New Europe

25 June 2018

By Sofio Katsarava, Rapporteur of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment

Pollution, ocean acidification, climate change, deforestation. These are just a few of the seemingly insurmountable environmental challenges that we face today. At the same time, poverty, corruption and inequality threaten our economic security and contribute to challenges such as migration and political instability.

There is, however, a mounting recognition of the interconnectedness of these issues and the importance of improving governance for the sake of sustainable development, prosperity, stability and security. There is a growing consensus that good governance has a tangible effect on environmental outcomes, as well as being of fundamental importance to poverty reduction and sustainable development. This approach is what is needed if we are to effectively address the challenges of our time.

At the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, where I serve as rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly’s economic and environmental committee, we have always advocated a comprehensive approach to security that links political and military affairs, democratic institutions and human rights, economics and the environment, and science and technology. This multi-dimensional approach to security is rooted in the understanding that each dimension affects the other – that political stability is not possible without human rights, that security is not possible without a healthy environment, that prosperity is not possible without economic co-operation.

In the OSCE’s founding document, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, participating States recognized that observable “changes in climate” may be the result of human activity, and raised warnings over the effects of degradation of the environment on human health.

In the report and draft resolution that I will present at the Parliamentary Assembly’s 27th Annual Session in Berlin, I note that climate change has pushed the Earth into uncharted territory. Rising sea levels, melting Arctic ice and record high temperatures are just some of the signs that call for action and enhanced co-operation among governments and other actors, including through implementing the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.

It was encouraging to see participation at last November’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn by a coalition of more than 2,500 mayors, governors and others from across the United States who released the “America’s Pledge” report, outlining the scope of subnational climate action in the U.S. following the Trump administration’s regrettable decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. I call upon Paris Agreement remaining signatory parties to accelerate the ratification process and live up to the commitments made under the agreement.

For real progress to be made, we must recognize the importance of increasing transparency, fighting corruption and promoting good governance. According to World Bank estimates, businesses and individuals pay an estimated $1.5 trillion in bribes each year, which is about two per cent of the global GDP. In the fight against corruption, it is not enough to have a comprehensive legal framework. What is required is the effective implementation of anti-corruption provisions, practical actions of establishing institutional mechanisms for anti-corruption policy coordination and monitoring in the OSCE area through increased partnerships.

Today, we are witnessing a record high level of human mobility, displacement and migration. Natural disasters, accelerated by climate change, have led to a significant increase in environmental migration. Statistics suggest that the risk of human beings displaced through sudden natural disasters is 60% higher today than it was 40 years ago.

But the global focus on environmental migration should not divert our attention from displacement as a result of man-made conflicts and violence. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s 2017 Global Report, there are twice as many internally displaced people as refugees in the world, and that they may any day become refugees or international migrants, thereby adding to the already large movements of migrants and refugees. In my own country of Georgia, we have up to 300,000 internally displaced persons out of a population of 3.7 million – victims of ethnic cleansing and several waves of forcible displacement from Georgia’s occupied regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia.

A tragic component of modern warfare has been not only its disproportionate impact on civilians but also its unprecedented levels of destruction of the environment. This seriously affects the resilience of countries and societies, including disruption of the operations of water supply and disposal systems that result in the discharge of pollutants into freshwater sources. We, therefore, need to establish a system of ecological monitoring in compliance with the OSCE principle of comprehensive security in the territories of Ukraine and Georgia that are currently under foreign occupation.

In short, we must increase engagement of national legislative branches in discussing a way forward to address these issues. The ultimate goal of promoting international co-operation on economic and environmental issues is strengthening security and stability in the OSCE region. When the Parliamentary Assembly meets in Berlin on July 7-11 we must demonstrate our readiness to work with governments in deepening our partnerships to enhance co-operation on these vital issues.

For more information about the OSCE PA's 27th Annual Session, including the full report and draft resolution of Sofio Katsarava, please click here.

Follow Katsarava on Twitter: @SophieKatsarava