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Reflections on the 1990 Copenhagen document

31 July 2020

On 24 July 2020, the Human Dimension Committee of the OSCE’s Permanent Council held a special session on the 1990 Copenhagen Document. The document was the result of one of the groundbreaking meetings the then Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe held around 1990, at which the substance was defined of the human dimension. The Copenhagen Document emphasized the importance of elections as the basis for government and laid the basis for international election monitoring. It also paid substantial attention to minority rights.

The Czech chairmanship of the Committee asked Harry Hummel to be one of the speakers at this commemorative session. This is a lightly revised version of his speech.  Mr Hummel’s speech firstly makes a side step to another recent commemoration, that of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, before moving on to speak on issues of current election monitoring and observation, which according to Mr Hummel, should be greatly expanded, beyond currently codified democracy and human rights standards. Finally, the speech looks forward to preparing for the next big commemoration, in 2025, fifty years after the original Helsinki conference.

But in the same way the Copenhagen Document was a response to the requirements of that time, the need for approaches additional to what we have now seems evident if we want to redress the erosion of trust in our region. Trust and openness between people and their leaders can only be achieved in a well-designed and practiced democracy. All people should have access to channels of discussion and interaction on issues that affect them. Regardless of gender, ethnic background or elite connections. […] We need new thinking on how to address today’s big challenges.

Netherlands Helsinki Committee has joined an initiative called “Reviving the Helsinki Spirit” which seeks to promote a process of discussing what it means today to live together securely in our region. Let us […] see how far civil societies can get in applying ideas themselves directly.”

Click here for the lightly revised version of the speech.

About the author

Harry Hummel has been active in the human rights movement since 1972, when he joined Amnesty International. At Amnesty, he worked in a range of senior positions, gaining wide experience in substantive and organisational issues related to human rights and civil society.

Harry joined the NHC in January 2010. Since October 2015, he works as Senior Policy Advisor, with an advisory role in project development, innovation and advocacy. He deals with networking, coalition-building and civil society development related to the advocacy goals of the NHC. He initiates and implements conferences and seminars, and represents the NHC in among others the Civic Solidarity Platform and the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.