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Anna Chernova

Senior Research Fellow

Anna Chernova has a background in human rights, democracy, conflict resolution and humanitarian issues. She served as Programme Director for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, where she led the work of the General Committee for human rights and democracy. Specialising in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Anna directed the work of the OSCE PA on the Human Dimension – including numerous election observation missions, as well as freedom of the media, association and assembly, and INTERPOL reform. She advised on the establishment of the Kyrgyzstan International Inquiry Commission and lead work on democratisation in Belarus and parliamentary diplomacy around the Transdniestrian conflict. Prior to joining the OSCE PA, Anna managed large-scale humanitarian programmes in Russia’s North Caucasus at the close of the second Chechen war, and worked on refugee issues with UNHCR in Bulgaria. Since 2014, she has been advising Oxfam on working in fragile and conflict affected contexts, developing policy and programmes on inclusive peace, rights-based global campaigning, civic space, active citizenship, humanitarian access and comprehensive human security in the Middle East, Eurasia and beyond.

Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7054 [post_author] => 8 [post_date] => 2023-09-08 13:30:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-09-08 12:30:35 [post_content] => The upcoming G20 meeting serves to highlight the ongoing lack of clarity around the UK’s policy coordination with the European Union (EU) block. The UK’s Integrated Review, published in 2021, set out a strategic geographical focus on Asia, while keeping an eye on Russia as a key threat to European and global security.[1] In a post-Brexit context, an Asia tilt without deep and comprehensive coordination with the EU could however risk further undermining values-based foreign policy on the continent.[2] The neoliberal and geopolitical nature of EU and UK approaches to India trade relations risks weakening public confidence in the primacy of human rights and the “shared values” of democracy in international relations.[3] On the margins of the G20, India plans to hold critical trade talks with the EU and the UK[4] – but will the G20 civil society be allowed to meaningfully engage in a state where civic space is so repressed?[5] In the wider European community, the UK’s relationship with India had contributed through a long, at times conflicted historical track record of societal, cultural, political and economic links. Since Brexit, other multilateral spaces such as the G7+, G20 and others have become increasingly important. As Russia’s threat to global human security escalates, are the EU and the UK compromising too much?[6] Is there too much focus on friendly ties with a regional hegemon, turning a blind eye to shared values of rule of law and democracy? Where does the focus on trade leave sustainable development objectives?[7] Would weak cooperation with the EU on India undermine future UK-EU relations?[8] Post-Brexit, the UK is left in a vulnerable negotiating position in terms of strategic trade deals with larger, more powerful states. India now numbers among them. Without close collaboration between the EU and the UK toward a values-based foreign policy approach across geopolitical challenges, the UK risks undermining its own national interest through free trade agreements that could harm labour rights, gender justice, the environment, public health[9] – including the NHS, due diligence across Indian-UK supply chains and wider good standing of EU and UK as champions of human security globally.[10] The EU block is India’s third largest trading partner.[11] The UK has championed inclusion of India in expanded G7 conversations, while too often remaining silent on the domestic good governance context. Both EU and UK have perhaps too often muted their criticism of human rights, civic space, and the business and human rights agenda in India.[12] Many continue to call India the ‘world’s largest democracy,’ however this status needs to be carefully considered – including during the G20. As BRICS+ configurations and United Nations votes hang in the balance, at a critical time for global security, are the UK and EU missing an opportunity to collaboratively and transparently uphold values-based alliances in multilateral spaces like the G20?[13] In today’s context, are there perhaps additional expectations on the UK in the wider European and G20 community to ensure democracy forms a part of its geopolitical engagement with India?