The Helsinki +40 Process: Applying Enduring Principles to Meet Current Security Challenges

As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the Informal Helsinki +40 Working Group, Vienna, Austria
February 12, 2013

The Helsinki +40 process provides an opportunity to review the progress made since the signing of the Helsinki Final Act, address shortcomings in achieving its aims – both as individual participating States and as an Organization – and focus on practical ways to apply enduring OSCE principles to meet 21st century challenges.

I’m concerned that some participating States have set as their goal to “rebalance” the OSCE.  We’ve seen efforts to diminish the centrality of the human dimension, and weaken the institutions designed to ensure we all are fully implementing OSCE commitments, in all three dimensions.  The commitments derived from the Helsinki principles, and the tools and instruments we have developed to ensure implementation of them, cannot be renegotiated.  There also is no need to adopt new commitments – the principles underlying them are sound and abiding.  We do need to identify new applications for the 21st century – we need to take into account new technologies, growing interdependence, and cross-border threats and challenges.  If you want a headline for Helsinki+40, I’d call it “Enduring Principles, New Apps.”

Regarding the process, it should not be limited by a pre-determined outcome or by a refusal to discuss national or organizational shortcomings in meeting our commitments.  It should be open and inclusive, engaging all 57 participating States.  At an appropriate time, structure will be required to advance productive work.  We suggest establishing sub-working group structures keyed to discuss all three dimensions.  The sub-working group on the military-security dimension would need to divide its work given its broad mandate to cover FSC issues (including arms control), the conflicts, and transnational threats.  We should also consider an additional group on cross-dimensional issues and one looking at improving efficiency and effectiveness within the Organization itself.  Under the direction of the Chairmanship, these sub-groups should prepare issues for discussion by the full Working Group and for follow-up.  It is essential that the process review and identify issues within each dimension, as all dimensions are necessary to the comprehensive concept of security.

It will be essential that civil society have a voice and prominent role in Helsinki +40 discussions; we should consider how the OSCE’s processes and procedures can be enhanced to take into greater account the role and input of civil society.  Governments alone cannot build the security community.  Moreover, how the rights and freedoms, enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent documents, are exercised has changed substantially with the advent of digital technology.  The Helsinki+40 process must embrace these new realities, by addressing the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms online and off line, and enhancing opportunities for civil society to contribute to the OSCE’s work.

In the military-security dimension, we cannot shy away from advancing efforts to resolve the protracted conflicts.  Fundamental goals of the Helsinki Final Act – refraining from the threat or use of force, sovereign equality, equal rights and self-determination of peoples, territorial integrity of states, peaceful settlement of disputes – must be upheld and advanced by this process.  Our failure to achieve peaceful settlements of the conflicts in Georgia, Moldova, and Nagorno-Karabakh affects every aspect of this Organization’s work.  The Helsinki+40 effort should have as its goal the achievement of tangible results in every area, including steps to address the protracted conflicts, to ensure an effective OSCE response to situations of crisis or tension, and to facilitate the presence of the OSCE when requested by a participating State.

The FSC must actively participate in the Helsinki + 40 process, contributing to efforts to rebuild trust and revitalize conventional arms control and confidence- and security-building regimes, in order to ensure military stability, predictability and transparency.  Although the work to substantively update the Vienna Document will be done in the FSC, the Helsinki + 40 process should aim to create an environment that supports that effort.

The original drafters of the Helsinki Final Act could not have anticipated the proliferation of transnational threats across the OSCE space.  The Helsinki +40 process must therefore build on the work done to counter these threats and identify new applications to address terrorism, illegal drugs, threats to border security and the growing challenge of cyber-security in a way that respects fundamental freedoms. In particular, the Helsinki +40 process should identify ways in which the OSCE, with its institutions, field presences and civilian-focused security concept, can better serve as a platform for cooperation among national and international actors in regions facing proliferation of transnational threats, especially Central Asia.

Similarly, the economic and environmental dimension of the OSCE has gained prominance because of the multiple challenges our community faces in a world of increasing interdependence.  We must consider how the OSCE can best contribute in this dimension, and how it can serve as a venue for integrating private and public perspectives and efforts to build both sustainable economic and environmental policies.
We must also review the structure of the Organization designed to assist participating States in implementing these commitments, exploring avenues for greater efficiency and effectiveness.  There is an urgent need to match the OSCE’s resources and focus to the challenges we face in the 21st century.  We should also consider how we can strengthen the OSCE Institutions and field operations, examine how the consensus rule is applied, and explore how we can cooperate more closely with OSCE partner states and other international organizations.

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 pS should be in a position to demonstrate some meaningful progress toward that goal.  Such progress, first and foremost, should be concrete improvements by participating States in their implementation of existing OSCE commitments in all three dimensions.