Highlights of the OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference 2018

© U.S. Mission to the OSCE

Representatives of the leading civil society organizations gathered at the Parallel Civil Society Conference (PC) in Milano on 5 December. The Parallel Conference was organised, as in the past years, by the Civic Solidarity Platform, an OSCE-wide NGO coalition with more than 90 member organisations across the OSCE region. Here are the highlights of the event:

Pre-conference activities on 4 December included meetings of the working groups of the Civic Solidarity Platform, a panel discussion on the human rights situation in Italy and various countries of the OSCE region, an award ceremony ( cild_awards_for_civil_liberties._the_winners_of_the_2018_edition_.pdf) for Italian human rights defenders (a joint event by the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights /CILD and the CSP), and a concert by Crimean Tatar musicians.

The opening session of the OSCE Parallel Conference this year started with a moment of remembrance of and tribute to our colleague Vitali Safarov from the CSP member organisation Centre for Participation and Development (Georgia) who had been murdered by neo-Nazi group members in his home town Tbilisi two months ago.

We miss you Vitali!

At the opening session of the Parallel Conference, representatives of the Italian OSCE Chairmanship 2018 and the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship 2017 reflected on results of their chairmanships, and a representative of the incoming Slovak OSCE Chairmanship 2019 introduced its priorities.

The main sessions of the Parallel Conference had the following headlines: “Making comprehensive security great again – we really mean it! Discussion on the Milano Declaration”, “Addressing key civil society concerns in times of backlash against democracy and human rights”, and “Caught between dimensions and falling through the cracks – civil society voices working in/ on conflict-affected areas in the OSCE region.

During the sessions, panellists and participants discussed the need to revive the OSCE comprehensive security concept by better understanding of the changing nature of security threats, coming not only from military aggression but also from the rise of nationalistic political forces and authoritarian regimes as well as from hybrid threats from external autocratic regimes using vulnerabilities of democracies, resulting in new threats to democratic institutions, rule of law, freedom of the media. Shrinking space for civil society, decreasing resilience of societies to respond to these new threats, a need for new approaches to the OSCE work in the conflict cycle, problems in gender equality, and migration were among other major topics discussed by the participants.

One more important aspect discussed during the event was a necessity of reframing narratives and using innovative communication tools to deliver human rights messages. 

This short video provides short overview of the conference:

The PC also included a solidarity action for political prisoners, which included such actions as:

  • Update on the situation with political prisoners and the necessity of global diversified multilevel actions aimed at their release, which was accompanied by the video-presentation of some of the prominent political prisoners
  • Signing post cards to political prisoners by the conference participants,
  • Joint photo-sessions: global one, devoted to all political prisoners around the OSCE region, and one, related to the case of Azimjon Askarov.

Following the established tradition, the closing session included a presentation of the outcome documents of the Parallel Conference, Civil Society Recommendations 2018 and the “Milano Declaration”, and their symbolic hand-over to representatives of the Troika (the Austrian 2017, the Italian 2018 and the incoming Slovak 2019 OSCE Chairmanships) and the heads of OSCE institutions and executive bodies, including OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger, Director of OSCE/ODIHR Ingibjorg Gisladottir, and OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir. The distinguished guests made remarks where they reflected on the outcome documents and expressed support to the work of civil society and its input in the OSCE activities.

The live stream of the closing session is available here:

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