BIRMINGHAM, 6 July 2022 – In Birmingham, OSCE parliamentarians today voted to condemn in the strongest terms the Russian Federation’s war of aggression against Ukraine, demanding an immediate ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Russian troops. Containing three general committee resolutions, plus ten supplementary items dealing with a wide range of topics, the Birmingham Declaration was approved with overwhelming support. It was adopted at the close of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 29th Annual Session, which took place 2-6 July in Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Referring to the Russian invasion as “a gross violation of the fundamentals of international law” and “a flagrant violation not only of the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity, but as an attack against the human rights and fundamental freedoms, most notably of the right to life, of the people of Ukraine,” the Birmingham Declaration “urges all sides to engage in negotiations aimed at a peaceful resolution of the crisis with full respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Birmingham Declaration emphasizes that Russia’s invasion has been “facilitated by Belarus as co-aggressor,” and denounces “the Russian Federation’s illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea and illegitimate ‘recognition’ and occupation of Luhansk and Donetsk regions.” Alarmed that the war has significantly impacted stability, connectivity, and prosperity across the OSCE region, the Birmingham Declaration urges governments “to consider effective and well-coordinated actions in the economic and environmental spheres aimed at mitigating the impact of the conflict and restoring international peace and security.”
It also stresses that “sanctions imposed by many OSCE participating States on the Russian Federation for its aggression against Ukraine are targeted against the leaders of the Russian Federation and not against the Russian people, whose views are not effectively represented due to the undemocratic processes of the modern Russian state.”
Expressing alarm that the war is “exacerbating global food insecurity and causing a humanitarian crisis,” the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly “encourages the intensification of result-oriented mediation efforts and negotiations in the framework of the existing platforms for conflict resolution.”
It reiterates the role of the OSCE “as an effective all-inclusive platform where through the facilitation of diplomatic efforts and co-operation, participating States can rebuild basic trust and confidence.” The Declaration acknowledges in particular the value of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine’s “rigorous work which delivered its mandate under a heightened level of volatility and security uncertainties,” and welcomes “the fact that 45 OSCE participating States, supported by Ukraine, initiated the OSCE Moscow Mechanism, in order to collect evidence of the alleged massive atrocities and war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine.”
The Birmingham Declaration also “expresses support for the work of the independent international commission of inquiry mandated by the UN Human Rights Council and the ongoing proceedings at the International Criminal Court, which is conducting an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by any party to the conflict on any part of the territory of Ukraine.”
In addition to the war in Ukraine, the Birmingham Declaration highlights other tensions in the OSCE area, in particular attempts to destabilize the situation in the Transdniestrian region of the Republic of Moldova and expresses “regret over the unresolved conflict between the Russian Federation and Georgia since 2008.” It emphasizes the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and underscores “the importance of security and stability and the related establishment of good-neighbourly relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
Regarding COVID-19, the Declaration underlines that the pandemic “produced a further strain on respect for human rights and democratic principles, negatively impacted gender equality, and further exacerbated socio-economic disparities between many groups in our societies.” Expressing concern over “the profound economic and social repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the OSCE PA “calls on the OSCE participating States to strengthen co-operation to achieve sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by, inter alia, accelerating the deployment of green technologies, enhancing economic growth and connectivity, and supporting human capital development.”
Emphasizing that fossil fuel energy has too many environmental and social drawbacks while new clean energy sources are becoming increasingly viable, the PA expresses a determination to “accelerate the clean energy transition, including through well calibrated carbon pricing, the expansion of carbon-neutral, affordable, and sustainable energy strategies, and sustained investments in research and technological innovation.” It also urges OSCE participating States to phase out imports of Russian fossil fuels and stresses that “enhancing and diversifying energy supplies towards clean energy sources is instrumental to achieve carbon-neutrality, alleviate energy dependency, and make energy more accessible.”
The OSCE PA’s Birmingham Declaration expresses strong support for multilateralism, diplomacy and arms control, urging OSCE participating States “to reinvigorate the debate over the revitalization of the Open Skies Treaty and the full implementation and revision of the Vienna Document in line with new security challenges on the ground.” It calls on all “participating States that have not already done so to develop and implement national action plans on Women, Peace and Security, as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.”
Reaffirming “the Reagan-Gorbachev dictum that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” the Declaration “urges all nuclear-armed and allied states to implement this through no-first-use declarations and agreements, and by further reducing the role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines.” It further encourages “all participating States to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons of 2017.”
The Declaration also “stresses that the need for increased focus and military spending that participating States may feel necessary as a result of the Russian Federation’s attack and disregard for the founding principles of the OSCE should not come at the expense of the socio-economic well-being and human security of their population.” It further underscores “the growing migratory pressure experienced by many participating States within the context of armed conflict, labour, development, and climate, and acknowledging the significant surge in environmentally driven migration and displacement.”
Expressing deep concern over a growing number of political prisoners across the OSCE region, the PA calls on the OSCE and its participating States “to focus greater attention on the issue of political imprisonment as a violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms enumerated in Principle VII of the Helsinki Final Act.” The Declaration also expresses support for independent media as essential for an open exchange of information and views and stresses the continued importance of professional and independent election observation, as conducted by the OSCE through the ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly.
Other key recommendations of the Birmingham Declaration include:
- Parliaments should duly regulate conflicts of interest, transparency in party financing and lobbying practices, as well as adopt and implement advanced anti-corruption legislation.
- Affirming the right to seek asylum, it condemns the increase in “pushbacks” of asylum seekers in several participating States as a breach of law and of their basic human rights.
- It calls upon all OSCE participating States to undertake regular reviews of legislation related to the registration and regulation of the work of non-governmental organizations in co-operation with experts from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to ensure compliance with human rights standards.
- It calls upon all participating States to work with the OSCE/ODIHR to improve the mechanisms they use to record hate crimes and collect data.
- It calls upon the parliaments of OSCE participating States to fully exercise parliamentary oversight over government action to prevent and combat human trafficking.
In addition to the three general committee resolutions, the Assembly adopted ten supplementary items, covering issues such as the Arctic region, combating violence against women journalists and politicians, ensuring the safety of journalists in conflict zones, the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, supporting victims of terrorism, accelerating the green energy transition, and promoting effective youth engagement towards inclusive and democratic societies.
Hosted by the UK Parliament, the Birmingham meeting was the first in-person Annual Session since 2019, due to the COVID-related cancellation of the 2020 Annual Session and the holding of a Remote Session in 2021.