Facing Security Challenges and Enhancing Co-operation | OSCE Mediterranean Conference

OSCE flag outside the Hofburg Congress Center in Vienna, Austria (USOSCE/Colin Peters)

Thank you Secretary General, and thank you to the participants in today’s meeting for sharing your concerns and comments.

I would like to keep my remarks brief and underscore a few key points:

First of all, the Mediterranean Partners have always been part of the security landscape of the OSCE area – as we’ve heard today, the importance of security in the Mediterranean region to the security of the OSCE area was reflected in the Helsinki Final Act, so this is not a new thing.

Second, we are all facing several intersecting phenomena; among these are the rise of non-state actors—including those terrorist actors who attack the Mediterranean Partner countries and OSCE countries alike. Another phenomenon is the outgrowth of global mobility and global awareness. We shouldn’t forget that in a number of respects, this has been a good thing: there are many ways in which the fact that our world has grown smaller has enhanced the opportunity for cooperation and collaboration. It has also posed new challenges, as there are more people on the move than any time in the last 70 years, and governments have been less successful than we would like at: 1) recognizing that this is not a temporary phenomenon, it is a reality to be managed; 2) recognizing that opting out is not an option, and that collective action is a necessity; and 3) recognizing that while there are challenges, there are also opportunities.

Yet another phenomenon is the popular frustration that reflects failures of governance and governments that have had severe implications for the region. In some countries, the failures to effect democratic transformation or to secure democratic gains have led to governance failures that impacted economic opportunity, food security, and stability. Unchecked corruption has become a security issue. And we have learned, once again, that military dictatorships and autocratic regimes are only stable until they are not.

In other countries, leaders are failing in different ways. We see the manipulation and exploitation of popular sentiments, rather than genuine leadership. We see the perpetuation of xenophobia and false solutions grounded not in universal principles, but in majoritarianism and intolerance. These political figures are also failing to contribute to our collective security.

What should we do about this?

First of all, we need to acknowledge that, as a topic, “youth” – as we say in America – is an “apple pie” issue. Who is against children?   But, let’s also be honest: What we’re talking about is much harder than it sounds—making young people not just the objects of our conversation but subjects in our progress. It is not enough to just have young people present; we have to recognize what their voices are calling for –their calls for fair societies, for opportunity, for government free of corruption – is hard. Listening to young people is one thing, but let’s acknowledge that answering their call will be harder. But we know what we need to do to answer their calls for fairness and opportunity:  the OSCE comprehensive security remains the best formula for progress. Youth voices are a wakeup call – not to do new things, but to do the things we promised to do.

Before I conclude Mr. Secretary General, allow me to reiterate that the United States continues to value collective action on the issue of refugees and migration.

We recognize and share the interest in reaching consensus on a Ministerial Decision on migration. The best statement would be cross dimensional to reflect the security, economic development, and human rights dimensions of this pressing issue.

At the same time, we caution against focusing too much on adopting a decision on migration at the upcoming Ministerial; while a worthy goal, we shouldn’t let the difficulty of crafting political statements stop us from taking practical action.

Several extra-budgetary projects are being developed by the OSCE Secretariat, and perhaps more from OSCE field missions. Participating States should strongly consider supporting these programs to maintain our momentum and keep these issues organizational priorities.

Tackling migration also requires continued support from OSCE leadership. We suggest that regular reports from the Secretariat and executive structures to the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on short-term actions and Informal Working Group recommendations would help advance progress.

The United States is proud of the leadership we provide in addressing VERLT (Violent Extremism and Radicalization that Lead to Terrorism) and CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) and value the cooperation we receive from our Mediterranean Partners. We would also like more action on trafficking, border security, good governance, and media freedoms. We welcome the participation of Libya here today and strongly support efforts to stabilize the situation there in a way that is conducive to democratic progress.

And lastly, I truly appreciate the comment earlier from the Finnish Under-Secretary of State Marjaana about the situation in Aleppo, where we are witnessing horror in real time. And while I was glad to hear a relatively gentle intervention from Deputy Foreign Minister Meshkov, I find it unfortunate that his words are so different from the reality of what we see on the ground.

As prepared for delivery by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer at a High-level Segment of the OSCE Mediterranean Conference on Youth North and South of the Mediterranean: Facing Security Challenges and Enhancing Co-operation, Vienna