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OSCE empowers women entrepreneurs in Central Asia through digital upskilling

OSCE - Mon, 02/19/2024 - 16:38

On 19 February, the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) launched the Central Asian Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme titled “Strengthening the Digital Skills of Women Entrepreneurs”. The programme, initiated as part of the project on open data and digitalization, will serve as an online platform for exchange, learning, and dialogue for 21 women-led businesses from Central Asia. Through a series of workshops, women entrepreneurs will be empowered to scale their businesses through the effective use of digital technology.

The online programme will last seven weeks and will cover topics such as the use of online marketplaces, social media marketing, and digital tools for business management. It is tailored to the contexts of programme participants and is a mix of training, practical workshops, and one-on-one mentoring provided by highly skilled trainers and guest lecturers from Silicon Valley, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

The 21 women entrepreneurs, selected from over 90 applicants, represent a broad range of businesses. These include small bakeries, education centers, service providers, and local and handmade products shops, as well as eco-friendly and sustainable businesses, and businesses in the field of eco-agrotourism. Twice a week, the programme will invite participants from across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan to join virtually. 

Women entrepreneurs will learn how to develop and scale up their respective businesses using the Business Canvas Model, how to create an online presence and a recognizable brand identity through the use of digital tools, and how to effectively use digital financial tools for business management.

“Women’s economic empowerment and human capital development in the digital era are key OSCE priorities,” said Vera Strobachova-Budway, Acting Head of the Economic Governance Unit/OCEEA. “Digitalization is rapidly transforming the way we do business and is having a profound impact on economic development. Women entrepreneurs must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate, compete and succeed in this landscape, and this is exactly what this programme will do through a series of workshops, online training sessions, and one-on-one mentoring. By doing so, we aim to not only empower women entrepreneurs but also to catalyze economic growth, inclusion and innovation in the region.”

This activity is implemented together with InkubasiaLab, an NGO based in Bishkek specialized in developing innovative training programmes to enhance digital skills in Central Asia. It is being implemented in the framework of the cross-regional project Promoting good governance and a positive business climate in the OSCE region through digitalization and the use of open data, funded by the United States and Poland.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE Chair-in-Office emphasizes the Organization’s contribution to international security at the Munich Security Conference

OSCE - Mon, 02/19/2024 - 09:09

MUNICH/VALLETTA, 19 February 2024 — The Chair-in-Office of the OSCE, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta Ian Borg, participated in this year’s edition of the Munich Security Conference. The Munich Security Conference brings together global leaders, policymakers, and experts to discuss pressing international security challenges. 

In a series of productive meetings at the margins of the Conference, the Chair-in-Office met with various distinguished representatives of OSCE participating States including President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia Tanja Miščević, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan, Secretary for Relations with States and International Organization of the Holy See Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania Igli Hasani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein Dominique Hasler, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Ilia Darchiashvili, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Andorra Imma Tor Faus and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova Mihai Popșoi.

The Chair-in-Office also met with Prime Minister Albin Kurti and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Donika Gërvalla-Schwarz ahead of his visit to Pristina.

Throughout these discussions, Minister Borg shared the Maltese Chairpersonship's commitment to safeguard the principles set out in the Helsinki Final Act and the Charter of Paris with a vision for strengthening resilience and enhancing security across the OSCE region.

During the Conference, the Chair-in-Office also participated in a panel discussion at which he shared insights on the role of neutral countries within the international context. “From a neutral country's perspective, diplomacy is not merely a tool of foreign policy but a core principle that guides their interactions on the global stage. In Malta’s case, our steadfast commitment to dialogue and diplomacy underpinned our decision to step in as OSCE Chair-in-Office at the eleventh hour while also serving in the UN Security Council,” said Minister Borg.

As peace remains threatened in a world marked by evolving geopolitical dynamics, complex security threats, and global uncertainties, the OSCE Chair-in-Office's participation at the Munich Security Conference reaffirmed the Organization's commitment to upholding the principles of cooperative security.

Chair-in-Office, Minister Borg, emphasized that “the OSCE continues to provide a platform for dialogue, promoting stability and cooperation, and enhancing security in and between its participating States. The Maltese Chairpersonship of the OSCE encapsulates our commitment to strengthening the Organization’s resilience and capabilities to respond effectively and flexibly to the evolving security landscape.”

The Chair-in-Office’s participation at the Conference ensures that the OSCE’s unique approach to security is integrated into international security discussions, promoting a more inclusive and effective dialogue on peace and stability. With this comprehensive concept of security encompassing the politico-military, economic and environmental, and human dimensions, the OSCE remains a crucial forum for dialogue and consensus-building among its participating States.

