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Op-Ed by Ambassador Brian Aggeler on GBV in Bosnia and Herzegovina

OSCE - Mon, 09/04/2023 - 15:03
Željka Šulc

The scourge of domestic violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina demands an urgent response. 

On August 29, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina hosted a distinguished gathering of ministers and other key leaders from across the country.  We were pleased to host the Speaker of the BiH Parliament, the President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH, the Federation Minister of the Interior, Cantonal Ministers of Justice and Interior, police representatives from relevant agencies and others together around one table. Their joining us in such numbers reflected our shared recognition of a serious problem facing this country: the terrible scourge of domestic abuse.  We spoke not as bureaucrats but as people facing a challenge that harms many among us. 

Put simply, the OSCE has as its mission promoting security in the broadest sense, and security is still an issue when half of the population is subject to domestic violence – and according to our data, half the adult women in Bosnia and Herzegovina have experienced domestic violence and 84 percent of such violence goes unreported.

I was in Tuzla last week talking to the authorities there about their responses to the most recent violent incidents.  The authorities shared with us their innovative approaches to proactively tackling this problem, but let us be clear: that victim was not alone, and this is certainly not just a problem for Tuzla or Gradačac.  There are victims in big cities and small towns across this entire country.  We all know this.

When recent incidents such as those in Gradačac, Živinice, and Bijeljina happen, we all express our horror and sympathy for the victims and their families.  And that is appropriate – it is a very human reaction – but it is not enough.  There must be action.  And action is possible.  Domestic violence is a scourge that touches every ethnic and religious and linguistic group across the country.  It is a shared challenge calling for shared action.

To start, it is of the highest importance that both Entities of BiH have harmonized their Criminal Codes and their laws on Protection against Domestic Violence with the Istanbul Convention. The RS has done so, the Federation should undertake immediate steps to do the same.

But that is simply not sufficient.

We must examine and address why the system breaks down, why victims do not turn to it for support, why under-reporting remains so prevalent. We also cannot understate the complexity of domestic violence, which involves issues of justice, safety, access to support services, gender norms and stereotypes, equality, and the normalization of violence. 

Therefore, combatting domestic violence requires a similarly complex response that is nuanced, multi-sectoral, and committed, a response that is gender-sensitive, victim-centric, and trauma-informed. Such responses must also account for the many forms domestic violence takes – physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, and economic – and for the diversity of victims, who span all ethnic, social, and economic divides. 

The discreet but interconnected parts of the institutional system must work in concert to recognize the signs of domestic violence, ensure the availability and suitability of response and reporting mechanisms and protective measures, and strengthen judicial responses to end impunity.  In doing so, all members of society – of all genders – must cultivate a culture of respect and equality.   

Our invitation to come together outlined several recommendations for immediate, strategic, and systemic action, and, reached  agreement on concrete, forward-looking commitments

We must first commend the Entity Ministries of Interior for their commitment to conduct training via the respective police academies, including through curricula reform, that enable future police officers to respond to domestic violence and gender-based cases promptly and effectively.  Our Mission will assist the Entity Ministries in this important process wherever possible.

The Entity and Cantonal Ministries of Interior committed themselves to continue planning and implementing mandatory specialized trainings for in-service police officers. I think many would agree that it is important for those trainings to engage prosecutors as well.  We hope this process will be well underway before November, and the Mission will collaborate very closely with authorities on this.  

We very much welcome the initiative by Cantonal Ministries of Interior to harmonize  and to make  stricter the existing cantonal legislation and regulations on issuance, possession and control of firearms.  I was impressed with the forward-leaning approach to this issue that Canton Tuzla is taking, but of course, these measures can only be effective if implemented more broadly.  We will have to ensure that firearms are seized from the perpetrators following a report of domestic violence. Some measures are already in place, but a more efficient implementation of these procedures is of the essence.

Tthe High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH has committed to ensuring effective training to improve the justice sector response to domestic violence, including the proper application of the relevant legal provisions.  We appreciate their willingness and again here, my mission stands ready to help in the implementation.

Let me be very clear that by agreeing these new efforts we do not in any way mean to diminish the work already being done by dedicated individuals across this country.  We deeply respect the important work being done at shelters and at relevant agencies.  We simply believe that if we have the will, it is possible to do more.

I have no illusions that these additional steps can stop this scourge completely.  Here and around the world – including in my own country – this will continue to be a challenge for our societies.  But the fact that we can’t solve everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something.  If what we agreed to do leads to even one less person murdered, one less person living in fear, I believe our efforts were  worth it.

I am grateful that we were able to approach this challenge not as diplomats or ministers or high officials but as human beings.  Our partners in the relevant ministries across this country happen to be human beings in positions to make a positive difference in other people’s lives. 

