Re: RFE/RL OSCE: Countries Supervised And Not (and comment)


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From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 10:35:42 +0300 (EET DST)
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Subject: Re: RFE/RL OSCE: Countries Supervised And Not (and comment)

From: MINELRES moderator <minelres@mailbox.riga.lv>

Original sender: Cathy Cosman <Cathy@NED.ORG>

Re: RFE/RL OSCE: Countries Supervised And Not (and comment)


Paul Goble has raised some very serious problems in regard to the work
of the OSCE.  Many of the issues Paul raised in his usual
thought-provoking fashion - l also consider very important, although
from another perspective based primarily on my work in the OSCE
Mission in Estonia in 1997-1998. First of all, I think it is important
not to equate the role of OSCE Missions and the work of the OSCE High
Commissioner for National Minorities.
 
While I agree with your basic point that intelligent international
pressure is essential for progress in certain areas, I also think that
the how such pressure is exercised - or, indeed, if pressure is the
main tactic needed to produce change - is another key point.  When I
served on the OSCE Mission in Estonia, I observed that the primary -
certainly not the sole - effort of the Mission was to act on a view of
the Russian minority as a population whose rights had be defended from
the outside, rather than trying to help in the creation of domestic
mechanisms and structures through which Estonians and Russians could
settle their own differences as they saw fit in the long run.  Perhaps
the Mission view of the status of the Russian minority was correct in
the early days of the re-established Estonian Republic, but by the
time I got to Estonia that was no longer so much the case.
 
Indeed, if one looks at the OSCE Mission mandate for Estonia, it
emphasizes the need for the Mission to cooperate with the local NGO
community, including trade unions, both among local Russians and
Estonians.  To my mind, the NGO community in Estonia has been quite
weak, at least as far as the advocacy of the rights of not only ethnic
minorities but also socially disadvantaged groups - which of course
include Estonians (street children, people who live on former Soviet
military bases) as well.  Therefore, while I had the opportunity to
work on the Mission, I tried to encourage the Mission to work in the
direction of serving as a forum through which Estonians and the ethnic
minorities could discuss difficult issues, as well as organizing
educational opportunities for NGOs in Russian-minority parts of
Tallinn and in Narva.
 
Indeed, one of the most difficult, and largely unaddressed problems in
Estonia and throughout the Baltics and the former Soviet Union, has
been the systematic destruction of the concept and practice of real
communities with their own needs and interests.  Perhaps it is
partially as a result of this that the national governments in these
countries display such disdain and lack of interest in - let alone
sense of responsibility towards - their constituencies and
constituents: the people of the countries which voted them into
office.  For me, one of the most urgent needs in Estonia - and again
this holds true in the entire vast cultural and land area too long
dominated by Soviet power - is the chasm between government and the
governed.  While there are many negative results which flow from this,
I will take one example. Capital cities - and national governments -
hog the preponderance of resources coming into the country and, as a
rule, do not pay enough serious attention to the needs of the rest of
the populace.
 
In the presence of well-developed local organizations and media,
advocacy and effective communication  with national governments help
overcome this isolated centralized tendency - which of course exists
in many countries in the world - but this is hardly the case in the
NIS or the Baltics.  Therefore, the OSCE can and should play a much
more active role in helping various segments of society, including
national minorities and majorities, communicate more effectively about
important and often painful subjects.  In this way, the OSCE would
play an effective and much-needed role in assisting countries to forge
their own national concensus - based on grassroots concerns - as they
move forward into the next century and other European and world
organizations.
 
Cathy Cosman

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