Categories: Central Europe

News of tragic death of Alexei Navalny in prison follows years of unjust imprisonment, OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights says

OSCE - Fri, 02/16/2024 - 16:45

WARSAW, 16 February 2024 – The reported death of Alexei Navalny while serving a lengthy prison sentence is a tragedy that follows years of unjust imprisonment and the denial of his rights, including to a fair trial, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said today.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of Alexei Navalny’s death,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “From the very beginning, Mr Navalny’s imprisonment was a fundamental violation of the right to voice dissent as well as the right to a fair trial.”

ODIHR calls on the Russian authorities to launch an immediate and credible investigation into the circumstances in which he died, and to allow Mr Navalny’s representatives full access to it. ODIHR condemns the imprisonment of any opposition politician merely for expressing their political views, and calls for their release from detention. Justice systems must remain independent of politics and never be instrumentalized to silence dissenting voices.

ODIHR calls on the Russian Federation to respect its obligation to ensure the health and welfare of all those in custody, and reminds the authorities that all OSCE states have committed to respect the rights of prisoners. They have also committed to guarantee the right to a fair trial and the independence of the judiciary. In particular, states have committed to guaranteeing a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE-supported Workshop Advances Monitoring and Evaluation of Kyrgyz Republic's Counter-Terrorism Programme

OSCE - Fri, 02/16/2024 - 11:14
562776 Over 40 representatives from state institutions and municipal authorities take part at the three-day Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Workshop, focused on the National Action Plan for the implementation of the Programme of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic on Countering Extremism and Terrorism for 2023-2027. Chyngyz Zhanybekov Aida Almazbekova

Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic – A three-day Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Workshop, focused on the National Action Plan for the implementation of the Programme of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Kyrgyz Republic on Countering Extremism and Terrorism for 2023-2027 (the Programme), concluded on 15 February, 2024 in Bishkek.

The workshop, co-organized by the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek, the Anti-Terrorist Centre of the State Committee for National Security (ATC SCNS), and Hedayah, the International Centre of Excellence for Countering Extremism and Violent Extremism, gathered over 40 representatives from state institutions and municipal authorities tasked with executing the Programme and Action Plan for Countering Terrorism and Extremism.

During the workshop, the participants learned about M&E tools and methodologies in the execution of the Programme and practiced new approaches in the implementation of the Action Plan. Key elements included Hedayah's M&E Framework, covering methodology, resource allocation, goal setting, data collection, assessment, and indicator establishment. Participants engaged in exercises tailored to the National Action Plan, fostering deeper understanding and practical skills.

Reflecting on the importance of collaboration and objective assessment, Aibek Shamenov, Director of ATC SCNS, emphasized, "It is crucial to join efforts of state entities involved in the implementation of the Programme, as well as to have a diligent evaluation and monitoring system."

Ambassador Rogov, Head of the OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek noted, “These strategic documents are aimed at creating a nationwide framework on countering violent extremism and terrorism. They provide special mechanisms to strengthen co-operation between government agencies and civil society.”

Emma Allen, Programme Manager - Research & Analysis at Hedayah, highlighted, "A key area of work for Hedayah has been supporting country’s efforts to develop, implement and monitor and evaluate their National Action Plans. We believe that supporting these Action Plans is key to building a world free of extremist threats."

The event contributes to national counter-extremism efforts, fostering collaboration and empowering stakeholders with effective strategies. By leveraging M&E best practices, the Kyrgyz Republic advances its long-term counterterrorism initiatives.

In March 2023, the Kyrgyz Republic's Cabinet of Ministers approved the Programme, outlining objectives and mechanisms to counter violent extremism and terrorism. The subsequent Action Plan, adopted in September 2023, delineated strategies for executing the Programme. The OSCE Programme Office in Bishkek supported the development of these strategic national documents.

Categories: Central Europe

Courts to request expert examinations for defendants with mental health issues in Kosovo before ordering detention, OSCE report says

OSCE - Fri, 02/16/2024 - 10:40
562752 Therese Abrahamsen Edita Buçaj Fair Trial Issues for Detained Persons with Mental Health Needs

PRISHTINË / PRIŠTINA, 16 February 2024 - The OSCE Mission in Kosovo today published its latest focused report on the imposition of detention measures on defendants with mental health needs. 

The report provides an analysis of data collected from detention on remand hearings monitored by the OSCE from January to December 2022 and identifies trends in prosecution, defence and court practices.

The report notes that, in the majority of cases involving defendants with evidence of mental illnesses, no psychiatrist examination was conducted prior to ordering detention on remand, departing from Kosovo procedural law and international standards. This raised the concern of possible inhuman and degrading treatment under Article 3 of the ECHR.

The report also highlights the fact that a key medical facility in Kosovo for persons with mental illness, the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry, has a shortage of beds.  For all defendants, but especially those with mental illness, detention in a prison should be a measure of last resort. Appropriate alternatives should be considered.

