HIGH LEVEL OSCE CONFERENCE IN ASTANA SEEKS WAYS TO STRENGTHEN TOLERANCE
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 independent journalists.
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 Chairmanship.
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 ceremony.
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