[14] Are the EU and UK duty bound to their domestic constituencies to challenge G20 hosts for their rights abuses and democratic backsliding? Or is the G20 process more about “cosy” trade relations among elites, designed to obfuscate domestic good governance challenges? Do these types of trade negotiations represent a race to the bottom, with G20 gatherings simply providing another forum for these elite bargains? The regional significance of India in Asia and the diplomatic push to compromise on rights in favour of holding Russia collectively to account for its invasion of Ukraine, cannot come at a cost to the human security commitments the EU and the UK have come to champion globally. The EU and UK must work together toward shared values, not separately toward neoliberal, elite bargains through secretive trade deals and geopolitical manoeuvring on the margins of the G20. Anna Chernova is a Senior Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Centre. [1] Cabinet Officer, Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, March 2021 (updated July 2021), https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/global-britain-in-a-competitive-age-the-integrated-review-of-security-defence-development-and-foreign-policy[2] Charley Coleman, UK and India collaboration: Roadmap to 2030, House of Lords, January 2023, https://lordslibrary.parliament.uk/uk-and-india-collaboration-roadmap-to-2030/[3] Prime Minister’s Office, 10 Downing Street and The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, PM meeting with Indian Prime Minister Modi, Gov.uk, November 2022, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-meeting-with-indian-prime-minister-modi-16-november-2022[4] Reuters, India plans to hold FTA talks with UK, EU, Canada on G20 sidelines – trade secrecy, August 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/india-plans-hold-fta-talks-with-uk-eu-canada-sidelines-g20-meet-trade-secy-2023-08-18/[5] Civicus Monitor, Tracking Civic Space, India: https://monitor.civicus.org/country/india/[6] Lora Verheecke, EU-India Trade Deal: Business as usual?, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Febuary 2023 https://www.rosalux.eu/en/article/2204.eu-india-trade-deal-business-as-usual.html[7] Trade Justice Movement, UK-India Trade deal, https://www.tjm.org.uk/trade-deals/uk-india-trade-deal[8] Matthew Lynn, A trade deal with India would destroy forever the case for rejoining the EU, Telegraph, August 2023 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2023/08/26/india-trade-deal-destroy-case-for-rejoining-eu/[9] Kiran Stacey, A UK trade deal with India was promised by last October. Why is it still not ready?, The Guardian, September 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/sep/03/a-uk-trade-deal-with-india-was-promised-by-last-october-why-is-it-still-not-ready; House of Commons, International Trade Committee, UK trade negotiations: Agreement with India, April 2023, https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/39121/documents/192295/default/[10] Global Justice Now, Leaked UK-India Free Trade Agreement text threatens NHS, campaigners warn, November 2022, https://www.globaljustice.org.uk/news/leaked-uk-india-free-trade-agreement-text-threatens-nhs-campaigners-warn/; George Holt, Sustainable trade should be at the heart of India’s G20 presidency, Bond, December 2022, https://www.bond.org.uk/news/2022/12/sustainable-trade-should-be-at-the-heart-of-indias-g20-presidency/[11] European Commission, EU-India Free Trade Agreement, https://policy.trade.ec.europa.eu/eu-trade-relationships-country-and-region/countries-and-regions/india/eu-india-agreement_en[12] Meenakshi Ganguly and John Sifton, G20: India has work to do on key human rights issues, Human Rights Watch, September 2023, https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/09/04/g20-india-has-work-do-key-human-rights-issues; Civicus: India: ahead of the G20 summit, human rights defenders face raids, arrests and detentions, while impunity persists in Manipur, August 2023, https://monitor.civicus.org/explore/india-ahead-of-the-g20-summit-human-rights-defenders-face-raids-arrests-and-detention-while-impunity-persists-in-manipur/[13] Dr Gareth Price, Ukraine war: why India abstained on UN vote against Russia, Chatham House, March 2023, https://www.chathamhouse.org/2022/03/ukraine-war-why-india-abstained-un-vote-against-russia[14] Toby Helm and Amrit Dhillon, Rishi Sunak faces fresh conflict of interest row over India trade talks, The Guardian, August 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/aug/26/rishi-sunak-faces-fresh-conflict-of-interest-row-over-india-trade-talks [post_title] => The UK & EU at the G20: What role is there, post Brexit, for the UK in the European community’s engagement with India? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-uk-eu-at-the-g20-what-role-is-there-post-brexit-for-the-uk-in-the-european-communitys-engagement-with-india [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-09-08 14:35:40 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-09-08 13:35:40 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=7054 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6739 [post_author] => 8 [post_date] => 2023-02-24 11:54:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-02-24 10:54:50 [post_content] => Last year’s massive escalation of the Russian invasion into Ukraine has put global and regional organisations to the test. State capacities for foreign defence and development in European Union (EU) member states, as well as among EU’s allies, were already strained by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by the multitude of other crises in the wider European neighbourhood.  Military escalation in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood has highlighted both unifying and divisive policy issues. While there has been general consensus towards support for Ukraine, approaches to containing and addressing the Russian threat vary between some member states. Key policy shifts in states like Germany, as well as consensus building challenges with members like Hungary may widen policy gaps as the crisis further protracts.  