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TematicheItalia ed EuropaHow to make the OSCE more effective as a...

How to make the OSCE more effective as a conflict management organization post-SMM?


The OSCE is an organization without a constituent document that determines its status, legal status, composition of participants, their powers, as well as other constituent issues. Decisions made as part of the discussion in the OSCE are not obligatory, legally binding. In this sense, the OSCE does not have any levers of influence on its participants, is based and acts exclusively in the goodwill of its participants and their consent to take part in the consideration and resolve various problems within the framework of the main areas of the OSCE. Since 2014, the OSCE was involved in the resolution of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, however, in my opinion, it was not sufficiently used all the organization’s possibilities for resolving the crisis. Recently, the conflict grew, entailed the death of the civilians, a huge number of refugees, destroyed infrastructure, and this conflict may lead to even more terrible consequences.

The OSCE deployed the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) according to the decision of the Permanent Council of the OSCE No. 1117 of March 21, 2014. The validity of the SMM mandate expired on March 31, 2022. In accordance with the mandate, the role of the mission was reduced to the collection of information and fixing specific incidents. The mandate also provided for the opportunity to establish contacts with all interested parties and contribute to the dialogue in the field, but in these matters the mission did not show significant results.

On February 24, 2022, the Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of a special military operation in order to protect the LPR and the DPR from aggression by Ukraine. At the same time, the Russian Federation accused the world community of the fact that its inaction in relation to a protracted conflict in eastern Ukraine led to numerous victims among civilians of the LPR and the DPR, therefore Russia, recognizing the independence of the LPR and the DPR, in response to their request, began a special military operation. Thus, the Russian Federation negatively evaluated the results of the OSCE work to resolve this conflict, as Russia was forced to unilaterally apply exceptional measures to influence Ukraine in order to prevent the death of civilians of the LPR and DPR.

I believe that the SMM showed its effectiveness in the fact that on a daily basis it openly provided information about the state of tension, cases of violation of the achieved agreements and the number of victims among the civilians. Therefore, this format of the OSCE operation in the conflict places must be maintained in all cases of attracting the OSCE to resolve conflicts. 

At the same time, it is necessary to ensure the widest possible part of the OSCE in the settlement of conflicts so that the OSCE fulfills one its main function to ensure security and cooperation among the participating countries. The current situation around Ukraine shows that the world community was frivolously reacted to Russia’s statements about the inadmissibility of the expansion of NATO to the East, in addition, the world community ignored Russia’s statements about the facts of the death of the civilians in the Eastern Ukraine, which were confirmed by SMM. As noted, the SMM showed its reliability and necessity, but the results of the SMM cannot be called effective, since the data collected during monitoring were not used for the speedy settlement of the conflict. Therefore, as priority measures taken in order to resolve the conflict, there should be efforts aimed at preventing the strengthening of the conflict. These efforts should include the following measures.

First of all, it is necessary to determine (identify and formalize) all the parties involved in the conflict without mandatory fixation of international legal status, including representatives of civil society (hereinafter – the Conflict Participants). The proper regulation of the process of identifying and formalizing the Conflict Participants should include not only the involved states, but also representatives of civil society with appropriate comments. As part of the formalization of the Conflict Participants, it is necessary to record the need to terminate the armed confrontation (ceasefire), mutual commitment to the principles of international law and intentions to focus on the peaceful settlement of the conflict. It is necessary to form a permanent body – the committee of the Conflict Participants (hereinafter – the Committee) under the chairmanship of the OSCE representative, appointed by the General Secretary of the OSCE.

The next step is the fixation of the position of each of the Conflict Participants. This will make it possible to start a direct settlement of the conflict, taking into account their significant interests. The positions of the Conflict Participants must be obtained in the form of a statement of participants regarding the causes of the conflict, the content of the conflict and the availability of claims to the participants in the conflict. Such statements, as any other statements of participants, are recommended to be considered at meetings of the Committee with the cottages of consistent assessment by such statements by participants and with the development of specific response measures to statements of participants (especially in cases of violation of the ceasefire). This step should not be aimed at ensuring that the OSCE is somehow replaced, intervened or otherwise limits the current authorities of the Conflict Participants, other international organizations or civil society organizations.

