Ambassador Knut Vollebaek, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities
The fundamental changes after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the break-up of Yugoslavia required new approaches to international security, including the ability to prevent possible inter-ethnic tensions within and between states from developing into conflict. For almost two decades, the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) has been active in conflict prevention based on the mandate established by OSCE participating states to provide early warning and early action in situations of tension involving national minority issues, if in the judgment of the High Commissioner these have the potential of developing into conflict, affecting pace, stability and relations between participating states. Such intervention can only be judicious and effective if it is based on the collection of reliable information on the ground, adequate analysis of the conflict potential and risk, and engagement with all relevant parties in a non-public manner. This is the framework for the HCNM approach, which involves both short-term and long-term perspectives on the prevention of conflict.
The High Commissioner issued an early warning on Kyrgyzstan last June, but has been most active in the early action part of the mandate, including through the promotion of respect for minority rights and finding a sustainable balance between legitimate interests of the majority and minorities. Examples of HCNM involvement in the Caucasus include the region Samskhe-Javakheti in Georgia, where Armenians, a national minority in the state, are a local majority and where the proficiency in Georgian and contacts with the central authorities in Tbilisi were weak. In the Balkans, the High Commissioner continues working with the situations with actual or potential ethnic tensions. In these cases and others, HCNM has given expert advice on legislation and policies and has supported projects that promote the integration of society and are targeted at addressing root causes of potential conflict.
The event took place in the 4th floor conference room.