AM 2005 Sveti Stefan bigBeginning on 7 October 2005, parliamentarians from across the OSCE region gathered for three days in Sveti-Stefan, Montenegro, to debate questions of good governance in multi-ethnic societies in the annual OSCE PA Fall Conference. The Assembly also held a meeting of its Standing Committee of Heads of Delegations and of the Mediterranean Forum on the following two days.

During the Conference and Parliamentary Forum, the over three hundred participants had the opportunity to hear presentations by experts in the fields being addressed, including several Heads of OSCE field missions, and senior political leaders from Serbia and Montenegro. The parliamentarians took advantage of this opportunity to exchange experiences and debate practices in governing multi-ethnic societies.

2005-AM-Sveti-Stefan-HastingsIn opening the Conference, OSCE PA President Alcee L. Hastings remarked on previous work by the Assembly at promoting respect for ethnic and cultural diversity as a cornerstone of democracy. The President also noted that a great deal more has to be done, as minority populations across the OSCE region often face significant obstacles in daily life. President Hastings noted that poverty among minorities continues to be a problem in his own country, which became particularly obvious in the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina shortly before the 2005 Fall Meetings. "Democracy did not save those who were left stranded, but democracy linked with good governance would have," stressed the Congressman.

The Speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament, Ranko Krivokapic, warmly welcomed the participants to Sveti-Stefan. Stressing the importance of inter-ethnic understanding, Mr. Krivokapic also stressed the dangers of focusing too much on economic affairs. He noted that in the former Yugoslavia, aggressive nationalism was able to erupt with a devastating effect despite a strong economy. Dialogue on cultural matters, in forums such as this, is very important.

In four separate sessions, the OSCE PA Conference heard interventions on managing multi-ethnic societies; the challenges of democratic governance in multi-ethnic societies; institutions and their role in minority protection; and the importance of civil society. In the third annual Mediterranean Forum on October 9 parliamentarians gave particular consideration to issues of migration and trade within the region.