The OSCE‘s partnership in preventing and countering terrorism

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In May 2013, I had the opportunity to address the annual NATO Conference on Weapons of Mass Destruction Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation. I took the invitation as a sign of interest in what the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) does, and also—at the risk of sounding too ambitious—in what areas the counterterrorism community and the OSCE can join their efforts in the fight against terrorism (and specifically WMD terrorism).

In my prior position as the U.S. 1540 coordinator, I had the pleasure to speak at the 2008 NATO Conference that was held in Berlin, where a panel was devoted exclusively to UN Security Council resolution 1540. The panel took place under the rubric “New Initiatives for the Prevention of Proliferation.” Many of the speakers at the 2013 conference touched upon this resolution, which remains high on the OSCE’s agenda, as I will explain later. UNSCR 1540 is now fast approaching its ten-year anniversary, however, so it is hardly a new initiative.

The strategic commitments of our organizations and the pillars supporting many of their nonproliferation strategies are so identical that there can be no argument against closer collaboration that mutually reinforces each other’s efforts. Not to exploit the similarities in our comprehensive programmatic work would be a waste of resources and would be highly counterproductive.

The OSCE was among the very first multilateral organizations to articulate explicitly the need for sustained, multifaceted efforts to combat terrorism, with a strong emphasis on preventing it, while also respecting and protecting human rights. The initial impetus came from the adoption of the OSCE’s Bucharest Plan of Action for Combating Terrorism, followed by the OSCE’s Porto Charter on Preventing and Combating Terrorism.

Last December in Dublin, building on the Plan and Charter, as well as on a series of decisions, commitments, and mandates adopted over the past ten years, OSCE participating states adopted the OSCE Consolidated Framework for the Fight against Terrorism. This Framework underlines that “terrorism remains one of the most significant threats to peace, security and stability, as well as to the enjoyment of human rights and social and economic development, in the OSCE area and beyond.”

The Consolidated Framework reiterates in particular the relevance and full applicability of the OSCE’s concept of comprehensive and cooperative security to the fight against terrorism. But it is visionary to turn words into action, and to turn action into partnership. WMD terrorism and our collective efforts against it do fit into a broader UN framework, and after nearly ten years, we can reflect how this partnership has grown.

In the inaugural issue of the 1540 Compass, an article focused on how the OSCE contributes directly to preventing and countering terrorism, as well as on how its more recent work complements the nonproliferation efforts required under UNSCR 1540. The Consolidated Framework highlights a number of strategic focus areas for the OSCE’s action against terrorism. As many already know, these areas are 95 percent extra-budgetary-funded, meaning that participating governments fund them voluntarily rather than through the OSCE’s assessed budget. Accordingly, I think it is extremely important to underscore that regional approaches require close donor coordination. These key areas include:

  • Promoting the implementation of the international legal framework and cooperation in criminal matters related to terrorism
  • Countering violent extremism and radicalization that lead to terrorism
  • Countering the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes
  • Promoting dialogue and cooperation in countering terrorism, in particular through public-private partnerships—PPPs, or civil society
  • Strengthening travel-document security
  • Suppressing the financing of terrorism
  • Supporting national efforts to implement UN Security Council resolution 1540 on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • Promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in the context of counterterrorism measures

As I stated earlier, the OSCE pays particular attention to cooperation with other stakeholders. We want to help implement existing international instruments to counter terrorism rather than invent our own, while at the same time being innovative and creative on specific issues.

We coordinate closely with the United Nations, in particular with the Counterterrorism Implementation Task Force, the UN Counterterrorism Executive Directorate, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and, under nonproliferation, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. We work closely with regional and subregional partners, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States Antiterrorist Center, the Regional Antiterrorist Structure of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, Interpol, and the World Customs Organization. The OSCE Secretariat, and in particular its Action against Terrorism Team, serves as the primary interface for counterterrorism, and the Secretariat’s Conflict Prevention Center (in cooperation with the Forum for Security Cooperation) has the mandate for collaboration regarding UNSCR 1540.

