AM 2014 Geneva bigSome 200 parliamentarians from more than 50 nations gathered in Geneva, Switzerland from 3 to 5 October for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 13th Autumn Meeting.

In opening the Parliamentary Conference, held under the theme of “New Security Challenges: The Role of Parliaments,” OSCE PA President Ilkka Kanerva (MP, Finland) noted that as the link between the OSCE’s governmental side and the people in the OSCE area, the PA is in a unique position to foster public debate and build support for strengthening the Organization in the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act.

“The Parliamentary Assembly is the OSCE’s democratic backbone, bringing not only legitimacy to the Organization, but also the OSCE’s values back to our capitals,” he said. “The role of our Assembly – as well as parliaments – has never been clearer as a way to build trust among those we represent.”

On the opening day, nearly three dozen OSCE parliamentarians from Canada to Kazakhstan and Germany to Georgia participated in a debate on the crisis in Ukraine, including Russian State Duma Chair and Head of the Russian Delegation to the OSCE PA Sergei Naryshkin and Head of the Ukrainian Delegation to the OSCE PA Oleg Zarubinskyi.

Keynote speaker Simon Lunn of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces asked parliamentarians to consider the broader implications of the crisis: “In the search for common security structures, we have to assume we speak the same language and are playing by the same rules. If not, ideas of common security structures will remain just that – ideas.”

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Astrid Thors, another keynote speaker, highlighted the importance of a having a new Ukrainian parliament that represents all citizens, as well as the need protect the rights of Crimean Tatars and the importance of maintaining genuine dialogue across Ukraine on language legislation.

Earlier in day, parliamentarians took part in the OSCE PA’s Mediterranean Forum, held under the theme “Facing Current Challenges to Security in the Mediterranean Region: the OSCE Model.” Chaired by OSCE PA Vice-President Alain Neri (MP, France), the Forum included addresses by the Heads of the Parliamentary Delegations from the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation and featured debate on topics including the threat of ISIS in the region, the crises in Iraq, Libya and Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and irregular migration.

The Parliamentary Conference’s three sessions focused on various aspects of security in the politico-military dimension, economic and environmental dimension and the human dimension. Climate change and the connections between environment and technology were the focus of session two, with Roza Aknazarova (MP, Kyrgyzstan), Chair of the OSCE PA's Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment, highlighting the links between climate change and security and the particular toll taken on low-lying and mountainous countries.

On the final day of the meeting, human rights and humanitarian issues were in focus. In opening the session, Mehmet Sevki Kulkuloglu (MP, Turkey), Vice-Chair of the OSCE PA’s General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, referred to the enduring connection between human rights standards and overall security.

In a keynote address, Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, urged parliamentarians to help better link international humanitarian challenges to their national legislation. “When politics cannot prevent or stop conflict, the minimum we need from you is to help humanitarians have necessary space to help those in need,” he said.

At the Standing Committee meeting on 4 October, the Heads of National Delegations unanimously approved an invitation from Speaker of the Georgian Parliament David Usupashvili, delivered by Georgian Head of Delegation Victor Dolidze, for Georgia to host the Assembly’s 25th Annual Session in the summer of 2016. The decision was warmly welcomed by President Kanerva and Secretary General Spencer Oliver.

Held every year to enhance inter-parliamentary dialogue, the Autumn Meeting serves as a vital forum to address timely topics related to OSCE commitments. Previous Autumn Meetings have been held in Slovenia, Malta, Montenegro, Greece, Italy, Canada, Croatia and Albania.