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How is the Russian war against Ukraine impacting OSCE participating States and societies in the OSCE area? Have new regional risks emerged since February 2022? How can the OSCE utilize its platform and tools to help participating States and societies cope with challenges on the regional, state, and societal levels?
The OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions examined these questions within the framework of the project “Security Needs of States and Societies: Options for the OSCE.” The project was funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and managed by the OSCE Network coordinating institutions: the Centre for OSCE Research (CORE) at IFSH Hamburg and the University of Birmingham. External partners and other member institutions from the OSCE Network were also involved in the project.
Workshops were conducted in Southeastern Europe, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus that brought together representatives from the OSCE, state institutions, research institutions, and advocacy organizations. In addition, separate interviews were conducted by Frank Evers (CORE/IFSH) and Stefan Wolff (University of Birmingham). Approximately 150 participants and interlocutors from nine countries contributed to the project.
The locations and co-convening institutions for each workshop conducted within the framework of the project are as follows: Belgrade, March 2023, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy; Pristina, March/April 2023, Kosovar Centre for Security Studies; Tashkent, May 2023, Institute for Advanced International Studies of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy; Astana, May 2023, Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan; Bishkek, May 2023, OSCE Academy in Bishkek; Chișinău, June 2023, Institute for European Policies and Reforms; and Tbilisi, September 2023, Georgian Institute of Politics. In addition, in September 2023, interviews were conducted in Yerevan and a webinar was organized with colleagues from Baku.
Findings from the workshops and interviews will be summarized in a report that will be presented to partners and the OSCE community in Vienna in autumn 2023.
On 23 May 2023, the OSCE Network, in collaboration with the Foreign Policy Centre and the Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies (CREES) at the University of Birmingham, organized a webinar event discussing the lesser-known impacts of the war in Ukraine and its implications on connectivity in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. Expert speakers, including from Network member institutions, analyzed the implications of this conflict on regional connectivity. The event was live-streamed, and a recording of the presentations and the Q&A session can be viewed here.
An online event titled "The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the BRICS" was jointly hosted by the OSCE Network, the Foreign Policy Centre, and the Centre for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies (CREES) at the University of Birmingham on 2 May 2023. Expert speakers, including from Network member institutions, examined the often overlooked aspects of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its consequences for the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). The event was live-streamed, and a recording of the presentations and the Q&A session can be viewed here.
On 27 April 2023, the OSCE Network convened an online meeting with over 45 members of Network institutions. Participants discussed the current role of the OSCE in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine, as well as the challenges faced by the organization and the potential ways forward.
Speakers presented input statements on various OSCE-related topics including the OSCE's engagement in Ukraine, budget issues, new methods of operation, strategies for dealing with Russia, how to enhance the OSCE’s visibility, and ways of addressing climate security. During the Q&A session, participants also discussed the role of China in the European political order and the significance of the OSCE Network as a Track II platform.
On March 13th, 2023, Stefan Wolff, the Co-coordinator of the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions, participated in the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting pre-event in Vienna. The event focused on “Russia’s war in Ukraine: Accountability for war crimes & serious human rights violations”. During the event, Stefan argued that the OSCE and its participating States need to help Ukraine build capacity to hold Russia accountable for violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law committed during the war in Ukraine. This should include support for documenting violations, collecting evidence, and preparing case loads for future prosecutions. Participating States should also consider their own options to bring prosecutions under universal jurisdiction. At the same time, Stefan noted, there was a need to think beyond accountability and support restorative justice for victims and survivors—here, too, the OSCE has experience and a good track record supporting civil society efforts in the past, for example in the Western Balkans. The event was moderated by Dave Elseroad (Human Rights House Foundation), and other key speakers include Tetiana Pechonchyk (ZMINA Human Rights Centre/ Human Rights House Crimea), Mariia Sulialina (Almenda Centre for Civic Education/ Human Rights House Crimea), and Antanina Maslyka (Netherlands Helsinki Committee).
The OSCE Network welcomed two OSCE Network Research Fellows in 2023: Professor Tetyana Malyarenko (National University Odesa Law Academy, Ukraine) and Dr. Ronny Patz (Hertie School Berlin, Germany). Tetyana Malyarenko is preparing an OSCE Insights paper on the OSCE’s engagement in Ukraine. In his OSCE Insights paper, Ronny Patz will examine how international organizations manage voluntary funding and potential lessons for the OSCE.
