The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) works for stability, peace and democracy for more than a billion people in 57 participating States, through political dialogue about shared values and practical work that contributes to social cohesion and sustainable progress. The OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security covers the politico-military; the economic and environmental; and the human dimension. The human dimension entails work related to democracy, rule of law, human rights and tolerance and non-discrimination.
OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) based in Warsaw (Poland) is the main institution mandated to assist the participating States with the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments consensually adopted through OSCE bodies by representatives of the participating States. ODIHR also assists participating States with the implementation of international legal obligations and OSCE commitments on anti-terrorism and in implementing their commitments on tolerance and non-discrimination, in compliance with international human rights standards.
ODIHR’s Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department is dedicated to combating intolerance, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, intolerance against Muslims, Christians and members of other religions, especially where they are in minority. Our work on hate crimes focuses on hate crime reporting and training programs for prosecutors, law-enforcement officials and non-governmental organizations on how to recognise, report and record hate crimes. We also work on promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination through educational and other programs, as well facilitation of cooperation among the relevant stakeholders.
My work as Advisor on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims entails assisting government representatives, human rights advocates, Muslim communities as well as international governmental organisations, to build meaningful, participatory processes and policies which will ensure respectful and dignified life for all. In the current social climate this is a very challenging task, but also a very rewarding one when we as ODIHR get to facilitate such constructive developments. This might be related to improvement in disaggregation of hate crime data by gender/bias or improved relations between the law enforcement and the communities. It might be also related to some educational or other non-discrimination programs. We are for example currently designing resource materials for teachers on combating intolerance against Muslims following our previously adopted Guidelines for Educators on Countering Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims (pilot materials are being prepared in cooperation with our Irish partners). Together with EU FRA, we are also developing research on representation of Muslims in the media and drafting a Building Bridges Workshop Model that aims to facilitate and to improve relationships that Muslim communities have with media professionals, which should eventually facilitate better media presentation and representation of Muslims (in cooperation with Ethical Journalism Network). Our next activities will be focusing more on security of Muslim communities across the OSCE region.
In our work we pay special attention to mainstreaming of gender into our activities and publications. As we are working in 57 participating States this involves a broad range of traditions, religions, beliefs and contexts. We wish to facilitate meaningful engagement for both men and women, but also ensure safe spaces where difficult topics can be discussed. Manifestations of hate, intolerance or discrimination differently target and affect Muslim men and women as the bias against them is often intersectional and involves not only their gender but also other aspects of their identity such as skin color, religion, ethnicity, social class, etc.
In order to structure the human dimension activities we at ODIHR organise regular meetings that take stock of OSCE human dimension commitments and their implementation. Our central event Human Dimension Implementation Meetings (HDIM) happens every year in September in Warsaw and is open for all. This is Europe’s largest annual human rights conference, which brings together hundreds of government officials, international experts, community representatives and human rights activists. Similar events such as Supplementary Human Dimension Meetings (SHDM), smaller in scale, are also regularly organised by ODIHR both in Warsaw and in Vienna.
Finally, in October this year, together with The Bridge Initiative of Georgetown University (USA) we will be organising a conference entitled “Combatting Intolerance, Discrimination and Hatred against Muslims: Towards a Comprehensive Response in the OSCE region” in Vienna. The conference occurs on the occasion the 10th anniversary of OSCE Chairman-in-Office 2007 Cordoba Declaration on Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims. As participating States have pledged to enact a comprehensive set of measures to respond to intolerance and promote non-discrimination the conference aims to take stock of how these concerns have been addressed and to review them in light of new challenges and the principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Originally formed in the early 1970s the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) was created to serve as a multilateral forum for dialogue between ‘East’ and ‘West’. Today, more than 40 years later, and now called the OSCE, it still serves as important platform for dialogue, cooperation and exchange across the region.
Đermana Šeta (@DjermanaSeta) is OSCE ODIHR Adviser on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims. Previously she worked at the Institute for Islamic tradition of Bosniaks and Gender Mainstreaming Program of the Islamic Community in B&H. She served as Head of the Freedom of Religion Commission of the Islamic Community in B&H, a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies and Center for Education and Research Nahla. She holds a BA in English language and literature, MA in Religious Studies from Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies, University of Sarajevo (in cooperation with Arizona State University, University of Oslo and University of Copenhagen) and is currently preparing her PhD thesis on intersectionality in Muslim women experiences in (post)conflict and (post)socialist Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sociology Department, Faculty of Political Studies, Sarajevo.