This is not a political issue, but it requires action by political institutions.  We at OSCE will do everything we can to support their efforts. 

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Chairpersonship to host Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Conference in Tetovo

OSCE - Mon, 09/04/2023 - 14:56

SKOPJE, 4 September 2023 – On 5 and 6 September 2023, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani, will host the OSCE Chairpersonship’s Conference on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Tetovo, North Macedonia.

The conference will bring together high-level officials from the OSCE participating States and partner countries along with representatives of the private sector, academia, civil society and other international organizations.

The two-day event will provide an opportunity to review the implementation of the existing commitments with regard to gender equality and women’s empowerment across the OSCE region, while also taking stock of achievements and considering possible ways forward.

The Conference will start with a high-level opening panel that includes key note speeches by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia Bujar Osmani and Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid.

It will be followed by three working sessions reflective of the OSCE’s work on gender equality across the three dimensions, and a closing session. The working sessions will also be supplemented by several side events.

The high-level opening session starting at 15:00 CEST will be live-streamed on for media and the general public to follow remotely.

For more information, please contact Boni Cvetanovska (, Press and Communication Team, OSCE 2023 Chairpersonship of North Macedonia.

Follow @OSCECiO and @Bujar_O to join the discussion.

Categories: Central Europe

Promotion of the Guidelines on Communication with Persons with Disabilities held in Široki Brijeg

OSCE - Mon, 09/04/2023 - 13:53
Promotion of the Guidelines on Communication with Persons with Disabilities held in Široki Brijeg Željka Šulc

ŠIROKI BRIJEG, 4 September 2023 – The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina organized the promotion of the Guidelines for Improvement of Everyday Communication with Persons with Disabilities in Široki Brijeg today.

These Guidelines, published in 2022 by the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Ombudsman Institution), aim to improve everyday communication with persons with disabilities (PwDs), in public institutions and bodies, companies, legal entities and individuals who contribute to social integration of PwDs.

Representatives of the Ombudsman Institution, West Herzegovina Canton (WHC) civil society organizations gathering PwDs and promoting their rights, as well as executive, legislative and judicial authorities in WHC had the opportunity to exchange views and agree upon activities ahead.

Ioannis Piliouris, Head of the OSCE Field Office in Mostar, commended the continuous efforts and partnership with the Mission of all gathered in pursuing issues that PwDs face in everyday life and in advocating for improvement of their access to rights. “This includes issues pertaining to the removal of architectural barriers, inclusion of the civil sector in the process of creation of relevant legislation, successful advocacy by the Mission regarding the adaptation of official webpages for the use of persons with visual impairment, exchange of good practices with the organization Los Rosales Mostar towards the opening of Kutak Srece café in Široki Brijeg, now employing 10 young persons with disabilities.”

Communication is a human rights issue,encompassing the right to receive and impart information. As such, freedom of expression is a key prerequisite to enjoy other human rights.

Nives Jukić, BiH Human Rights Ombudsperson, explained that these guidelines are their contribution to improve the position of persons with disabilities, as they are a guide for all public bodies and companies on how to communicate with persons with disabilities. “Unfortunately, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, persons with disabilities face numerous barriers in their everyday life, from architectural to communication, due to which they are exposed to various forms of discrimination, and they should have equal rights and opportunities for full participation in all areas of life“.

Elaborating on how different categories and types of disabilities exist, the Chairwoman of WHC Association of PwDs, Zora Mikulić, explained the need for initiating improvements in the future. “We expect from today’s meeting new ideas and guidelines, for instance, the establishment of a committee for employment of PwDs and the introduction of sign language at Cantonal level,” she concluded.

It is important to promote awareness about relevant best practices in combating discrimination, and to call for the development of adequate policies, programmes and strategies at all levels.

The Mission will continue to support efforts of all actors and organizations that advocate for the enjoyment of rights of PwDs.

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR opens limited election observation mission in Poland

OSCE - Mon, 09/04/2023 - 10:57

WARSAW, 4 September 2023 – The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) today opened a limited election observation mission for the 15 October 2023 parliamentary elections in Poland, following an invitation from the national authorities.

The mission is led by Douglas Wake and consists of 11 international experts from seven OSCE participating States, who will be based in Warsaw.  In addition, ODIHR 20 long-term observers will be deployed throughout the country from 8 September.

The mission will assess the elections for their compliance with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards, as well as with national legislation. Observers will follow voter registration, candidate registration, campaign activities, the work of the election administration and relevant state bodies, implementation of the legislative framework, political and campaign finance and the resolution of election-related disputes. They will also assess how prior ODIHR recommendations have been considered. As part of the observation, the LEOM will conduct a comprehensive monitoring of the media.

