Anti-Semitism remains a challenge to security in the OSCE region, say participants at high-level OSCE conference in Berlin
BERLIN, 13 November 2014 – Political leaders, governmental officials and civil society representatives from across the OSCE region gathered in Berlin today for a conference to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the OSCE’s Berlin Declaration on Anti-Semitism and to discuss challenges posed by contemporary anti-Semitism.
“Ten years ago the OSCE States, meeting at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, made a strong commitment to oppose anti-Semitism. The events witnessed in many European countries this summer have shown that the fight against anti-Semitism is, regrettably, still necessary and urgent,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal Foreign Minister of Germany, who hosted the event. “That is one reason why I found it important to invite the international community to Berlin once again to discuss how we can combat anti-Semitism even more effectively, particularly in the minds of young people.”
“Political leadership is key to addressing anti-Semitism effectively. It is the responsibility of political leaders to ensure that commitments are fulfilled,” said Didier Burkhalter, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Foreign Minister of Switzerland. “Civil society and youth organizations are an essential force to raise awareness about the dangers of anti-Semitism and ways of standing against it. We call on them to continue to engage with the OSCE and make the fight against anti-Semitism a collective endeavour.”
The high-level commemorative event was attended by some 550 participants and was organized by the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, in co-operation with the Swiss Chairmanship of the OSCE and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). High-level panellists and speakers included Ambassador Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Miroslav Lajčák, Slovak Republic Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Lynne Yelich, Minister of State of Canada, Paavo Lipponen, Former Prime Minister of Finland, and Tzachi Hanegbi, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Israel.
“Based on the statements made here today, it is clear that combating anti-Semitism requires a broad approach. The OSCE framework is particularly suited to developing international mechanisms to this end,” said Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Serbia. “As Serbia assumes the OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office in 2015, we will continue to support the OSCE in deepening its co-operation with international institutions, including structures from the United Nations, European Union and Council of Europe, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations.”
“There is a need to raise awareness among governmental officials about how anti-Semitism manifests itself and how it can be addressed in line with human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said ODIHR Director Michael Georg Link. “Governments need to understand the historical and contemporary specificities of anti-Semitism in order to effectively tackle the problem. We need to fight anti-Semitism wherever it arises and for whatever reason it is being used.”
The event followed a civil society forum held yesterday that gathered more than 200 representatives of non-governmental organizations from more than 30 OSCE participating States. Key recommendations drawn up during the forum were presented at the high-level event and will be included in a conference report.
“The unprecedented number of civil society participants here in Berlin testifies to the seriousness of the problem today. Despite the commitments made ten years ago and the important work undertaken by ODIHR and some participating States since then, much more must be done,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on Combating Anti-Semitism. “The challenges of providing physical security, the inability to recognize the various sources of anti-Semitism, and the absence of long-term strategies to guarantee a safe and inclusive environment leave many European Jews to wonder about their future.”
A concluding document was presented by the Swiss OSCE Chairmanship at the end of the event. This document highlights the concerns about persisting anti-Semitism in the OSCE area and encourages participating States to step up their efforts in countering anti-Semitic acts and hate crimes. The document highlights the role of ODIHR in supporting participating States to address contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism.
The 2004 Berlin Declaration reaffirmed the OSCE participating States’ commitment to combating anti-Semitism in the OSCE area, including by engaging with civil society and international organizations to address the problem. In addition, the Berlin Declaration tasked ODIHR to follow and report on anti-Semitic incidents in the region and to assist OSCE participating States in responding to and preventing anti-Semitism by sharing good practices.