OSCE Informal Ministerial Meeting 2017

Statement by Matt DeCourcey, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Chairperson Kurz, distinguished ministers, colleagues,

We are facing challenging times in the OSCE. Our security is threatened by multiple forces, internal and external, and we struggle to reach consensus, sometimes even on the simpler matters that would clearly benefit everyone. Canada thanks Austria for having undertaken the Chairmanship-in-Office in such times, and for the dedication shown by the entire Austrian team. We believe that it is in precisely these challenging times that we all need to redouble efforts to finalize the appointment of highly qualified individuals to lead the Secretariat and its autonomous institutions.  We must also recall and stand by the principles and commitments outlined in the Helsinki Final Act, to which every participating State around this table has agreed.

There have been serious violations of the Helsinki Principles in recent times which we simply cannot ignore. Canada reiterates its solidarity with Ukraine and Georgia, because sovereign equality, the inviolability of frontiers, and territorial integrity are enshrined in the Helsinki Principles and international law. In this context, we reiterate our call on Russia to end its illegal annexation of Crimea, return to respect of the Helsinki Principles, and to cease its now repeated attempts to redraw European borders by force and destabilize its neighbours.

Mr. Chairperson,

As efforts towards finding a peaceful resolution in Donbas continue, so does the fighting: in the last full reporting week, ceasefire violations were up 25%, mostly mortar and artillery fire. Ukrainians in the conflict zone, combatants and civilians, are the victims of this increased level of violence. Canada commends the ongoing work of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, which, despite having a mandate agreed by all sides, continues to face unacceptable threats, aggressive behaviour and access restrictions, most notably in non-government-controlled areas.  We salute the dedication of our monitors, whose presence in Ukraine and efforts to monitor the ceasefire are in all of our interest. We also believe in the role of the OSCE in helping to prevent and resolve conflicts elsewhere in the OSCE area. In this regard, the OSCE’s field operations play an important role and need our full support and continuous funding.  Canada is thus all the more dismayed that heightened tensions have resulted in the forced closure of the OSCE office in Yerevan.

Mr. Chairperson,

Canada is committed to dialogue to reduce risks in the European security space, including through the Structured Dialogue process. We hope that frank discussions will continue regarding the elements that contribute to our threat perceptions and risks to our security. They will also require further development if we are to establish the “solid basis for a common understanding” to which we committed in Hamburg.  Without pre-judging where this process will lead, we note that the productive talks held to date have underscored the importance of discussing breaches of the rules-based order, further exploration of divergent threat perceptions, and the need to address some States’ lack of military transparency. While we have only just begun to scratch the surface in this long-term exercise, it is an important process worthy of our time and attention. 

As we explore these issues, we believe that respect for our existing commitments and full implementation of our obligations, including those related to arms control, is critical to providing the trust and confidence that are necessary to find new solutions. In this regard, the modernization of the Vienna Document 2011 is recognized as a priority by most participating States, and we urge those not engaging to recommit to the efforts underway.

Mr. Chairperson,

Terrorism is a serious threat to us all, and Canada welcomes the Austrian Chairmanship’s engagement on addressing violent extremism and radicalization leading to terrorism, with a focus on youth and gender. We are committed to exploring where the OSCE can make value-added contributions to the work underway elsewhere in the international system, while at the same time recognizing the relevant work being carried out in geographic areas such as central Asia and the western Balkans, and in crucial thematic areas, such as the challenge posed by foreign terrorist fighters.

In tackling all the issues before us today, we must also remind ourselves that human rights, democracy and the rule of law sit at the core of the OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security. Respect for these principles, regardless of the gender, ethnicity, language, religion, belief or sexual orientation, is key to reaping the benefits of diversity, which Canada believes is a strength. Inclusive policies are essential to safe, stable and prosperous societies – societies that can, for example, be more resistant to radicalization and extremism. But governments cannot do this by themselves, which is why we must respect and provide adequate space for civil society, human rights defenders, and journalists, who do invaluable work to ensure that infringements and violations in these areas are brought to light and receive appropriate attention and redress.

In closing, allow me to highlight one important objective that should permeate everything the OSCE is and does: gender equality. Last month, Prime Minister Trudeau opened the OSCE Gender Equality Review Conference with a challenge to work harder to make this a reality. Canada certainly will, and to this end recently announced foreign and international assistance policies with feminism at their core. We are committed to enhancing the work of the OSCE to advance in this area, and we look forward to working with all participating States, the Secretariat, and the Chairmanship in this endeavor.

Thank you.