Meetings with representatives of national authorities, political parties, as well as with representatives from the judiciary, civil society and the media will take place throughout the observation. For election day itself, a delegation from the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) will join efforts with the ODIHR mission.

While mission members will observe in a number of polling stations across the country to follow election day procedures, in line with ODIHR’s methodology for limited election observation missions, the mission will not carry out systematic or comprehensive observation of the voting, counting and tabulation on election day.

An interim report will be published to update the public and the media during the course of the observation. The day after the elections, a statement of preliminary findings will be presented at a press conference. A final report summing up the observation of the entire electoral process will be published some months after the election process has ended.

Further information on ODIHR’s election observation activities in Poland is available here:

Media contacts:

Ivan Godarsky, media analyst:

and +48 697 330 843


Katya Andrusz, ODIHR Spokesperson, at and +48 609 522 266  

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission brings together youth from different Kosovo communities through sports

OSCE - Fri, 09/01/2023 - 14:26
551353 Jeff Bieley Edita Buçaj

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo concluded today its fourth edition of the multiethnic tennis camp organized in co-operation with the municipality of Gračanica/Graçanicё, gathering youth from different communities for practice and games.

20 youth from Kosovo Albanian, Kosovo Serb and Kosovo Ashkali communities from the municipalities of Prishtinë/Priština, Obiliq/Obilić and Gračanica/Graçanicë participated in this edition and learned about tennis under the guidance of Coach Marija Djordjevic. During camp days, they practiced for pre-qualification games at the tennis courts in Gërmia/Grmija Park and learned necessary tennis skills, which they showed at the final match in Gračanica/Graçanicë.

After three final matches, the winners Marija Crvenković, Luka Filić and Viktor Radić were awarded with medals by the Head of OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Michael Davenport, Mayor of Gračanica/Graçanicë, Liljana Šubarić and the Director of Culture, Youth and Sports, municipality of Gračanica/Graçanicё, Dušan Cvejić.

“The OSCE has long been committed to supporting institutions in fostering better inter-community relationships and dialogue. Sport is a great way to build bridges, enhance understanding and promote respect, while also challenging stereotypes,” said Head of OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Ambassador Michael Davenport.

Mayor of Gračanica/Graçanicë, Liljana Šubarić, thanked the OSCE for organizing this activity and for recognizing the municipality efforts.

“The municipality proved for the fourth year now that it stands for co-operation. We think that the best way to strengthen inter-municipality co-operation is through the youth".

The Director of the Youth Center in Obiliq/Obilić, Zelushe Kelmendi, participant of every edition, emphasized that this tournament enables young people to socialize and break down barriers between different communities.

This is the fourth consecutive year the OSCE Mission supports the tennis camp, building on previous years’ successes. Besides providing an opportunity for a healthy and supportive learning environment for young players, the camp helps young players cross language barriers and interact with each other.

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is mandated with human rights protection and promotion, democratization and public safety sector development. It places emphasis on empowering youth through inter-ethnic dialogue and activities, recognizing their potential for promoting lasting peace and security.

Categories: Central Europe

ODIHR observers to Poland’s parliamentary elections to hold press conference on Monday

OSCE - Fri, 09/01/2023 - 09:47

WARSAW, 1 September 2023 – Observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) will hold a press conference on the opening of the observation mission to the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Poland on Monday 4 September.


  • An introduction to the role of the ODIHR limited election observation mission and its planned activities


  • Douglas Wake, Head of the ODIHR limited election observation mission
  • Tamara Otiashvili, Deputy Head of the limited ODIHR election observation mission


  • 11:00 local time (GMT +2) on 4 September


  • Hotel Bristol, Krakowskie Przedmieście 42/44, 00-325 Warsaw


  • No registration is necessary, but only questions from journalists will be taken.

Media Contact:            

Katya Andrusz ODIHR Spokesperson, or +48 609 522 266

Ivan Godarsky, ODIHR LEOM Media Analyst, or +48 697 330 843

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports grassroots women’s leadership in water resource management and governance

OSCE - Fri, 09/01/2023 - 08:50
Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

The OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe (the Office) conducted two capacity-building workshops for twenty-five members of the steering committee of the Women Forum of Syrdarya River in Tajikistan. The first workshop, on “working in a team” was held from 17-18 August, 2023 and the second workshop took place from 25-27 August 2023. Both events were held in Khujand, the Sughd region.

The workshops aimed to support the Women Forum of Syrdarya River in promoting women’s equal participation in water resources management and governance. Participants were familiarized with ways to work harmoniously in teams and collaborate effectively. They also learned how to develop a workable five-year strategic plan to advance the Women Forum of Syrdarya River.

