12th April 2017 Vienna, Austria
A Very Special Visit
The OSCE begins a 2 week Easter recess this week, giving secretariat and 57 national delegations the chance to catch breath and look ahead after an exceptionally busy month of multilateral diplomacy.
The broad nature of the OSCE remit is such that unrelated events and political developments can coincide to create flurries of intense activity. Headline events from my past two weeks have included:
- special session of the Permanent Council on the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine;
- start of an important new security Structured Dialogue between OSCE capitals;
- moderating discussion with the mayors of Rotterdam and Seoul at a ‘Security Day’ on cities;
- welcoming the UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner to an OSCE convened Alliance Against Trafficking meeting;
- the visit to the OSCE by HRH The Prince of Wales.
Last week’s visit to Vienna by TRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall was a brilliant chance to highlight to a wider audience some contemporary challenges where, as Chair of the OSCE Human Dimension Committee, the UK is working closely with the Austrian Chairmanship. In the Hofburg, former seat of the Habsburg imperial family and now home to meetings of the OSCE, my Delegation convened expert round table discussions on two issues of particular interest to the Prince.
The first was on the theme of tackling modern slavery and human trafficking. The OSCE Secretary General Zannier and Special Representative on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Jarbussynova were joined by senior UN representatives, Austrian police and NGOs to discuss co-operation between civil society, national authorities and international organisations.
The Prince then joined a lively round table on the theme of ‘tolerance’, chaired by distinguished Austrian ambassador and human rights champion Christian Strohal. The European Fundamental Rights Agency Director and Cardinal Schönborn joined experts working with the OSCE on a complex of sensitive and importance issues ranging across freedom of religion and belief, social integration and so on. The discussion brought out the importance of overcoming mistrust and misunderstanding through bringing people together.
A reception hosted by my colleague Leigh Turner, the UK Ambassador to Austria and the UN was an opportunity for HRH the Prince of Wales to meet some of the British people working in key OSCE posts. (There is more on the Royal programme in Leigh’s behind the scenes blog.)
Many thanks to the Austrian 2017 OSCE Chairmanship and the OSCE Secretariat for welcoming our very special visitor. (Thanks too to Micky Kröll for her pictures of a highly memorable OSCE visit.)
It was quite a week. My Delegation and I will be using the Easter Recess to take stock, spend a few days with families, and prepare for some busy months ahead including a Human Dimension Committee meeting on 2 May on Women’s Participation in Political and Public life, further rounds of the Structured Dialogue, and an intensifying process to appoint successors for the OSCE’s four top jobs.