HIGH LEVEL OSCE CONFERENCE IN ASTANA SEEKS WAYS TO
Astana, June 29: The High-Level Conference on Tolerance and
Non-Discrimination is being hosted by the Kazakh OSCE Chairmanship in the
Palace of Peace and Accord (the Pyramid) in Astana on 29-30 June 2010. The
conference has brought together senior government officials, politicians and
public figures from 56 OSCE participating states aiming to contribute to
further strengthening of interaction between different cultures and
civilizations, and to implement the related OSCE commitments and values.
Heads of key OSCE institutions - the Director of the Office
for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Janez Lenarcic, High
Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek, three Personal
representatives of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on tolerance and
non-discrimination, as well as Ministers from Turkey, Montenegro, Israel, and
other officials and public figures participated in the event.
Opening the forum on Tuesday, Kazakh President Nursultan
Nazarbayev noted the “lack of experience in applying new methods of control,
the complexity of ethnic composition, unsolved problems of the past and
weakness of civil society make the issues of tolerance the top priority of the
OSCE’s Eurasian direction of activity.
The President came out with a number of initiatives aimed at
improving the situation over interethnic and interreligious cooperation,
including the idea of establishing the OSCE Central Asian Regional Centre for
tolerance and non-discrimination destined to neutralize negative aftereffects
of the latest events in Kyrgyzstan.
“As you all know, the “four T” strategy, standing for
tolerance, trust, transparency and traditions reflects the major approach of
Kazakh OSCE chairmanship to the organization’s activity in 2010. In this
context we have good reasons to believe it is high time to establish the OSCE
centre for tolerance and non-discrimination”, Nazarbayev stressed.
“Central Asia is a region of complicated ethnic pattern
where different nations and various religions co-exist together. The bitterest
consequence of the conflict in Kyrgyzstan is that the seeds of mistrust can be
sown between other peoples of the region. This represents a significant
challenge to stability in the region and a threat to all OSCE participating
States”, he said.
Speaking on Kazakhstan’s initiative to hold an OSCE Summit
in Astana, the Kazakh leader offered to include the problems of tolerance into
the agenda. “I suppose we should work together over generalizing some serious
latest changes in the policy of tolerance which have taken place over the last
few years and elaborate a single document, which I would call the “OSCE and
tolerance in the new decade”. We suggest including the issue into the OSCE
Summit’s agenda”, Nazarbayev underscored.
Nursultan Nazarbayev also highlighted the necessity to
actively promote the role of the Organization in resolving interethnic and
interreligious problems and initiated establishing the post of OSCE High
Commissioner on interreligious tolerance.
Addressing the conference, Director of the OSCE Office for
Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Janez Lenarcic underlined the
importance of human rights in fostering understanding between communities: “The
provision of human rights is a precondition for notions of respect and mutual
understanding to unfold their essence. To put it bluntly: it is not an
achievement to “tolerate” members of our society who do not have the right to
freely speak their mind or enjoy the panoply of other rights that should be
available in a democratic society”.
UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations
Jorge Sampaio expressed readiness of his organization to cooperate with OSCE
with a view of fulfilling its commitments on local, national and regional
levels. “I will be glad to provide a number of recommendations and concrete
measures, which we offer to our member states, in order to implement them in
the nearest future, including national and regional strategies as the
directions of our joint priority actions”, he said.
Mevlyut Cavusoglu, President of the Council of Europe’s
Parliamentary Assembly noted the significant role of Kazakh President in
settlement of the crisis in Kyrgyzstan: “We are grateful to President
Nazarbayev who exerts every effort to resolve the conflict situation”. In his
words, OSCE participating state should unite their efforts and seriously think
over the current humanitarian crisis in Kyrgyzstan.
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebaek
said: “If we want to create and safeguard cohesive societies, tolerance has to
be more than just acceptance of differences. We need to strive for positive
tolerance founded on respect for each individual”.
Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the
Media, emphasized that freedom of expression is a basic precondition for the
development of multi-cultural and inter-ethnic societies, and that open debate
which aims at promoting mutual understanding requires free media and
The two-day event was preceded by a preparatory meeting of
non-governmental organizations on June 28, which addressed the ways to combat
intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, Christians and representatives
of other religions. More than 600 participants discussed the role of
legislation, law enforcement, education systems and the media, including online
media, in addressing public manifestations of intolerance and promoting
understanding through open dialogue.
Within the High-level Conference an award ceremony for
winners of the OSCE Photo Contest 2010 “Tolerance, trust, tradition,
transparency” also took place on June 29. More than hundred photographers from
35 OSCE participating States and partners for cooperation submitted around 300
pictures for the contest, initiated and financed by the Kazakhstan’s OSCE
The winners, Eric Gourlan, a photographer residing in the
Netherlands with many years of experience in Central Asian region (“Tolerance
alive”), Rudi Dawia Kaufman, a graduate student of photography school in
Wuerzburg, Germany (“Black and white relationship”), Andrey Liankevich, a
photographer from Belarus (“He has a female name”), Vitaliy Ovsyannikov from
Kharkiv, Ukraine (“Sincere emotions”) and Ilya Rozenbaum from Belgium
(“Hallelujah”) - received a trip to Astana, where they attended the award
The full list of the contest winners and finalists, and a
gallery of their photos, can be found at the contest page at http://www.osce.org/item/43109.html