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Diplomacy in Action

2012 Report to Congress: U.S. Policy and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe


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Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
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March 2012

This report, submitted pursuant to Section 5 of the “Act to Establish a Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe,” 22 U.S.C. 3005 (1976), as amended, discusses U.S. policy objectives advanced through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and presents U.S. priorities for 2012.

U.S. Policy Objectives

The OSCE’s comprehensive security concept, directly linking political-military security to economics, the environment, and human rights and fundamental freedoms, makes it a unique mechanism among the 56 participating States (pS) for advancing shared interests in Europe and Central Asia. The OSCE supports U.S. goals through partnerships that marshal political will, coordinate actions, share costs, and avoid duplication of effort in promoting the growth of civil society and spread of democracy, strengthening respect for human rights, building a cooperative security environment in Europe, and countering transnational threats. OSCE expertise (e.g., on election observation and democratization) is increasingly recognized outside the OSCE space, particularly in Afghanistan and North Africa.

The OSCE’s activities address the links between conflict and weak governance, and have contributed significantly to the stability and development of the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. We particularly value the work of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in promoting democracy, rule of law, tolerance and non-discrimination, free elections, and civil society.

Specific U.S. policy objectives linked to OSCE commitments include:

Democracy Promotion

We firmly defend the independence of ODIHR and support its assistance to pS through election observation, the development of competitive political parties, legislative assistance, civil society involvement, and efforts to strengthen the rule of law (independence of the judiciary, criminal justice, the legal profession, and public law). We also seek ways ODIHR can assist Afghanistan and North African partner countries in developing stronger governance institutions.

Human Rights Protection and Support for Civil Society

The United States works closely with other pS and with the OSCE institutions – ODIHR, the Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM), and the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) – on behalf of the human rights of every person. We are leading efforts in the OSCE to recognize the applicability of OSCE commitments on fundamental freedoms to the digital world. We also work with likeminded others to support and defend civil society.

Media Freedom

The United States is one of the leading proponents in the OSCE of media freedom and works closely with the RFOM. We continue to encourage repeal of overly broad defamation laws in all OSCE pS in 2012. We frequently raise cases at the Permanent Council of states failing to protect freedom of expression, and we fund two annual conferences hosted by the RFOM in the Caucasus and in Central Asia.

Countering Transnational Threats (TNTs)

An enhanced OSCE role on TNTs advances U.S. goals, and TNT cooperation has been an area where Russia constructively engages with us in the OSCE context. The OSCE supports counterterrorism activities, plans to develop cyber security confidence-building mechanisms, assists pS to implement their UNSCR 1540 non-proliferation commitments, promotes enhanced border security (particularly in Central Asia), and improves police capacity to address narcotics trafficking, transnational organized crime, and the protection of human rights.

Fight against Intolerance and Discrimination

We work closely with ODIHR in its comprehensive approach to help pS meet their commitments to prevent and respond effectively to hate-motivated crimes and violent manifestations of intolerance. These include religious intolerance, racism, xenophobia, discrimination against women and people with disabilities, and the acutely growing problems of violence and discrimination facing Roma/Sinti communities and increasing anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims.

Combating Trafficking in Persons

As an element of U.S. efforts to combat trafficking in persons, we support the work of the OSCE’s Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings. This office builds capacity for governments and civil society by providing training for public officials and the media and promoting national action plans and legal reforms. We are identifying further opportunities to implement the 2011 Vilnius Ministerial declaration on combating all forms of human trafficking.

Military Transparency

We continue to seek updates to the Vienna Document that will increase military transparency. The U.S. supports in particular a widely-endorsed proposal to lower thresholds for notification of military activities, as well as proposals to increase inspections and evaluations. Russia’s failure to implement its Vienna Document commitments since January 2012 is a concern; we and our partners continue to press Russia to resume implementation immediately.

Good Governance/Transparency

We support the work of the OSCE’s Office of the Coordinator for Economic and Environmental Affairs (OCEEA) and the Field Missions on the adoption of international standards and the sharing of best practices on good governance and transparency, including in the extractive and construction industries. Working with the Irish Chairman-in-Office, we seek a Ministerial Declaration on Promoting Security and Stability through Good Governance and Transparency.

Field Activities

Southeast Europe

Regarded as OSCE success stories, these missions (in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia) are closest to completing their mandates and transferring responsibility to local and/or EU mechanisms – the closure of the Office in Zagreb is a prime example. These missions focus mainly on rule of law, democratization, national minorities, and human rights. The OSCE presence remains an essential stabilizer in some areas. We seek budget savings here, through targeted reductions in staffing and programs.

