A democratic vision of policing
In a long-awaited decision, the OSCE has adopted a strategic framework for its police-related activities.
Over the past 13 years, the OSCE participating States agreed some 24 separate Permanent Council and Ministerial Council decisions on very specific aspects of policing, ranging from the improvement of the situation of Roma and Sinti, the promotion of gender equality, the fight against transnational organized crime, including trafficking in illicit drugs and precursors, trafficking in human beings and the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet, to the fight against terrorism. Now they have given them a conceptual context. On 26 July 2012, the Permanent Council adopted the OSCE Strategic Framework for Police-Related Activities.
The Strategic Framework puts on paper what has long been the OSCE’s important role in policing in the international context and, on the basis of this, defines priorities for police-related activities within the wider context of the Organization’s work.
The promotion of these principles and elements of democratic policing is the foundation of the OSCE’s police-related activities. They should be taken into account constantly in the process of police development and in the comprehensive approach to reform of criminal justice systems, as well as in the fight against transnational threats.
It confirms that the guiding principle of the OSCE’s police-related activities is the promotion of democrat policing: “The OSCE’s police-related activities shall be guided by the norms, principles and standards defined by documents of the United Nations and the OSCE, such as the Charter of the United Nations, relevant United Nations conventions on police-related activities, the Helsinki Final Act, the Copenhagen Document, and various OSCE decisions on police-related activities. These documents emphasize, inter alia, the importance of the rule of law; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including gender and minority issues; police-public partnerships; effective and accountable criminal justice systems; and enhanced co-operation among participating States and international and regional organizations. The development of high standards of professional skills and the sharing of best practices are among the key elements of the OSCE’s police-related activities. The promotion of these principles and elements of democratic policing is the foundation of the OSCE’s police-related activities. They should be taken into account constantly in the process of police development and in the comprehensive approach to reform of criminal justice systems, as well as in the fight against transnational threats.”
The OSCE operates on the premise that the rule of law and a strong justice sector are fundamental to a well-functioning modern democracy. Good policing serves the people rather than just the state. It is vital for providing a safe and secure environment conducive to sustainable economic development. The OSCE is there to help participating States reach these goals. It assists participating States on policing matters through needs assessment, capacity-building, institution-building, training and evaluation.
The new policing strategy recognizes the OSCE’s support to participating States’ law-enforcement agencies as an integral part of its wider efforts to prevent conflict, manage crises, assist with post-conflict rehabilitation and maintain the primacy of law.
Added value of the OSCE
What makes the OSCE’s role in policing unique? The Strategic Framework underlines three points. Firstly, its cross-dimensional and comprehensive approach to security: the OSCE’s police-related activities pertain not only to enforcing the letter of the law, but also to economic issues such as tackling corruption and money laundering, and to ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Secondly, the OSCE’s extensive field presence: currently, it has 16 field operations in South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. They have developed an expertise and a network of government and a civil society partners in their host countries that make it possible to customize policing programmes in consultation with all relevant stakeholders.
Thirdly, the OSCE has a strong framework and well-functioning mechanisms for co-operation at the national, international level and expert level.
The new policing framework places great emphasis on achieving unity of purpose and action and avoiding duplication, within the OSCE and with respect to external partners. Within the OSCE, the Strategic Police Matters Unit of the Transnational Threats Department (TNTD/SPMU) serves as the main focal point for ensuring co-ordination and coherence of police-related activities by providing conceptual and operational guidance. Externally, the 1999 Platform for Co-operative Security provides the basis for the OSCE’s co-operation with the United Nations and its structures and other international, regional organizations and sub-regional organizations.
The Strategic Framework for Police-Related Activities sets clear priorities for the OSCE’s work in general police development and reform:
• community policing/police-public partnerships: this is at the very core of what policing is. The OSCE works for good relations, better communication and joint problem-solving among police, government agencies and all segments of society;
• exchange of best practices: the OSCE assists with the development of training strategies, modern teaching methods (e-learning and multimedia) and delivers training in democratic policing;
• victim protection: the OSCE provides advice on protecting victims and witnesses to crime;
• multi-ethnic policing and gender mainstreaming within police forces;
• guidelines: the SPMU publishes guidelines on police reform, education, training, strategic planning, human resources management, police accountability, and assists participating States in implementing them;
• anti-corruption: in line with the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) the OSCE develops strategies and instruments to fight corruption;
• co-ordination and synchronization of police reform within the reform of the wider criminal justice system.
The document includes special mention to activities to fight organized crime:
• implementation of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the UNCAC. The OSCE assists participating States in implementing these conventions in close co-operation with UNODC.
• law enforcement co-operation: the OSCE strengthens international, regional and national law-enforcement co-operation.
• investigation: the OSCE provides specialized investigation training for law enforcement agencies and other criminal justice system institutions.
• countering extremism. The OSCE promotes policing strategies and capacities in addressing the fight against radicalization, extremism and terrorism.
• fighting drug trafficking: The OSCE assists participating States in developing strategies to fight trafficking in drugs and the diversion of chemical precursors.
• combating trafficking in human beings: The OSCE enhances prevention and combating strategies and capacities and promoting the broader involvement of stakeholders in identifying and referring victims and reaching out to vulnerable groups.
• financial investigation: The OSCE assists police with building capacities for prosecuting traffickers through financial investigations, seizure of proceeds of crime and activities targeting corruption and money-laundering.
• cybercrime: The OSCE develops regional and national capacity and exchanging information and best practices in investigating cyber crime and dealing with cyber evidence, with special focus on fighting hate and the sexual exploitation of children on the Internet and countering the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes in conformity with human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
With their adoption of the OSCE Strategic Framework for Police-Related Activities, participating States have reaffirmed their acknowledgement of the key role police-related activities play with respect to organized crime, conflict prevention and the rule of law. They have committed themselves to a democratic vision of policing for the whole OSCE region and provided the OSCE TNTD/SPMU and the other relevant executive structures with a robust mandate and a clear set of guiding principles as they put that vision to work. And, as new threats and challenges are sure to develop, they have decided to subject the Strategic Framework to regular review.