Where it all began...
40 years ago, in 1975, a pioneering agreement known as the Helsinki Final Act was signed in an effort to erase the dividing lines between East and West. The significance of the Helsinki Final Act lay in its articulation of a security concept that was as innovative as it was comprehensive: in an era in which security was almost exclusively defined in relation to the external security of states, inter-state relations and military threats, the agreement bound politico-military security to two additional dimensions: the economic-environmental and the human. This was an unprecedented departure given that, amidst sustained militarized hostility between competing blocs, human rights and fundamental freedoms had not hitherto been addressed as genuine security issues.
A milestone anniversary
August 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act. In December 2013, the OSCE Ministerial Council adopted a Declaration on Furthering the Helsinki +40 Process, which encouraged the forthcoming Chairmanships to seek further contributions to the process by the OSCE executive structures and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
The Role of the Parliamentary Assembly
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly occupies a unique position within the Organization, as it provides a vital link between the governmental side of the OSCE and the people in the OSCE area. As a forum for parliamentarians directly elected by the people and enjoying high democratic legitimacy and visibility, the Parliamentary Assembly accepted a unique responsibility to foster public debate and build support for the Helsinki +40 Process. The Istanbul Declaration, adopted at the Assembly’s 22nd Annual Session (2013), called on the acting OSCE Chairmanship, in co-operation with the subsequent two chairmanships, to clarify the goals and purpose of the Helsinki +40 process. It also underlined the need to inform the public about the process, to increase both interest and transparency.
The OSCE of tomorrow
The objective of the project was to take stock of where the Organization currently stands, exploring possible new tools and methods of moving forward with a particular focus on the role of parliamentary diplomacy in general, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in particular.
In September 2013, the OSCE PA International Secretariat partnered with several prominent think-tanks to evaluate the OSCE’s past, present and future. After several months of planning, the project was launched in January 2014.
- The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) hosted the first leg of the OSCE PA Helsinki +40 Project in Moscow on 25-26 September 2014.
- The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) hosted the second leg of the Project in Washington on 18-19 November 2014.
- The Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) hosted the third leg of the Project in Stockholm on 11 March 2015.
- The Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) hosted the fourth leg of the Project in Copenhagen on 27 April 2015.
- The Belgrade Fund for Political Exellence (BFPE) hosted the fifth leg of the Project in Serbia on 27-28 May 2015.
Discussion of the outcomes of the Helsinki +40 Project took place on 5 July, in co-operation with The Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA). The Final Report was presented during the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's 24th Annual Session in Helsinki on 6 July and at the Informal High-Level Meeting in Helsinki.
Through the engagement of distinguished experts, politicians and diplomats who have been involved in CSCE/OSCE activities, the project initiated discussions on the OSCE’s Helsinki +40 process, providing important food-for-thought materials and recommendations for the OSCE participating States and the Organization as a whole.