Caucasus

In Armenia and Azerbaijan, the OSCE focuses mainly on democratic institution building, anti-corruption, and justice- and security-sector reform. In 2011, the Office in Baku expanded community policing throughout Azerbaijan and provided technical assistance to the Government on legislation for increasing political pluralism and improving the electoral climate. The Office in Yerevan assisted election authorities in preparing for Armenia’s 2012 parliamentary elections, continued work to improve the media regulatory framework and to create a more open, transparent business climate, and improved the gender balance of cadets admitted to the Police College through its police reform programs. The OSCE’s Minsk Group, of which the United States is a co-chair, continues to promote dialogue between the conflict parties on a permanent and peaceful settlement in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. In Georgia, we seek the reestablishment of a meaningful OSCE presence. We support the Geneva Discussions and OSCE’s work to resolve outstanding security and humanitarian concerns, including on a project to facilitate water and gas supply between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia.

Eastern Europe

The OSCE Mission to Moldova is the focal point for coordinating the recently-resumed official meetings of the 5+2 (Moldova, Transnistria, Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE, with the United States and the EU as observers) on Transnistria’s final status. The Mission also assists in implementing confidence-building measures; democratization and electoral reform; defending human rights; encouraging freedom of expression, including for members of the media; and combating trafficking in persons. In 2011, the Project Coordinator in Ukraine supported public discussion of electoral reform, promoted ethical standards for journalists, and assisted on a state program to combat trafficking in persons. Assistance to Belarus is complicated by the 2011 closure of the OSCE Office in Minsk – at the insistence of the Government of Belarus. We continue to draw attention to human rights violations in Belarus, including joining 13 other pS in invoking the OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism in 2011, and we advocate reopening the OSCE Office.

Central Asia

OSCE activities help improve electoral systems, bolster independent civil society, strengthen freedom of expression, including for the media, strengthen the rule of law, and curb corruption. Several Central Asian states have shown increased willingness to cooperate with each other on such issues as education, counterterrorism, combating trafficking in persons and contraband, border security, and water management. In 2012, the United States will continue to support activities in all three dimensions in Central Asia. In conjunction with the decision at the 2011 Vilnius Ministerial to strengthen cooperation with Afghanistan, we seek to improve regional cooperation, primarily through projects aimed at improving border management and promoting licit commercial activities.

OSCE Budget and Scales of Contribution

OSCE pS agreed to a 2012 budget of €148,055,400 (roughly $194.7 million, down 1.8 percent in Euro terms from last year), a budget sufficient for the OSCE to carry out its core mandate to promote security, including through democracy and human rights. The pS agreed to roll over the OSCE scales of contribution for 2012 as they had for 2008-2011, a victory for the United States, as many pS believe the United States should pay more than the 12.9 percent of the organization’s costs it does.

2011 Vilnius Ministerial

Secretary Clinton used the Vilnius Ministerial as a platform to send clear messages of support for civil society, elections standards, and Internet freedom. Vilnius also produced several decisions that advance U.S. goals, including on enhanced engagement with Afghanistan; support for the Partners for Cooperation (with scope to assist North African transitions); a declaration on combating human trafficking; and addressing transnational threats.

IMPLEMENTING THE U.S. AGENDA IN 2012 AND BEYOND

We are determined to ensure that the OSCE continues to promote cooperative, comprehensive security in Europe and Central Asia, in line with U.S. priorities and goals. To that end, we will pursue action in the following areas:

  • We will continue to use the OSCE as a platform for defending and amplifying the voices of human rights activists and civil society groups and advancing the fundamental freedoms of expression, association, assembly, and religion, including their exercise via new media and digital technologies.
     
  • We will continue to support the independence of human rights institutions and the ability of civil society actors to operate freely throughout the OSCE region and participate in OSCE events, consistent with OSCE commitments. We will also work with others to ensure that OSCE principles and institutions are not weakened. We will make full use of OSCE instruments to address democratic deficiencies in pS and to support Partners undergoing democratic transitions.
     
  • We will impress upon pS the need for more effective action on Roma/Sinti issues, anti-Semitism, and discrimination against Muslims, and will seek new, creative ways to underscore the message that LGBT rights are human rights.
     
  • We will continue to look for new ways to support the peaceful resolution of the protracted conflicts in Georgia and Moldova, and to advance efforts to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peacefully under the auspices of the Minsk Group.
     
  • We will continue to strengthen the OSCE’s capacity to respond to crises and to prevent conflicts from erupting or reigniting.
     
  • We will continue our efforts to modernize the Vienna Document and to promote confidence- and security-building measures.
     
  • We will look for innovative ways for the OSCE and the pS to counter transnational threats and challenges, such as terrorism and violent extremism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, threats to cyber security, organized crime, and trafficking in weapons, drugs, and persons.
     
  • We will look for ways to expand OSCE programs in Central Asia and for Afghanistan, through savings realized from scaling back missions in the Balkans.
     
  • In the economic, energy, and environmental sectors, we will continue to work on good governance and seek endorsements of major transparency initiatives.



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