Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Warsaw Human Dimension Conference 2023 – UK opening statement [October 2023]

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

Ambassador Neil Holland says that the Warsaw Human Dimension Conference is an important manifestation of participating States’ will to preserve the OSCE’s capacity to defend and promote human rights.

Thank you, Mr Chair.

The Warsaw Human Dimension Conference (WHDC) is an important manifestation of our collective will to preserve the OSCE’s capacity to defend and promote human rights.

I would first like to thank ODIHR and the Chair in Office, as well as our hosts Poland, for their work to make sure we can meet here this week and next. And I would also like to thank the Representative on Freedom of the Media for her invaluable work since last year’s WHDC.

The human dimension underpins Euro-Atlantic security and is critical to the functioning of the OSCE. The UK will continue to defend the independence, mandates, and budgets of the OSCE’s human dimension institutions. We’re determined that Russia’s attempts to block discussions of democracy and human rights as well as its wider efforts to undermine the OSCE will fail.

The United Kingdom also thanks Ireland in their capacity as 2023 Chair of the Human Dimension Committee. We’re delighted to invite delegates to a joint screening by Ireland and the United Kingdom of a film entitled ‘Wave Goodbye to Dinosaurs’ on Wednesday 5 October at 7pm in the Atlantic Cinema. This documentary focuses on the involvement of a cross-community group, The Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, in the negotiation of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement 25 years ago.

The WHDC is an important opportunity to reflect on the reality of life for tens of thousands of Ukrainians living in territory temporarily under Russian control, including in illegally annexed Crimea. This week and next we will hear how Ukrainian civilians bear the brunt of Russia’s aggression, are subjected to unimaginable abuse, and denied even the most basic rights and freedoms.

As we stand united with Ukraine, we must also reflect on the state of human rights within Russia and Belarus.

Belarus has now experienced three years of brutal repression – of civil society groups, political opponents, journalists and ordinary citizens. We call on Belarus to end this repression now.

As we have seen in the Moscow Mechanism report, internal repression is part of Russia’s longstanding strategy to suppress dissent and punish human rights defenders and civil society. Ultimately this internal repression led to external aggression by Russia, destabilising the OSCE region as a whole.

The UK again calls on Russia to uphold its international commitments and obligations on human rights and fundamental freedoms. Together with others in this organisation we remain determined to hold Russia to account for its actions in Ukraine.

Mr Chair, the UK is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, due to the limited access international aid organisations have into Nagorno-Karabakh, and the significant refugee flows from Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia. We are liaising with the UN, ICRC and others to assess humanitarian need in the region and what further UK assistance might be required.

Finally, a word to civil society. We look forward to positive and constructive engagement with you throughout the conference. We admire your brave determination to hold governments and societies to account and to give a voice to the voiceless. We will listen to you.

Thank you.