The Women Forum of Syrdarya River was established in 2019 with the ultimate aim of involving grassroots women into decision-making processes pertaining to Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). The Office’s support to this initiative is part of its ongoing work to promote women's equal participation in public and political life in Tajikistan.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE promotes Tajik youth engagement in climate change and air pollution issues

OSCE - Fri, 09/01/2023 - 08:40
Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

From 19 to 22 August 2023, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe (Office), jointly with Tajikistan’s Committee for Environmental Protection, organized the Youth Eco – School. The four-day event was attended by 25 young people, of which 14 were female participants.    

The Youth Eco-School serves a platform for dialogue and exploration of the pressing global environmental challenges with a specific focus on climate change and air pollution. Participants were able to deepen their understanding of the interconnection between these two key issues. During the events, participants had an opportunity to participate in the exhibition of energy-efficient technologies and devices using solar power, including solar parabolic kitchens, solar lighting systems, and energy-saving food ovens, provided by the NGO Little Earth.

On the final day of the event, the participants made their “eco oath”, committing themselves to be more environmentally friendly and contribute to a sustainable future. In his congratulatory speech to the participants, Mr. Mavlodod Abduqodir, Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Environmental Protection, highlighted the important role of the Tajik young people in addressing environmental challenges in the country and encouraged them to continue working together on climate action. Rati Japaridze, OSCE Officer-in-Charge, stressed the importance of addressing environmental challenges at an early age and noted in particular the importance of tackling climate change.

The event is part of the activities set out in the Action Plan of the State Program for the Development of Education and Environmental Awareness of the Population (2021-2025).

The Office will continue to support initiatives that promote Tajik youth involvement in good environmental governance.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE organizes webinar on countering corruption in border security management

OSCE - Fri, 09/01/2023 - 08:18
Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

On 25 August 2023, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe (the Office) organized the webinar titled “Countering Corruption in the Context of Border Security Management”. The event brought together 15 (eight women, seven men) participants from the border and customs agencies of 11 OSCE participating States (Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland and Tajikistan).

The webinar was led by experts from Moldova who introduced the participants to the identification and mitigation of major corruption risks at borders, the types and impact of corruption and the various strategies and tactics for combating it. Participants learned about a wide range of enabling factors of corruption at borders and explored possible countering measures.

The webinar was the third in a series on border security management delivered by the OSCE’s Border Management Staff College (BMSC). The BSMC was established in 2009 as a platform for the advanced education and empowerment of a new generation of senior executives and leaders in border security and management. It is part of OSCE’s broader work to strengthen the capacities of border-related agencies and to promote co-operation between them, in line with the OSCE Border Security and Management Concept and relevant Ministerial Council Decisions.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports Tajikistan’s emergency response capabilities

OSCE - Fri, 09/01/2023 - 08:07
Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

On 29 August, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe (the Office) donated 9,800 liters of diesel and 4,500 liters of petroleum to the Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense (CoESCD). The donation will be used to fuel CoESCD vehicles and equipment, which are used to protect and evacuate the population to safe areas during disasters.

The CoESCD is responsible for responding to natural disasters and other emergencies in Tajikistan. The most recent flooding in Tajikistan resulted in casualties, taking the lives of 21 person. Maintaining and increasing the operational capacity of CoESCD is thus vital and the Office will continue to support its efforts to save lives and mitigate the consequences of natural disasters.

This activity is in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and Tajikistan’s Mid-term State Program for the Protection of population and Territories from Emergency Situations for 2023-2028. It is part of OSCE’s broader work to support disaster preparedness, prevention, response and recovery at community level as well as at national and transboundary levels.

Categories: Central Europe

Young Ukrainian lawyers enhance their understanding of human rights protection tools at a series of OSCE-supported summer schools

OSCE - Thu, 08/31/2023 - 16:30

More than 90 young legal professionals, students of law and post-graduates, including 53 women and 40 men, had a chance to upgrade their professional knowledge during a series of four summer schools, organized in August by the OSCE Support Programme for Ukraine (the SPU). Selected on a competitive basis participants benefited from lectures and presentations delivered by prominent Ukrainian (such as Olena Kharytonova, Olena Boryslavska, Yurii Barabash, Mykhaylo Savchyn) and international experts (such as Mykola Gnatovskyy, judge of the European Court of Human Rights), enjoyed debates and informal communication with scholars and even top-officials from judicial system (such as Mr. Dmytro Lukianov, deputy chair of the High Council of Justice, Mr. Vitalii Gatseliuk, member of the High Qualification Commission of Judges of Ukraine, judges of Ukraine’s Supreme Court Dmytro Gudyma, Albert Iezerov). In-depth lectures were combined with moot court competitions, cinema clubs, interactive legal excursions, podcasts production by students and other activities.

