OSCE Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting
As delivered Chargé d’Affaires Katherine Brucker
Vienna, November 13, 2023
Good morning, delegates and distinguished guests. It’s very nice to see our colleagues from the Field Missions here. Their work is integral to achieving results in the 2nd Dimension. Let me begin by thanking Deputy Minister Hristina Odzaklieska and Acting Coordinator Ralf Ernst for their remarks. I would also like to thank the North Macedonia OSCE Chairpersonship for its resolve in advancing the important work of the OSCE 2nd Dimension despite Russia’s attempts to undermine these efforts. My thanks goes also to the Office of the Coordinator for Economic and Environmental Activities for the excellent results you have delivered over the past year.
The EEDIM is an opportunity to collectively examine how participating States have implemented our commitments. We were encouraged that participating States were able to agree to today’s agenda, enabling this essential meeting to proceed. Regrettably – as many others before me have noted – this success has not been mirrored with regard to other OSCE mandated events this year, despite the diligent efforts by the Chairperson-in-Office.
This piecemeal adherence to OSCE commitments impedes this organization’s ability to identify the challenges and develop ways to address them. The United States encourages all participating States to facilitate adoption of timely decisions to hold all mandated events across the three dimensions in 2024.
We welcome the Chair’s decision to focus today’s agenda on OSCE commitments in the field of environment and security. Environmental stability is a key element of geopolitical peace and contributes to the resilience of communities as they grapple with both local and global challenges. This nexus is particularly evident when we consider the dire consequences of conflict and man-made disasters on the environment. Russia’s war against Ukraine continues to wreak death and destruction, shattering lives and degrading Ukraine’s natural landscape and environmental resources. The devastation Russia is causing in Ukraine underscores the urgency with which we must address environmental destruction as an integral element of our security discussions. Russia has demonstrated time and again a blatant disregard for Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, as evidenced by its assaults on shelters, transit hubs, water infrastructure, and Ukraine’s electrical network.
The catastrophic breach of Ukraine’s Kakhovka Dam resulted in severe environmental and humanitarian disaster. The collapse unleashed 18 billion cubic meters of water, endangering at least 80 settlements and the lives of 16,000 civilians along the Dnipro River.
It is imperative to look closely at the broader environmental impacts of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The OCEEA’s assessments of the environmental fallout from Russia’s unprovoked war shed light on the far-reaching damage inflicted upon various ecosystems. Unchecked forest fires, pollution of critical waterways, and extensive ecological damage caused by military action are devastating today, and will pose long-term health and humanitarian risks to the people of Ukraine.
The environmental fallout from the conflict in Ukraine serves as a poignant reminder of the broader risks ecosystems face during times of instability. These challenges underscore the need for resilient systems of environmental governance that can withstand the pressures of unforeseen events.
This brings us to another crucial topic of today’s second session: combating corruption in environmental governance. This session on combating corruption in the environmental sphere is a welcome opportunity to discuss the importance of good governance in environmental sustainability. Acknowledging the fundamental role that combating corruption plays in sustainable environmental management, we underscore the direct link between good governance and responsible environmental stewardship.
Corruption erodes the pillars of environmental protection and hinders the ability of both governments and civil society to respond effectively to ecological challenges. Recognizing the urgency to address the scourge of corruption, President Biden has initiated the U.S. Strategy on Countering Corruption, a robust plan acknowledging corruption as a critical threat to national security. This strategy catalyzes a whole-of-government response, leveraging the collaborative strength of international partners, including the OSCE, to advance shared anti-corruption priorities.
The strategy’s framework calls for a combination of diplomatic engagement and developmental support to bolster government accountability, strengthen legal frameworks, and rigorously enforce regulations against corruption. Importantly, it recognizes the confluence of environmental harm and entrenched corruption, pledging to uphold principles of transparency and accountability on a global scale. Such measures are vital not only for the preservation of the environment but also for maintaining the vitality and resilience of our economies and societies as they confront environmental challenges.
Today’s discussion underscores our collective resolve to tackle environmental challenges collaboratively. The United States remains resolute in its support for these endeavors and extends additional thanks to the North Macedonian Chair, for your leadership in navigating these complex issues. We appreciate as well the Secretary General’s initiative to hold OSCE’s first-ever high-level conference on climate change in July. Together, with sustained cooperation and transparent efforts, we can forge pathways towards environmental resilience and safeguard the security and prosperity of the OSCE region.