"The Future of the OSCE" was the focus of a two‑day conference hosted by the German 2016 OSCE Chairmanship in the Federal Foreign Office on 6 and 7 April in cooperation with the ZEIT‑Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius. The almost 60 participants from more than 25 OSCE participating States were welcomed in person by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The aim of the conference was to gather proposals from young decision-makers from politics, administration, business and the media on how to react to the many different challenges to security and cooperation in the OSCE area and how to increase the OSCE’s ability to act. Discussions on the proposals are to continue in the coming months, after which the proposals will be collated and presented to the German OSCE Chairmanship at a second conference in Vienna in October 2016. The focus in the first conference was thus on potential cooperative responses to challenges such as regional conflicts, extremism or cyber security.
Giving the younger generation’s voice more weight
In his opening speech, Gernot Erler, Special Representative of the Federal Government for the OSCE Chairmanship, underscored that the future of security and cooperation in Europe and thus also the question of the future role and form of the OSCE lay in the hands of the younger generation. Thus, the German OSCE Chairmanship wanted to give their voice more weight in the debates concerning the organisation.
The fundamental principle behind the OSCE and its predecessor, the Conference on Security and Co‑operation in Europe (CSCE), to build confidence and security by promoting exchange and dialogue also amongst civil society is more topical than ever. "If this conference manages to create new understanding, new ideas, new and perhaps also lasting contacts and links between the members of this generation," as Erler said, it would already have achieved its aim. But, for Erler, the huge spectrum of current challenges means we need to have a re‑think and devise new approaches on how to further develop the OSCE instruments on the basis of the Helsinki principles.