The war and its impact on rule of law were at the  top of the agenda of all events. The Constitutional Summer School organised in Zakarpattia focused on how basic law and the Constitutional Court can serve as a safeguard for maintaining the balance of power even during martial law. Among many things, the mechanics of constitutional justice tools were reviewed in details, notably the implications for gender equality and the ways to protect distinct needs of men and women were in focus. The partner of the event, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, was represented by three justices Oksana Hryshchuk, Vasyl Lemak, Oleksandr Petryshyn, who actively engaged in discussions with youth.

With the Ukrainian Catholic University, the Support Programme co-organised two opportunities for the youth. The Lviv International Law Summer School focused on international justice and accountability mechanisms, dispute settlements, responsibility of states, strategic international and human rights litigation and transitional justice mechanisms. The “Real Court: the role of the judiciary in the protection of human rights during war and danger" Summer School in addition to detailed review of war-related challenges to the justice system, provided insights on impact of new digital technologies on rule of law, including the effects of artificial intelligence tools such as Chat GPT on understanding of key legal concepts. These events were part of a project requested by the Supreme Court and the National School of Judges.

The series was concluded by the Summer Academy of International Law held in partnership with the Supreme Court in Zakarpattia. It covered intensively international humanitarian law, but also provided a focus on the process of Ukraine’s integration to the EU, its impact on the justice system and the needed reforms to approximate the legal system to the European acquis. Selected lectures of the event are available at the SPU’s YouTube Channel.  

Ambassador Marcel Pesko, the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairmanship – Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine contributed to two of the schools, by discussing with the participants the role of the OSCE in the international system and presenting the work of the OSCE Support Programme for Ukraine to assist the country in the times of war.

Categories: Central Europe

Estonia 2023 parliamentary elections: ODIHR election expert team final report

OSCE - Thu, 08/31/2023 - 15:48
551248 Public Affairs Unit, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Katya Andrusz

The March 2023 parliamentary elections in Estonia were competitive and pluralistic and the election process, including internet voting, was administered efficiently, with minor technical difficulties. While trust in the internet vote remains high, some parties publicly questioned its integrity, often as part of their campaigning. The legal framework constitutes a sound basis for the conduct of democratic elections and ensures equal participation of national minorities. The integrity of political financing is ensured, but some aspects, such as campaign funding limits and third-party campaigning could be further improved.

These are some of the main conclusions of the final report published by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The report offers 16 recommendations to bring elections in Estonia closer in line with OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections.

Key recommendations include:

  • Proactively addressing all concerns raised by some election stakeholders who distrust the results of internet voting;
  • Putting in place a quality assurance process that includes the comprehensive testing of the internet voting system before deployment;
  • Explaining the process and timeline for reporting results in due time before election day;
  • Amending law to establish deadlines by which unpaid bills related to campaign expenditures must be serviced;
  • Mandating that all campaign advertisements include information on who produced and paid for them;
  • Introducing campaign spending limits to avoid escalating campaign expenditure and enhance equity among parties and candidates;
  • Including in the law a comprehensive definition of what activities of unaffiliated third-party organizations constitute election campaigning and provide for their accountability;
  • Making efforts by the authorities and political actors to lessen the divisive rhetoric in political discourse and during the election campaign to prevent alienation and marginalization of minority groups.

ODIHR deployed an Election Expert Team (EET) on 22 February 2023 to observe the parliamentary elections. The EET focused on internet voting, party and campaign finance and minority issues. All 57 countries across the OSCE region have formally committed to following up promptly on ODIHR’s election assessments and recommendations.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Chairman Osmani holds telephone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov

OSCE - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 17:55

SKOPJE, 30 August – The OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani, held a telephone conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov.

During the conversation, Chairman Osmani addressed current challenges in the OSCE region and reiterated the Chairpersonship’s call to adhere to the basic principles and commitments of the OSCE.

In this context, Chairman Osmani once again emphasized the immediate need for an end to the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine, the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukraine, and the respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all participating States.

In addition, Chairman Osmani and Minister Lavrov exchanged opinions on the current issues related to the functioning and leadership of the Organization.

Categories: Central Europe

Empowering youth voices in Central Asia: OSCE Summer School spurs engagement on climate change and security in mountain areas

OSCE - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 14:13
Field visit to Kara-Batkak glacier, Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

From 17 to 26 August 2023, twenty young people from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan gathered in the northern Tian Shan mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan to learn about climate-related security risks in mountain areas and deliberate on innovative solutions and collective actions to mitigate these risks.

The summer school was organized by the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) in collaboration with the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek, the Tian-Shan High Mountain Scientific Center, the NGO Students of Kyrgyzstan for the Green Economy, and the Berlin-based think tank adelphi.

