MINSK — From July 5 to July 9, Majid Jowhari, MP (Richmond Hill), represented the Government of Canada, alongside Senators and other Members of Parliament, in the 26th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Minsk, Belarus.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is the parliamentary branch of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, composed of 323 Assembly members from North America, Europe and Asia.
The Annual Session is composed of three General Committees, with the primary task being the debate of resolutions proposed by each of the three General Committee Rapporteurs, as well as resolutions sponsored by individual delegates to the OSCE PA referred to as Supplementary Items, before submitting final reports.
On Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, the General Committee addressed humanitarian and human rights-related threats to security, serving as a forum for examining the potential for co-operation within these fields. As the OSCE region is witnessing a period of tension and insecurity, particularly as external factors such as radical ideologies and the influx of migration exacerbate perceptions of crisis.
During the Committee’s first meeting, MP Jowhari took the floor to speak in favour of immigration, integration, tolerance and respect for diversity. “Some have responded to increased immigration with fear–of instability, of terrorism, of job loss, of the ‘other’ and the ‘unknown,’” he said. “However, discrimination in the name of security goes against the very foundational principles of the OSCE.”
“In Canada, diversity is viewed as a source of pride and strength. Canadian parliamentarians and their constituents broadly recognize that newcomers help make Canada successful by growing our diverse society, culture, and economy,” he said.
MP Jowhari also noted that despite Canada’s leadership in diversity, “the realities of many immigrants and visible minorities in our country continue to be informed by racism, xenophobia, and socioeconomic exclusion.”
“For these reasons,” he said, “Canadian delegation seeks to work with our OSCE PA colleagues on championing policies that promote integration, tolerance and diversity rather than fear, exclusion and discrimination.”
Also regarding the current political climate and rising security threats, the OSCE PA’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security highlighted defusing existing conflicts, fighting radicalization and violent extremism, and re-establishing trust and confidence as its key objectives. Its report addresses six main topics: cybersecurity, terrorism, Turkey, women in peacebuilding, the Russian aggression against Ukraine, and protracted conflicts.
Finally, the Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment examined economic and environmental security threats, as well as exploring opportunities for co-operation within these and related fields. Its final report focuses on two global phenomena: climate change and migration. It also discusses green growth, energy and pollution, development and wealth disparity, refugees, globalization, and scientific freedom.
On the last day of the Annual Session, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopted the 2017 Minsk Declaration, which includes recommendations to help national governments develop policies that align with this year’s theme: “Enhancing mutual trust and co-operation for peace and prosperity in the OSCE region.”
“Colleagues, on behalf of the Canadian delegation, I wish to speak to you on the important topic of immigration, integration, tolerance and respect for diversity.
The world is witnessing a surge in international migration. In 2015, 244 million people, or 3.3% of the world’s population, lived outside their country of origin. By the end of 2016, 65.6 million people were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution and conflict, the highest level ever recorded.
As a result of this influx of migrants, many host States are experiencing financial, logistical and societal pressures as they struggle to accommodate these newcomers. States who, despite these difficulties, have made efforts to welcome those seeking asylum should be applauded.
Some have responded to increased immigration with fear–of instability, of terrorism, of job loss, of the “other” and the “unknown.” This fear sometimes results in national policies whose effects ostracize, rather than integrate, immigrants and visible minorities.
However, discrimination in the name of security goes against the very foundational principles of the OSCE. The OSCE has repeatedly stated that the protection of human rights is an integral part of lasting security, rather than a threat to it. Human rights provide the foundation for a stable society by minimizing domestic security threats and increasing a sense of inclusion and belonging among all citizens.
In Canada, diversity is viewed as a source of pride and strength. Canadian parliamentarians and their constituents broadly recognize that newcomers help make Canada successful by growing our diverse society, culture, and economy. Immigration to Canada is encouraged, and viewed as a solution to issues such as an ageing population and a concurrent decrease in a young labour force.
Despite Canada’s approach to diversity and inclusion, the realities of many immigrants and visible minorities in our country continue to be informed by racism, xenophobia, and socioeconomic exclusion.
For these reasons, the Canadian delegation seeks to work with our OSCE PA colleagues on championing policies that promote integration, tolerance and diversity rather than fear, exclusion and discrimination. Thank you.”