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USOSCE Statements

The OSCE: Living Up to the Promise of Helsinki

USOSCE Ambassador Ian Kelly delivering remarks on the OSCE at Vienna's Austro-American Society, Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2013. (USOSCE/Colin Peters)

USOSCE Ambassador Ian Kelly delivering remarks on the OSCE at Vienna's Austro-American Society, Vienna, Austria, January 23, 2013. (USOSCE/Colin Peters)

Ambassador Kelly's Remarks at the Austro-American Society

Vienna, January 23, 2013

Thank you, Vic, and thank you all for coming. Special thanks for coming out tonight go to my OSCE colleagues – I can certainly think of better ways to spend my Wednesday evening than to listen to me talk yet again about the OSCE.

But I do hope I can make this particular discussion of the OSCE worth your while.

Many of you who know me know that I am the father of four children. As a result, I have sat through literally dozens of parent-teachers conferences. If I were the teacher, you were the parents, and the OSCE were the student, and I had to give a progress report, here’s what I’d say (and for those of you who really are parents, it’ll sound familiar):

I’d say OSCE is your classic underachiever: he started out looking like someone with a lot of promise, but unfortunately so far has not lived up to his potential.

That is to say, the OSCE's core principle -- comprehensive security -- is sound. Our “founding fathers,” the leaders who signed the Helsinki Final Act in 1975, made a unique contribution to the concept of multilateral security – that mutual security depends not just on the political-military dimension, but also on respect for human dignity and democracy, and on encouraging opportunities for economic advancement and prosperity. We call this the comprehensive approach to security, with three dimensions: political-military, economic/environmental, and human.

And so, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, it is important to remember that those accords, and the Organization that has been developed from them, affirm an inextricable link between the security of states and the security of citizens. They codify universal rights and freedoms that belong to all citizens.

Unfortunately, these values are increasingly under threat in the OSCE space. As we look ahead, we must work with renewed determination to build our common security on the basis of these OSCE principles, and to strive for a region in which the use of force is unthinkable, human rights and fundamental freedoms are fully respected, and cooperation is the norm. We call this state of multilateral bliss a “security community,” a region “from Vancouver to Vladivostok” where security is indivisible and equal.

In 2012, the Irish Chairmanship and a majority of participating states worked tirelessly to advance fundamental freedoms, strengthen our efforts against intolerance, promote good governance, and combat transnational threats. We achieved some important successes that will strengthen the work of the OSCE and our progress towards a security community in the coming years.

Notably, at the Ministerial meeting in Dublin in December, we adopted the Declaration on Good Governance and Combating Corruption, which can serve as a useful tool in guiding our work in the economic dimension. Deepening the OSCE’s commitment to good governance principles and policies will benefit all States by enabling economic growth and stimulating investment in their countries. A commitment to good governance will also help reduce barriers to trade and promote international commerce.

We were pleased to adopt Decisions last year consolidating and strengthening the OSCE’s work on transnational threats, such as organized crime, narcotics trafficking, and terrorism. Agreement in these areas clearly demonstrates a shared sense of the common threat and the need for the OSCE to provide a forum for discussion and a platform to engage in joint action on these issues.

Another important success in Dublin was the Ministerial statement that recognized progress toward a final settlement of the Transnistria conflict in Moldova. This was the first time our Ministers reaffirmed our collective commitment to help the sides resolve a protracted conflict that has persisted far too long.

That’s the good news from Dublin. The bad news was there were some worrisome failures to reach consensus that raise concerns about our progress towards the security community which was envisioned in the 2010 Astana Summit Declaration. For the second year in a row, we were not able to reach consensus on any decisions that reaffirm or strengthen our commitments in the human dimension.

Not surprisingly, the countries most responsible for this outcome have an increasingly troubling record on respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the implementation of their existing OSCE commitments.