“Imposing detention on defendants with mental health needs in environments deprived of any mental health care creates a risk of exacerbating their condition and thus raises serious concerns with regard to the fundament rights of these persons of particular vulnerability,” said Michael Davenport, Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo.

While acknowledging instances of good practice, the report underscores the need to account for a defendant’s mental health condition when deciding on the imposition of detention measures, as well as the need for providing tailored measures to address the defendant’s vulnerability.

The report concludes with recommendations for key institutions in the Kosovo judicial system, underlining the importance of specialized training for judges, prosecutors and attorneys dealing with cases involving defendants with mental illnesses.

The full report is available here:

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE-led field visit to Valencia port empowers Black Sea and Caspian Sea ports to accelerate sustainable connectivity and energy transition

OSCE - Fri, 02/16/2024 - 09:16

Driven by the importance of enhancing the safety, resilience, and sustainability of supply chains between Asia and Europe, the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities conducted a two-day field visit to the Port of Valencia for seaport experts from Azerbaijan (port of Baku), Georgia (port of Batumi), Kazakhstan (ports of Aktau and Kuryk), and Turkmenistan (port of Turkmenbashi). The visit took place from 14 to 15 February.

This initiative helped raise awareness and enhance the capacity of these ports to adopt environmentally sustainable and energy-efficient practices, thereby supporting them in their efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of their operations. It also focused on utilizing cutting-edge technologies, such as paperless port, 5G and artificial intelligence, to foster the ports’ competitiveness and their ability to facilitate trade in a sustainable and cost-efficient manner.

“Seeing first-hand the forefront of sustainability and digitalization practices at a leading port was truly an enriching experience. This field study visit has equipped me and my peers with insightful lessons to foster environmentally-friendly initiatives and embrace connectivity measures in our ports," said Andrew Danilov, Head of the Integrated Management System and Standardization Department from the Port of Batumi.

The field visit engaged participants in expert-led lectures, hands-on training sessions and on-site visits, facilitating a collaborative environment for the exchange of best practices, learning and networking among the beneficiary ports and the host port. It was organized within the framework of the OSCE project “Promoting Green Ports and Connectivity”, implemented with financial support from Germany.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE participates in discussions with Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry to improve operations of the Mobile Police Reception network

OSCE - Thu, 02/15/2024 - 10:11
562695 Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

In a meeting on 7 February 2024, Tajikistan’s Deputy Minister of Interior, Major General Nasimzoda Akbar Ghiyos met with the Officer-in-Charge of the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe, Jukka Tuononen. As the Ministry’s main partner in promoting police reform throughout the country, the Deputy Minister thanked the Programme Office for its support of the project to expand the Mobile Police’s operational network. 

Discussions focussed on ways to improve the effectiveness of Mobile Police Reception activities and assessed the challenges involved. Major General Nasimzoda Akbar Ghiyos assured Jukka Tuononen, that the Ministry would do everything necessary to implement the project, which was developed in collaboration with the OSCE. 

The two sides recognized the positive effects that the mobile police network can have for the people of Tajikistan and agreed on mutual co-operation for its continuation. 

Categories: Central Europe

117th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meeting takes place in Ergneti

OSCE - Tue, 02/13/2024 - 14:07

ERGNETI, 13 February 2024 – The 117th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) took place in Ergneti today under the co-facilitation of the Acting Head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), Tibor Kozma, and the Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus, Viorel Moşanu.

The EUMM and OSCE welcomed participants in the first IPRM meeting of the year and recalled their expectation for a continued commitment of the participants to the format, with regular meetings and active focus on preventing incidents. Ambassador Moşanu, now representing the 2024 OSCE Chairpersonship of Malta, also pointed to the good practice of accompanying technical meetings on water irrigation issues, in particular. He voiced his hope to sustain established efforts and initiatives.

Reflecting on security incidents and relevant developments since the last IPRM meeting, the co-facilitators highlighted the importance to focus on the safety of the conflict-affected communities – women, men, children and elderly – as a collective priority. Accordingly, they called on participants to withstand security and stability along the administrative boundary line (ABL), to ensure freedom of movement, and to fully re-open crossing points, including for regular cross-ABL traffic. Discussions also covered the security situation in Chorchana-Tsnelisi area, as well as the topic of UAVs.

Additionally, participants praised the EUMM-managed Hotline and thanked co-facilitators for the timely exchange of information in case of any crisis and incidents.

As previously, the co-facilitators encouraged participants to discontinue the practice of detentions and advocated for the release of remaining detainees.

