Skip to main content

OSCE at 45: A New Spirit of Helsinki

Author(s): Koja, Clemens; Raunig, Florian; Strohal, Christian

To refer to this page use:
Abstract: Austria assumed the Chairmanship of the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2017, at a time when challenges to peace and security were manifold. These challenges were exacerbated by a striking erosion of trust among its 57 participating States, which had to deal with intensifying contemporary security challenges in the OSCE Region. The spirit of genuine dialogue, constructive co-operation and sustainable confidence-building were reduced to mere principles on paper, eschewed in practice. As a traditional bridge-builder, Austria, therefore, focused its efforts to renew the “Spirit of Helsinki,” in the hopes that the establishment of common ground and a process of consensual decision-making would enhance security in the OSCE area. First, the Austrian Chairmanship managed to maintain the OSCE’s mandate to prevent and defuse conflict through the established negotiating formats, while paying particular attention to alleviating the humanitarian consequences of conflict. The Chairmanship increased and intensified technical capacities and monitoring activities for the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine—as evidenced by an early extension of the SMM’s mandate and its budget. Second, Austria put particular emphasis on renewing open and frank dialogue among executive structures and participating States by creating shared ownership over the Organization, engaging in more informal talks, and highlighting the positive impact of the OSCE on-the-ground. This emphasis also facilitated the appointments to all four senior positions: the Secretary General as well as the heads of its three autonomous institutions, the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM), the Representative on Media Freedom (RFOM), and the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). Third, the Austrian Chairmanship aimed to address common challenges by locating areas of potential consensus, such as positions on violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism (VERLT), and going beyond traditional means of communication, negotiation and diplomacy, especially in developing the new “Structured Dialogue” on political-military issues with senior representatives from capitals. Overall, the Austrian Chairmanship concentrated its efforts to engage fully with the OSCE’s toolbox to prevent escalation and conflict in the OSCE area and establish the common security of all participating States. Having worked within Austria’s Chairmanship, we are now in a position to consolidate this experience into a list of objectives and recommendations for future Chairmanships: 1. Foster open, transparent, and respectful dialogue among all participating States, at all levels. 2. Increase ownership of participating States in the OSCE, especially at the political level. 3. Locate and address common challenges. 4. Increase focus on the safety and security of the populations affected by contemporary challenges and conflicts in the OSCE area. 5. Pursue careful, pragmatic work on sensitive issues, including with the use of Special Envoys. 6. Foster direct, interactive discussions between OSCE experts and experts from other international organizations. 7. Include actors from civil society organizations and the private sector. 8. Develop the crossdimensional approach to gender issues. 9. Expand the use of the Special Representatives of the Chairperson-in- Office (CiO) on Youth and Security. 10. Maintain close communication and cooperation with the OSCE structures. Overall, the organization continues to offer the geographic, political and institutional platforms necessary to successfully address the challenges faced by the region—provided the necessary political will is being engaged by all.
Publication Date: October 2020
Electronic Publication Date: October 2020
Citation: Koja, Clemens, Raunig, Florian, and Strohal, Christian et al. “OSCE at 45: A New Spirit of Helsinki.” Policy Paper 1 Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination, Princeton University (October 2020)
Pages: 24
Type of Material: Journal Article
Series/Report no.: LISD Policy Paper;1
Journal/Proceeding Title: n/a
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

Items in OAR@Princeton are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.