The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s 21st Autumn Meeting concluded today with a Mediterranean Forum focused on the situation in the Middle East, wrapping up three days of debate in Yerevan that covered issues including the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine and security in the South Caucasus, the OSCE PA said in a press release.

Following the first session of the Parliamentary Conference on Saturday, held under the theme “Addressing security: the OSCE’s role in an era of conflict,” Sunday’s Parliamentary Conference sessions included debates on fighting corruption and protecting minorities.

Chaired by OSCE PA Vice-President and Special Representative on Fighting Corruption Irene Charalambides (Cyprus), Session Two was held under the theme “Corruption as a fundamental threat to peace and security,” featuring presentations by Alexandra Habershon, Programme Manager at the World Bank, Mariam Galstyan, a member of the Corruption Prevention Commission of Armenia, and Konstantine Vardzelashvili from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Habershon described corruption as a driver of conflict and discussed the World Bank’s efforts in promoting good governance. A whole-of-government approach specific to individual countries is needed, she said, which must include strategies against money laundering and tax crime. In this regard, Galstyan discussed the Armenian national strategy against corruption, and Vardzelashvili noted that ODIHR gives advice to OSCE participating States with a focus on practical, specific and comprehensive advice.

In the debate, lawmakers highlighted their national efforts, noting that the fight against corruption requires legislative changes as well as an overhaul of the relationship between government and citizens. Special Representative Charalambides said that journalists and civil society need to be our eyes and ears and that prosecution is essential.

Session Three, chaired by OSCE PA Vice-President Daniela De Ridder, was held under the theme “Respect for all: protecting minorities and people affected by conflict,” and was addressed by Fernand De Varennes, former UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, and Yeghisheh Kirakosyan, Representative of Armenia on International Legal Issues. Dr. De Ridder opened the session by pointing to the humanitarian consequences of the military operation last September in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan which caused more than 100,000 persons to flee to Armenia in less than a week.

Noting that the world is now experiencing more violent conflicts than at any time since 1945, Dr. De Varennes pointed out that many of these involve grievances by minorities. In order to prevent conflict, he said, it is essential to protect minority rights, and attention must also be paid to the more than 110 million people worldwide who are displaced. Kirakosyan noted that in Armenia racial discrimination is prohibited and that the country utilizes all international fora to pursue peaceful settlement of disputes.

In the debate, parliamentarians raised issues including the need to adopt legislation for the integration of child refugees, and ensure that a sense of stability is provided for all vulnerable groups. International organizations must strengthen the response to the wars taking place and provide support to those suffering their effects, it was stressed.