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The need for dialogue on common security challenges in Europe

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] W [/yt_dropcap]hat has brought about the most important developments in military doctrines and security and defence policies in recent years? Is it possible to have a constructive dialogue on this topic?

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) under its previous (German) and current (Austrian) chairs is making valiant efforts to make this happen. A recent example was an event hosted by the Austrian National Defence Academy in Vienna on 3-5 May 2017, which was attended by more than 150 military and civilian experts.

I moderated the third session at that event, which dealt with the drivers of military doctrines and included presentations by senior military experts from the Netherlands, Russia and the USA. Here are my reflections on the session.

Common security challenges

The organizers asked the participants whether there are risks affecting all 57 OSCE participating states, for instance from cyber attacks or terrorism, that could constitute an area for a common approach from the whole of the OSCE region. My perhaps most important note from the discussion is the observation that it is very difficult, at present, for this question to be properly addressed.

Instead doctrines are discussed using an ‘action–reaction’ paradigm. Kosovo, Georgia and Ukraine came back into the debate time and again. This is, of course, both natural and problematic if one wants to promote dialogue. However, a mere focus on actions and reactions can only with great difficulty lead to the structured dialogue sought by the OSCE.

To go from simply focusing on actions and reactions to discussing challenges common to all will be difficult and certainly requires time. The discussion illustrated that this is true even if such challenges seem very obvious and have led to key developments in security and defence white papers around the globe. Some cases in point include nonstate actors, globalization, megatrends and the enormous differentiation of the security discourse itself after the energy crisis in 1973 and the end of the cold war.

Recent history tells us a lot about such difficulties but demonstrates at the same time that progress is possible. In my introduction to the session, I used the example of the Stockholm Conference on Security- and Confidence-building Measures and Disarmament 1984-86.

During this negotiation, it took 18 months for participating states to reach an agreement on the format for negotiations. The potential for progress was certainly not self-evident in the autumn of 1983 when crises in Europe and the world had led to extremely hostile and frosty exchanges between foreign ministers at the Madrid follow-up meeting of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). Almost all negotiations were down, even bilateral formats between the superpowers on crucial nuclear and other issues. There was little hope of improvement and many thought dialogue to be useless.

The technical capabilities to verify compliance with commitments were also very limited (an important seminar in Stockholm in 1985 hosted by the Swedish Defence Research Institute FOA—now FOI—illustrated this point). But once initial agreements had been reached in 1986, military exercises took place, which led to unprecedented possibilities for people-to-people contact and dialogue. For the first time, officers travelled between East and West Germany, and between the Eastern and Western parts of Europe. The rest is indeed history: there was an end to the cold war, bringing new hope to Europe and the world.

We are now again in a period where people often end discussions about security policy agreeing to disagree or even agreeing that no substantial dialogue seems to be possible.

Still, this would not be true if only more focus on common challenges could be made possible.

Dialogue after war

If we look back at European history from the early 1700s, we find that the continent very often has been at war. The political will to pursue dialogue has typically been mobilized after the end of wars.

The most significant mobilization of such political will took place after World War II with its enormous human toll. This political will led to the creation of the United Nations and then later to a number of regional cooperative structures including the CSCE, which later turned into the OSCE.

The decisive argument for progress in 1983-84 was that there may be no opportunity to mobilize such an effort after a war, particularly if nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have been used. This argument is still true today. This puts a heavy responsibility on all to find ways to develop formats for dialogue and cooperation that also address new and common challenges.

Then, as now, regional organizations such as the CSCE/OSCE were crucial. This is why the current leadership of the OSCE should be supported in its efforts both to maintain dialogue opportunities that already exist and broaden the scope to create new ones.

Encouraging dialogue on common security threats

It does seem vital to seek also to focus on those developments that constitute common challenges to OSCE-participating states, be it nonstate actors and terrorism, organized crime, or megatrends regarding technological developments including cyber, demography and climate change.

The combination of these developments initiated by humans is increasingly affecting the stability of states inside and outside Europe. This, in turn, makes it even more challenging to uphold respect for the OSCE commitments reaffirmed by all participating states as recently as 2010 during the summit of Astana.

Compliance is no longer totally controlled by states. And states are no longer only threatened by other states but also by actors not sitting around the table in Vienna. This has led countries and international organizations to adopt ever more comprehensive approaches to security. Even inside military doctrines there are references to spheres of activity, which employ non-military capabilities, for, instance in the area of information.

So what could help in this situation? One contribution of value could be to develop datasets that underpin the development of additional parameters in future negotiations representing this partially new security landscape. In so doing, we should try to benefit from today’s much improved potential for verification compared with the situation 30 years ago, which set the stage for the current agreements on arms controls.