“At the OSCE, we pay more and more attention to the voices of young people. We take steps to integrate youth perspectives into security debates and to facilitate their involvement and contribution to enhancing security and stability,” said Igli Hasani, Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities in his opening remarks for the summer school.

Drawing attention to climate-related challenges in the Central Asia region including the mountainous terrain and glaciers, Hasani referred to the 2021 OSCE Ministerial Council Decision on climate change and the important role of youth in tackling climate challenges. “Young people are the innovators, the agents of change and the driving force for a sustainable, climate-resilient and peaceful future,” he said.

The summer school programme encompassed lectures, interactive discussions, collaborative group work, and engaging field trips to the Kara-Batkak glacier. These experiences provided participants with insights into the impacts of climate change on mountain ecosystems and on livelihoods of the local communities that depend on these rich ecosystems.

Following on the first Regional Youth Conference on Climate Change, organized by the OSCE in October 2022 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the summer school fostered networking and exchange among young people across Central Asia on climate change issues and generated a set of proposals for youth-led action in areas such as climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation with a focus on mountain areas. 

The Central Asia Regional Youth Summer School on Climate Change and Security in Mountain Areas was organized within the framework of the OSCE project Strengthening responses to security risks from climate change in South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia, which is implemented in partnership with adelphi and in close collaboration with OSCE Field Operations.

The project is funded by Andorra, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE continues its series of trainings for persons with disabilities aspiring to become members of Parliament in Uzbekistan

OSCE - Wed, 08/30/2023 - 07:43

Following the adoption by referendum of the new edition of the Constitution on 30 April 2023, from 2024 Uzbekistan intends to implement proportional representation for 50% of the seats in the Legislative Chamber (Lower Chamber) of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament). This presents a key opportunity for persons with disabilities to strive for 75 deputy positions and become active part of the political life in the country.

This is why, from 26 to 30 August, the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Uzbekistan (PCUz) – jointly with UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Development Programme within the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – organized the second phase of a series of capacity-building training courses for representatives of disability-focused NGOs who aspire to participate in Uzbekistan’s next parliamentary elections. The objective of this second phase was to complement negotiation techniques, focus of last July’s training, with public speaking skills.

A total of 31 representatives (12 women, 19 men) from across different regions of Uzbekistan, including the Republic of Karakalpakstan, attended the event. Participants enhanced their understanding of the state structure of Uzbekistan, the priorities and electorate of political parties, the responsibilities of deputies at various levels, and learnt from bloggers about successes and difficulties in using the media to address social issues. They also met with members of both Chambers of the Parliament, four political parties and the recently created National Agency for Social Protection under the President of Uzbekistan.

Nadia Yakhlaf-Lallemand, the Head of Human Dimension at the PCUz, noted that these trainings reflect the “commitment to creating an inclusive society where the voices of every individual are heard and valued,” and added that “the participation of persons with disabilities in politics promotes equality and social justice. This inclusive approach is fully in line with the OSCE commitments, which Uzbekistan has agreed to implement.”

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Mission to BiH Initiates Comprehensive Dialogue to Combat Gender-Based Violence

OSCE - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 14:07
550939 Željka Šulc

SARAJEVO, 29 August 2023 –  With compassion for the families of the victims of recent tragic events in Gradačac, Živinice and Bijeljina, the OSCE Mission to BiH hosted today in Sarajevo the Speaker of the BiH Parliament House of Representatives, ministers and representatives from the state, entities', Brčko District of BiH and cantonal levels, the President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, justice and interior ministries, and gender institutional mechanisms to address the pressing issue of gender-based violence.

“When tragedies such as those in Gradačac, Živinice, and Bijeljina happen, we all express our horror and sympathy for the victims and their families.  And that is appropriate – it is a very human reaction – but unfortunately that’s not enough.” said Ambassador Aggeler, Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH. “There must be an action making sure this does not happen again. And action is possible.  Domestic violence is a scourge that touches every ethnic, religious or linguistic group across the country.  It is a shared challenge calling for shared action.”  

The meeting of over 30 high level governmental, law enforcement and gender professionals served as a pivotal platform to dissect the system's shortcomings, understand why victims are often reluctant to seek help, and address the alarming under-reporting.

The participants unanimously agreed that combatting domestic violence requires a similarly complex response that is nuanced, multi-sectoral, and committed, a response that is gender-sensitive, victim-centric, and trauma-informed. 