The participants agreed to convene the next regular IPRM meeting on 20 March 2024.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE supports Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry in expanding the network of mobile police receptions

OSCE - Tue, 02/13/2024 - 10:14
562617 Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

Ten minibuses equipped to act as mobile police reception units were donated on 7 February 2024 to Tajikistan's Ministry of Interior by the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe under the project on Mobile Police Stations, part of the OSCE’s police reform programme for the country.

The vehicles will be used to carry out community policing tasks and will create better working conditions for police officers to travel to rural areas and provide legal assistance to local citizens.

Jukka Tuononen, the Officer-in-Charge of the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe and Colonel General Rahimzoda Ramazon, Tajikistan’s Interior Minister participated in the handover ceremony.

“The mobile police reception units will help police officers to move more quickly, to receive applications and addresses from the citizens and make the police more accessible to the public,” Tuononen said. “The OSCE will continue its co-operation and support of the Ministry in the area of community policing across the country for the benefit of the people of Tajikistan.”

Colonel General Rahimzoda Ramazon expressed his sincere gratitude to the OSCE for firming up the capacity of the Interior Ministry of Tajikistan. He emphasized the significance of the OSCE and the Ministry's collaborative initiative in implementing police reform.

By 2024, the Programme Office has already donated seventeen minibuses to the Ministry to expand the network of mobile police receptions throughout the country. The total amount of funds spent on the donated minibuses has so far amounted to 254,800 euros.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE brings together women peacebuilders and mediators from Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia to discuss common priorities and advocacy strategies

OSCE - Mon, 02/12/2024 - 13:52
562596 Communication and Media Relations Section David Dadge

The OSCE Gender Issues Programme and the Global Network of Women Peacebuilders (GNWP) held the second “Women’s Networks WIN Together” regional conference on networks across women peacebuilders and mediators from Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia on 5-7 February in Vienna.

Building on the momentum of the first conference held in Istanbul in June 2023, as part of the OSCE commitments under the WPS-HA Compact, over 30 women peacebuilders and mediators from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine further discussed WPS national and regional priorities and common advocacy strategies to strengthen the women-led networks across all three regions.

The conference provided a space for inter-regional and inter-generational dialogue, cooperation and knowledge-sharing among the participants. Through training workshops, panel discussions, and bilateral meetings, the conference also served as a platform for sharing tailored messages and recommendations to OSCE participating States and the Secretariat.

Regional networks are incredible tools to empower and protect peacebuilders and implement on the ground the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. To be impactful in our actions, we need to listen and support grassroots peacebuilders,” noted Lara Scarpitta, OSCE Senior Adviser on Gender Issues during her opening remarks. A dedicated event opened by US Ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter and attended by several WIN project donors offered the opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities faced by regional WPS networks with key recommendations shared including the need for long-term, sustainable and flexible financial support to women peacebuilders and mediators.

Women peacebuilders and mediators in the three regions face multiple barriers, from limited resources to dependency on project-based funding. Participants emphasized that protection mechanisms for women peacebuilders and mediators need to be developed, as they are often the subject of online and offline harassment and attacks.

Women peacebuilders also stressed the importance of defending the achievements of the past decades in light of recent pushback against women’s rights. “Our successes as women peacebuilders and mediators are fragile and sometimes failure seems to be more widely broadcasted than achievements,” highlighted Mavic Cabrera Balleza, Founder & Chief Executive Officer of the GNWP. “We need to reflect on and celebrate what we are contributing as individual, organizations and networks," she added.

The conference took place within the framework of the multi-year ExB project WIN for Women and Men: Strengthening Comprehensive Security through Innovating and Networking for Gender Equality”. This project is aimed at advancing gender equality to achieve and maintain stable, prosperous, and peaceful societies in the OSCE area.

Categories: Central Europe

In Memoriam: Robert Badinter, a founding father of the OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration

OSCE - Mon, 02/12/2024 - 11:46

It is with immense sadness that the Bureau and the members of the Court have learned that Robert Badinter, former Minister of Justice of France and a founding father of the OSCE Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, has passed away. 

A fervent advocate of law and justice, he was instrumental in the creation of the Convention on Conciliation and Arbitration (CCA) within the OSCE. Adopted at the OSCE Ministerial Council in December 1992, the CCA was created during a period of profound change in inter-European relations in order to anchor in a multilateral treaty the principles of good neigbhouring relations and friendly settlement of disputes between OSCE participating States. He was a dedicated president of the Court during several mandates, and served as an inspiration for his successors, delivering a vivid testimony addressed to the actual members of the Court in 2020. Before the creation of the OSCE CCA in 1995, Badinter was President of the Arbitration Commission of the Peace Conference on the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

Among his major achievements as Minister of Justice of France was the abolition of the death penalty in 1981 and the acceptance of the full competence of the European Court on Human Rights. Badinter furthermore contributed to the modernization of the French criminal code and to the adoption of Protocol n°6 to the European Convention on Human Rights. He presided over the Constitutional Council of France from 1986 to 1995.