I mentioned the efforts of SIPRI and others to contribute to this end by developing an empirical research agenda extending well beyond arms-related datasets. The organizers towards the end of the seminar welcomed this. But major powers need to renew their efforts to identify a common basis for dialogue.

First published at SIPRI.org

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Time to Tackle the Stigma Behind Wartime Rape

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Images: UN Women Kosovo

The youngest capital city in Europe, Pristina, is the ultimate hybrid of old and new: Ottoman-era architecture stands amongst communist paraphernalia, while Kosovars who lived through the bloodshed of the 20th century share family dinners with a generation of young people with their sights set on EU accession.

This month, the capital’s Kosovo Museum welcomed a new force for change; Colours of Our Soul, an exhibition of artwork from women who survived the sexual violence of the Yugoslav Wars, showcases the world as these women “wished it to be.”

Colours of Our Soul isn’t the first art installation to shine a light on the brutal sexual violence thousands of Kosovar victims suffered throughout the turmoil of the conflict which raged from 1988 to 1999. In 2015, Kosovo-born conceptual artist Alketa Xhafa-Mripa transformed a local football pitch into a giant installation, draping 5,000 dresses over washing lines to commemorate survivors of sexual violence whose voices otherwise tend to go unheard. “I started questioning the silence, how we could not hear their voices during and after the war and thought about how to portray the women in contemporary art,” said Xhafa-Mripa at the time.

Victims, and their children, pressed into silence

The silence Xhafa-Mripa speaks of is the very real social stigma faced by survivors of sexual violence in the wake of brutal conflict. “I would go to communities, but everyone would say, ‘Nobody was raped here – why are you talking about it?’”, remarked Feride Rushiti, founder of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims (KRCT).

Today, KRCT has more than 400 clients— barely a scratch on the surface given that rape was used in Kosovo as an “instrument of war” as recently as two decades ago. Some 20,000 women and girls are thought to have been assaulted during the bloody conflict; the fact that the artists whose work is featured in the Colours of our Soul exhibition did not sign their work or openly attend the installation’s grand opening is a sign of how pervasive the stigma is which haunts Kosovar society to this day.

As acute as this stigma is for the women who were assaulted, it is far worse for the children born from rape, who have thus far been excluded from reparation measures and instead dismissed as “the enemy’s children.” In 2014, the Kosovar parliament passed a law recognising the victim status of survivors, entitling them to a pension of up to 220 euros per month. Their children, however, many of whom were murdered or abandoned in the face of community pressure, are barely acknowledged in Kosovar society and have become a generation of young adults who have inherited the bulk of their country’s dark burden.

A global problem

It’s a brutal stigma which affects children born of wartime rape all over the world. The Lai Dai Han, born to Vietnamese mothers raped by South Korean soldiers, have struggled for years to find acceptance in the face of a society that views them as dirty reminders of a war it would rather forget. The South Korean government has yet to heed any calls for formal recognition of sexual violence at the hands of Korean troops, let alone issue a public— and long-awaited— apology to the Lai Dai Han or their mothers.

In many cases, as in the case of Bangladesh’s struggle for independence, the very existence of children born from rape has often been used as a brutal weapon by government forces and militants alike. Official estimates indicate that a mammoth 200,000 to 400,000 women were raped by the Pakistani military and the supporting Bihari, Bengali Razakar and al-Badr militias in the early 1970s. The children fathered, at gunpoint, by Pakistani men were intended to help eliminate Bengali nationhood.

Their surviving mothers are now known as “Birangana”, or “brave female soldier,” though the accolade means little in the face of a lifetime of ostracization and alienation. “I was married when the soldiers took me to their tents to rape me for several days and would drop me back home. This happened several times,” one so-called Birangana explained, “So, my husband left me with my son and we just managed to exist.”

No end in sight

Unfortunately, this barbaric tactic of rape and forced impregnation is one that is still being used in genocides to this day. The subjugation of the Rohingya people, for example, which culminated in a murderous crackdown last year by Myanmar’s military, means an estimated 48,000 women will give birth in refugee camps this year alone. Barring a major societal shift, the children they bear will suffer ostracization similar to that seen in Kosovo, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Initiatives like the Colours of Our Soul installation in Pristina are not only central in helping wartime rape survivors to heal, but also play a vital role in cutting through the destructive stigma for violated women and their children. Even so, if the number of women who submitted their paintings anonymously is anything to go by, true rehabilitation is a long way ahead.

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EU–South Africa Summit: Strengthening the strategic partnership

MD Staff

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At the 7th European Union–South Africa Summit held in Brussels Leaders agreed on a number of steps to reinforce bilateral and regional relations, focusing on the implementation of the EU-South Africa Strategic Partnership. This includes economic and trade cooperation and pursuing the improvement of business climate and opportunities for investment and job creation which are of mutual interest.