Consequently, a series of joint commitments were formulated for immediate, strategic, and systemic institutional action as follows:

  • The OSCE Mission to BiH (the Mission) commends the relevant authorities for their commitment to undertake all necessary measures to fight gender-based and domestic violence, including by strengthening the respective legal frameworks. In that regard, the Mission would like to underline the important role of the Federation Parliament in (i) advancing the appropriate political and institutional responses against domestic violence/gender-based violence and (ii) in particular amending the criminal code to fully implement the Istanbul Convention and to promulgate the draft law on Protection against Domestic Violence. The Mission is fully committed to assisting the relevant institutions in those efforts. 
  • Noting efforts already undertaken, the Mission commends Entity Ministries of Interior for their commitment to conduct training via the respective police academies, including through curricula reform that enables future police officers to respond to domestic violence and gender-based cases promptly, effectively and sensitively. We particularly commend recent relevant initiatives of the FBiH Minister of Interior in this respect. The Mission will maintain its assistance to the Entity ministries to this process.
  • The respective Entity and Cantonal Ministries of Interior commit to continue planning and implementing mandatory specialized trainings for in-service police officers, including co-operating with the respective Ministries of Justice to engage prosecutors in these trainings. The respective Entity and Cantonal Ministries of Interior should conclude this process by end-November. The OSCE Mission to BiH commits itself to partner closely with the relevant authorities on this.
  • The Cantonal Ministries of the Interior commit to participating in a stakeholder meeting that the OSCE Mission to BiH will call for with the Federation Ministry of Interior, to draft guidance for actions of police officers in response to case of domestic violence in line with the relevant Federation Rulebook. This guidance is to be adapted to the specificities of the police structures in each canton. This should be initiated by mid-September and completed before the end of 2023.
  • In close co-ordination with the Federation Ministry of Interior, the Cantonal Ministries of Interior commit to harmonizing and making stricter the existing cantonal legislation and regulations on issuance, possession and control of firearms. They will include therein procedures for a mandatory temporary seizure of firearms from the perpetrators/household following a report of domestic violence. These improvements should be procedurally initiated by the end of October 2023. Where in place, authorities commit themselves to ensure a more efficient and harmonized implementation of these procedures/instructions.
  • The High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH commits to ensuring effective training to improve the justice sector response to domestic violence, including the proper application of the relevant legal provisions. The Mission commits itself to supporting the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH in this process.

The OSCE Mission to BiH will host a review meeting by the end of November 2023 to track progress against the foregoing commitments aimed at preventing gender-based violence cases and providing adequate support to victims.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE empowers rural women in mountainous areas of Tajikistan through clean energy access and training

OSCE - Tue, 08/29/2023 - 10:12

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In the mountainous areas of Tajikistan - as in many rural communities worldwide - energy poverty disproportionately impacts women’s lives. Rural women often still carry out the bulk of traditional household chores. This heightens their exposure to indoor air pollution derived from the use of solid fuels for cooking and heating, or exposes them to the safety risks of walking long distances to collect biomass and fuelwood.

To help overcome these challenges, the OSCE provided 20 households in the Yaghnob Valley of Tajikistan with off-grid clean energy technologies and trained the women whose homes received the new technology. The trainings sought to build the capacity of the recipients so they could make the best and most efficient use of these devices, ultimately enabling them to drive positive change within their communities.

The three villages of Khishortob, Qul, and Gharmen, where the households are located, lie at the altitude of up to 2,700 m above sea level and are isolated from central energy networks. They rely on firewood, manure and coal for their cooking and heating needs. The installed small-hydro plants are sufficient only for lighting during the spring and summer period. From October to May, the villages are closed off from the rest of the country due to heavy snowfall and avalanches.

“Clean energy technologies, such as the solar parabolic cookers and mini-solar power stations provided by the OSCE, would alleviate some of the hardships these communities face and have the potential to empower women as agents of change, while also having a positive impact on the environment,” says Giulia Manconi, the OSCE Project Manager.

This mission was the result of a collaboration between the OSCE, the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources of the Republic of Tajikistan, the municipality of Jamoat Anzob, and the implementing partner PO “Nerui Toza”. It was organized within the framework of the OSCE Project on Promoting women’s economic participation in the energy sector for energy security and sustainability in Central Asia, co-funded by Austria, Germany, Italy, Norway, and Poland. The project, including installation and training, took place from 7 to 18 August 2023.
Categories: Central Europe

Head of OSCE Mission to BiH meets Tuzla Canton Officials to discuss gender-based violence

OSCE - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 16:57
550768 Željka Šulc

TUZLA, 28 August 2023 – Following the recent tragic cases, the Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Brian Aggeler, conducted a series of meetings in Tuzla, aimed at discussing the alarming situation related to the ongoing challenge of gender-based violence.

Ambassador Aggeler commenced the visit with a meeting with Tuzla Canton Prime Minister, Irfan Halilagić. He commended the co-operative efforts of Tuzla Canton institutions with the OSCE Mission to BiH and its Field Office in Tuzla, underscoring the importance of these partnerships in achieving tangible results.

