Twenty years after the adoption of the landmark Copenhagen Document on the human dimension of security, high-ranked officials and human rights activists gathered in the Danish capital on June 10-11 to look at their countries’ compliance with the commitments included in the Document and to discuss future perspectives. More than 260 representatives from the OSCE’s 56 participating States, civil society groups and experts took part in the two-day conference, organized by Kazakhstan’s OSCE Chairmanship, the Danish Foreign Ministry, and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
Also, on June 9 Kazakhstan’s Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev held talks with his Danish colleague, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lene Espersen in what was the first official visit to Copenhagen by a chief of the Kazakh foreign office.
The Copenhagen conference covered a wide range of issues related to the OSCE activities within the human dimension. In five working sessions - on election and human rights, rule of law, national minorities, freedom of movement, and implementation - the participants took stock of compliance with the commitments made two decades ago, identified remaining challenges and looked at measures that could be taken to close implementation gaps.
Opening the conference, Lene Espersen stated: “Much has changed since 1990 when the Copenhagen Document was adopted. At that time, Kazakhstan did not take part in the CSCE process as an independent state. Today, Kazakhstan is chairing the OSCE. This provides us with an excellent illustration of how far we have come. In part, I believe, it is thanks to the commitments agreed upon in Copenhagen that we have managed to come this far and have made this incredible journey over a 20-year period”.
Addressing the opening session of the conference OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Kanat Saudabayev said: “Twenty years ago, ministers from the countries participating in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe adopted a code of standards on human rights, democracy and rule of law. This code was unprecedented in its depth and scale and it has not lost its significance”.
“The tectonic changes in the OSCE area’s geopolitical landscape and the differences in advancing to the ideals of democracy in various countries should not overshadow the lasting historic values of the Copenhagen Document”, he said.
This is especially true for countries of the former Soviet Union and to the east of Vienna generally, including Kazakhstan, who embarked on building democracy after the many decades of the totalitarian rule, Saudabayev said citing many challenges along this path.
“We have always remained true to the goal of building democracy, at the same time taking into account our realities, and regional environment, and proceeding from the notion that democracy is a process that has a beginning and has no ending. No single country today can claim it has built a perfect democracy and rest on the laurels. And never during these years have we debated the principle vector of Kazakhstan’s development with our opponents, only the speed with which we implement our reforms,” Saudabayev stressed.
OSCE Chairperson-in-Office also noted: “Respect for and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of people, the development of democracy, combating intolerance and discrimination are indispensible elements of indivisible security. This is why OSCE’s human dimension is a priority for the Kazakhstan’s OSCE Chairmanship”.
Saudabayev noted the Kazakh chairmanship has a particular significance for future implementation of the Copenhagen Document for this is the first time in the Organization’s history when an Asian and post-Soviet nation is chairing the OSCE.
To further discuss development and implementation of the human dimension commitments, Kazakhstan’s chairmanship is going to organize a series of events, the key one being an OSCE High-Level Conference on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination on June 29-30 in Astana, the Kazakh Foreign Minister said.
The chairmanship’s initiative to convene an OSCE Summit this year would also allow an opportunity to “reiterate the democratic and human rights basis of the Organization”, Saudabayev added.
The 1990 Copenhagen Document was agreed by the participating States of the then-Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) only months after the fall of the Berlin Wall and became a milestone in ending the Cold War. It is one of the most far-reaching international human rights agreements ever adopted, setting new standards in areas such as democratic elections, minority rights protection and the rule of law.
The Document says that the protection and promotion of human rights is one of the basic purposes of government, and that their recognition constitutes the foundation of freedom, justice and peace. It also outlines a number of human rights and fundamental freedoms never before formally accepted in the CSCE context, including the right of peaceful assembly and demonstration, the right to enjoy one’s property peacefully, the rights of the child.
As part of his official visit to Denmark, Kanat Saudabayev held talks with the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Lene Espersen. She praised the Kazakh OSCE chairmanship, including Astana’s contribution to the settlement of the crisis in the neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. Espersen supported the idea of holding an OSCE Summit this year, noting the Afghan problem should become one of the key aspects in the Summit’s agenda.
Given the occasion, Saudabayev and Espersen also noted examples of positive cooperation between Kazakhstan and Denmark, including active participation of the Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) in establishing and developing respective offices in Kazakhstan. The parties also discussed future prospects of developing bilateral ties between the two states and agreed that the volume of trade-economic cooperation did not do justice to its real potential.
Following the talks, the two Foreign Ministries exchanged Diplomatic Notes introducing a visa free regime for holders of diplomatic passports between Denmark and Kazakhstan. The cancellation of visa requirements for diplomats will promote more intense cooperation between the two countries in political, economic, scientific and cultural spheres, they said.