Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship 2021 presentation at the OSCE Permanent Council, 16 July 2020 by Robert Rydberg, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs


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Mr. Secretary General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,  

Allow me at the outset to congratulate Albania midterm for a job very well done under truly challenging circumstances. My thanks go to Foreign Minister Edi Rama and the team in Tirana, as well as to the Chairman of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Igli Hasani and his team in Vienna for their unwavering efforts to keep the work going despite the covid-19-pandemic.

We are indeed living through one of the most difficult times in recent history. I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost family members, friends and loved ones during these past few months.


Thank you for the opportunity to present the priorities of the Swedish 2021 Chairpersonship. Allow me also to present the Head of our Stockholm Task Force, Ambassador Petra Lärke, who will work in close coordination with our Vienna OSCE Ambassador, Ulrika Funered, whom you of course all know.

Foreign Minister Ann Linde will take on the role of Chairperson next year in a situation very different from when Sweden last held it, back in 1993. The Organization is facing major challenges. Our primary focus will have to be to go back to basics. Emphasis will be on the fundamental tasks of the OSCE: to defend the European security order and to uphold the OSCE comprehensive concept of security.

The European security order – territorial integrity, to refrain from the threat or use of force and to uphold the right of each country to choose its own foreign and security arrangement – this is a core security policy interest for my own country. It is in the interest of the whole OSCE region. Our common commitment to these principles dates to the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and the Paris Charter of 1990. It’s high time that we all live up to these commitments. Violations of international law and lack of accountability can never be accepted.  

The OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security is unique and must be upheld by us, the participating States and the OSCE at large, every day and in every undertaking. Political and economic security, human rights, democracy and equality are interrelated and interconnected. The organization’s autonomous institutions play a key role in this regard.

To contribute to resolving conflicts in the OSCE region will be at the top of our agenda. In doing so our focus will again be the European security order and the comprehensive concept of security. To ensure a safe and stable region we will work closely with the OSCE field missions. These bodies and structures are central instruments that make the OSCE the truly unique security organization that it is.

The most blatant and recent challenge to the European security order is the one often referred to in Vienna as “the crisis in and around Ukraine”, or perhaps rather, as described during Annual Security Review Conference in June, “developments with respect to Ukraine”. As chair we will continue to build on the dedicated efforts of our predecessors in finding a sustainable political solution to the conflict in line with OSCE principles and commitments. This must be in full respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, i.e. including Crimea and Sevastopol. To this end, we recognize the vital importance of the Special Monitoring Mission, the Trilateral Contact Group and the close cooperation with the Normandy format. The SMM needs to be able to conduct its mandate without restrictions throughout Ukraine.

In the same way, we will support the efforts to bring the conflict in Georgia, as well as the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Transdniestrian settlement process closer to their resolution. This will remain a top priority for the OSCE, as these conflicts pose grave risks to our common security.

It is with great concern that we note the increased violence and the loss of life on the border between Armenia and Azerbajdzjan. We support the Minsk co-chairs and Personal Representative Ambassador Kasprzyk in their efforts to de-escalate the situation.


In the OSCE’s first dimension we want to work closely with the Forum for Security Cooperation chairs and build on the Albanian legacy to further the agenda for Women, peace and security and UN Security Council resolution 1325. The inclusion and meaningful participation of women is vital for the successful prevention and mitigation of conflicts, as well as to consolidate peace when hostilities have ended.

Sweden will seek to support efforts in the FSC to ensure that confidence- and security-building measures remain relevant, also in the current situation when they are being challenged. In the same way that the OSCE can only be effective when everyone acts in good faith in accordance with the security order, CSBMs will only function as intended when parties to the treaties comply with their letter and spirit.

The CSBMs also need to be adapted to changing circumstances. As chair we will continue to support discussions on the proposal for a modernisation of the Vienna Document with the goal of increasing transparency and strengthening confidence between states on military matters. We see the Structured dialogue as an important platform to contribute to these discussions.

