OSCE Principles in Practice: Testing Their Effect on Security Through the Work of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, 1993-2001

by Marianna Yamamoto

UMD Dissertation dated June 2007

This study extracted from official OSCE documents a set of basic principles designed to regulate the security relationships among the participating States, including their behavior toward their own populations. The study then assessed the practical effects on security of the implementation of the principles by tracing their detailed application to highly contentious situations in Ukraine, Estonia, and Macedonia by Max van der Stoel, the organization’s first High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM).

The study identified and articulated twenty Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) security principles that addressed international security through principles guiding the relations between participating States; security within States through principles guiding how governments would fulfill their responsibility to establish and maintain the conditions in which all members of the State could exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms; and the processes by which the States would apply the principles to specific circumstances, review and measure their implementation, and develop them further. The principles addressed State sovereignty; a comprehensive, cooperative, and common security concept; conflict prevention and the peaceful resolution of issues; the State’s responsibility to protect and promote the individual rights and freedoms of State members through the use of democracy, the rule of law, and the market economy; minority rights and responsibilities; the development of shared values; and processes.

From 1993 to 2001, the HCNM directly applied the OSCE principles in fourteen intervention cases. In the three cases analyzed, the implementation of the principles had a significant effect on security by reducing national and international tensions involving minority issues. This effect was seen within each State, between States, and in the region, and reduced the potential for conflict within and between OSCE States. The results were particularly significant in view of the instability, conflicts, and tensions of the post–Cold War period; the OSCE’s ongoing institutionalization; and the limited resources and tools available to the OSCE and HCNM.

The OSCE principles, the Helsinki process, and the HCNM’s methods merit further examination, development, and application to national security policy and practice.