AS-2008-AstanaThe OSCE Parliamentary Assembly held its 17th Annual Session in Astana, Kazakhstan from 29 June - 3 July 2008. Focusing on the theme of 'Transparency in the OSCE,' the meetings brought together 227 parliamentarians in the Kazakh capital, who debated issues ranging from water management to cyber security to migration.

The Assembly met in two separate plenary sessions, which were addressed by senior officials, including Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, OSCE PA President Goran Lennmarker, and the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb. For three days, the Assembly’s three General Committees met to discuss current issues and to consider and amend draft resolutions.

The Standing Committee of Heads of Delegations also met to consider and approve a budget for the coming fiscal year and to hear reports on recent work of the Assembly. On 3 July the Session was closed with the adoption of the Astana Declaration, as well as additional Resolutions. The Declaration calls on participating States to increase transparency both within the OSCE and the national governments of OSCE participating States.

The OSCE PA also adopted a Resolution calling on the governments of the 56 participating States to “fully commit themselves, at the highest political levels, to the full implementation of all of their OSCE commitments and to future strengthening of the Organization.” To do so, governments should make use of the Assembly as “a key element in the Organization’s efforts to be credible in promoting democracy.” The Resolution “requests the Permanent Council to regularly discuss and take into consideration the initiatives taken by the Parliamentary Assembly.” It also cites the need for the OSCE to “carry on further reform aiming at reducing the democratic deficit (and) strengthening transparency and accountability.”

The Declaration calls for more transparency in the organization of, and access to, political and historical archives. It also urges participating States to increase transparency in the use of private military contractors and to ensure that these contractors operate under international law.

The OSCE PA implored all States to sign and ratify the Kyoto Protocol and take concrete steps to address the threat of global climate change. The Declaration, however, recognizes that the environmental threat is not confined to global warming, and hence calls on participating States to undertake better waste management, draw up plans for co-ordination in the event of nuclear accident, and set up early warning networks for natural disasters.

At the close of the Annual Session, the Assembly elected Joao Soares (Portugal) as its President, and four Vice-Presidents: Pia Christmas-Moeller (Denmark), Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (Kazakhstan), Oleh Bilorus(Ukraine), and Wolfgang Grossruck (Austria).