The Role of the OSCE in Peace and Security in Europe

On 7 November, The Hague Institute welcomed Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General of the OSCE, to deliver a lecture as part of the ongoing Distinguished Speaker Series. Zannier spoke about the role of the OSCE in support of justice, peace and security in Europe.

In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Abi Williams, President of The Hague Institute, spoke of the critical role played by regional and international organizations such as the OSCE in maintaining the unprecedented security, stability and prosperity that Europe has enjoyed during the past 70 years. He noted that the OSCE has been an important element of a robust ecosystem of institutions and processes for facilitating dialogue and cooperation between countries in North America, Europe and Asia on the economy, environment, politics, security and social issues.

Dr. Williams also reflected on the existential threats that Europe and its partners currently face. He remarked that only 10 years ago, Europe experienced a degree of peace and safety unparalleled in its history. Today, multilateral institutions in particular are under considerable strain. Dr. Williams observed that in order to respond effectively to new challenges, European countries and its partners worldwide must identify shared values and opportunities for joint action. The OSCE, which prioritizes constructive dialogue and mediation between countries, serves as an example of how to do so. Countries must resist isolationist tendencies and foster new partnerships to work together for a mutually beneficial and secure future.

In his remarks, Ambassador Zannier reiterated the threat that global challenges pose to the international community and observed that addressing these threats requires a unified global response. However, the international community is increasingly divided, making it more difficult to find points of agreement and develop unified solutions.

Why do we need the OSCE today, Zannier asked, when a plethora of other international and regional organizations exists? He argued that the OSCE has remained a relevant and successful entity precisely because of its cooperative and inclusive nature. Its broad membership, including countries like the United States and Russia, ensures that it is a unique forum for meaningful dialogue and exchange. In situations where many diverging narratives exist, the OSCE helps representatives from different states to develop joint, shared positions.

Ambassador Zannier reflected that the OSCE has been especially important in Ukraine, where it has fulfilled a challenging role monitoring the conflict on the ground. It is one of the few organizations that have found the political space to play a constructive role in the conflict. Zannier argued that the mere presence of the OSCE in the Donbass region has had an impact – the degree of animosity between opposing forces is lower when there is a realization that monitoring is taking place. Additionally, the OSCE has been involved in facilitating political dialogue, contributing to the Minsk ceasefire discussions, and evaluating the humanitarian and economic impacts of the conflict. By aiding judicial bodies in Ukraine and assisting with the investigation of the downing of MH17, the OSCE contributes to the pursuit of justice in the country.

Zannier concluded his remarks by touching upon the refugee crisis that Europe faces. Cautioning that a simple solution is unrealistic, Zannier offered a number of considerations for developing responsible and just solutions. First, the deep divisions within the international community must be addressed. Furthermore, development and security policies must be linked to tackle the drivers of migration, which include violent conflict, poverty, hunger, and organized crime. Additionally, climate change must be recognized as a push factor – desertification, drought, degradation of soil and lack of access to water all spur migration.

A question and answer session followed Ambassador Zannier’s remarks. Questions from the audience addressed situations in Ukraine, Macedonia, Afghanistan and Estonia, as well as frozen conflicts, and the value of the recently established Special Court for Kosovo.

Further Reading

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Active: Distinguished Speaker Series

The Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS) showcases eminent practitioners in international affairs and is the centerpiece of the Institute’s high-level engagement with practitioners and academics in the city…