He will be remembered as a bright orator and a great humanitarian, relentlessly engaged to promote law and justice, to fight against discrimination and to defend the dignity of any human being. Badinter’s legacy will transcend generations.

President Decaux, on behalf of the Court as well in his own capacity, expresses his heartfelt condolences to Badinter’s wife, family and relatives.

Read his full biography

Watch the video recording “Robert Badinter talks about the OSCE Court”

Categories: Central Europe

Resignation of Kosovo Serb judges and prosecutors a setback for integration and rule of law in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, OSCE Mission report says

OSCE - Fri, 02/09/2024 - 12:03

PRISHTINË/PRIŠTINA, 9 February 2024 - The OSCE Mission in Kosovo today published its latest report on the effects of the 2022 mass resignation of Kosovo Serb judges, prosecutors, and administrative staff working in the justice system in the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica region.

The report analyses publicly available statistical data from January 2022 to June 2023 concerning the capacity of the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica Basic Court and Basic Prosecution Office to administer justice in a timely and efficient manner before and after November 2022, when 20 judges, 10 prosecutors and 132 administrative staff resigned. In addition, four Kosovo Serb judges of the Mitrovica/Mitrovicë North Court of Appeals Division resigned. 

“These resignations were a major setback for the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica justice system, following the 2017 integration of Kosovo Serb judicial staff. This OSCE Mission report shows that this resulted in a reduced capacity of the court and prosecution to deliver justice, undermining the right to a trial within a reasonable time and impairing access to justice,” said Michael Davenport, Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo.

Due to the resulting sudden and significant staffing shortage, the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica Basic Court and the Basic Prosecution Office experienced a noticeable decline in court proceedings and caseload clearance rates (a measure of court and prosecutorial efficiency) from 75% to 59% in the court and from 75% to 57% in the prosecution office.

Both the Kosovo Judicial Council (KJC) and Kosovo Prosecutorial Council (KPC) have attempted to address the situation by reallocating cases and judicial staff, while also discussing how to improve the recruitment of new judges and prosecutors from non-majority communities.

The report underscores the critical need for measures to address these issues and restore the efficient and fair functioning of the Mitrovicë/Mitrovica justice system. More generally, it is imperative to promote a multi-ethnic justice system.

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo has a mandate to support the protection of human and community rights, as well as to build capacity in the public safety sector and strengthen democratic institutions. The Mission also monitors the justice system for compliance with international human rights standards and offers recommendations on how to address issues identified. 

The full report is available here:
Categories: Central Europe

OSCE helps Ukrainian officials better understand money laundering risks of virtual assets

OSCE - Fri, 02/09/2024 - 08:09

From 5 to 9 February, the Office of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities organized a workshop in Warsaw, Poland for Ukrainian supervisory agencies and regulators on addressing the most common risks associated with money laundering and supervisory processes governing Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs).

This 5-day event brought together more than 60 participants from Ukraine and Poland, joining both in person and online to discuss practical cases, regulatory frameworks, and innovative strategies for combating illicit activities within the virtual asset and cryptocurrency space.

"As the virtual asset landscape evolves, appropriate supervisory frameworks are essential to prevent its misuse for illicit activities," said Maksym Mishalov Dragunov, Assistant Project Officer at the OSCE. "This workshop fosters crucial collaboration between policymakers, supervisors, and industry professionals, empowering them to effectively address money laundering risks and promote a secure and compliant crypto market."

The workshop offered a platform for in-depth discussions on how supervisory authorities can effectively oversee VASPs and mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing. During the interactive sessions, participants from Ukraine and Poland examined practical VASP regulation cases, dissecting real-world examples to underscore key challenges and effective supervisory approaches. They analysed crypto-specific risks, exploring unique vulnerabilities within the crypto industry and developed tools for risk identification and assessment. Additionally, best practices for implementing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures specific to VASPs were addressed, emphasizing the importance of compliance in this evolving landscape. Moreover, one of the experts explained the implications of the European Union's Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation on VASP supervision, providing valuable insights for Ukrainian regulators on how the legislative framework and regulatory compliance is developing in European landscape.

“This workshop paves the way for a more effective and collaborative approach to VASP supervision in Ukraine. Sharing practical insights and strategies with esteemed colleagues has equipped me with the knowledge and methodology to tackle the unique challenges of crypto-related money laundering,” said one of the participants.

This initiative demonstrates the OSCE's ongoing commitment to supporting regional cooperation on anti-money laundering, in particularly in the area of crypto-assets. By facilitating knowledge sharing and capacity building, the workshop equipped participants with the necessary tools and expertise to strengthen VASP supervision and uphold financial integrity within their respective jurisdictions.

