True security demands democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms for individuals, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the first Summit meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, in over a decade. But these founding OSCE principles face serious challenges. The OSCE can only be effective, said Secretary Clinton, if participating states back its institutions and missions with political will. That's why it is time to create a framework for action that translates these principles into concrete steps.
One high priority should be increased engagement for the OSCE with Afghanistan. Forty OSCE countries already contribute to the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, but the OSCE itself can play a greater role, said Secretary Clinton. OSCE states have 1,200 miles of borders with Afghanistan. "And we should expect OSCE efforts to improve border security, counter illicit trafficking, boost legitimate trade, and promote economic development," said Secretary Clinton.
Another priority for the OSCE should be to develop a greater capacity to prevent and respond to conflicts. Georgia is a case in point. "It is regrettable that a participating state," said Secretary Clinton, "has proposed to host a mission and the OSCE has not been allowed to respond." The OSCE mission in Georgia was closed down after Russia blocked extension of its mandate after the August 2008 war. The OSCE, said Secretary Clinton, must be allowed to do its job and restore a meaningful OSCE presence to Georgia.
Finally, the OSCE must live up to its commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. "It is not enough for governments," said Secretary Clinton, "to design a national human rights plan if it isn't implemented. It is not enough for governments to empower only the civil society organizations they agree with while crippling others with legal restrictions and red tape. And it is not enough," said Secretary Clinton, "for a constitution to guarantee freedom of the press if in reality journalists are put under pressure and even assaulted."
As President Gerald Ford said 35 years ago when he signed the Helsinki accords launching the OSCE process: History will judge the OSCE not by the promises it makes, but the promises it keeps. "In other words, said Secretary Clinton, "let's embrace the vision of Helsinki and apply it faithfully in this new century. And if we can do that, then we. . .can indeed create a safer, freer, and more prosperous future together."