Furthermore, the Code of Conduct on Political-Military aspects of security will guide our efforts to highlight the importance of ensuring democratic control over armed forces, as well as the women, peace and security agenda.

Next year, 10 years will have passed since the decision in Vilnius on “the elements of the conflict cycle”. This will provide an opportunity to revisit the existing tools to prevent and resolve conflicts.

Threats to our security are of course not only military by nature nor necessarily always directly linked to conflicts between states. Sweden will give due priority to the work of the Security Committee on transnational threats and activities that are linked to the financing of illicit activities and cyber threats.

The second dimension remains a key component of the OSCE comprehensive concept of security.

Gender equal societies are more secure with better prospects for sustainable, resilient and prosperous development for all. Women are disproportionally exposed to the economic vulnerabilities. Women often lack access to social protection and the security that follows from equal participation in economic life. Sweden will take on the work in the second dimension with this as one important priority. We will focus on women’s economic participation, building on the decision that was taken in Vilnius 2011.

Corruption is a menace to all our societies. It threatens development, democracy and security. Sweden will continue the work of previous Chairs to fight corruption and strengthen good governance.

As we will eventually emerge from the covid-19-pandemic we also need to ensure that the recovery is made with sustainable growth and development in mind.

Protracted crises, violent conflicts, natural disasters, persistent poverty, epidemics and economic downturns impose hardships and undercut prospects for peace, stability, and sustainable development. We see more than one example around the globe where lack of agreement on the use of resources have triggered interstate or regional tensions. In the OSCE region, the impact of generations of left-over hazardous goods and pollution have left vast areas with long-lasting environmental threats. As chair, we will continue the OSCE’s active role in such situations, in order to prevent and counter environmental security challenges.

Across the world and in our region, we see democratic values, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the rule of law being challenged and eroded. It is in the third dimension that the OSCE’s comprehensive concept of security is at its most powerful. The saying that internal repression leads to external aggression may be old, but it holds true. As declared in 1991 “the commitments we have undertaken in 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”.

As cornerstones of the OSCE comprehensive concept of security, the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media will be key priorities in the human dimension during 2021.

30 years ago, what would later become the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights was created. Much has been achieved since then. However, in the wake of the pandemic we have also seen the risk of a democratic backsliding in participating States. It is of utmost importance that restrictions on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms imposed in order to tackle the current health crisis be necessary, proportional and kept in place only for as long as they are required.

During 2021 we will put emphasis also on democratic processes, civic space and participation as keys to preserve and promote human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy.

All our work, but most particularly so in the human dimension, will be carried out complementary to, and in support of, the important work carried out by the autonomous institutions, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Representative on Freedom of the Media and the High Commissioner on National Minorities.

They belong to the bedrock of this organization. Their work is vital in assisting participating States to uphold OSCE commitments and principles, and to prevent conflicts through supporting democracy and free media and protecting national minorities. I trust that all participating States will now demonstrate willingness to cooperate in order to find a solution so that a new Secretary General and new heads of the institutions can be appointed in December and the organization can resume its full functionality.

Already this autumn, Sweden will, as incoming chair, organise a Mediterranean Conference in Vienna. We will, likewise, as is the procedure, start working for the timely adoption of the next Unified Budget.


The Chairpersonship is not only about what we do, but how we do it. Sweden will endeavour to work as inclusively and as resource-efficiently as possible. We want to see an active participation of civil society. We will work hard for more gender equality, both in policy and in practise. We will strive to be accessible, cost-efficient and lean. This is also a question of democracy and legitimacy – chairing the Organization must be an attainable goal for all 57 participating States.

In an era where our security is challenged through increasingly complex threats, it is through dialogue, inclusion and respect for agreed principles that we have a chance to make a real difference. The OSCE can make a difference. We will try to do our part. And we will count on the support of all of you.