As the UK plays an important role in supporting Ukraine’s defensive capabilities, aid and recovery efforts - relations with the EU will be critical. Important policy gaps in security cooperation tools and mechanisms left by the FCDO’s Integrated Review, call for the UK to further define what close collaboration with the EU should look like.  Greater British investment in multilateral spaces shared with EU stakeholders, such as the OSCE, Council of Europe, G7 and other multilateral spaces, as well as support to an expanding NATO will be important. The EU and its institutions remain key to promoting human security approaches in responding to conflict. Defining and coordinating a values-based foreign policy, grounded in human security values will be a key regional challenge in wider Europe moving forward. [post_title] => One year on: The EU and the UK’s role in multilateral spaces [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => one-year-on-the-eu-and-the-uks-role-in-multilateral-spaces [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-02-24 12:46:09 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-02-24 11:46:09 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://fpc.org.uk/?p=6739 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 5385 [post_author] => 8 [post_date] => 2020-12-16 00:07:46 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-15 23:07:46 [post_content] => The UK plays a leading role in responding to global challenges and has traditionally excelled at maximising foreign policy opportunities for national security and development.[1] However, within a shifting geo-political, security and economic landscape, influence is increasingly dispersed and contested amongst a plurality of state and non-state stakeholders. These factors impact how the UK Government projects influence (including soft power) and protects its national interests. The shifting global economic centre of gravity to Asia, a global pandemic and its significant secondary economic impacts, a new relationship with Europe, and the need to deliver more with finite resources, requires the UK to review and adapt its strategic security, defence, development and foreign policy objectives. To maintain a global standing, a Global Britain must seek to reinvest in strategic relationships, championing the rules-based international order. A strong pandemic recovery at home and abroad and the recognition that the two are interlinked speak to the UK’s historical strengths in championing rule of law, democracy and human rights. The UK is pioneering strong justice and accountability instruments like human rights sanctions, demonstrating commitment to hold those who commit gross human rights abuse to account through global ‘Magnitsky’ legislation.[2] The UK is also well placed to take a stronger leadership role in promoting human security values across the wider Eurasia region and globally by investing more in multilateral organisations mandated to promote and protect these shared values.[3] The UK had made some important steps in designing and adopting human rights and good governance accountability mechanisms, from tools such as unexplained wealth ordinances keeping dirty money out of Britain and its democratic processes, to the innovative Magnitsky sanctions (now adopted also at EU level across member states).[4] The case for multilateralism and UK foreign policy toolsUniting development and diplomacy under the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) offers an opportunity to maximise value for money for British soft power, re-shaping policy, taking full advantage of comparative diplomatic freedoms and has a clear value add of Global Britain to UK’s own, national human security. As the dialogue around the Integrated Review was initially closely aligned with the Spending Review (to ensure that ambition, capabilities and budgets can be closely coordinated), this gave an opportunity for the Government to review its capacities and investments in multilateral institutions. Greater investment of political capital in structures like the OSCE, the Council of Europe and strategic UN structures and offices would amplify the voice of British foreign policy across regions strategic to UK national interest and boost UK’s thematic thought leadership globally. Strategic political and budgetary support to UK parliamentary delegations, civil service and project-based investments in these multilateral structures is good value for money in uncertain economic times. Working collectively and collaboratively among like-minded states that share the UK’s values in foreign affairs, the UK can position to the benefit of its national interest as well as global reach and leadership. The dramatic cuts to British soft power manifested in the cut to UK aid spending this year could risk undermining British multilateral standing, especially on issues of human security, Women Peace and Security (WPS) and conflict resolution. Foreign policy analysts are finding it hard to reconcile UK’s imminent 2021 plans to lead the G7 and the climate summits with cuts to the resources needed to lead these institutions.[5] Leading UK academics and key leaders in the security sector rightly point out that cutting aid, while increasing defence will not make Britain safer and could undermine collective human security – regionally and globally.