On the sidelines
Since the start of the Helsinki process, the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE, later OSCE) has valued the participation of civil society. It is a specificity of the OSCE to organize NGO events prior to Summits.
In keeping with OSCE tradition, when the decision to hold a Summit was taken on 3 August this year, a conference to take stock of the States' implementation of OSCE commitments ahead of the Summit was swiftly organized. This Review Conference took place over two months, for 17 days, in three cities - Warsaw, Vienna and Astana. More than 500 NGOs came to present their views alongside participating States.
In addition to this formal process, side events were organized on the margins of the conference in all three cities. These were typically events on specific topics that allowed for discussion, debate and exchange of experience in a more informal setting. Around 40 such events were organized by NGOs, participating States or sections of the OSCE. In addition to this, Kazakhstan organized an NGO Forum ahead of the Astana leg of the Review Conference to help NGOs prepare recommendations to present at the Conference, while other civil society representatives independently organized a parallel conference in Astana, again with the support of Kazakhstan, in the days between the Review Conference and the Summit.
For NGOs these events have been an opportunity to voice their concerns in front of 56 states, to meet with the media, representatives of governments and other international organizations, and to network with other NGOs. Many NGOs from Kazakhstan attended, and a feature of this year’s Review Conference has been the opportunity to enhance contacts between NGOs from Central Asia and those in other parts of the OSCE region.