and co-operation” within and among our countries.

There is still much to do to realise that ambition.  Russia’s war affects hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians daily, including children, the elderly and the most vulnerable.   As the Moscow Mechanism reports demonstrated, Russia’s war also lies behind increasing repression of brave human rights defenders in Russia and Belarus.

We again call on Russia and Belarus to implement their human dimension commitments, to engage with ODIHR and the other autonomous institutions, and to cease violating and abusing human rights and undermining Euro-Atlantic security.

We put on the record our particular appreciation of your ODIHR’s monitoring of the dreadful, human consequences of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.  It is vital that such grave human rights violations and abuses are recorded and addressed, including through domestic and international proceedings where appropriate.

Furthermore, we believe that strengthening democratic institutions and practices is a continuous process across the OSCE region.  The UK remains a stalwart supporter of ODIHR’s election observation work and calls on all participating States to implement outstanding recommendations made by you at ODIHR.

Turning to this year’s Warsaw Human Dimension Conference, we agree that the event was a notable success and commend ODIHR and the Chair in Office for its delivery.  As I said in Warsaw, civil society is crucial in giving a voice to the voiceless and holding governments to account. We must continue to listen to them.

Finally, looking forward to future challenges, we are in the midst of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another.  Artificial intelligence brings both huge opportunities and risks. This week the United Kingdom is facilitating an international conversation on artificial intelligence in the form of the AI Safety Summit. The UK believes it is vital to ensure human rights are respected, protected and promoted throughout the life cycle of digital and AI systems.  New technologies must provide new means to advocate for, defend and exercise human rights rather than to adversely impact their enjoyment.

Thank you, Director, and I assure you of the UK’s continued support for ODIHR’s vital work on human rights and democracy. Thank you.