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Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Briefing

Tomorrow (8 March), Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, the current OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, will provide the annual briefing to the Security Council on the activities of the Organisation. He will most likely outline Italy’s priorities in its capacity as chair this year. Among other issues, these include fighting transnational threats to peace and security, combating racism and xenophobia, and promoting the rights of women. Member states are expected to make statements following Alfano’s briefing. No formal outcome from the meeting is anticipated.

A key aspect of the briefing (and a number of the ensuing statements) will most likely be addressing transnational threats to the peace and security of the 57 states in the OSCE area. These include issues such as counter-terrorism, drug and human trafficking, transnational organised crime, corruption, cyber-security, and migration. Alfano may emphasise what the OSCE is doing to address these transnational threats, through partnerships among OSCE member states, with states in neighboring regions, and with entities such as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. When Italy was Security Council president in November 2017, it focused on many of these transnational threats in the context of the Mediterranean region, holding meetings on the root causes of the security challenges in the Mediterranean (S/PV.8106), refugees and trafficking of persons (S/PV.8083), and the destruction and trafficking of cultural heritage by terrorist groups in situations of armed conflict (S/PV.8119).

Given that conflict prevention and crisis management represent the main issues of concern for the organisation, the conflict in Ukraine is expected to be a prominent issue in the meeting. Alfano and several members may emphasise the important role of the OSCE in addressing this conflict. Since fighting erupted in Ukraine in 2014, the OSCE has emerged as the leading organisation on the ground tasked with monitoring certain aspects of the implementation of the Minsk agreements, endorsed by the Council in resolution 2202. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) gathers information related to ceasefire violations and the withdrawal of heavy weapons on a daily basis.

There are likely to be tensions regarding references to Ukraine, which has been one of the most divisive issues in the Council in recent years, including between Russia and the P3 (France, the UK and the US), although there has been less focus on this issue in the Council in recent months. During Ukraine’s Council tenure in 2016-2017, Ukraine and Russia often exchanged accusations that the other side was violating the Minsk agreements.

Members may further emphasise the importance of resolving long-standing disputes in Nagorno-Karabakh, Georgia, and Transdniestria. These conflicts are not on the Council’s agenda, and are seldom discussed in the Council.

There will most likely be references to the importance of women’s empowerment and participation in promoting peace and security in the OSCE region, especially given that the meeting is being held on International Women’s Day. In this context, Alfano and some member states may emphasise the importance of the OSCE Gender Action Plan, which seeks to promote gender equality and the rights of women in OSCE states. Additionally, there may be references to the elements of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development relevant to the empowerment and equality of women and girls and the protection of their human rights.

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