[6] Preventing and mitigating conflicts, the transactional costs of discord It is estimated that more than 200 million people could need humanitarian assistance by 2022 as a result of climate change and conflict.[7] The UK is rightly investing heavily into addressing climate change challenges. Likewise, addressing underlying causes and drivers of conflict requires concerted and systematic political and economic investment. The UK is lauded for its commitment to human rights, democracy and inclusion, including through the WPS agenda, as well as its solid track record in supporting peacebuilding, stabilisation and related human security efforts. Investing strategically in gender equality and women’s meaningful political inclusion is critical to national security.[8] Prioritising democracy in the WPS agenda has been proven to make peace agreements more sustainable and preventing costly armed conflict.[9] The COVID-19 pandemic followed a record year of global instability and violence. Last year, the highest number of state-based conflicts in decades, with half the world’s population coming into contact with political violence.[10] The typology of armed conflicts have been changing for some time, with non-international armed conflicts increasing, and a proliferation of non-state armed groups (some of a terrorist nature – posing a persistent global risk) further complicating national and global accountability, conflict resolution, and challenging political will to support the application of international humanitarian law, as well as human rights and refugee law.[11] Large-scale displacement, both internal and global refugee flows persist. In the period the Integrated Review is intended to cover, it is projected that some 80 per cent of the world’s population will find itself living in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.[12] In Afghanistan, as the US and allies like the UK prepare to withdraw forces amidst persistent record violent death tolls - sustainable peace remains elusive.[13] The pandemic response has triggered further security risks, a rise in domestic violence, as well as a rise in extremism and terrorism – at home and abroad.[14] Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States, and (in many ways) the launch of the global counter-terrorism agenda. UK’s alliance with the US, as well as the effectiveness of the wider counter-terrorism agendas will be under global scrutiny.[15] UK’s support for multi-lateral spaces where human security (rights-based) approaches are applied to counter-terrorism agendas will be an important test of HMG’s commitment to human security.[16] UK critical ally, the US president-elect Joe Biden (similar to the isolationist calls made by US President Trump) in calling for an end to American ‘forever wars,’ leaving civilians, especially women, in the most violent conflicts on earth – like Afghanistan to weak governance and powerful non-state armed groups. UK military engagements will have to reconfigure to this new reality.[17] This draws attention to the need for greater British investment in bilateral and multilateral peacebuilding, WPS, humanitarian aid and related human security agendas. Addressing root causes and drivers of political violence requires UK investment in human security frameworks and multilateral mechanisms bringing together human rights, rule of law and democracy for shared security in wider Europe and beyond.[18] The case for regional approaches/regionalities Given the shifting geo-political landscape, the FCDO will need to make difficult decisions in foreign policy priorities.[19] While there is much focus on regional and global powers like Russia and China, and their influence globally and regionally, the FCDO should consider value for money investment in regionalities and investing soft power political capital in smaller states and strategic regional partnerships from the Sahel to the Middle East to Eurasia. In Eurasia, UK would benefit from closer regional engagement with countries like Armenia, Georgia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan as well as maintaining ties with resource-rich, struggling to meet their democratic commitment states like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Recent developments in Uzbekistan, as well as Kyrgyzstan, deserve UK attention.[20] The human development situation in Tajikistan is particularly dire and will take on a security dimension if unaddressed. Civil society in many of these states (balancing political, economic and military regional interests amidst more powerful states from China to Russia) looks to Europe and the US to counter-balance authoritarian and elite capture trends. While democracy continues to broadly backslide in the region, with civic space under threat globally, the potential for political shifts and inclusive development in some Eurasian states is higher than in others.[21] The UK can afford to be bold and lead the OSCE in investing more political capital and further expanding relations across the three dimensions with its Partners for Co-operation in Europe’s eastern and southern neighbourhoods. Given persistent instability in Afghanistan (where the UK has long-standing commitments), and given the world’s economic centre of gravity shift toward often unstable parts of Asia, there is a clear value add for UK’s engagement both economically and politically.