Statement before the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security

As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Winter Meeting, Vienna
February 21, 2013

Thank you, Mme. Chairperson, Honorable Members of the Parliamentary Assembly, and colleagues.

Today’s topic, “Building a Joint Security Community,” is timely, as we continue to pursue a coordinated strategic approach towards a security community across all three dimensions.  However, I would propose to amend the title to “Continuing to Build a Joint Security Community,” and that is what I will address today.

I do this because I believe we already have the fundamentals in place for a security community, based inter alia on the Helsinki Final Act, the broad range of OSCE commitments, the Vienna Document on Confidence- and Security-Building Mechanisms and the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security, and more.  The OSCE is paving the way in developing the tools for what we call “civilian security:” using law enforcement and other non-military tools, we work together to fight the spread of illegal narcotics, combat terrorism, and secure our borders against these and other transnational threats.

What we lack is consensus on how best to use the tools we have developed to meet these challenges.  For that, we need clear guidance from our leaders.  The challenge is, all 57 leaders have to agree on that guidance.  The consensus rule is both the strength, and the weakness, of this organization.  When we gain consensus, the decision we have made is all the stronger for 57 states having signed up for it.  I must admit that I was more than a bit envious watching you all pass resolutions last year in Monaco on simple majority vote.  It seemed like multilateral heaven.  But I also realize that to change our method of decision-making would fundamentally change the organization, which was founded, after all, on the need to find common ground for all.

This inability to reach consensus has prevented us from agreeing on a new strategic concept for the 21st century – I’d argue that the last agreement on the way forward for the organization was in 1999, in Istanbul.  No organization can long survive without a clear mission statement from leadership – especially in a fast-moving security landscape.  Because we have not had a mission statement for 13 years, many regularly question its relevance.

Nevertheless, things are looking up with the agreement in Dublin  to Launch the Helsinki+40 process. The multilateral security gods must be smiling on us, because a number of stars are lining up to help us come up with new strategic guidance for the OSCE: we have Chairmanships set for three years, and the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act comes at the end of those three years.  2015 comes after 2014, when ISAF ends its combat role in Afghanistan, and the focus will turn to helping Afghanistan re-integrate into its region, and to helping its neighbors deal with possible security challenges that arise from a nation in transition.  OSCE states share a 2,000 km border with Afghanistan, and OSCE has a number of platforms in place there – field missions in all five Central Asia states, and training academies in two – to help integrate Afghanistan into its neighborhood, and help Central Asia cope with transnational threats.

But most importantly of all, there is a recognition among all 57 states that the time has come to work on a new, 21st century strategy for the organization.  We hope at the end of this three-year process we will have a landmark, visionary document that will help guide the work of this organization for years to come.

As we head into this process, I would suggest the underlying principles of this organization are sound.  We do not need deep reform of them, and we do not need to renegotiate our founding documents.  We do need, however, to adapt the organization to the 21st century – much of our resources are keyed to the challenges of the nineties, not 2013.  Some two thirds of our 2012 field mission budget went to work in the Balkans.  Our work is not finished there, but the Balkans are no longer the main source of instability for our community – we need to align our resources to help our partners who share that long border with Afghanistan.  The strategic document called “Helsinki+40” should provide us with the mandate we need to make that realignment.

As a big fan of strategic communications, I’ve proposed a headline, or tag line, for Helsinki +40: “Enduring Principles, New Apps.”  I’d suggest that many of those new applications, or apps, will come under the purview of the Security Committee.  One of the new challenges that needs a new app is in the field of cyber threats.  One of the OSCE’s real contributions to the concept of multilateral security is the idea of transparency and confidence building measures.  I’ve had the honor of chairing the working group on cyber security, where we are developing a set of mutually agreed CBMs to help increase trust and predictability, and thus lessen the potential for tragic miscalculations.  It’s the classic example of an enduring principle shaped into a new app.

But the Helsinki+40 will not only be about developing new apps.  We also need to better implement, and modernize, the instruments we already have.  We need to give a new impetus to the resolution of the protracted conflicts, working with the existing formats where the OSCE plays a role. In the political-military dimension, the need for better implementation of the Vienna Document and the Code of Conduct is not in dispute.  These instruments, like OSCE instruments in the other dimensions, need ongoing improvement in their implementation.  We should both maintain and modernize these instruments so they remain strong and relevant for the 21st century.

And this is the case not only for political-military instruments, but for the full range of OSCE instruments and commitments.  We must ensure that undertakings related to new or emerging areas – identifying, for example, new applications to address terrorism, illegal drugs, threats to border security and the growing challenge of cyber security – do so in a way that reflects the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security, and upholds our abiding and unflinching support for fundamental freedoms.  The comprehensive approach of the OSCE is another enduring principle: the idea that true security among states is impossible if states do not respect their people’s rights, or provide them with economic and other opportunities to better their lives, and the lives of their children.

In my view, we already have developed most of the tools to address 21st Century challenges, provided we have the clear vision and political courage to apply our instruments in order to address new challenges.  Vision, courage, and political will are required of us all to move this Organization forward.  The United States will work hard to help us reach consensus on that vision.