Leaders also discussed common global challenges, such as climate change, migration, human rights, committing to pursue close cooperation both at bilateral level and on the global stage. A number of foreign and security policy issues, including building and consolidating peace, security and democracy in the African continent and at multilateral level were also raised. Leaders finally committed to work towards a prompt resolution of trade impediments affecting smooth trade flows.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, represented the European Union at the Summit. South Africa was represented by its President, Cyril Ramaphosa. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen and Commissioner for trade Cecilia Malmström also participated, alongside several Ministers from South Africa.

President Juncker said: “The European Union, for the South African nation, is a very important trade partner. We are convinced that as a result of today’s meeting we will find a common understanding on the open trade issues. South Africa and Africa are very important partners for the European Union when it comes to climate change, when it comes to multilateralism. It is in the interest of the two parties – South Africa and the European Union – to invest more. It will be done.” A Joint Summit Statement issued by the Leaders outlines amongst others commitment to:

Advance multilateralism and rules based governance

Leaders recommitted to work together to support multilateralism, democracy and the rules-based global order, in particular at the United Nations and global trade fora. South Africa’s upcoming term as an elected member of the United Nations Security Council in 2019-2020 was recognised as an opportunity to enhance cooperation on peace and security. As part of their commitment to stronger global governance, Leaders stressed their support to the process of UN reform, including efforts on the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council and the revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly. Leaders reiterated their determination to promote free, fair and inclusive trade and the rules-based multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core and serving the interest of all its Members.

Bilateral cooperation

Leaders agreed to step up collaboration in key areas such as climate change, natural resources, science and technology, research and innovation, employment, education and training including digital skills, health, energy, macro-economic policies, human rights and peace and security. The EU and South Africa will, amongst others, explore the opportunities provided by the External Investment Plan. Linked to this, Leaders committed to exploring opportunities for investment, technical assistance including project preparation, and the improvement of business and investment climates to promote sustainable development. Leaders welcomed the conclusion and provisional implementation in 2016 of the EU-Southern African Development Community (SADC) – Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Leaders also committed to find mutually acceptable solutions to impediments to trade in agriculture, agri-food and manufactured goods. They agreed to work towards a prompt resolution of these impediments.

Regional cooperation

Leaders welcomed the new Africa-Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs put forward by the European Commission. They exchanged views on foreign and security policy issues, addressed a number of pressing situations in the neighbourhoods of both the EU and South Africa, and welcomed each other’s contribution to fostering peace and security in their respective regions. Leaders agreed to explore opportunities to enhance cooperation on peace and security, conflict prevention and mediation.

Leaders confirmed common resolve to reform the future relationship between the EU and the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. To this end they are looking forward to the successful conclusion of negotiations for a post-Cotonou Partnership Agreement, that will contribute to attaining the goals of both the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the long-term vision for African continent – Agenda 2063.

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Macron so far has augmented French isolation

Mohammad Ghaderi

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French President Emmanuel Macron has recently criticized the unilateral pullout of the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) but at the same time expressed pleasure that Washington has allowed France and the other JCPOA signatories to stay in the Iran nuclear deal.

In an exclusive interview with the CNN, Macron said that he has “a very direct relationship” with Trump. “Trump is a person who has tried to fulfill his electoral promises, as I also try to fulfill my promises, and I respect the action that Trump made in this regard. But I think we can follow things better, due to our personal relationship and talks. For instance, Trump has decided to withdraw from the Iran pact, but at the end, he showed respect for the signatories’ decision to remain in the JCPOA.”

There are some key points in Macron’s remarks:

First, in 2017, the French were the first of the European signatories to try to change the JCPOA. They tried to force Iran to accept the following conditions: Inspection of military sites, application of the overtime limitation on nuclear activities, limiting regional activities, including missile capabilities within the framework of the JCPOA.

Macron had already made commitments to President Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to push Iran to accept the additional protocols to the deal, and he pushed to make it happen before Trump left the JCPOA.

Second, after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, although France expressed regret, they had secret negotiations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the JCPOA.

The result of the undisclosed talks was deliberate delay on the part of the European authorities in providing a final package to keep the Iran deal alive. In other words, after the US unilaterally left the JCPOA, the French have been sloppy and maybe somewhat insincere about making the practical moves to ensure it would be saved.

Third, France has emphasized the need to strengthen their multilateralism in the international system and has become one of the pieces of the puzzle that completes the strategic posture of the Trump Administration in the West Asia region.

Obviously, French double standards have irritated European politicians, many of whom have disagreed with the contradictory games of French authorities towards the US and issues of multilateralism in the international community. Also, France’s isolation and its strategic leverage in the political arena has grown since the days of Sarkozy and Hollande. Some analysts thought that Macron and fresh policies would stop this trend, but it has not occurred.

First published in our partner MNA

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