Our current era is one of contradictions. On one hand, technology has brought us closer together than ever before, but in other ways we are growing more divided politically and socially. There are unprecedented levels of transparency in government, but distrust in political institutions is growing. Most of our citizens live in general peace and prosperity, but too many are tragically affected by conflict and violent extremism.
While global trends once seemed distant and disconnected from people’s daily lives, these trends are now directly impacting our countries in ways we appear ill-equipped to handle. With security threats such as terrorism, uncertain social and economic developments, and international strife leading to apprehension in many quarters, we see a corresponding rise in populism, growing political instability, and eroding trust. Since traditional political leadership seems to be having a hard time effectively addressing new challenges, citizens are turning to alternative voices offering simplistic and unrealistic solutions. There is a need, therefore, to prioritize political efforts that work towards reestablishing bonds of trust and deliver real results.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is working to do just that through three main priorities it has identified for this year – defusing conflicts, fighting radicalization and violent extremism, and re-establishing trust and confidence. As rapporteur of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security, these are guidelines that I hope to advance at our 26th Annual Session in Minsk on 5-9 July. My report and draft resolution, “Enhancing Mutual Trust and Co-operation for Peace and Prosperity in the OSCE Region,” focuses in particular on six critical issues: terrorism, cybersecurity, Turkey, Russian aggression against Ukraine, protracted conflicts, and women in peacebuilding.
Our countries continue to face daily threats posed by terrorists, who are using a variety of despicable mass killing tactics, including lorry attacks, suicide bombings and mass shootings. This senseless violence targeted my own constituency in Stockholm in April, killing four innocent people on a busy pedestrian street, including an eleven-year-old girl. Terrorists also recently targeted young concertgoers in Manchester, England, with children as young as eight years old among the victims, and innocent people enjoying a Saturday evening in London.
Clearly, for the sake of our personal safety and to preserve our way of life, we must all work together in developing effective measures to counter the phenomenon of extremist violence. In the fight against terrorism it is important to tackle the radicalization of young people and their subsequent recruitment by terrorist organizations. Governments in the OSCE region need to counter the financing of radical groups, their recruitment strategies, and the threat posed by fighters returning from foreign battlefields to Europe.
Cybersecurity has also become a central issue for our countries, with recent hacking attacks proving disruptive both economically and politically. Confidence-building measures are key to making cyberspace more predictable and more manageable, and OSCE tools, including the Conflict Prevention Center and the Forum for Security Co-operation, play an important role in enhancing dialogue and co-operation in order to defuse potential conflicts.
The security situation in Turkey is also troubling. The coup attempt in July 2016 and a wave of terrorist attacks throughout the country underline the high level of the threat that the country is facing. While the OSCE PA condemns last summer’s coup attempt and supports Tukey’s efforts to counter violent extremism, we also stress that the Turkish government needs to uphold its OSCE commitments while fighting both internal and external threats. The alarmingly high number of journalists and parliamentarians imprisoned in the country underlines the need to respect freedom of expression, fundamental rights and human rights in the fight against terrorism.
The OSCE’s priority of re-establishing trust and confidence is key for crisis and conflict management. The crisis in and around Ukraine, spurred by Russian aggression, can only be resolved through constructive and inclusive dialogue. Russian aggression in the Donbas region has breached the core principles of the OSCE’s founding document, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, and undermines the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The OSCE PA has been clear that the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula was illegal and illegitimate.
Protracted conflicts in the OSCE area require constructive dialogue and deeper co-operation, which is only possible by re-establishing trust. A return to the negotiation table to avoid further military confrontation, defuse tensions and rebuild confidence is essential. As a forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue, the OSCE PA provides an opportunity to bring together parliamentarians from governments that are engaged in deadlock.
In the context of conflict and disaster settings it remains essential to enhance women’s political, social and economic empowerment. For this reason, the OSCE is pushing for a more inclusive process and greater involvement of women in decision-making as well as in conflict mediation and dialogue.
While the OSCE offers a unique set of tools based on a pioneering concept of comprehensive security developed during the détente era of the 1970s, it must be acknowledged that the OSCE’s effectiveness depends entirely on the political will of its 57 participating States. In times of deepening distrust and political instability, this poses an obstacle for the organization taking effective action on any number of issues.
The unique role of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly is therefore key to rebuild relationships based on trust and mutual respect between all of our countries, based on adherence to OSCE principles, including fulfilment in good faith of obligations under international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the sovereign equality and territorial integrity of states. The Assembly’s 323 members of parliament from North America, Europe and Central Asia can help ensure a recommitment to these fundamental principles across the OSCE area.
It is in this spirit that we prepare to meet for our 26th Annual Session in Minsk.
Follow her on Twitter @MCederfelt.