Head of OSCE mission to Skopje UK response

Thank you Chair

Welcome back to the Permanent Council Ambassador Koja, and thanks to you and your team for the comprehensive report. We appreciate that the Secretary General of the Assembly of the Republic of North Macedonia joined your informal briefing to participating States yesterday.

I would like to start by commending the Mission and its staff for their continued support to the host country during a challenging year, and for its adaptability and resilience, whilst emphasizing staff health and well-being. We particularly welcome that the Mission focused on where it could add real value, including in the fostering of local ownership for future sustainability.

Your previous Report to the Permanent Council took place shortly after the parliamentary elections of 15 July last year. The OSCE/ODIHR’s Special Election Assessment Mission’s final report contained a number of recommendations. We are pleased to note that some of the outstanding recommendations are expected to be implemented ahead of the local elections scheduled for October.

We welcome and encourage the Mission’s continued support on inclusive elections, including on the implementation of the ODIHR recommendations. Mission initiatives, such as the provision of gender-disaggregated data from the 2020 parliamentary elections also provide a helpful evidence base for further policy changes.

I would like to focus on three areas in your report – social cohesion, media freedom, and police reform.

Firstly – on social cohesion, we welcome the Mission’s support in promoting inclusion, including in secondary education. Engagement of young people is essential to achieving social cohesion and brings positive change for subsequent generations. We also welcome the Mission’s activities on mediation and conflict prevention and resolution, including the Mission’s support on a mediation handbook for local authorities in ethnically mixed communities and on conflict prevention/resolution curricula to strengthen the capacities of religious and other community leaders.

Secondly – we continue to stress the importance of media freedom, and are pleased to see that the situation in North Macedonia is improving, albeit slowly. However, we remain concerned by the growing trend in cyber-bullying and verbal abuse, particularly against female reporters, and are pleased that the Mission will continue to work on enhancing the safety of journalists, including on-line. Journalists must be able to operate without fear of threats or acts of violence. We also encourage Mission support on Media Literacy and on strengthening the independence of the Public Service Broadcaster.

Thirdly – on police reform, we welcome the Mission’s engagement with, and its support to, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, during the course of the year. This includes support on the introduction of a merit-based career system for the police, and with a comparative analysis on the rights of victims to assist the Government in developing more democratic and citizen-focused policing services. We look forward to hearing more about the impact of these activities in future reporting.

Ambassador Koja, we are pleased to see your focus on gender, and welcome the Mission’s progress on mainstreaming a gender perspective into programmatic work. Your report highlights some great initiatives, such as the Mentoring Initiative Women for Women in the Public Sector; and the Mission’s campaign to debunk the rumours that perpetuate negative stereotypes and prejudices on grounds of gender. We commend the Mission’s efforts in this respect, and urge a sustained focus on gender in the coming year.

Thank you Ambassador Koja for joining us today, and please pass on our appreciation to your team.

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