Back Support for Ukraine, need to halt democratic backsliding top US visit agenda

Support for Ukraine, need to halt democratic backsliding top US visit agenda

Deputy Secretary General Bjørn Berge has concluded a three-day working visit to the United States (25-27 March), where he found widespread support for Ukraine, concern about democratic backsliding around the world, and a hunger for working together to find solutions.

Starting in Washington DC, the Deputy Secretary General met US government officials Ms Nichole Chulick, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Labour and Human Rights, and Mr Jeremy Bernton, Chief of Staff to the US Special Representative for Ukraine’s Recovery.   These meetings covered a range of human rights, democracy and rule of law challenges facing Europe and the wider world, and the value of US as an Observer in the Council of Europe, including its participation in the new Framework Convention on AI and the Register of Damage for Ukraine.  There was also a shared understanding of the need for broader, multi-faceted support for Ukraine, in which the Council of Europe’s Action Plan on Resilience, Recovery and Reconstruction is playing its part.

In separate meetings with senior Democrat and Republican staffers from the House and Senate Foreign Affairs and Relations Committees, there also agreement on the need to find ways to provide Ukraine with the help it requires and a range of thoughtful interventions on other pressing issues, including the need to address democratic backsliding.

The Deputy Secretary General reflected on his meetings: “It is greatly encouraging to see that, political complications aside, in both the executive and the legislature of the United States, there is a widespread view that we need to help Ukraine and address the kind of democratic backsliding that paved the way to Russia’s appalling and illegal war of aggression there.  We also talked about accountability and justice as the foundation for lasting peace.  These principles underpin the new Register of Damage.”

As a guest at that evening’s annual Toner Awards for Excellence in Political Reporting, the Deputy Secretary General heard remarks by keynote speaker, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and others, centred on the importance of free media and tackling disinformation.  This prestigious ceremony is organised by Syracuse University’s SI Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Both at the dinner and on a visit to the Syracuse Campus in New York state, the following day, Bjørn Berge held a number of conversations covering Ukraine, the state of including Council of Europe work on the environment, AI and disinformation, and how the Organisation and the University can work closely in line with the joint Memorandum of Understanding signed last year.  The Deputy Secretary General’s meetings included Provost Gretchen Ritter, and senior leadership and faculty from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs.  He also had interactive discussions with students and faculty including a question-and-answer session following his speech on “Nationalism, Authoritarianism and War: are we Progressing into the Past?”.

On the final day of his visit, Bjørn Berge was at the United Nations in New York City, where he met Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary General for Europe, Central Asia and the Americas in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs.  He also met Ambassador Merete Fjeld Brattested, Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN and Ambassador Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Malta to the UN.  Malta currently sits on the UN Security Council and holds the Chairpersonship of the OSCE.

“What was striking from all of these meetings was the level of agreement about the problems facing democracies today and the need to make commons cause in addressing them.  There is already good cooperation.  Now we must look for ways to move yet further forward, united in our resolve,” concluded the Deputy Secretary General.

 Speech by the Deputy Secretary General

Deputy Secretary General United States 28 March 2024
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