A new report evaluates how international organizations that are active in Eurasia – including the Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Interpol – are fulfilling their commitments to promote human rights and political pluralism.
The report – titled Institutionally Blind? International Organisations and Human Rights Abuses in the Former Soviet Union – features 11 essays by regional experts who examine how specific international organizations have performed in the nearly quarter century since the collapse of communism. It voices alarm that authoritarian-minded leaderships in some Eurasian states, including Russia and Azerbaijan, have managed to largely neutralize the rights-promotion components of many European bodies. It also asserts that European Union policy has shifted away from “values promotion,” and now places more emphasis on economic opportunities and regional security.
“International institutions responsible for defending human rights in the former Soviet Union are under sustained attack not only from their dubious regimes but also from a number of Western politicians turning a blind eye to abuses. These human right watchdogs are being undermined, underfunded and underappreciated,” Adam Hug, the report’s editor, said in a written statement.
One institution under particular threat is the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the report states. Authoritarian-minded leaderships have long resented ODIHR’s election-monitoring efforts for bringing to light a wide variety of vote-rigging and other forms of improper activity. The report notes that OSCE watchdog entities, including ODIHR and the Representative on Freedom of Media, are being starved of funding, and calls for the OSCE’s decision-making process, which currently relies on consensus, to be overhauled.
“Human rights sympathetic participating States … should explore opportunities to introduce majority voting in the Permanent Council and other bodies to reduce political gridlock and work to improve the transparency of decision making,” urges the report, which was published February 9 by the Foreign Policy Centre, a London-based think-tank.
Another problem area that the report delves into is the operations of the Council of Europe. It takes the council to task for being soft on Azerbaijan and other flaws. “If the Council of Europe’s existence is to continue to be justified, the body must solve not only the problem of Azerbaijan’s non-compliance, but the broader problems within [the Parliamentary Assembly] PACE, rooting out corruption and taking action to hold both member states and individual PACE delegates accountable for their behavior,” expert Rebecca Vincent writes in her essay The Council of Europe and Azerbaijan: A Cautionary Tale.
Other essays in the report show how some institutions, including Interpol and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), are attempting to reform their operational methods to respond to concerns about rights abuses.
“In order to maintain their integrity going forwards, international institutions must not become blind to abuses taking place in the FSU or to efforts by those states and their Western sympathisers to close the eyes of these vital human rights watchdogs,” the report concludes.
To read the full report, click here: The Foreign Policy Centre’s report was produced in part through a grant received from the Open Society Foundations (OSF). EurasiaNet operates under OSF’s auspices.