Leveraging the OSCE's and Switzerland's common goals

Press release, 09.01.2014

Switzerland is to chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2014. Switzerland is thereby stepping up its efforts to promote stability in Europe and in neighbouring regions. The SDC is also involved in the countries of Eastern Europe. Ambassador Kurt Kunz, head of the Cooperation with Eastern Europe Directorate, explains how Switzerland's and the OSCE's shared goals can be leveraged.

Switzerland is to chair the OSCE in 2014. The SDC supports Switzerland's OSCE chairmanship. Why?

Switzerland's Cooperation with Eastern Europe supports political and economic reform processes in the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe, including the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It aims to strengthen human rights and democracy and promote economic and social development. In the human dimension in particular, which has long been of central importance to Switzerland, there is much common ground between Switzerland's goals and the OSCE's. The Swiss OSCE chairmanship is an opportunity to strengthen existing synergies. All new regional and country strategies take account of this.

What does this commitment look like specifically?

Several measures to support the OSCE chairmanship have been initiated. This includes a funding facility that enables our embassies in Eastern Europe to implement initiatives by the OSCE and its institutions and partners on the ground, and to fund local and regional projects that support the efforts of the Swiss OSCE chairmanship. The projects are to be checked for conformity with Switzerland's OSCE priorities, and the embassies are responsible for supervising and monitoring the projects. The project size is limited to CHF 100,000. The fund totals CHF 1 million in 2013, CHF 2 million in 2014 and CHF 1 million in 2015.

Let me give one example: For Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia in the South Caucasus there is a project aimed at mitigating wildfire risk. The project aims, on the one hand, to reduce the risk of wildfires and, on the other, to promote the willingness to cooperate in this conflict-ridden region.

The Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) is a strategic partner of the OSCE task force. During Switzerland's membership of the OSCE Troika (2012-2015) we will count on it even more to support the goals of Switzerland and the OSCE. Whereas DCAF is involved in security governance issues, Cooperation with Eastern Europe focuses more on the promotion of good governance. There are, therefore, common areas of interest that can be leveraged.

DCAF has various ongoing projects. One of them aims to strengthen parliamentary oversight and control of security, defence and intelligence services.

Given Switzerland's increased responsibility in the OSCE we were also prepared to continue our support for the OSCE's Community Security Initiative project in Kyrgyzstan. This project is being implemented in the south of the country, where there was mass ethnic unrest in 2010. In the southern provinces where a large proportion of the population is Uzbek, the police is being trained in community policing techniques to restore mutual understanding with the population, to rebuild trust, irrespective of ethnicity, and to prevent a resurgence of unrest. The project is being co-financed to the tune of CHF 1.5 million from 1013 to 2015.

Another project is "Capacity Development in International Relations". This is a long-standing SDC contribution to enable young government officials from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to attend training courses on the themes of human rights, international trade law and negotiation techniques, and to engage in regional exchanges. With a view to the OSCE chairmanship, which will also have a confidence-building function, the project was supplemented by an OSCE module. It is being implemented by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva in close collaboration with alumni networks in the three partner countries.

The the SDC's Swiss Humanitarian Aid Department is also strongly involved. How did that come about?

The country that assumes the chairmanship takes on particular responsibility for all three OSCE dimensions. In the economic and environmental dimension, Switzerland has succeeded in putting better disaster preparedness and response on the OSCE's agenda for next year. This theme is particularly relevant, as there is also significant need for action in the OSCE region and Switzerland can contribute long-standing experience and expertise. The high-level economic and environmental forum in Prague will be dedicated to this theme and will bring together the most important donor countries which will play a decisive role in the negotiations over the framework that will replace the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015. The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 is the UN's ten-year disaster risk reduction plan.