[22] A stable Afghanistan, where rule of law, democracy and human rights are respected is important to achieving UK’s interests in region.[23] From support to stabilisation efforts in the Sahel to supporting economic and regional cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the UK should work to capitalise on historical links, diplomatic and trade track records to invest in regional stability likely to yield human security and economic, trade dividends. Recent events in fragile Lebanon underscore the importance of regional cooperation along the values of good governance. Lebanon should not be seen through the prism of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, or regional security tensions alone. A vibrant civil society indicates the need for greater UK human security support. Encouraging the OSCE to include Lebanon as a Partner for Co-operation is a small political investment for a much larger possible stabilisation dividend. Regional security institutions like the OSCE are important instruments for stability in some of the world’s most complex conflicts and contexts.[24] UK support for expanding the OSCE’s investment in Partners for Co-operation (and even possible future membership) to fragile and conflict affected states, like Lebanon and Afghanistan, would demonstrate UK’s strategic foresight in global security.[25] The case for greater UK political priority to the OSCE The OSCE has a uniquely comprehensive approach to security, which covers a broad range of issues across the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian region. The UK Government has made clear its commitments to the OSCE’s approach to human security by supporting and leading the Human Dimension work, including championing gender equality, the WSP agenda, as well as substantive and welcome support to OSCE’s democratisation and rule of law efforts.[26] The UK Ambassador’s selection to be Chair of the Permanent Council’s Human Dimension Committee for a number of years until 2018 was seen positively in this regard. The UK Delegation to the OSCE has also worked to protect the UK’s people and values through an efficient OSCE, which aims to deliver a comprehensive approach to security in the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian area and a strengthened rules-based international system across issues from democracy and human rights, to arms control and conflict resolution, and emerging challenges such as cyber-security.[27] In its closing statement at the most recent OSCE Ministerial meeting, the UK rightly emphasised that the recent military hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the tragic loss of life, livelihoods and trust among communities further underscores the vital importance of OSCE’s mediation formats.[28] The UK has also It is critical that the UK continue to lend increased political support to the conflict resolution agendas, including highlighting conflict mediation and confidence-building measures as key foreign policy tools.[29] As UK leaves the European Union – multi-lateral security dialogue with states that share British values of human security, rule of law, democracy and gender justice becomes increasingly business-critical. With the UK identifying key national security threats lying within the OSCE area, greater investment is needed in conflict prevention and dialogue in multilateral institutions able to bring key stakeholders to the table. The OSCE’s current institutional challenges provide evidence of a crisis in national and institutional governance, with an alarming decline in shared values. The OSCE is the only security-focused inter-governmental body to include both western powers and Russia. As the most recent crisis in Belarus has demonstrated, UK regional leadership is needed in the wider European community, in support of democratic values, civil society engagement and human rights in each OSCE participating State – on its own national (domestic) merit.[30] In addressing tensions and conflicts at critical junctures, the UK is well placed to lead the OSCE in applying strategic conflict mitigation tools like the ‘Vienna Mechanism’ and the ‘Moscow Mechanism’ to support human rights accountability, as well as to continue to show leadership in helping to uphold core human security and democratic principles, signed up to by participating states like Belarus and the UK alike.[31] From Hungary to Tajikistan, civic space in the OSCE area remains at risk.[32] Without enabling democratic spaces with freedom of assembly, association, media and related OSCE Human Dimension commitments, transparency and accountability are harder to achieve. Civil society space is shrinking at the national and regional level with fewer and more dangerous influencing channels remaining open to human rights defenders and civil society organisations. Civil society access to the OSCE (subsequently) is also at risk.[33] As the democratic indicators for national governance and rule of law are worrying within the EU (i.e. Hungary, Poland), the UK has an important role to play in being a vocal and unapologetic voice for the inalienable nexus of human rights and shared European, trans-Atlantic security. As the UK proceeds to make new arrangements following its departure from the EU, the FCDO – in combining diplomacy and development is in a position to speak more clearly and independently in the OSCE Permanent Council.