13 June 2019
By Alan Farrell (MP, Ireland)
Our contemporary world is rife with divisions, characterised by uncertainty, and marked by conflicts. The increased mistrust between our countries and within our societies, the deterioration of international arms control mechanisms, and the rise of populism and nationalism are but a few of the symptoms of rising insecurity. They are huge challenges not only for international organisations, but also our democratic institutions and parliaments.
We must therefore look to strengthen our democracies and multilateral institutions to build open dialogue with one another in order to combat these multifaceted challenges. Through inter-parliamentary diplomacy and exchange of best practices we can do just that.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly provide a forum for advancing dialogue and rebuilding trust. Founded in the spirit of détente at the height of the Cold War in 1975, the OSCE has defined its priorities for 2019 as preventing, mediating and mitigating conflict, and providing for a safer future by promoting effective multilateralism. As rapporteur of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security, these are priorities that I hope to advance at our 28th Annual Session in Luxembourg on 4-8 July.
The report and draft resolution that I have tabled for the session, which will be debated and amended over several days of committee work, outline the security challenges facing the OSCE today and provide recommendations for parliamentarians and governments across the region.
We should learn from our successes – and failures – in mitigating existing conflicts and commit to preventing new ones. This includes pursuing a renewed effort to resolve the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has now claimed some 13,000 lives. Most urgently, military hostilities in Ukraine must cease and there needs to be an immediate withdrawal of heavy-calibre weaponry by both sides and an end to the use of landmines. Ultimately, there must be a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict based on full implementation of the Minsk Agreements.
Since the Ukraine crisis took hold more than five years ago, it has exacerbated geopolitical tensions. The recent collapse of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is the latest manifestation of these tensions, indicating a deep level of distrust between the United States and Russia. With the INF Treaty defunct and other arms control agreements under threat, we are witnessing a worrying return to arms races and zero-sum Cold War-style rhetoric.
In these times of heightened mistrust, the risks of playing political games with nuclear weapons should not be underestimated. Policies that utilize sabre-rattling and brinksmanship put the lives of our citizens in grave danger.
The uncertainty surrounding Brexit is also a challenge to security in the region. As a Member of Parliament from Ireland, I can attest to the power of multilateralism to help resolve deep-seated divisions and promote security. The membership of both Ireland and the United Kingdom in the European Union supported the integrity of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, which just over 21 years ago brought peace following decades of violent conflict.
But today, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and the possibility of a ‘hard’ border on the island of Ireland as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU could have significant implications in terms of unravelling the hard-won peace in Ireland, and this is particularly worrying. The Good Friday Agreement must be protected in order to ensure peace on the island is not undermined.
As parliamentarians, it is our duty to represent our constituents and provide for them a secure and prosperous future. However, the stark rise in mistrust in democratic institutions and in the media undermines this.
The basis for participation in organisations like the OSCE is mutual trust and a commitment to democracy and conflict resolution. When this trust becomes eroded, these institutions cease to function. We must therefore recommit to continued constructive dialogue and sustainable steps towards a secure and peaceful world. Credible, accountable and inclusive institutions are crucial to building and securing peace. This includes ensuring that women play a central role in peacebuilding, as there is a direct demonstrable correlation between women’s participation in peace processes and the longevity of the resulting agreements.
It is now more important than ever that we rebuild faith in representative democracies, our democratic institutions and multilateral organisations in order to resolve the many conflicts that face our region to secure lasting peace and a safer world. It is this spirit that I hope to see on display this summer at the OSCE PA’s Luxembourg Annual Session.
Alan Farrell is a Member of Parliament from Ireland and serves as rapporteur of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Political Affairs and Security. For his full report and draft resolution, please click here. Follow him on Twitter: @AlanFarrell