Remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)/Institute for New Democracies (IND) Roundtable
The Helsinki Final Act was based on respect for territorial integrity, self-determination, and peaceful relations among states. But equally, it brought to the forefront of international dialogue the revolutionary idea that true security also demands democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms for individuals within states.
Since 1975, this concept of comprehensive security has been a rallying cry for generations of reformers who have claimed their rights and left their mark on our history. And in this globalized, interconnected world, comprehensive security also means that insecurity anywhere in the OSCE region is a challenge for all of us.
At the OSCE summit in Astana, our Central Asian partners pledged to redouble their efforts to implement our OSCE commitments particularly in the human dimension, but also in areas such as assisting Afghanistan and in improving commerce within and between Central Asian states and Afghanistan.
The Summit also provided an opportunity to reaffirm a core principle of the OSCE that of NGO access to and participation in OSCE meetings, and to hold unprecedented meetings of their own in Kazakhstan in which human rights and other concerns were aired. The Summit also provided an opportunity for Secretary Clinton to reach out to civil society representatives in Kazakhstan and across the Central Asian region and emphasize her global message that in the 21st century a vibrant civil society is essential to every nation’s success.
And the Secretary made it clear that her interest in civil society and democratic reform in the region will continue well beyond the Summit as an integral part of our engagement with the region. In the Astana Commemorative Declaration all of the participating States reaffirmed “categorically and irrevocably that the commitments undertaken in the field of the human dimension are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned.” They also acknowledged “that more must be done to ensure full respect for, and implementation of, these core principles and commitments that we have undertaken in the politico-military dimension, the economic and environmental dimension, and the human dimension, notably in the areas of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
That said, we recognize there remain serious differences in the way the Central Asian states and the U.S. view each other’s obligations to implement OSCE commitments. The Central Asian states often assert that they are ‘new democracies’ not yet ready to provide their citizens with the full panoply of rights available to citizens of western countries, a notion we reject. The United States will continue its dialogue with the Central Asian countries on implementation of their OSCE commitments and more broadly on human rights issues, as well. The OSCE offers a unique forum to engage directly on these matters.
As Secretary Clinton said in Astana, one of the defining characteristics of the OSCE is its recognition that true security demands not only security among states but democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms for individuals within states, and we are proud that the Astana Declaration reasserts the centrality of these fundamental principles.
The United States, of course, regrets that that we were not able to agree at this summit to an Action Plan delineating the OSCE’s future work. However, the United States could not accept at the first OSCE Summit in eleven years an action plan that failed to address adequately the most serious and enduring threats to our security, namely the unresolved conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and Nagorno-Karabakh. Since agreement was not possible, we and others concluded that the best way forward was to adopt the Astana Commemorative Declaration, a strong reaffirmation of OSCE principles and call for action moving forward.
Central Asia Post OSCE Summit
The United States has an important interest in promoting a stable, secure and prosperous Central Asia. In addition to our active participation in OSCE, we developed, in partnership with each of the countries of the region a structured, annual bilateral dialogue to identify key priorities and develop strategies and policies that our countries can use to advance each of our goals. Some of our regional and bilateral priorities include:
· Promote political liberalization and enhanced respect for fundamental human rights.
· Increase the capacity of states to govern effectively and serve the needs of their citizens.
· Foster development of competitive market economies and economic reform.
· Expanding economic cooperation and creating opportunities for U.S. companies including development of the region’s energy resources and other areas such as agriculture.
· Expanding cooperation with Central Asian states to support coalition efforts in Afghanistan including supply and transportation routes.
Central Asia plays a vital role in our Afghanistan strategy. Three of the five Central Asian states share 1,200 miles of border with Afghanistan. A stable future for Afghanistan depends on the continued assistance of its Central Asian neighbors-- just as a stable, prosperous future for the Central Asian states depends on bringing peace, stability and prosperity to Afghanistan.
While acknowledging the significant contributions of the Central Asians to Afghan stabilization efforts, we want to facilitate and encourage broader bilateral and regional support to include cooperation on border security, counter-narcotics, trade, and reconstruction.
We appreciate the assistance of all our partners along the Northern Distribution route, from Latvia to Afghanistan, for their cooperation and support of our efforts in Afghanistan. The Northern Distribution Network is an important route for getting supplies into Afghanistan for coalition forces. This year we focused on expanding the capacity of the Northern Distribution Network. We signed an enhanced transit agreement with Kazakhstan, and are also working with Uzbekistan on NDN enhancements. But our relations with Central Asia are by no means limited to cooperation on the NDN or on security issues – we have a broad agenda encompassing everything from counterterrorism and counternarcotics to democracy and human rights.
We seek a future in which the United States and the countries of Central Asia work together to foster peace, security, economic development and prosperity and advance the democratic values and human rights that unite free nations in trust and in respect. We seek a region in which relations prosper between neighbors, and among Russia and China and Afghanistan and all others in the region and of course with the United States.
We recognize that the pace of change is often slow and that our programs should focus on long-term, meaningful results. At the same time, we will hold the participating States of Central Asia to their commitments in all three dimensions of the OSCE, including the Human Dimension, and we will continue to reach out to encourage and protect civil society working for reforms and progress in the region. The Astana Summit planted the OSCE flag in Central Asia. It has invigorated our policy dialogue and engagement with the Central Asian countries as we strengthen our ties with these important countries and their people and thereby advance U.S. interests in this strategically important region.