[34] The political priorities articulated in these diplomatic spaces as well as continued and renewed articulation of UK’s human rights, human security and the ‘leave no one behind’ agenda in the OSCE space would be timely. Now is the time for the UK review, to re-shape old alliances and to build new relationships across the OSCE area. UK’s influence in the OSCE has both political and operational dimensions. Given the post-Brexit dynamics, the UK has opportunities to lend political weight to strong British and allied candidates for key executive posts in the OSCE structures. In order to counter possible vulnerabilities in operations, including human resources, the UK must be more active in investing in British thought leadership (supporting academic institutions, think tanks, media freedom agencies and other spaces where British technical and regional expertise needed in the OSCE structures is generated). This requires the UK FCDO to support the UK Delegation to the OSCE in Vienna in identifying and supporting rights-oriented candidates, including British nationals with a strong record on human security. Furthermore, there are many tracks for the UK’s use of diplomacy: with many British traditions and a long diplomatic record as it relates to the OSCE, including parliamentary diplomacy, conflict prevention, mediation and stabilisation and the focus on leaving no one behind, particularly around the inclusion of women and girls. FCDO should seek to actively participate and pioneer OSCE reforms around transparency in the Permanent Council and accountability of the participating States, reforming consensus-based decision-making. The UK must work to de-politicise managerial decisions and avoid misuse of the consensus rule by reviewing and reducing operational spaces where the consensus rule applies (this will limit situations where political disagreements block key operational posts at key junctures). The FCDO is well placed to provide analysis and strategic steer, maximising the use of British diplomats and UK thought leadership (academia, think tanks, private and public sector stakeholders). FCDO is also well placed to invest more in soft power – from think tanks to the British Council, including greater engagement with British civil society and this broad range of stakeholders – especially around the OSCE’s Political and Human Dimensions (election observation and other key elements of ODIHR’s mission-critical mandate); conflict prevention and stabilisation; security cooperation and law enforcement; as well as the WPS and related agendas. OSCE’s governance vulnerabilities, obstacles to reform and policy recommendations to the UK The UK has a decades’ long history of engaging with the Helsinki Accords, supporting human rights and security at the national and regional level in Eurasia. Regional tensions and transnational threats have made the OSCE mandate ever more relevant, despite operational vulnerabilities and geo-political challenges. At a time when some COVID-19 pandemic response measures could have a disproportionate impact on marginalised and vulnerable groups (especially women and girls), the UK must increase support to the independence of OSCE’s institutions in ensuring human rights are not forgotten and that no one is left behind.[35] There are alarming political capture trends and institutional vulnerabilities that have recently been well documented by the European Stability Initiative and allies, drawing attention to institutions like the Council of Europe where sufficient checks and balances are needed to prevent institutional capture through ‘Caviar Diplomacy.’[36] As a consensus-based inter-governmental institution in a region where human rights and democracy are at risk, the OSCE has also suffered from political capture and abuse of internal rules and procedures, with calls for OSCE reform increasing over the years.[37] OSCE’s 2020 institutional crisis undermined collective security in wider Europe and should have been a political priority for the UK Government and Parliament, given the UK’s consistent commitments to the Human Dimension, particularly to rights defenders – all issues at the heart of the OSCE institutional crisis this year.[38] UN human rights officials noted that it was the OSCE participating States with some of the worst human dimension track records that lead the organisation into this coordinated and deliberate institutional crisis, undermining its leadership and business continuity.[39] The OSCE’s participating States of Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Turkey (all states with dismal track records in meeting their OSCE human dimension commitments) had cited a range of ‘national security’ reasons to block key leadership appointments of the OSCE’s oversight institutions.[40] Russia and other former Soviet states with rapidly shrinking civic spaces (in democratic decline) have long played leading roles in complicating the appointments to OSCE executive institutions of people with a strong human rights record. The current OSCE institutional crisis dates back to a national shift (democratic backslide) in Russia and other countries in the region. The Russian Ambassador to the OSCE articulated the 2020 institutional crisis as something that will serve Russia well in pushing Moscow’s agenda in OSCE reform processes.