We always look to initiate or further develop collaboration with present or future partners. This means helping each other, raising the bar of standards, and not pointing fingers. It is worthwhile to reflect back to 2008 and the panel where the then UNSCR 1540 Committee chair made a few observations. To quote:

In this regard I believe that the Secretariat, and in particular UN Office for Disarmament Affaires (UNODA) should be equipped with additional resources and expert capacities in the area of implementation of Resolution 1540…in coping with various issues of implementation of Resolution 1540 and also to establish and manage a trust fund for visits of experts in Member States requesting assistance in preparing their implementation action plans, legislation or enacting concrete practical measures and projects etc.

To this end a similar coordination and interaction is needed on a global level between the UN and individual functional organizations and multilateral arrangements. The UN should better use its convening power to bring together all players who are involved, or who can contribute to creation of this kind of global partnership for fighting the threat of proliferation. Nobody who can contribute to implementation of Resolution 1540 should be excluded or left out.

In 2010, the OSCE Conflict Prevention Center established a project in support of regional implementation of UNSCR 1540. The 1540 project’s contributions to the regional and global efforts to facilitate implementation of the resolution are focused on developing practical activities, as well as on strengthening the OSCE’s expertise in and capacity for promoting full implementation of UNSCR 1540, as part of joint international-community efforts. Now concretely in the area of practical activities, the OSCE Secretariat has assisted more than a dozen of its participating States in developing national action plans on UNSCR 1540. This voluntary yet practical tool maps out countries’ priorities and leads toward comprehensive national implementation of the resolution.

And one of the main objectives of this assistance to the interested OSCE participating states is to ensure synergies with other relevant actors, like UNODA and the European Union, under the overarching lead of the 1540 Committee and its Group of Experts.

UNODA has been a strong partner of the OSCE in carrying out invaluable assistance to our participating states. The OSCE has concluded a memorandum of understanding with UNODA, and our joint partnership on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction has proven to be a great practical advocate for cooperation with regional organizations, as encouraged under UN Security Council resolution 1977.

The EU Centers of Excellence closely mirror this type of activity. Through our practical activities, we are now strengthening the cooperation between OSCE activities on UNSCR 1540 and the EU CBRN Centers of Excellence Initiative, jointly implemented by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center and the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. We will all benefit from our cooperation. Not only will countries make the desired progress, but, most importantly, our participating states will benefit from effective and holistic assistance in countering WMD/CBRN threats.

I believe we should look at what it really means to draw on regional approaches. What I think stands out is that we all support cooperation and collaboration, but securing resources to empower staffing and programmatic activity is something very difficult to agree upon, on a sustained basis, within any organization.

International, regional, and subregional organizations have an important role in UN endeavors to deal with global threats to peace and security, including those involving proliferation of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons for terrorist purposes. In the context of a division-of-labor strategy, functional intergovernmental organizations (the International Atomic Energy Agency, for example) can provide guidelines, standards, and technical assistance programs that states can implement in accordance with their national circumstances. Regional and subregional organizations play a politically supportive role by bringing to the attention of their member states the urgency of implementing counterterrorist resolutions such as UNSCR 1540.

Chapter VIII of the UN Charter outlines the role of regional organizations in international peace and security. Such organizations enjoy the support of their members, with whom they may have closer ties than with global institutions. They are also aware of problems besetting states in their regions and with specifics about the political and economic situations there.

Last, as someone who has placed a foot in both the nonproliferation community and now the broader counterterrorism community, it is clear to me that when cooperating with regional and subregional organizations, we must consider the priorities of development, economics, and security in an integrated or holistic way. Measures to fulfill aspects of resolution 1540 can complement efforts to deal with other development issues, including post-conflict reconstruction, and with regional security risks and threats, such as drugs and crime or illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons. As an example, strengthening border and customs controls and measures against money laundering contributes to development and security goals, as well as to implementation of resolution 1540.

Our efforts are driven by the conviction that regional and subregional organizations are instrumental as force multipliers and as delivery mechanisms for counterterrorism and nonproliferation assistance.

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