Regrettably, even where the task before us was merely to reaffirm existing commitments, we were unable to reach consensus. Forty-eight OSCE States have co-sponsored the Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age declaration. This declaration contains no new commitments; it merely reaffirms that fundamental freedoms apply whether they are exercised in the real or the virtual world – online or offline. It was deeply troubling that some states argued that the emergence of a new technology, such as the Internet, somehow was not relevant to the protection of fundamental freedoms long recognized by the international community.

Likewise, on cyber security, we were disappointed that one state blocked consensus on an initial set of transparency confidence-building measures that would have contributed meaningfully to our common security.

The negative outcome in the human dimension and other areas is evidence of the deep and growing divide amongst OSCE States on a wide range of fundamental issues. For the United States, the way forward is clear: the realization of a “security community” can only be achieved through the implementation of existing commitments.

In 2013, Ukraine has the Chairmanship, and I must say that I see a real opportunity for Ukraine to help us bridge this divide. Ukraine, a member of neither major collective security organization – NATO for the Euro-Atlantic community and CSTO for Eurasia – rightly sees itself as a geo-political bridge between both regions. Its Chairmanship comes at an opportune moment as we strive to create a single security community from Vancouver to Vladivostok.

We are further encouraged by the priorities Ukraine has laid out for 2013. The United States shares Ukraine’s view that full implementation by all participating States of all our commitments in the human dimension must be a top priority. As we agreed in Astana in 2010, the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms is our first responsibility, and the implementation of human dimension commitments is of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States.

We applaud Ukraine’s recognition of the importance of strengthening the involvement of civil society in these efforts and in the work of the OSCE more broadly. I want to emphasize that in many ways the OSCE depends on and exists for civil society. The comprehensive concept of security applies to citizens of OSCE States as much as to governments. Civil society is key in monitoring how States implement their commitments, and a key actor in exercising the freedoms that States have committed to uphold. The OSCE must engage with civil society directly, and with as little hindrance as possible. The United States hopes that civil society will play a larger role in OSCE deliberations this year.

We welcome the Ukrainian Chairmanship's focus on tolerance and youth. At a time when our region has witnessed a rise in racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes targeting migrants, Roma, Jews, other ethnic and religious minorities, gay persons, and other vulnerable populations, the OSCE must strengthen its efforts and capacity to protect the vulnerable. Educating our young people against prejudice and hatred is an essential element in effectively combating racism, xenophobia and hate crimes.

We also applaud the Ukrainian Chairmanship’s intent to continue the OSCE’s focus on media freedom. In that context, I want make clear that we, along with now forty-seven other co-sponsors, will continue to work to advance the draft declaration on Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age. It is time for all OSCE States to recognize the reality that fundamental freedoms are being expressed, and ought to be protected, on line and off line.

We appreciate Ukraine’s clear expressions of support for the OSCE’s Institutions, including the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner for National Minorities, and the Representative on Freedom of the Media. The United States will work to ensure the independence and vitality of these crucial institutions and the field missions. In particular, we must stress the importance of protecting the value of the OSCE’s rightly respected standards for election observation.

We commend the Ukrainian Chairmanship’s focus on combating trafficking in human beings and its commitment to gender equality and reiterate our support for ongoing efforts to leverage UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on the role of women in promoting peace and security.

The protracted conflicts continue to present challenges to our common security. In particular, we welcome Ukraine's intention to bring special attention to the Transnistria conflict in Moldova, building on the OSCE's past contributions and looking for new ways to boost confidence between parties to the conflict. We have an opportunity to make tangible progress towards resolving this protracted conflict. We must also continue to work toward restoring a meaningful OSCE presence in Georgia, while continuing to seek creative ways to achieve concrete improvements in the security and humanitarian situation there. Similarly, we should continue to work toward the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, under the auspices of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs.

In the economic and environmental dimension, we support Ukraine’s focus on the environmental impact of the energy industry. Similarly, we encourage the Ukrainian Chairmanship to develop a strategy that will make operational the Dublin Ministerial Declaration on Good Governance. Pursuing good governance should underpin all economic dimension discussions.