[41] Moscow and others, whose values are not aligned with the UK, are taking advantage of the vacuum and crisis of confidence (of the West) in multilateral institutions like the OSCE – leaving these institutions open to political capture. Russia has been calling for more geographic diversity in the leadership of OSCE executive institutions (while blocking Western and non-Western candidates with strong rights records) and drawing attention to ‘systematic’ problems (some of them legitimate) in the Organisation. Russia had argued this institutional crisis could be good for organisational reform, at a time when there are so few democratic checks on Eurasian participating States’ power – this furthered concerns for the future of human security in the broader region. The UK must remain active and vocal in protection the mandates of OSCE institutions and missions as well as helping reform the consensus-based appointment processes. The FCDO is well placed to work with Parliament and British civil society in articulating OSCE’s value-add and pioneering much needed institutional reform in such multilateral spaces in order to achieve the most value for money. The High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) and the Representative for Freedom of the Media (RFOM) in particular have narrow mandates and smaller offices, risking institutional paralysis when heads of these institutions are not (re-)appointed promptly. The long-awaited December 2020 Ministerial Meeting appointments to heads of OSCE institutions came at a time of critical junctures for the region – from military conflicts between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to ongoing armed conflict against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to unresolved ‘frozen conflicts’ and democratic revolution in Belarus – conflict prevention, mitigation through the human security lens remains key to OSCE’s value add.[42] While delayed and detracted by Brexit, the UK remains well placed to advance human security through these OSCE institutions, building on its solid track record in promoting rule of law, human rights, justice and democracy multi-laterally, as well as bilaterally. The UK remains active in a number of institutions and OSCE thematics from security to democracy, and should use this political influence to continue institutional, organisational reforms as well as to extend post-Brexit political will on issues of human security to the OSCE regions to the East and South of Europe.[43] A force for good and the role of UK diplomacy in the OSCE area:
  • The UK works to improve military security by encouraging greater openness, transparency and co-operation.[44] OSCE participating states have developed the world’s most advanced regime of conventional arms control and confidence-building measures, with the UK contributing to addressing conflicts, including in Ukraine. The UK is also active in countering evolving transnational, non-military threats such as terrorism and organised crime. The UK holds participating States to account over their commitments on human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, as well as wider corruption and governance issues, and seeks to advance those commitments where possible. The UK Delegation supports OSCE’s autonomous institutions, including ODIHR;
  • Smaller OSCE participating States look at the UK to contribute leadership based on its long track record in rule of law, stabilisation and media freedom.[45] Some OSCE states have drawn attention to the relative value-for-money of the OSCE in terms of conflict prevention, management and shared defence mechanisms through strong multilateral coordination and cooperation, urging Western states not to be complacent against the very real threat to universal human rights values on the continent;[46]
  • While effective action at the OSCE will require close collaboration with European allies there are advantages to the UK being able to speak out more freely in OSCE meetings, rather than deferring to the (often reached through compromise/shared) EU caucus positions. With Brexit, UK-OSCE performance indicators could be the amount of technical support (resources) and political support (articulating human rights positions on the record, and successfully ensuring British OSCE appointments with strong human rights track records);
  • A further way in which the UK could show leadership is by deploying the Foreign Secretary to represent the UK at certain OSCE Ministerial Meetings, for example as part of efforts to restart the mechanisms. In the past the Foreign Secretary would have led diplomatic efforts in this forum but in recent years the task has often fallen to the Europe Minister;
  • The newly combined FCDO should take more opportunities to second staff to play key roles in OSCE field operations, including at particularly at Ambassadorial level; and
  • For postings to Vienna and to the OSCE’s autonomous institutions the UK needs to consider further ways to encourage UK nationals to play a greater part in the operation of these bodies. As well as encouraging applications from civil society activists, it should be flexible in allowing diplomats and civil servants the ability to take career breaks to deploy into these institutions (as has often been the case for placements in industry). Greater diplomatic pressure may need to be brought to bear to support British candidacies for director level positions within the institutions.
