“The OSCE in Ukraine: inclusive dialogue and capability to act”


New York, 25.09.2014 - Statement by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Didier Burkhalter, delivered at the high-level week of the 69th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations - Check against delivery

Speaker: OSCE CiO, Didier Burkhalter (2014); President of the Swiss Confederation, Didier Burkhalter (2014); Didier Burkhalter; Swiss representative to the UN

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was invited to talk about the OSCE and Ukraine. I am a strong supporter of the OSCE. Switzerland and the OSCE – this is an old love story, going back to the 1970s. We share the same principles about how to promote peace and security.

The OSCE is about cooperative security. The OSCE is an inclusive platform for dialogue, bringing together 57 participating States from the Euro-Atlantic and the Eurasian region. The OSCE is about common solutions based on political commitments and compromise. It provides a toolbox with relevant instruments for preventing and resolving conflicts.

Inclusive dialogue and action – the OSCE stands for both. It is the combination of the two that renders it a particularly relevant organization in providing mediation support to its participating States.

The Group of Friends of Mediation has become an important platform to promote mediation at the global level. I particularly welcome the creation of a similar format within the OSCE. I hope that the Group will galvanize further support for the OSCE mediation activities. I can assure you that Switzerland is and will stay committed to this cause beyond our Chairmanship.

Strengthening the OSCE’s capacities in mediation is one of the priorities of the Swiss Chairmanship. We provided political leadership, but also financial and human resources, which contributed to the establishment of a Mediation Support Team within the OSCE Secretariat. I am glad to mention that Finland, Turkey and other partners have contributed similarly.

To emphasize the important role of the OSCE in mediation, the Swiss Chairmanship plans to table a draft decision on mediation. Its purpose will be to further strengthen the effectiveness of OSCE mediation capacities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Ukraine crisis is a tragedy – a tragedy that affects us all. In the first place, it is a tragedy for the country and for its people. The high number of casualties and the destruction of infrastructure resulting from the conflict in Eastern Ukraine will leave deep wounds. The challenges of reconciliation, of reconstructing, of providing new prospects and opportunities for the people are enormous.

And the challenges go far beyond Ukraine. This crisis has brought more insecurity to all of us. The crisis is a blow to pan-European Security. The foundations of European security, as defined in the Paris Charter and the Helsinki Final Act are put into question.

How did the OSCE respond to the crisis? Let me emphasize that the OSCE Chairmanship considers inclusive dialogue and activities at different levels to be absolutely essential to resolving the crisis in and around Ukraine.

At the local level, the OSCE is active through its Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. In fact, the mandate given to the Mission by the OSCE Permanent Council tasks OSCE monitors “to facilitate dialogue in order to reduce tensions and promote normalization of the situation.”  

The way this mandate has been carried out varies from location to location. Some SMM teams, for example, have facilitated access to the MH-17 crash site and the release of OSCE hostages. Others successfully brought different stakeholders from government and civil society together to discuss a range of issues. This engagement will continue and I expect the SMM’s dialogue function to play an important role in helping to implement the recently concluded ceasefire.

A current priority of the OSCE is to expand the SMM and to rapidly adapt it to the new monitoring needs arising from the ceasefire. The SMM has quickly established an initial clearing house mechanism among the parties to deal with reported violations of the ceasefire and other incidences.

At the national level, the OSCE supports Ukrainian efforts to promote national dialogue and reform in Ukraine. In March, in parallel with the SMM, the OSCE set up a so-called National Dialogue Project. The Project consisted of 15 international experts, who were deployed in different parts of Ukraine in order to assess dialogue needs.

Following the Geneva Statement of 17 April and the OSCE Roadmap, further momentum was built for a Ukrainian led and owned national dialogue process. In May, the Ukrainian Government organized three National Roundtables of National Unity. The roundtables fostered a debate about Ukraine’s future challenges and as such, they showed the potential of this approach. Should the national roundtable process continue, the OSCE is ready to support.

At the international level, the OSCE promotes political dialogue in the framework of the Trilateral Contact Group. Mandated to accompany talks between the parties, the contact group holds regular discussions with representatives of illegally armed groups from the East. Currently, the group focuses its efforts on operationalizing the ceasefire regime, in close coordination with the SMM. One of the immediate objectives is to develop a reliable mechanism to monitor the ceasefire regime facilitated by SMM, including identification, reporting, evaluation and sanctioning of violations.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Why is the OSCE predestined to play a key role in mediation – in accordance with chapter VIII of the UN Charter? I would say there are two main reasons:

First and foremost, the OSCE is an inclusive platform for dialogue spanning the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian spaces. The very rationale of the OSCE is to promote a vision of cooperative security based on “soft” political commitments, with a number of effective civilian instruments at its disposal. As Chair of the OSCE, our aim has been to apply the toolbox of the organization as effectively as possible to help de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.

Second, the OSCE is capable to act. It is operating on the basis of consensus which is often a challenge. However, the consensus decision on establishing the SMM – the very heart of the OSCE engagement in Ukraine – represents a milestone for the organization. It indicated that the OSCE is capable to act and to search for compromise even under difficult circumstances.

What should be done to strengthen the OSCE’s capacities in mediation?

I believe the role of regional organizations to be of great importance in mediation. The settlement of local disputes through regional arrangements has proved to be most promising. Without a profound knowledge of the context and the various parties involved, a mediation team will not be able to respond to specific sensitivities and will be likely to overlook opportunities for mutually acceptable solutions.

As a country with much tradition and expertise in the field of mediation, Switzerland is committed to strengthening OSCE mediation capacities, during our Chairmanship and beyond. Under our guidance, mediation-support capacities have been built up regarding training, knowledge management, and operational support. Tailor-made coaching services have been provided for my Special Representatives on Protracted Conflicts. We are looking forward to strengthening the cooperation with other international and regional organizations.

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Last update 26.01.2022

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