Tirana Declaration discussed during online session of OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference

On Tuesday, 8 December, an online session of the OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference was devoted to the in-depth discussion of the Tirana Declaration on Human Rights, Democracy, and the Fight against Corruption and its analysis of the connection between corruption and the decay of human rights and democracy. The meeting was attended by the delegations of OSCE participating States and OSCE institutions, human rights and anti-corruption experts and representatives of national and international NGOs. Participants discussed steps that need to be taken by the OSCE, participating States, and civil society to counter corruption and related money laundering. 

Mr. Servaas Feiertag and Mr. Casey Kelso, anti-corruption, human rights, and rule of law consultants, provided an in-depth analysis of observations on the relationship of corruption and human rights, with a particular focus on the justice sector, which became the basis of the Tirana Declaration. The consultants underlined that making the connection between corruption and human rights leads to the conclusion that when rights are guaranteed and implemented, then corruption will drastically reduce. Conversely, whenever human rights are not protected, corruption is likely to flourish, as the absence of freedom of expression or assembly, or free access to information and education, makes it extremely difficult to hold government officials accountable.

A representative of the OSCE Chairpersonship, Mr. Petrika Jorgji, welcomed the emphasis of the Tirana Declaration on the cross-dimensional nature. He stressed that the OSCE “has repeatedly affirmed the interdependency of democracy and the rule of law”. Mr. Jorgji provided a detailed presentation of the efforts taken by the Albanian Chairpersonship throughout 2020 to counter corruption. He underlined the importance of the recently adopted decision of the OSCE Ministerial Council on strengthening efforts in preventing and combating corruption through digitalization and increased transparency, enhancing cooperation to counteract transnational organized crime, and in preventing and eradicating the use of torture. Along with these efforts, Mr. Jorgji drew everybody’s attention to the importance of the political will in the participating States to successfully implement anti-corruption measures. “Civil society along with the media have an important role in building and sustaining the political will for change”, he added.

Ms. Umida Niyazova, Uzbek Forum for Human Rights, talked about issues associated with the recovery of funds resulting from large scale corruption in Uzbekistan. She stressed the need for developing a clear mechanism of control over the spending of funds connected to the returning assets of Gulnara Karimova, in order to ensure that these assets will be spent with maximum transparency and accountability for the benefit of the Uzbek people. Ms. Niyazova also called on the Western countries that profited from corrupt practices in Uzbekistan, to step up and show their solidarity and support anti-corruption and human rights activities in Uzbekistan.

Ms. Tetyana Pechonchyk, the Human Rights Center ZMINA, presented experiences of the anti-corruption struggle in Ukraine. She talked on how corruption may be an indirect cause of violations when corrupt authorities try to control the media, the judiciary, and civil society, in an attempt to prevent the exposure of corruption. As Ms. Pechonchyk underlined, the final beneficiaries of the attacks on investigative journalists and whistleblowers are never investigated, which is closely related to the issues associated with reforming the corrupt judiciary. “The corrupt judiciary cannot purify itself”, it is civil society and international organizations that can make this process effective by participating at all stages, such as the selection of judges, and holding corrupt judges accountable, she added. Finally, Ms. Pechonchyk underlined the importance of the frequent dialogue between human rights NGOs and anti-corruption organizations on a national level to address this issue.

The Tirana Declaration was handed over to the OSCE executive bodies during the special online session of the OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference a day before, on Monday, 7 December.