 Parliamentary diplomacy - oversight and accountability toolThere should be efforts to increase support to the UK Delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, including resourcing parliamentary hearings, participation in OSCE activities, like election observation missions where appropriate and encourage related forms of public engagement.[47] The Assembly, which does not require consensus agreement, if used effectively and avoiding issues around caviar diplomacy could be a platform for advocating some of the reforms mentioned in this submission. More needs to be done to raise the status of the UK delegation to encourage participation by a wider pool of parliamentarians, particularly from the House of Commons. There could be a role for greater coordination between the FAC and the UK delegation on matters taking place in the OSCE region. This provides transparency and oversight channels, as well as maximises British soft power in integrated foreign policy. The structure and positioning of the US Helsinki Commission is an excellent example of a cross-government, cross-party use of soft power to engage a broad set of traditional, as well as new and emerging stakeholders across a wide geography of great politico-military and economic significance to the UK. The UK should consider elaborating a similar structure in the Houses of Parliament.[48] It should also remain open to opportunities that may arise. While traditionally some bigger states have been discouraged from taking the Chairman in office role to avoid stoking competition with Russia, if the opportunity arises the UK should consider taking the chairmanship in office, something that would help firmly underscore the UK’s continuing commitment to the region. Managing the UK’s strategic interest in the OSCE:
  • Declining commitment to sustainable multilateral institutions would pose significant challenges to OSCE efficiency and by extension – shared European and trans-Atlantic security. This comes at critical juncture for global security: dealing with issues of terrorism and extremism, as well as a pandemic – all requiring consistent and efficient international cooperation around shared principles.[49] Polarised national positions in the OSCE area have complicated Albania’s already complex 2020 OSCE Chairmanship year. The post-Brexit UK is well placed to support the incoming 2021 Swedish OSCE Chairmanship, including through its institutions;[50]
  • The UK should use the opportunity of the UK’s Integrated Review to further embed human security principles in national frameworks, and ensure these principles are adequately supported in organisational structures, leadership and priorities, like those of the OSCE;
  • Mandates: while carefully examining any emerging opportunities for genuine institutional reform the UK must remain vigilant to protect existing human dimension commitments in the face of Russian-led efforts to water down such capacities. This includes for the time being avoiding attempts to amend or reform the admittedly flawed core mandate of the HCNM (which excludes issues relating to terrorism in part due to historic UK concerns over Northern Ireland) as given the current institutional climate any tinkering could open a pandora’s box and undermine the relative autonomy in which officials are currently able to operate;
  • Particularly in the context provided by the integration of DFID and the FCO there may be new opportunities for creative use of budgets to support human dimension projects, in a similar way to which the EU has funded ODIHR projects in the Western Balkans and the South Caucasus.[51] Such extra-budgetary funding mechanisms help avoid the gridlock of the OSCE’s consensus mechanisms being engineered by authoritarian participating states (often led by Russia) to undermine ODIHR, the RFOM and the HCNM;
  • Retain and enhance the UK’s active involvement in the ODIHR’s long-term election observation mission, as well as UK’s role in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. At a time when authoritarian regimes are increasingly encouraging the use of fake or co-opted election monitors (sometimes including the sometimes more easily swayed international politicians) it is essential to protect the credibility and capacity of the ODIHR’s gold standard monitoring missions; and
  • The principle of human security is fundamental to our shared, collective security. As the UK reviews its foreign policy objectives and priorities, it is critical that UK increase support to the OSCE as its failure would constitute a security risk on the wider European continent.
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