We firmly support the Chairmanship's intention to continue work in the security dimension by addressing transnational threats and encouraging action by the OSCE, its field missions and participating States on the decisions taken. We also are encouraged by the Chairmanship’s support for continued work on cyber security and expect to make meaningful progress this year.

We welcome Ukraine’s intention to promote greater military stability, transparency, and predictability within the existing mechanisms envisioned in the OSCE’s Forum for Security and Cooperation. We agree that Conventional Arms Control and Confidence and Security Building Mechanisms are core elements of the OSCE’s concept of comprehensive, equitable, and indivisible security, and we look forward to further dialogue on these important issues.  

Finally, the United States reaffirms the importance of the role the OSCE has played on Afghanistan and applauds the Ukrainian Chairmanship’s leadership on this issue. Since 2007, the OSCE has supported a number of initiatives focused on border security and transnational threats with Afghanistan and its neighbors in light of the transition of full security responsibility from International Security Assistance Forces to Afghan National Security Forces by the end of 2014. The OSCE has much to offer in assisting Central Asian OSCE States, including improved border management, countering corruption, promoting democratic values and human rights, and reducing illicit trafficking to promote trade and economic development.

I would like to conclude with some thoughts on a Decision that was approved at Dublin and which will be initiated under the Ukrainian Chairmanship – the start of the ‘Helsinki+40’ process, which will culminate in a new vision and program of action for the organization.

We are increasingly concerned for the future of this organization and the values it has always championed. As Secretary Clinton noted in Dublin, “more than 20 years after the end of the Cold War, the work of creating a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace remains unfinished.”  There are growing challenges and dangers facing the full exercise of the fundamental freedoms affirmed at Helsinki, new restrictions on human rights from governments, new pressures on journalists, new assaults on NGOs and a growing tide of restrictions on the freedoms so many of us take for granted.

We therefore look forward to Ukraine’s leadership of the Helsinki+40 process to restore the OSCE’s human dimension to its rightful place at the center of our concept of comprehensive security and to lead this effort to fully implement our commitments.

We believe that the Helsinki+40 process to which Ministers have committed in Dublin must be absolutely clear with respect to the fundamental principles and assumptions that will underpin OSCE efforts to create a true Security Community. The strategic principles that guide this process should be the existing Helsinki Final Act Decalogue of Guiding Principles. There can be no re-negotiation of the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE agreements under the guise of “reform”.

Through the Helsinki+40 process and whatever outcome we reach, we must emphasize that the vision of a “free, democratic, common and indivisible Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security community” can be best achieved by the implementation of existing commitments. In addition, commitments regarding the protracted conflicts, including the pledge not to use force, must be fulfilled, and respect for all basic Helsinki principles must be the sine qua non of our approach. And, of course, our goal must be to achieve tangible results.

In essence, the Helsinki+40 process should aim to affirm and re-commit states to the enduring principles of Helsinki and subsequent OSCE agreements. At the same time, taking into account new technologies, growing interdependence, the growing cross-border linkages of peoples and civil society, and new and emerging threats to our common security, the process should also identify and promote new applications of these principles.

Throughout, civil society should have a voice and prominent role in Helsinki+40 discussions. Governments alone cannot build the security community nor strengthen the Organization itself to apply these new applications. Likewise, the role and autonomy of institutions and field missions should be strengthened and participating States should support their work to fulfill their mandates.

Finally, the goal of the Helsinki+40 process should be more substantial than merely reiterating a “commitment to the concept of comprehensive, cooperative, equal and indivisible security.”  Rather, by 2015, the OSCE states should be in a position to demonstrate some meaningful progress toward that goal. Such progress, first and foremost, should be concrete improvements by states in their implementation of existing OSCE commitments.

Secretary Clinton stated in Dublin, “As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, this is a time for the OSCE to once again take up the mantle of leadership, to push forward the frontiers of human rights and dignity, and to reaffirm the values and principles that have guided this organization ever since its founding.” 

The United States continues to believe in the great promise of Helsinki, and is committed to working with our partners to ensure that our underachiever offspring lives up to his full potential in the years ahead.

Thank you, and I’d be happy to answer your questions.