The workshop is part of the OSCE extra-budgetary project on “Innovative policy solutions to mitigate money-laundering risks of virtual assets”. The project is designed to support the OSCE participating states in building national authorities’ capacities to mitigate criminal risks related to virtual assets and cryptocurrencies. The project is funded by the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland and Romania. The Ministry of Finance of Poland provided the venue for the workshop.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities meets with OSCE Chairpersonship in Valletta

OSCE - Thu, 02/08/2024 - 11:37
562512 OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities The Tallinn Guidelines on National Minorities and the Media in the Digital Age Guidelines on the use of Minority Languages in the Broadcast Media The Ljubljana Guidelines on Integration of Diverse Societies The Hague Recommendations Regarding the Education Rights of National Minorities The Oslo Recommendations regarding the Linguistic Rights of National Minorities

OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) Kairat Abdrakhmanov visited Valletta on 7 February 2024 to discuss issues of mutual interest, in light of Malta’s Chairpersonship of the OSCE.

The High Commissioner met with Ian Borg, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta and OSCE Chair-in-Office (CiO), and the taskforce to express his support for Malta’s priorities as CiO, share the plans of his institution and discuss key areas of co-operation on matters related to his mandate.

The High Commissioner also used this opportunity to meet with various interlocutors to learn about Malta’s experience with diversity governance, particularly multilingualism in education and the media, with the aim to showcase positive examples throughout the OSCE region.

Towards this end, High Commissioner Abdrakhmanov met with Permanent Secretary in the Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation Ministry Matthew Vella to understand more about Malta’s experiences and best practices related to delivering high-quality bilingual education for all. The HCNM promotes multilingual education as a way to promote integration in diverse societies. 

Abdrakhmanov also met with Commissioner Renee Laiviera at the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) to hear how Malta approaches the inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities, data collection, anti-discrimination, and the intersection between climate policy and ethnicity. The HCNM is currently exploring the separate areas of data collection and climate change, as they pertain to national minority issues, in order to broaden his understanding of the subjects and how they relate to his mandate.

Finally, the High Commissioner took the opportunity to visit the Broadcasting Authority, where he met with Chief Executive Joanna Spiteri and Chairperson Frank Farrugia. Abdrakhmanov learned about Malta’s long experience of consuming media in multiple languages, primarily Maltese, English and Italian. 

Categories: Central Europe

Lack of genuine political alternatives in a restricted environment characterized Azerbaijan’s presidential election, international observers say

OSCE - Thu, 02/08/2024 - 10:26

BAKU, 8 February 2024 – This was the first election to be held throughout the internationally recognized territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan, an issue that dominated the campaign and was echoed in public sentiment. While preparations for the election were efficient and professional, it lacked genuine pluralism and critical voices were continuously stifled. Longstanding restrictions on freedoms of association and expression were reinforced by recent legal amendments and resulted in legislation not in line with international democratic standards, international observers said in a statement  today.

The joint observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) concluded that while the election code is detailed and regulates all aspects of the electoral process, recent amendments left previous ODIHR recommendations unaddressed.

"We have witnessed a historic moment in Azerbaijan's sovereignty and territorial integrity, in this first presidential election held across the entire territory of the Republic of Azerbaijan since independence,” said Artur Gerasymov, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observers. “The early presidential election was held in a restrictive environment, and while it was efficiently prepared, critical voices and political alternatives were largely absent. Regrettably, previous recommendations to bring the legal framework closer in line with international standards for democratic elections have remained unaddressed, and numerous restrictions in law and practice continue to exist.”

The campaign remained low key throughout, lacked any meaningful public engagement and was not competitive. While six other candidates participated in the campaign, none of them convincingly challenged the incumbent president’s policies in their campaigns, leaving voters without any genuine alternative. Civil society and opposition representatives noted that the legal framework and its implementation makes it difficult to enjoy their right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to hold public gatherings, both in the run-up to the election and outside the campaign period.

While the equal treatment of women and men is enshrined in law, there are no specific measures to promote women’s participation and women remain underrepresented in all aspects of public and political life. While women are well represented at the local level, no woman has run in a presidential election since 2013.

"In observing this election, I have noticed the strong absence of an engaged and informative public campaign between political alternatives, while the media environment remained extremely constrained, leaving voters without the possibility to meaningfully inform themselves about the options on voting day," said Daniela De Ridder, Head of the OSCE PA delegation. "Women remain vastly under-represented in political life, although they shoulder the majority of the organizational work on election day. This demonstrates the need to introduce laws that guarantee equal participation in politics."

