Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal led the U.S. delegation to the 2013 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial in Kyiv, Ukraine, held December 5-6. Against the backdrop of ongoing protests in Ukraine, Assistant Secretary Nuland urged the Ukrainian government to uphold its OSCE commitments and listen to Ukrainian citizens’ demands for reform, justice and the chance to shape a future in partnership with Europe. Assistant Secretary Nuland also drew OSCE member states’ attention to concerns about human rights violations and democratic backsliding elsewhere, the shrinking space for civil society and independent journalism, rising anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim sentiment, and increasing intolerance against Roma and other ethnic and religious minorities, migrants and LGBT persons. (Full remarks available at: http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/rm/2013/dec/218364.htm.)
Civil society actors from across the OSCE space met in Kyiv in a parallel event to the Ministerial and presented a set of recommendations on a range of human rights and democracy concerns. The United States supports increased civil society involvement with the OSCE, and Assistant Secretaries Nuland and Biswal and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Thomas Melia met with the civil society representatives in Kyiv to express solidarity with them, hear about their experiences and receive their recommendations.
While the participating States reached agreement on decisions and declarations across all three dimensions of comprehensive security – the political-military dimension, the economic and environmental dimension, and the human dimension, which addresses human rights and fundamental freedoms – the Russian Federation blocked a key decision on the Protection of Journalists.
Political-Military Outcomes and Priorities
- Update of the OSCE Principles Governing Non-Proliferation: Adopted by the Forum for Security Cooperation and endorsed by the Ministerial Council in a declaration, this update to the OSCE Principles Governing Non-Proliferation reflects the significant progress participating States have made in this sphere over the last 20 years and commits those States to full implementation of their nonproliferation obligations.
- Small Arms and Light Weapons and Stockpiles of Conventional Ammunition: Adopted by the Ministerial Council, this decision provides impetus to the important work of the OSCE to secure or reduce inventories of small arms and light weapons and stockpiles of conventional ammunition, including the impact of illicit arms on women and women’s role in security.
- Regional Statements on Protracted Conflicts: Concrete and tangible steps in the resolution of protracted conflicts should remain high on the OSCE’s agenda, and the Organization should continue to play a role in addressing the protracted conflicts in the OSCE space. The foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Kyiv to continue dialogue on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict; their joint statement with the U.S., Russian, and French heads of delegation, which was endorsed by the OSCE Ministerial Council, is an encouraging sign of our shared commitment to making progress toward a peaceful settlement. The OSCE Ministerial Council also agreed on a statement on the 5+2 talks on the Transnistrian conflict in Moldova, but was unfortunately unable to agree on a statement about the conflict in Georgia.
Economic and Environmental Outcomes and Priorities
- Improving the Environmental Footprint of Energy-related Activities in the OSCE region: Adopted by the Ministerial Council, this decision highlights the important relationship between energy production and use and the health of our environment, and how those two combine to impact our comprehensive security. There is much to gain from a cooperative and collaborative approach to these issues, and in particular in linking progress on them to the principles of good governance, transparency, and the fight against corruption at all levels.
- Protection of Energy Networks from Natural and Manmade Disasters: Adopted by the Ministerial Council, this decision on protecting energy networks is a crucial first step that can and should lead to a much broader approach to protecting critical energy infrastructure. Energy networks are the backbone of economic growth and security for us all, and the OSCE is uniquely placed to encourage and facilitate significant progress on protection for these networks.
Human Dimension Outcomes and Priorities
- Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief: Adopted by the Ministerial Council, this decision reaffirms and builds upon the participating States’ commitment to respect this fundamental freedom and combat intolerance against members of religious groups and non-believers.
- Enhancing OSCE Efforts to Implement the Action Plan on Improving the Situation of Roma and Sinti within the OSCE area, with a particular focus on Roma and Sinti Women, Youth and Children: Adopted by the Ministerial Council, this decision addresses the findings of the OSCE ten-year status report on the implementation of the Action Plan and reasserts the OSCE’s role in assessing strategies and policies regarding the integration, inclusion and empowerment of Roma and Sinti.
- Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age: Though the OSCE Ministerial Council did not adopt a decision on this topic in 2013, the United States and the overwhelming majority of OSCE participating States continue to strongly support this declaration, reaffirming that human rights and fundamental freedoms do not change with new technologies and that participating States have the obligation to respect the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, association and religion no matter the medium through which they are exercised.
- Protection of Journalists: Unfortunately, a decision condemning violent attacks against journalists and calling upon states to protect them was blocked by the Russian Federation.
Crosscutting Outcomes and Priorities
- Cyber Security Confidence Building Measures: The OSCE Permanent Council adopted the first-ever cybersecurity confidence building measures for a regional security organization. The Ministerial Council took note of these CBMs in a broader declaration on transnational threats to security.
- Addendum to the OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings: Adopted by the Ministerial Council, the Addendum notes participating States’ concern with the significant growth in all forms of trafficking in human beings and the need to take more vigorous efforts to address current and emerging trends. The Addendum, which supplements the 2003 Action Plan, provides participating States with advanced recommendations onactions to be taken at the international and national levels in the field of prosecution, prevention and protection, and guides the activities of the relevant OSCE executive structures.
- Cross posted from state.gov