The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization with 57 participating States from Europe and Eurasia as well as Canada and the United States. Through political dialogue about shared values and practical work on the ground that aims to make a lasting difference, the OSCE promotes peace, prosperity, and democracy for more than a billion people.
Built on the foundation of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the OSCE takes a comprehensive approach to security, encompassing political-military issues, economic and environmental concerns, and human rights and democratic development.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24 and the Kremlin’s blatant disregard for its OSCE commitments have shattered the region’s collective security and violated every single one of the Helsinki Final Act’s guiding principles. Despite offering Russia an opportunity to hold an enhanced European security dialogue, Russia has turned its back on the organization.
The United States, in close coordination with other participating States, has focused its efforts since February 24 on holding Russia to account. On November 1, the OSCE also launched a new Support Programme for Ukraine with $2 million in initial U.S. funding, to address some of the immediate challenges to civilians posed by Russia’s war and to support the long-term democratic and social resilience of Ukrainian institutions and civil society organizations.
- Although Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has put a tremendous strain on international arms control regimes, the United States continues to work with like-minded participating States to maintain the existing arms control arrangements and works to promote regional confidence building measures in areas like cyber, countering terrorism, and countering violent extremism.
- The OSCE’s work to combat other transnational security threats continues to be critical in the context of Russia’s war. The OSCE presence in the Western Balkans, Moldova, and Central Asia — including field missions, the Border Management Staff College in Dushanbe, the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, and various extra-budgetary projects — strengthens countries’ internal capacities while also providing a platform for cooperation.
Economic and Environmental Dimension.
- The OSCE’s Second Dimension encompasses economic and environmental issues as an integral element of comprehensive security. The United States supports the OSCE’s work to combat corruption and promote good governance, energy security, and environmental protection, expand consideration of climate-related security risks, and promote women’s economic empowerment.
- The United States supports projects under the Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) to build the capacity of participating States to identify climate-security hotspots, combat corruption, and protect energy networks from natural and man-made disasters. In many cases, environmental and economic projects incorporate support for reconciliation and cross-border cooperation.
- Since its inception, the OSCE has played a pivotal role in holding states accountable for their human rights commitments and pledges to uphold democratic norms. Most recently, we have used various OSCE tools to hold Russia to account for war crimes and other abuses of human rights. The United States joined 44 other countries in invoking the “Moscow Mechanism” to document Russia’s war crimes, possible crimes against humanity, and egregious abuses of human rights and to contribute to accountability efforts. The Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has also been monitoring and documenting abuses committed by Russia in Ukraine, including as part of its so-called “filtration” operations.
- Despite Russia’s obstructionism, the United States supported the Polish Chair’s decision to hold a Warsaw Human Dimension Conference in September 2022. The conference was attended by over 1100 participants, and provided an opportunity for government officials, international experts, civil society representatives and human rights activists to take stock of how states are implementing their OSCE commitments in the human dimension. The OSCE is also deeply engaged in regional projects to combat trafficking in persons, particularly among Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced persons, and to support marginalized populations. The Chair-in-Office’s, three personal representatives on Tolerance and Non- Discrimination, Rabbi Andrew Baker, Dr. Regina Polak, and Ambassador Dr. Ismail Hakki Musa, also help promote tolerance and respect for diversity.
The Parliamentary Assembly, Independent Institutions, and Field Missions.
- The work of the OSCE is complimented by the work of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA). Comprised of 323 members from across the region, the OSCE PA seeks to advance the region’s comprehensive security including through parliamentary diplomacy, drafting thematic reports, issuing joint declarations, the work of Special Representatives, and observing elections.
- The United States strongly supports the work of the three independent OSCE institutions – the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM), and the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). We also support the work of the OSCE Special Representatives who work on fighting corruption, combating trafficking in persons, fostering gender equality, and promoting respect for the human rights of Roma and Sinti.
Finally, the OSCE’s 13 field missions help host countries put their OSCE commitments into practice and foster local capacities. These include initiatives to support law enforcement, minority rights, legislative reform, the rule of law and media freedom, promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination, and combat corruption and trafficking-in-persons.
Sources: US Dept. of State & THX News.