Addressing the recent tragic killings in Gradačac and Živinice and highlighting the gravity of the matter, Ambassador Aggeler emphasized: "The importance of an effective institutional response to cases of gender-based violence cannot be overstated. There is an urgent need to improve the work of institutions for prevention, protection, and processing of such cases, with a firm commitment to a victim-centered approach."

Ambassador Aggeler also met with Tuzla Canton Minister of Interior Hajrudin Mehanović and Tuzla Canton Head of Police Director’s Office Denis Fejzić, reiterating that there must be zero tolerance to gender-based violence and that more focus must be placed on strengthening the capacities of relevant institutions in offering support, protection, and well-being to victims of domestic and gender-based violence.

At the meeting with Tuzla Canton Assembly Speaker Žarko Vujović and Deputy Speaker Boris Krešić, Ambassador stressed that effective prevention demands joint efforts of all institutions within and beyond the Canton, emphasizing that while the executive power has its role, the significance of the legislator's role should not be underestimated.

Ambassador Aggeler used this opportunity to meet with representatives of NGO Vive žene, and express his deep appreciation of the organization's impactful activities, particularly its support for survivors of war trauma, sexual violence, and domestic violence. He sought insights on local level enhancements to living conditions and victim support within local communities, placing emphasis on domestic violence survivors.

The discussions underscored the collective commitment to combat gender-based violence, fostering a comprehensive approach that integrates institutional cooperation, legislative support, and community engagement.

The OSCE Mission to BiH remains dedicated to collaborating with Tuzla Canton and its institutions to ensure the safety, well-being, and rights of all citizens, particularly those affected by gender-based violence.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE equips Ukraine’s emergency service with materials for chemical security risk education

OSCE - Mon, 08/28/2023 - 16:43
550204 Screenshot from awareness-raising video on safety rules in chemical emergency. OSCE

As the ongoing war against Ukraine causes damage to industrial facilities across the country, it heightens the risks of release of toxic chemicals, posing a serious danger for people and environment. To help diminish threats to health and lives of people, the OSCE Support Programme for Ukraine (the SPU) produced and delivered to the country’s State Emergency Service (the SESU) the awareness-raising materials, designed to inform the public about safety rules for chemical emergencies.  

These materials include a 4-minute educational cartoon “Chemical Emergency – Safety Rules”, that explains signs of such situation, including symptoms of impact of chemicals on health, outlines rules of safe behavior in a variety of situations where chemical threats can materialize. This cartoon can be used during awareness-raising outreach events, organized by the Service for people leaving in high risk areas, e.g. near industrial facilities. It is accompanied by a short version on signs of a chemical emergency, as well as four clips with safety rules for when people can be caught in such a disaster, notably outdoors, in the premises - at home or in the office, while driving. These materials can be instrumental for social media and outreach for specific audiences; they are available at the OSCE website and SESU resource “Safety ABC”.  

In addition, the SPU updated designs of leaflets on dangers posed by most widespread industrial chemicals and produced a handy brochure with safety rules in case of emergencies with ammonia, nitric acid, chlorine and mercury. A brochure and two types of posters on dangers posed by chemical weapons were also developed for civil defense lessons. The State Emergency Service received in total 11,000 print copies of these publications; they were dispatched to regional offices of the SESU for distribution. Digital copies of print materials can be found here.  

This effort is part of the “Enhancing Ukraine’s Chemical Emergency Response Capacity” project, implemented by the OSCE Support Programme for Ukraine with financial contributions from the Organization's participating States; see full list of the Programme's donors. 

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports the rehabilitation and reintegration of juvenile offenders in Tajikistan

OSCE - Thu, 08/24/2023 - 12:09
Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

On 17 and 18 August 2023, the Programme Office in Dushanbe (the Office) organized a two-day training for social workers and psychologists in Dushanbe. The training aimed to teach techniques for rehabilitating juvenile offenders and preparing them for reintegration into society after serving their sentences.  

The Office is working with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population to implement the government’s National Programme for Rehabilitation and Social Integration of Juveniles for 2020-2024.   

“Today’s training for social workers and psychologists is just one step towards fulfilling this plan. The role that these professionals play in the lives of juvenile offenders can contribute to their success or failure upon their release,” said Rati Japaridze, Officer-in-Charge of the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe. 

The training brought together a total of 25 social workers and psychologists of which 15 were female participants. The training addresses the needs of both male and female juvenile offenders and is the latest example of OSCE support to the juvenile colony in Dushanbe. Last year the Office provided a heating system and developed risk assessment and classification tools to aid colony authorities in establishing a case management system based on international standards.  

This activity assists the Government of Tajikistan to fulfil the OSCE Commitments related to the structural components of a Democratic society and the 2006 Brussels Declaration on Criminal Justice. 

Categories: Central Europe


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