Some 6.5 million voters were registered for yesterday’s election. Election day was calm and orderly overall but the observers noted significant shortcomings, mainly due to issues of secrecy of the vote, a lack of safeguards against multiple voting, indications of ballot box stuffing, and seemingly identical signatures on the voter lists. This raised serious questions about whether ballots were counted and reported honestly. Almost 80 per cent of the polling stations observed failed to provide independent access for disabled voters.

Highly restrictive media legislation as well as recent arrests of critical journalists have hindered the media from operating freely and led to widespread self-censorship, limiting the scope for independent journalism and critical debate. Minimal coverage of the candidates and campaign reduced the opportunity for voters to learn about the contestants and their programmes in order to make an informed choice on election day.

“In this important election for the country, none of the candidates challenged the incumbent convincingly, and some opposition parties did not take part at all, claiming a lack of adequate democratic conditions,” said Eoghan Murphy, who headed ODIHR’s election observation mission. “While preparations for the election were efficient and professional, including the training of precinct commissioners, on election day important safeguards were often disregarded and we observed substantial procedural errors throughout the day.”

The international election observation mission to the early presidential election in Azerbaijan totalled 335 observers from 42 countries, comprising 256 ODIHR-deployed experts and long-term and short-term observers, and 79 from the OSCE PA.

For more information, please contact:

Katya Andrusz, ODIHR: +48 609 522 266 or

Anzhelika Ivanishcheva, OSCE PA: + 45 60 10 80 30 or  

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE donates two specialized motor boats to increase the operational capacity of the Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence

OSCE - Thu, 02/08/2024 - 09:49
562491 Munira Shoinbekova, OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe

On 7 February 2024, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe donated two specialized boats to the country's Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defence to bolster Tajikistan's emergency response capabilities. As Tajikistan continues to grapple with the multifaceted impacts of climate change, the assistance provided by the OSCE serves as a demonstration of the importance of international solidarity in addressing environmental challenges and reaffirming the enduring partnership in pursuit of a safer and more secure future for all.

The boats are set to facilitate swift and effective emergency operations during floods, landslides, and other natural calamities that often afflict Tajikistan's vulnerable communities. With its ability to navigate the rivers and swiftly reach remote areas, the donated vessels are expected to enhance the authorities' capacity to save lives and provide timely assistance to those in need. The assistance is part of the Office’s ongoing support to the Government of Tajikistan in enhancing the operational capacity and providing timely and professional support to survivors.

Tajikistan, nestled in the heart of Central Asia, is highly susceptible to a range of natural hazards, including floods, mudflows, and earthquakes, which pose significant risks to lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure. The donation of the boats by the OSCE reflects the Organization's recognition of the urgent need to strengthen Tajikistan's capacity to mitigate and respond to such emergencies, thereby safeguarding the well-being of its population and promoting regional stability.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE organizes first ever hackathon against human trafficking in Albania

OSCE - Wed, 02/07/2024 - 17:01

Thirty representatives from state institutions and civil society organizations engaged in the first hackathon against trafficking in human beings in Albania – a learning-by-doing training where they worked together to detect online human trafficking and child sexual exploitation, on 6 and 7 February 2024. The event was organized by the OSCE Presence in Albania in co-operation with the Office of the OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings.

Guided by international experts, mentors in information technology and cyber security, the participants coming from police, social services, the National Authority on Electronic Certification and Cyber Security (AKCESK) and civil society organizations engaged in developing tools to detect online trafficking and sexual exploitation.

“Technology can also be developed and deployed to help combat human trafficking in the online environment. That is why we have to see opportunities beyond challenges and this is exactly the scope of this innovative training”, said Clarisse Pasztory, Acting Head of the OSCE Presence in Albania, who addressed the opening session alongside AKCESK director Igli Tafa.

The goal of the hackathon was to increase awareness of the ways in which technology is misused in Albania to exploit victims, especially children. It also aimed to identify platforms and websites that are particularly exposed to human trafficking risks and to provide insight into how traffickers exploit them.

In addition, the hackathon served to build a network of expertise to address technology-facilitated human trafficking, by employing a “learning-by-doing” methodology, prioritizing the learning process over theory, and testing participants knowledge and capacities in a live online environment to detect websites and social media platforms that recruit victims for sexual exploitation.

Categories: Central Europe

Kyrgyzstan’s bill on so-called “foreign representatives” worrying and should be reviewed: OSCE Human Rights Director and Media Freedom Representative

OSCE - Wed, 02/07/2024 - 10:30

WARSAW/VIENNA, 7 February 2024 – The decision of Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, the Jogorku Kenesh, to proceed towards the adoption of the so-called “foreign representatives” bill is of great concern, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Matteo Mecacci and OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) Teresa Ribeiro said today.

