Back in business. The OSCE and conflicts in Europe's neighborhood

Christian Nünlist

March 2016; 4 pages

Global Governance Spotlight 1|2016 (pdf)

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has awoken from its 15-year slumber. The Ukraine crisis, in which the OSCE has played an important conflict management role between Russia and the West since 2014, has done much to restore the OSCE’s raison d’être: as in the Helsinki process during the Cold War, the OSCE is once again an urgently needed dialogue forum for negotiating a modus vivendi for peaceful coexistence in Europe among its 57 participating states,
despite their diverse values, interests and historical experiences.

In January 2016, the OSCE Chairmanship passed to Germany – by far the most powerful country to lead the OSCE since its evolution from the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). Expectations of Berlin are high. However, the German government will not be able to resolve the fundamental geostrategic conflict between Russia and the West in just one year. Nonetheless, with a pragmatic policy of small steps, Berlin can potentially rebuild lost trust and facilitate constructive dialogue in the OSCE. But dialogue does not mean consensus. Germany should assert, with self-confidence, the universality of the OSCE principles, which were negotiated and codified by East and West between 1972 and 2010. These principles are non-negotiable, even though they have been deliberately breached by Russia.

Particularly after the contentious NATO-led intervention in Libya in 2011, established and emerging powers are pit against each other in the debate regarding intervention for the protection of individuals’ human rights. While established powers prioritize intervention and see military force as a useful tool, emerging and postcolonial states see non-intervention as a crucial guarantee of their autonomy, and favour non-military means of assistance. In the current Global Governance Spotlight Prof Dr Kai Michael Kenkel argues why the support of both, states from the Global North and South, is necessary to re-establish the legitimacy and effectiveness of the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) and gives recommendations how the debate might be invigorated.

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