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Speech of Austrian Federal Minister Ernst Strasser at the OSCE Conference
Warsaw, Oct. 12, 2004

Posted: October 13, 2004

Mister Chairman Lawrence,
Dear Madams and Sirs,

It is a big pleasure for me to participate at this conference. I consider the fact that this conference is taking place in the capital of Poland as a very positive sign and it is an honor for me to be here in Warsaw and to talk to you and to present the co-operation between the Austrian Federal Ministry of Interior and the Anti-Defamation League.

Since I have assumed my duties as Minister in 2000, my endeavours were to initiate an overall reform of the Austrian Law Enforcement. On one hand, this includes an essential re-organization that guarantees the maintenance of the high-level security standard in our country which is currently translated in to action. But it would be wrong, to put all attention at the re-organization and meanwhile forget about the people, that work in this organization.

Therefore it was a logical step to implement reforms concerning the basic and advanced education of law enforcement. Not only classical areas such as intervention tactics, criminology and law were adapted as regards content and didactics, also the area of Human Rights Edcuation was revised under the aspects of needs and up-to-date methodology. To be confronted with other cultures during an intervention is a big challenge for police officers.

As early as the basic eduction starts, we put a high value on the ability of future police officers to react sincere and appropriate to the diversity of people and cultures, in order to enable them to set the right actions in difficult situations. This is why it is a matter of concern to me to address, to decrease, prejudice and irreal fears in the law enforcement. What we want to gain instead is social and cultural competence.

Madams, Sirs!
It has to be clearly stated that there is no room for racism and anti-Semitism in Austria and especially not in the Austrian Law Enforcment. This is why the Ministry of Interior actively fights against racism and anti-Semitism.

Since the beginning of the co-operation between the ADL and the Ministry of Interior nearly 10 % of all law enforcement professionals, 2,300 in numbers, have participated at these trainings. 40 trainings per year are delivered. We have decided for this co-operation for the following reasons:

    1. The high amount of professionality in the co-operation, the relation between the Federal Ministry of Interior and ADL is very open and based on partnership

    2. The trainings were tailored to the needs of the Ministry of Interior

    3. Every participant to such a training is gaining skills that relate to his or her personality

Every person living in Austria, no matter which color or origin he or she has, should be treated the same service oriented way by our officers. But it is clear to us, that a directive from the Minister is not enough.

Shortly after I assumed my duties as Minister, I have negotiated and signed a contract with the Anti-Defamation League. This organization owns an excellent program and a lot of experience in trainings that fight racism and xenophobia. Every police student has to pass an A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Training during the basic education. Furthermore the training is delivered in the advanced education - and the participation to it is MANDATORY.

The Anti-Defamation League has gathered experience in that field since it was founded in 1913. While its first goal was to end the discrimination of the Jewish people, defending the civil and human rights of all citizens and fighting racism and anti-Semitism are its current goals.

The A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute was founded by the ADL to fight prejudice and strengthen democracy and pluralism. Its education programs fight prejudice and discrimination. Around 500,000 people working in the education system were trained by that program in the U.S.A. Programs are running in 14 countries and I am proud to tell you that the biggest project in Europe is the one that has been put in place in Austria in co-operation with the Ministry of Interior.

The details of this co-operation will be presented to you by experts and myself in the following side-event. I warmly would like to invite you to join.

Thank you for your attention, your interest and the possibility to present to you our way of dealing with this sensitive issue that concerns all our law enforcements.

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