Home > International Law/International Human Rights > Ireland to take over as Chair of the OSCE in 2012

Ireland to take over as Chair of the OSCE in 2012

At the 17th Ministerial Conference of the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) in early December it was agreed by the member states that Ireland would take over as Chair of the Organisation  in 2012.  The OSCE is a regional security body that currently has over 56 participating states including members in Europe, Central Asia and North America such as the United States, the UK, the Holy See, France, Russia and Canada. Ireland joined the organisation as an original member in 1973, though the organisation in its current form emerged in 1994 in the post Cold War era.  Its work covers areas such as arms control, anti-trafficking, combating terrorism, conflict prevention, democratisation, elections, gender equality, minority rights, policing, rule of law, tolerance and non-discrimination.

At the recent ministerial conference Minister Micheál Martin T.D. stated

Ireland attaches great importance to the role and expertise of the OSCE in the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the promotion of the rule of law and democratisation throughout the OSCE area.

Ireland attaches great importance to the role and expertise of the OSCE in the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the promotion of the rule of law and democratisation throughout the OSCE area.

The announcement that Kazakhstan was to take over the Chair from Greece in 2010 led to some controversy, as Kazakhstan’s human rights record was not considered to be good enough to lead  an organisation that seeks to support human rights development and enforcement in its members states.  Indeed Human Rights Watch described the choice of Kazakhstan as ‘undeserved’

“Kazakhstan doesn’t observe OSCE commitments at home,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Entrusting in Kazakhstan the leadership to uphold the organization’s human rights commitments is a singularly bad idea.”

The choice of Lithuania to follow from Kazakhstan has been less controversial.  The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs announced in November that after Ireland had been approached by a number of members the Government had decided to formally make itself available as Chair of the Organisation in 2012.  Ireland’s Chair  was confirmed at the Ministerial Conference.  It was reported in the Irish Examiner that the Minister in welcoming Ireland’s appointment considered Ireland’s experience in the peace process in Northern Ireland would allow Ireland to make a tangible contribution to the work of the organisation.  As we nearer the time for Ireland to take over as Chair of the Organisation it will be interesting to see what human rights priorities for the Organisation that it champions.

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