A new report by the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions looks at the OSCE’s future options for engagement with its Central Asian participating States. Central Asia is becoming an increasingly important area for the OSCE: the region has been beset by instability in 2022, it is heavily exposed to the effects of climate change, and it is at the centre of major transport, trade, and energy connections. The report, funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and co-authored by Anastasiya Bayok, Rahimullah Kakar, Stefan Wolff, and Niva Yau, examines the opportunities and challenges that the OSCE faces in developing its engagement with Central Asia in the context of the crisis in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine.
According to Stefan Wolff, the lead author of the report, “Three trends, accelerated by the Russian war in Ukraine, characterise the changing geopolitical dynamics in Central Asia: Russia’s declining influence in the region, China’s reluctance to step decisively into this void, and the slowly but unevenly increasing ability of the Central Asian countries to provide an alternative framework for managing regional stability.” The report concludes that the current level of OSCE engagement, primarily through bilateral programmes supporting individual participating States in managing Afghanistan-related risks to security and stability, including preventing and countering violent extremism and terrorism and countering terrorist financing, provides a basis for further engagement with the Central Asian participating States. At the same time, this engagement does not reflect the full potential that the OSCE has, nor the expectations of its Central Asian participating States who value the OSCE as an attractive and strategically important forum of multilateral engagement.
On 16 December 2022, representatives from the Centre for OSCE Research (CORE) at IFSH and the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions met with the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Margareta Cederfelt. Frank Evers, deputy head of CORE, presented on the IFSH's long-standing activities related to research and knowledge transfer both on and in cooperation with the OSCE. Stefan Wolff, OSCE Network co-coordinator and member of the University of Birmingham faculty, discussed opportunities for future cooperation between scientists from the OSCE Network and the Assembly’s parliamentarians. The subsequent discussion focused on current challenges for the work of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The event was moderated by Anja Dahlmann, head of the IFSH Berlin Office. Representatives from the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Assembly and the German Federal Foreign Office also participated in the discussion.
The meeting was part of Margareta Cederfelt’s two-day visit to Berlin, which included discussions with representatives from the German Bundestag, ministries, and research institutions.
At an online meeting on 24 November 2022, the OSCE Network Steering Committee reviewed activities of the Network implemented in 2022 and discussed potential activities for 2023.
The OSCE is in an acute crisis. Russia’s war against Ukraine violates fundamental principles of the organization. Russia is also making it difficult for the organization to run its operations: many OSCE activities require consensus from all 57 participating States, and Russia is using this rule to stop activities it does not like. But not only Russia is undermining the vitality of the OSCE. Armenia and Azerbaijan, for instance, use negotiations over the OSCE’s annual budget to push through their interests in the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh.
To discuss how other international organizations have coped with war and institutional dead-lock, the OSCE Network of Think Tanks and Academic Institutions co-hosted an in-person event in Vienna on 24 October. The event was organized together with the Austrian National Defence Academy and supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs and the German Federal Foreign Office.
Following opening statements by Ambassador Florian Raunig of Austria and Argyro Kartsonaki (CORE/IFSH Hamburg), members of the OSCE Network shared insights from their academic and policy work. Mette Eilstrupp-Sangiovanni (Cambridge University) showed that the Secretariat of the League of Nations found creative ways to deal with aggression by some of its member states; practices such as exploiting a flexible mandate also have relevance for the OSCE. Hylke Dykstra (Maastricht University) argued that features of the OSCE such as the relatively large size of the Secretariat favored the OSCE’s ability to cope with pressure from participating States. Stefan Wolff (University of Birmingham) underlined potential cooperation among participating States in the organization’s second dimension, which focuses on environmental and economic security. Elissa Jobson (International Crisis Group) moderated the event and also explained how the African Union has dealt with dispute such as the one over the Western Sahara.
In their concluding remarks, Cornelius Friesendorf (CORE/IFSH Hamburg) and Colonel Hans Lampalzer (Austrian National Defence Academy) called for continuing conversations between and among governments and civil society on how to preserve the OSCE in times of war. The event was attended by over 70 government officials, OSCE representatives, staff of other international organizations, and researchers.
The projects and activities of the OSCE Network have been sponsored by the following states (in alphabetical order): Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Slovakia, and Switzerland. The Network has also received financial and in-kind contributions from the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Regional Offices in Vienna and Moscow, as well as in-kind contributions from the following institutions (in alphabetical order): the Academy of the Diocese Rottenburg-Stuttgart; the Arctic University of Norway; the Belgrade Center for Security Policy; the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University; the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, National University of Ireland, Maynooth; the Embassy of Finland in Vienna; the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights; the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg; the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg; the King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue; the Russian International Affairs Council; the University of Birmingham; and the University of Tampere.