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Why cooperate? – The Cooperative Security Initiative

Security and Human Rights Monitor
Cooperative Security Initiative 02 June 2020

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Learn more about the Cooperative Security Initiative here: https://www.cooperative-security-initiative.org/

What is the Cooperative Security Initiative?

The Cooperative Security Initiative (CSI) is designed to generate ideas and shift momentum in favor of cooperative security and multilateralism through the OSCE in order to build a safer Europe.

How does the Cooperative Security Initiative work?

Through questions. We believe that at this point we do not need another report. We have many, including the OSCE Eminent Persons Report “Back to Diplomacy” from 2015. What we do need is a debating process on the topic of Cooperative Security. Like Socrates did. He taught by asking questions. He did not want just to argue, but he wanted to confront very confident women and men with questions to

  1. clarify things
  2. questioning assumptions or viewpoints
  3. point out possible consequences

Share your thoughts on cooperative security here: Questions for a Safer Future

 

Who is behind it and who takes part?

  1. The CSI is conceptualized and carried out by two think tanks: The FES Regional Office for Cooperation and Peace in Europe (based in Vienna) and GLOBSEC (based in Bratislava). The Initiative was launched at the GLOBSEC Forum in June 2019, with the support of Slovakia’s Chairmanship of the OSCEOSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger has endorsed the Initiative and has offered Secretariat support.
  2. The Initiative is composed of experts from all OSCE regions, headed by a Chair. Experts have been chosen in their personal capacity, based on their expertise in issues of European security and their demonstrated interest in cooperative security, as well as their institutional affiliation and networks. While care has been taken to finding a geographical balance, experts do not represent their countries per se.

Where will it all take place?

The Initiative is designed to engage an audience beyond the group of experts, including through social media, meetings hosted by think tanks, parliamentarians as well as senior officials of OSCE participating States. The Initiative will use innovative approaches – based around guiding questions – to generate debate to promote cooperative security – not only in Vienna or Bratislava or Tirana for the next year, but all over the OSCE region.

When will it happen?

Two meetings of CSI initiators and participants have taken place. Here in Bratislava we present the output around a limited set of questions at the OSCE Ministerial Meeting. A final product designed to enhanced cooperative security and encourage effective multilateralism for a safer future in Europe will be produced in time for the GLOBSEC Forum in spring 2020, followed by road shows in the OSCE region. At the end of this process will be an analytical paper reflecting cooperative security based on the discussions.
 

Why do we need CSI?

  1. Cooperative security is not working. Divisions and distrust between Russia and the West create the risk of military incidents, accidents and escalation, and an arms race. At the same time, the safety nets of arms control agreements and confidence-building measures are being cut away. There are fundamentally different narratives on both sides about how we got into such a situation – so soon after what was supposed to have been a new era of democracy, peace and unity after the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, both sides seem to be convinced that they are right, that it is the responsibility of the other to change its ways first, and that time is on their side.
  2. Status quo is deteriorating, therefore not acceptable. The current situation is potentially dangerous and unsustainable. The leaderships of Europe need to take responsibility. We know from history that a continuation along this trajectory has led to war.

Indeed, Europe has experienced such situations in the past – with devastating consequences. And each time, after major wars, a security order had to be rebuilt in 1815, 1919 and 1945. In a nuclear age, that is not a risk that leaders can afford to take.

Why cooperate?

Europe is divided. This is not just about Russia versus the West, is it also about deep divisions between Turkey and the European Union, Great Britain and the EU, divisions in the Western Balkans, and within states.

European security is broken. Whereas war in Europe was “unthinkable” just a few years ago, there is a hot conflict in eastern Ukraine, and protracted conflicts in other parts of the OSCE area. There are also serious internal tensions within some European countries.

Divisions and distrust between Russia and the West create the risk of military incidents, accidents and escalation, and an arms race. At the same time, the safety nets of arms control agreements and confidence-building measures are being cut away. There are fundamentally different narratives on both sides about how we got into such a situation – so soon after what was supposed to have been a new era of democracy, peace and unity after the end of the Cold War. Furthermore, both sides seem to be convinced that they are right, that it is the responsibility of the other to change its ways first, and that time is on their side.

Many seem to think that, even if flawed, the status quo is acceptable. But the current situation is potentially dangerous and unsustainable. History shows that a continuation along this trajectory could lead to war.

Indeed, Europe has experienced such situations in the past – with devastating consequences. And each time, after major wars, a security order had to be rebuilt: in 1815, 1919 and 1945. In a nuclear age, that is not a risk that leaders can afford to take.

While tensions are rising within and between states, new threats and challenges make cooperation all the more necessary. Money, people, information and communications as well as trade and illicit activity flow across borders more freely than in the past. Climate change, environmental degradation as well as rapid advances in technology are also changing the eco-system of international affairs. This creates both opportunities and challenges that, in an inter-connected world, states need to address together.

But are organizations and rules, created in the 20th century, capable of dealing with these 21st century realities?

Cooperation is essential: both to improve inter-state relations at a time when states are increasingly concerned about defending their sovereignty, and to deal with transnational threats that defy borders. It is in the security interest of states, and us all, to work together — before it’s too late.

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