The third step should be the deployment of the OSCE SMM to the place of conflict to confirm the agreements reached by the Conflict Participants in the framework of the previous step. At the same time, it is necessary to take into account the experience of the SMM in Ukraine regarding the necessity of obtaining the detailed work plan of the mission (financing, the set of personnel, material support, ensuring the security of personnel, etc). This step will ensure the collection of truthful objective information, identify additional Conflict Participants in the conflict (if any), and the authority (powers) of the representatives of the Confilct Participants.

The fourth step aimed at preventing the escalation of the conflict is to make efforts to prevent the escalation of the conflict by the media without infringement of the right to freedom of speech. I believe that all Conflict Participants must accept the obligation and contribute to the dissemination of information confirmed by the OSCE SMM, referring to the materials issued by the OSCE SMM as truthful and objective information. In this case, everyone can have access to any media and any information resources, but at the same time will have access to reliable confirmed information. I take into account that all the reports of the OSCE SMM in Ukraine from the very beginning of the deployment of the mission were laid out daily on the OSCE official website and were in the public domain, at the same time, I believe that the mention of reliable information on the OSCE website from official representatives of the Conflict Participants will contribute an increase of the authority of the organization, the desire of Conflict Participants for the most open dialogue with the OSCE and with the public, as well as the prevention of information stuffing, fakes and to reduce aggression in the region.

The following steps should be aimed at smoothing the conflict and reducing the damage caused. These are (i) the coordination of the activities of other international organizations and observers, other interested parties, (ii) assistance in resolving humanitarian issues regarding the delivery and distribution of humanitarian assistance, assistance to refugees and immigrants and other humanitarian issues, (iii) consideration and analysis of all appeals of any individuals in connection with the conflict, the issuance of recommendations, the transfer of issues to consideration of the relevant authorities of the Conflict Participant, organizations of the civil society, international organizations and monitoring the consideration of such appeals.

The proper implementation of these steps will ensure the account of the interests of all participants in the conflict, eliminate the possibility of accusing the OSCE of inaction, and will allow the most short-term finding of the compromise solutions to the conflict. In this case, the following measures must be taken:

Firstly, as mentioned above, it is necessary to create a permanent Committee on negotiations, which should include representatives of all Conflict Participants, with a certain reglament.

Secondly, it is necessary to ensure constant consultations, negotiations regarding the possibilities of resolving a dispute with a constant fixation of the positions of Conlict Participants and changes in their positions through a periodic request for applications of Conflict Participants.

Thirdly, it is necessary to pay special attention to the identification of sabotage by one or several Conflict Participants (unreasonable changes in the official position of the Conflict Participant, the unreasonable delay in the negotiation process, the non-editing of the requested information to the Committee, the provision to the Committee of false, distorted information, other cases indicating the unwillingness of the Conflict Participant or the inability of representatives of the Conflict Participant to participate in the work of the Committee).

Fourthly, if it is impossible to resolve the conflict through negotiations within the Committee, it is proposed to use the procedure provided for by the Convention on Conciliation and Arbitration within the CSCE. 

I believe that in the case of the application of all these measures by the OSCE, the most objective consideration of any armed conflict will be provided. At the same time, the OSCE will have the opportunity to timely identify the possibilities for the peaceful settlement of the conflict and the actual intentions of the parties. Of course, it is impossible to exclude the intentional sabotage of the peace process of one or several involved sides, but in this case the OSCE will be able to identify such facts, make the appropriate statement and complete the process of peaceful settlement with activating the mechanisms provided for by the Convention on Conciliation and Arbitration within the CSCE. In this case, the settlement of the conflict will be a controlled process with clearly defined procedures and the possible exit from the impasse and is guaranteed to lead to a formal resolution of the conflict in the framework of the OSCE.

Thus, the OSCE is a unique international organization that, to the present, has not used all the existing mechanisms to ensure the resolution of existing conflicts. I believe that the OSCE should activate efforts to resolve the existing conflicts into which its participants are involved, with the maximum use of all the mechanisms available in the organization. This will strengthen the role of the OSCE in the international arena, give a real opportunity to resolve existing protracted conflicts and relieve tension in the world community.

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