On the OSCE Programme Office in Astana, Kazakhstan: Statement to the PC

In connection with the adoption of the Decision for the OSCE Programme Office in Astana, the United States would like to make the following interpretative statement under paragraph IV.1(A)6 of the OSCE Rules of Procedure.

The United States has reluctantly joined consensus on the new mandate for the OSCE field presence in Kazakhstan, now called the Astana Programme Office. We did so despite reservations that the new mandate could unduly restrict the ability of the Office to respond flexibly to challenges as they arise and to engage in meaningful activity that addresses the full range of OSCE commitments, including those that are sometimes deemed “sensitive” by a number of participating States.

Hosting an OSCE presence is an opportunity for a participating State to demonstrate leadership and good faith in working toward full implementation of OSCE commitments. In order to provide effective support in this regard, an OSCE presence must be able to raise shortcomings and gaps honestly and straightforwardly with the host government and civil society. Problems that are ignored or swept under the rug don’t go away. We object to arrangements where OSCE presences are required to seek consent for particular projects because, as borne out by experience, governments often use this restriction to limit the activities of the presence. The prospect of “upsetting” the approval process has also impinged on the ability of the presence to be candid with the government and civil society about particular gaps or issues to be addressed. In order to be effective, an OSCE presence must be free to pursue openly and honestly its mandate to support the implementation of the full range of OSCE commitments. This is not a concern limited to Kazakhstan; it is a general concern.

The government of Kazakhstan has repeatedly assured other participating States that it desires strong collaboration with the OSCE presence and that it will not curtail or limit its activities. We welcome these assurances. The United States urges the Government of Kazakhstan to work collaboratively with the Programme Office to approve expeditiously project activities across all three dimensions of the OSCE’s comprehensive security concept. Project approval should be the norm and any concerns should be raised in a timely manner. An efficient approach would be to establish an approval timeframe period–perhaps two or three weeks–for government review, after which projects are presumed approved unless specific concerns are raised. In any case, we look to the government of Kazakhstan to make speedy decisions and not allow an unwieldy bureaucratic process to hinder OSCE activities in Kazakhstan. We also look to the government of Kazakhstan to support projects in the human dimension, especially those that address improving implementation of OSCE commitments.

In order to ensure that we continue to support prudent allocation of resources, the United States intends to assess the quality and extent of the cooperation between the government of Kazakhstan and the Programme Office, and to share our assessment in an open letter to the Secretary General prior to the beginning of discussions on the 2016 Unified Budget.

I request that this interpretative statement be attached to the decision and to the Journal of the Day.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As delivered by Ambassador Daniel B. Baer to the Permanent Council, Vienna