The Future of OSCE: Six Pillars

Sam Vaknin

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has been in the throes of an existential crisis at least since 2021 when member states failed to agree on a budget. Trust has been further eroded following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

OSCE is currently helmed by the well-educated and articulate Minister of Foreign Affairs of North Macedonia, Bujar Osmani, as its Chairman. But, the organization is so crippled that it cannot even agree on Osmani’s successor in 2024.

OSCE membership includes every stakeholder in Europe, including the USA, Canada, and Russia, one of its founders. 

Initially, Osmani aimed to navigate this unwieldy group through a period of “reflection” about its foundational values and purpose. Putin’s aggression put paid to that. 

Now, the goals are more modest, though no less laudable: exporting North Macedonia’s successful model of ethnic co-existence to other problem areas such as Moldova, Bonsia-Herzegovina, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. 

Osmani himself is uniquely qualified to do exactly that: he is a member of the Albanian minority in North Macedonia and has witnessed the strife between the Albanians and the Macedonians in decades past. Now, pacified, partly due to the efforts of OSCE’s historical first mission on the ground, the tiny country (1.9 million citizens) has something to offer to the rest of the world.

Yet, OSCE’s mission does require a substantive overhaul in at least six areas of functionality, six signature initiatives, or “Six Pillars”.

1. OSCE needs to counter threats to democracy posed by social media algorithms, conspiracy theories, artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and fake news.

OSCE should build and provide expertise in these areas to member countries. The integrity of elections, as well as the mindset of electorates, are at stake. A population poisoned by misinformation and disinformation is incapable of rational politics. 

2. OSCE needs to highlight, name, and shame culprits when it comes to the subversion of human rights. In virtually all its member states, from the USA to Hungary, a trade-off between human rights and other goods has become the norm. People willingly surrender their privileges in order to hark back to traditional values, feel safer, guarantee prosperity, or fend off the real and imagined menace.  

3. OSCE needs to identify and sound the alarm regarding the incremental or aggressive undermining of freedom of the media and free speech. Market failures in this field (media deserts) should be remedied at the state level. Media entrepreneurship and competition should be encouraged. Media convergence should be allowed only while preserving a plurality of voices. Monopolies – including the hi-tech behemoths which control search engines, LLM chatbots, and social media – should be dismantled. 

4. Around the globe, there is a virulent backlash against minority rights and protections, immigrants, and foreigners. Xenophobia colludes with racism and hate speech to erode basic human and institutional solidarity.

OSCE should position itself on the frontlines of this war. As a consensus-based group that incorporates multiple cultures and societies, it should strive to offer an example of tolerance, compromise, and acceptance of the Other. 

5. OSCE should shift its focus to conflict prevention rather than conflict resolution, with emphasis on root causes of conflicts, such as debilitating poverty, a lack of education, overpopulation, discrimination against women, and a deteriorating physical and biological environment, replete with increasing scarcity of resources such as arable land and water.

Conflict resolution is always too late and often either unsuccessful or devolves into a drawn-out, resource-depleting endeavor.

6. Finally, OSCE should launch a campaign among its members in an attempt to broaden the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism. Most terrorism acts are domestic, not international, and yet the outdated focus is still on the global, transnational variety.

OSCE’s very relevance is at stake. Many of its efforts and programs are replicated by other multinationals. Its contribution to the security of the northern hemisphere is far from ascertained in a post-Ukraine world and with NATO evolving from a mere defense treaty into an arbiter of war, peace, and human rights. The United Nations maintains peacekeeping operations. Interpol and Europol fight international crime, terrorism included. What for OSCE?

OSCE urgently requires a facelift and some brand differentiation lest it is rendered obsolete and extinct. Its very consensus-based decision process needs to be redesigned or possibly reconsidered and its decision-making streamlined and revamped. It is a fight for its survival, but, to its detriment, OSCE is complacently treating it as if it were a mere budgetary-administrative bump in the road. 

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Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. is a former economic advisor to governments (Nigeria, Sierra Leone, North Macedonia), served as the editor in chief of “Global Politician” and as a columnist in various print and international media including “Central Europe Review” and United Press International (UPI). He taught psychology and finance in various academic institutions in several countries ( )