Jonas Mikkelsen

The Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC) and the Neuberger-Jesin Professor of International Conflict Resolution, in partnership with the Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS) and the International Law Group at the Faculty of Law, are pleased to invite you to this event:

The war in Ukraine & the OSCE: Changing orders in pan-European security

This event is linked with the project Changing Orders: Shaping the Future and Securing Rights in a World in Transformationexternal link, which was supported by the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue: “Smart Changes for a Better World” Public Policy Research Agenda.


From the Helsinki Final Act to the breakdown of consensus and relevance: The OSCE as a realist ending to a liberal internationalist construct. What are the implications and lessons?

The CSCE was turned into the OSCE on the cusp of the ‘end of history’ in 1994. Turning a conference into an organization meant turning a Cold War construction into concrete and practical political commitments, making liberal democracy the foundation of a comprehensive approach to security. As the enthusiasm for liberal democracy has waned across the OSCE (and been plainly discarded by some), the possibility for states to agree on more consensus-based commitments has dramatically diminished. Its consensus-based governance model reaped its benefits during the euphoria following the end of the Cold War. However, it has now locked the organization in a governance game of diminishing returns as a consensus between states has fallen apart with increasingly fragmented state interests. For all states, there seems to be a pivot when international organizations of declining relevance no longer are useful. The War in Ukraine has underlined this shift of the OSCE from a liberal international institutionalist to a realist-driven tool for states. The ‘west’ (or the states west of Vienna) are now willing to bypass the consensus-based governance to achieve (neo)realist aims in using the organization as a direct tool supporting the Ukrainian effort.

The recent Ministerial Meeting in Skopje, North Macedonia, 30 November – 1 December 2023, started with the dramatic walkout of the Foreign Ministers from Ukraine, Poland and the three Baltic states in anticipation of the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s arrival, but nevertheless produced a Chair for 2024, Malta, and an additional nine months of tenure for the top OSCE leadership, the OSCE Secretary General, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM), the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RfoM), the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). The OSCE will continue to limp on in 2024, even if there still has not been any consensus on the budget since 2021. The essential question becomes whether the OSCE, to any degree, can implement its mandate with its current predicaments.

The lecture will, in conclusion, outline some possible scenarios for the OSCE in the near to medium term, given potential geo-political developments.

About our speaker

Jonas Mikkelsen has worked in international organizations since 2005 in the areas of Rule of Law, Democracy Assistance and Human Rights. He started his career with the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in Rome, and his latest appointment was as Second Deputy Director at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of London, an MSc in Statistics and Economics from the University of Rome ‘Sapienza’, a Postgraduate Diploma in Business and Administration from the University of Manchester, as well as a BA in History and a BSc in Economics from the University of Copenhagen.

Jonas Mikkelsen