OSCE Peace Operations: Soft Security in Hard Environments

Monitors of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine conduct a foot patrol in Pavlopil, December 8, 2015. (OSCE/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Although the OSCE has a mandate for peacekeeping, it has not undertaken peacekeeping operations per se. Nonetheless, it has carried out a diverse and extensive range of activities that fall within what have been described as “peace operations.” These have included verification, monitoring, and observation missions, particularly the Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) in Ukraine. Taking into account lessons from the OSCE’s engagement in Ukraine, geopolitical shifts in the OSCE area, and debates within the UN on more effective conflict prevention and an enhanced role for regional arrangements, what are the future prospects for OSCE peace operations?

In addressing this question, this report argues that the OSCE has proven it is well-positioned and well-qualified, though not fully equipped, to deploy peace operations. To improve the effectiveness of peace operations, the report makes a number of recommendations:

  • Link the political and the operational. Ideally, the OSCE should be involved in any political process that leads to the deployment of peace operations.
  • “Lighten” the operational presence. The OSCE could open smaller or regional offices while keeping the option of “boots on the ground” on the table.
  • Focus on prevention and analysis. The OSCE should consider preventive deployment and build its analytical capacity for prevention and early warning.
  • Employ strategic communications and technology. OSCE peace operations should consider public information as public policy and more widely adopt new technologies.
  • Reconsider the composition of peace operations. When appropriate, participating states should consider integrating military units and skills into civilian-led missions.
  • Take an integrated approach toward sustaining peace. Other OSCE structures can complement peace operations as part of a broader approach to sustaining peace.