“Protecting freedom of association and other human rights is fundamental to every democracy,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “If this legislation is adopted, I am worried it would have an overwhelmingly negative impact on civil society, human rights defenders, and the media in Kyrgyzstan. We call on the Parliament to reconsider this bill and stand ready to provide our support.”

The draft law introduces additional reporting obligations on non-commercial organizations that receive foreign funding and are engaged in broadly defined ‘political’ activities, alongside wide oversight powers by public authorities and potential criminal sanctions for vaguely outlined criminal offences. Media rights groups receiving external funding as well as non-profit organizations that run news outlets would also fall within the scope of the draft law.

“The introduction in this draft law of burdensome reporting requirements is likely to prove unsustainable for small and medium-sized media organizations, and will pose significant risks to media freedom and open debate on issues of public interest in Kyrgyzstan,” noted Media Freedom Representative Teresa Ribeiro. “It is especially concerning that the amendments in question aim at introducing nearly total government control over the right to free expression of civil society and media actors. The mere possibility of criminal sanctions in case of non-compliance with the proposed legislation will have a significant chilling effect on media freedom and freedom of expression in the country.”

At the request of Kyrgyzstan’s Ombudsperson, the Akyikatchy, ODIHR provided an ODIHR Interim Urgent Opinion on an earlier version of the draft law in late 2022. While some of the concerns raised in the opinion have been partially addressed, the “foreign representatives” draft law, as it is remains incompatible with international human rights standards and OSCE commitments.

All OSCE participating States have committed to respecting the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and political participation. These standards and commitments are cornerstones to any vibrant, pluralistic and participatory democracy.

Categories: Central Europe

OSCE facilitates dialogue between State officials and civil society on digital rights in Kazakhstan

OSCE - Mon, 02/05/2024 - 14:50
562398 For Media inquires

From 30 January to 1 February, the OSCE Programme Office in Astana conducted a three-day workshop on digital rights and dialogue facilitation between State officials and civil society organizations. The event was carried out in co-operation with European Union Delegation in Kazakhstan, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' (OHCHR) Regional Office for Central Asia (ROCA), and local NGOs “Erkindik Qanaty”, “Human Rights Consulting Group”, and “Civil Expertise”.

It provided a platform for both relevant State bodies and civil society organizations to present and elucidate policies concerning the regulation of digital rights. Participants representing the Supreme Court, Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry of Digital Development, Innovations and Aerospace Industry, digital rights experts and civil society organizations discussed topics related to personal data as property rights, utilization of civic technologies by vulnerable groups, Internet and media freedom, as well as gender aspects in personal data protection. The sides paid attention to the search for an added-value balance between increasing digitalization and international human rights standards. This unique platform created an opportunity for the exchange of diverse perspectives, fostering dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders with different backgrounds and interests.

Increased digitalization underscores the paramount importance of enhancing resilience of society through safeguarding digital rights, foster innovation, and uphold democratic principles in the rapidly evolving technological landscape.

Throughout the event, interested civil society organizations, academia, business, media representatives, and digital rights experts, including lawyers,  also had the opportunity to analyze challenges and exchange insights into the regulation of digital rights in Kazakhstan and other countries. Further, participants formulated recommendations as to privacy and personal data protection; Civic Tech and decision-making; media and Internet freedom for the interaction and co-operation between State bodies and civil society in this sphere.

The OSCE Programme Office in Astana remains committed to continue its efforts to foster dialogue between the State and civil society, and conduct capacity building in relevant spheres for government bodies and civil society in Kazakhstan.
Categories: Central Europe

International election observers to Azerbaijan’s early presidential election to hold press conference on Thursday

OSCE - Mon, 02/05/2024 - 14:25

BAKU, 5 February 2024 – International election observers will hold a press conference to present their findings following the early presidential election in Azerbaijan.


  • A press conference of the international election observation mission to the early presidential election in Azerbaijan
  • Journalists can attend the press conference in person or via Zoom (details below)
  • Those unable to attend in person can follow the livestream here


  • Artur Gerasymov, Special Co-ordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observers
  • Daniela De Ridder, Head of the OSCE PA delegation
  • Eoghan Murphy, Head of the ODIHR election observation mission  


  • 15:00 local time (GMT +3) on 8 February 2024


  • Landmark III Rotunda hall, Khagani Rustamov Street, 4C Khatai District, Baku


  • To take part via Zoom, please register by 11:00 local time on 8 February using the following link

The international election observation is a joint mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE (OSCE PA). The observation mission totals 335 observers, composed of 256 ODIHR-deployed experts, long-term, and short-term observers, and 79 from the OSCE PA.

For more information, please contact:

Katya Andrusz, ODIHR: +48 609 522 266 or

Anzhelika Ivanishcheva, OSCE PA: + 45 60 10 80 30 or  

Categories: Central Europe


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