UK Responds to OSCE Chair Presentations in Dec. 2022

Thank you, Chair. I thank the Chairs of the three Committees for presenting to the Permanent Council today. Ambassadors, we have been grateful to you and to our Chair-in-Office, for your strong leadership over the past year. We are also grateful to your teams. Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion of Ukraine strikes at the very core of the obligations we have all freely signed up to as members of this organisation, including “refraining from the threat or use of force, the inviolability of frontiers [and the] territorial integrity of States”. Under your stewardship, and guided by our CiO, OSCE Committees have striven to collectively uphold these principles because they form the foundation of the security of every State represented in this room.

Ambassador Kinnear, we have seen in the Security Committee that the repercussions of this war are wide-ranging and relevant to our work on transnational threats. Our meetings this year have highlighted the impacts on civilians when critical services are damaged, as well as the role of States in protecting these services in armed conflict. We heard about the spike in demand for sexual access to Ukrainian women and girls, and that “for predators and human traffickers, the war in Ukraine is not a tragedy. It’s an opportunity”. We heard how border guards in Ukraine and other States have been heroic in responding to the movement of Ukrainian refugees. And we were advised not to wait for conflict to be resolved to deal with the underlying risks of organised crime which can thrive in conflict situations.

As we look to next year, responding to these repercussions will be no less important. The OSCE has a role to play to prevent and mitigate knock-on crises in crime, trafficking, terrorism and extremism, and the UK will continue to support the Security Committee to that end.

Ambassador Raunig, thank you for your work this year. You have shown agility in highlighting new economic and environmental challenges throughout 2022, particularly: the damage being done to Ukraine’s natural environment as a result of Russia’s war of aggression; the effects of Russia’s invasion on food security; and the terrible – and potentially catastrophic – consequences of Russian attacks on energy infrastructure. We welcome continued focus on these topics in the second dimension as Ukraine continues to be subjected to Russian belligerence and as the international community comes together to help rebuild Ukraine.

Ambassador Karlsen, thank you for your leadership of the Human Dimension Committee during these most exacting times for human rights in the OSCE region – when fundamental freedoms are challenged, so is our collective security. We have particularly appreciated the Committee’s focus on Ukraine, including Russia’s blatant disregard of human dimension commitments it signed up to, alongside spotlighting Ukrainian voices. Looking to 2023, we hope that there will continue to be a strong focus on the brave human rights defenders from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus and that the recommendations in the Moscow Mechanism reports will inform the sessions. We have been starkly reminded this year that internal repression and external aggression are two sides of the same coin. When a State places a stranglehold on the freedoms of its own people, it sets the conditions for, and enables, aggression abroad.

To close, as my Foreign Secretary said earlier this week, “today we have no higher priority than to support our Ukrainian friends until they prevail, as they inevitably will.” Our shared OSCE principles and commitments sit at the heart of Euro-Atlantic security, and we will continue to work in the three Committees – with you Ambassador Raunig, our incoming Chairs, with our North Macedonian CiO, and with the OSCE Secretariat, institutions, and field missions – to uphold them. Not just for Ukraine, but for all of us in this room.

Thank you.

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