The Model OSCE in Moldova: A beginner’s guide to consensus-building
Consensus. Compromise. Co-operation. These are terms you come across often at the OSCE, especially in the context of the weekly Permanent Council meetings, which gather representatives of the Organization’s 57 participating States to discuss and decide on developments across the region. But what do these terms really mean? On 17 December 2015, the OSCE Mission to Moldova gave three students the opportunity to attend a Permanent Council meeting in Vienna to find out.
In fact, the students involved – two from Chisinau and one from Tiraspol – were not complete novices. Between 3 and 6 December 2015, they participated in a three-day Model OSCE event organized by the OSCE Mission to Moldova where they put their negotiation skills to the test in a simulation exercise based on the Permanent Council in a crisis situation.
What is the Model OSCE?
The Model OSCE is a simulation activity in which students must recreate the OSCE’s Permanent Council in a crisis situation. Each student is assigned a country or an OSCE institution, and must negotiate on behalf of her/his country to resolve the crisis. By the end of the exercise, the students must develop a joint action plan on how to settle the crisis and avoid the escalation of the conflict.
A total of 31 students from Chisinau, Comrat and Tiraspol took part in the Model OSCE organized by the OSCE Mission to Moldova between 3 and 6 December 2015.
We asked the students to describe their experiences of attending the Permanent Council.
About: I am in my third year of an undergraduate law degree at the Moldovan State University.
Future career: Representing my country as a diplomat or in an international organization like the OSCE.
Role models: Robert Schuman – for his instrumental role in creating the EU – and Angela Merkel and Margaret Thatcher – for proving that women make powerful politicians.
"This was a unique opportunity to see the OSCE in action. During the Model OSCE, we tried very hard to recreate the OSCE Permanent Council and to present convincing arguments. It is quite hard to appreciate how much responsibility such negotiations carry in real life."
"After all, it’s not just about who makes the best argument – you have to be able to balance many different interests, assess the potential outcomes and make difficult decisions on matters with resounding consequences. I had read about compromise and thought I understood what it entailed, but my visit to the OSCE Permanent Council taught me the real meaning of the word."
Decision-making at the OSCE
The OSCE’s 57 participating States participate as equals in all OSCE decision-making bodies, with decisions being adopted through consensus.
The OSCE understanding of consensus is explained in the Rules of Procedure as follows: “Consensus shall be understood to mean the absence of any objection expressed by a participating State to the adoption of the decision in question.”
Because consensus forms the basis for decision-making at the OSCE, it is crucial for participating States to co-operate and often compromise to ensure decisions are taken.
About: I am a student of Law at the Shevchenko University in Tiraspol. I believe that there is always a non-violent way to resolve any conflict.
Reasons for applying to the Model OSCE: I was curious to learn how negotiations take place and to equip myself with the necessary tools to help resolve conflicts.
Key characteristics of a diplomat: Diplomacy is not just a day job; to be a successful diplomat you must combine the skills of a psychologist, politician, and orator, among others.
"The Model OSCE was not all that different from the real Permanent Council meeting, and the negotiations were held with the same structure and style. Of course, the participants in the Model OSCE were a little less experienced than the diplomats in the real-life Permanent Council meeting, but they did their best to represent the countries assigned to them."
"Following the Permanent Council meeting, I also managed to observe interactions between representatives of different countries, and noticed that they were just as friendly and polite as during the negotiations despite disagreements they have. This experience has taught me key lessons in compromise and diplomacy which will contribute to my professional activities both at home and abroad."
About: I am studying for an MA in International Law at the State Institute of International Relations of Moldova.
Future career: My goal in life is to become a diplomat.
Interests and hobbies: Public speaking, getting to know people, writing poems and reading books on personal development, history and diplomacy.
"My visit to the Permanent Council meeting gave me the rare opportunity to observe how representatives of OSCE participating States interact. I was particularly struck by the pragmatic approach they took to problems, behaving with the highest level of professionalism even when faced with difficult questions."
"Studying these procedures provided me with some very important lessons for my future career as a diplomat. For me, the OSCE Permanent Council meeting was not so very different from the meeting we recreated during the Model OSCE, and I want to take this opportunity to congratulate my colleagues in the Model OSCE for a job well done!"