Online Book Launch “Multilateralism in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities for the OSCE”

On 19 July 2021, the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zürich, in cooperation with the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions, hosted the online launch of “Multilateralism in Transition: Challenges and Opportunities for the OSCE” (available in German and English).

How is the OSCE dealing with geopolitical polarization and the crisis of multilateralism, and what are the ways forward? The event weighed the pros and cons of the OSCE consensus principles, elaborating on how to make use of the principles on which the OSCE is built while better clarifying priorities and how to balance attempts to manage and settle conflicts. To that end, four authors presented their book chapters: David Lanz (Swisspeace) on the bigger picture and crisis of multilateralism; Fabian Grass (Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs) on the campaign leading to the election of the OSCE Secretary General in 2017; Thomas Greminger (Geneva Centre for Security Policy and former Secretary General of the OSCE) on his term in office, the reform agenda, and how to make the OSCE more effective in tackling new challenges; and Benno Zogg (CSS; OSCE Network Steering Committee member) on the OSCE in the protracted conflict around Transnistria. The contributions were moderated and contextualized by the CSS’s Simon J. Mason.

The book was critically discussed by Cornelius Friesendorf (Centre for OSCE Research, Hamburg; OSCE Network Coordinator) and Sonja Stojanovic Gajic (Belgrade Centre for Security Policy; OSCE Network Steering Committee member). Friesendorf questioned whether there is still underlying consensus in the OSCE on values and norms and highlighted the tangible benefits of the OSCE and existing room for cooperation on certain issues. Stojanovic Gajic emphasized the difficulty of identifying success criteria for the OSCE, how the organization is perceived differently within the OSCE space, and the potential need for revitalization, possibly through a new conference in 2025.

The discussion and Q&A with the audience raised various important issues, including the nature of the climate crisis, on which the OSCE might act; the link between climate change and security; water management and the role of the OSCE Mission in Moldova/Transnistria; the potential of a new summit; and the role of “pragmatism” in the OSCE’s work.