ASRC – Working Session 2. Early Warning, Conflict Prevention, Crisis Management, Conflict Resolution, and Post-Conflict Rehabilitation

Annual Security Review Conference Working Session II: Early Warning, Conflict Prevention, Crisis Management, Conflict Resolution, and Post-Conflict Rehabilitation: Lessons Learned and the Way Ahead

As delivered by Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. Harry Kamian
Vienna, June 28, 2018

Thank you, Mr. Moderator.

The United States welcomes this working session. Past crises demonstrated the value in continuing our dialogue on early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, conflict resolution, and post-conflict rehabilitation. However, we should not allow this discussion to become purely an academic exercise. Our focus must remain firmly on today’s reality: the need for practical responses to the hot conflict in Ukraine and the protracted conflicts, which represent immediate threats to security in the OSCE region. Our attention should focus on preparing the OSCE for timely and practical responses to future crises.

Mr. Moderator, you and my EU colleague highlighted the important role that field missions can play. Historically, our missions have contributed importantly to building understanding in tension-filled, adversarial situations, where trust among parties is lacking. Those missions contributed at all phases of the conflict cycle. Today, regrettably, many of the functions and mandates of OSCE field missions are hindered and disrupted by the failure to adhere to agreements and guarantees by participating States. This is most obviously true with respect to the situation in Ukraine. Russia-led forces regularly deny access to the Special Monitoring Mission monitors seeking access to Russia-controlled areas, including the Ukraine-Russia international border.  These denials are sometimes accompanied by threats of physical violence against unarmed monitors.  In addition, OSCE Observer Mission monitors at the Russian checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk do not have the access and freedom of movement that they are mandated to have and which they must have in order to carry out their mandate and job effectively.

But the lack of real-time crisis and early warning reporting is not restricted to Ukraine. The reality is that this organization’s effectiveness and reach have diminished throughout the wider OSCE area. Why? It seems to us exceptionally worrisome that OSCE participating States are unwilling to open their doors to field missions. Is there an assumption among some that field missions will not provide impartial reporting on rising tensions? Or is the problem that those governments are not prepared for a light to shine on practices that are not consistent with their commitments undertaken within the framework of this organization?

Is there an assumption that the OSCE’s missions cannot be relied upon for good offices that will help to defuse conflicts before they “turn hot?” Our experience is that OSCE’s field missions have been tireless in seeking to anticipate and defuse sources of conflict, whether that involves access by farmers to their fields at harvest time, reciprocal educational degrees, or ushering in agreements that build community through the free movement of goods and people. We have missions that have undertaken demilitarization programs to eliminate dangerous munitions and keep civilians safe. We have missions that have stood sentinel at frozen mountain passes to detect illicit border crossings. These are hugely important roles, at the core of what it means to take steps to prevent crises.

The OSCE should re-establish its presence in the South Caucasus and in other countries desiring support. And we should give all field operations the mandate and tools they need in order to help their host countries – indeed, help all OSCE participating States – to meet today’s security needs. First and foremost, all field presences need the ability to monitor the situation throughout the internationally-recognized territories of their host countries, and to provide neutral and unbiased reporting.

Beyond its long-term field missions, the OSCE also needs to be able to put monitors on the ground immediately in crisis situations. The United States proposed a crisis management decision almost a decade ago. Regretfully, participating States were unable to reach consensus, although those negotiations did set the stage for the adoption in 2011 of the conflict cycle decision, which we are considering today. The security situation, however, is worse now. An updated Vienna Document could help the OSCE quickly and independently ascertain the facts of a crisis situation and make the fullest possible contribution to our collective security. Nations need to exercise political will and engage on concrete proposals that would help this organization facilitate the timely deployment of monitors into crisis situations, without the possibility of a veto. We urge all stakeholders to engage constructively in these discussions and to find a path forward on this issue.

It would be a clear success – for the OSCE and the countries involved – if we could reach agreement on a conflict cycle capability that would allow the OSCE to respond quickly and effectively to provide impartial reporting on an evolving crisis situation. We need to work together to make that aspiration a reality.

Thank you.