Thursday, December 2, 2010

How do I get a job like this?

International Relations and Security Network (ISN) a highly regarded think-tank in Zurich has put up a piece about the ongoing OSCE Summit in Kazakhstan. Solemnly it tells us that there are differences between all the members that appear to be irreconcilable.

I'll say there are differences. The President of Kazakhstan talked of a need for another reserve currency in the world without specifying which; Secretary of State Clinton called on the organization to take a greater share in matters of security in the area including Afghanistan, without specifying how they were to do that; President Medvedev huffed and puffed at the very idea of force being used, something that Russia would never dream of doing; and Nick Clegg who was despatched instead of William Hague, spoke about the need for human rights in all OSCE members. And that was just the first day.

It so happens that yesterday I took part in a discussion on the OSCE and its future with two experts, one from Russia, one from Kazakhstan on the BBC Russian Service. Not one of us thought that there was going to be any kind of a break-through for the OSCE in this Summit though the chap from Kazakhstan thought that the country and its leader had got a good deal of kudos from the meeting and, anyway, having a forum in which all these people can meet and talk was quite a good thing. He did not specify in what way it was a better thing than more low-key negotiations between two or more countries.

The Russian expert droned about the pointlessness of OSCE, citing its history of non-achievement and generally expressing the view that such disparate countries cannot achieve much in the same organization. He was going to go on to the subject of UN and the pointlessness of having members like Burundi in it but was interrupted by the programme anchor.

I was then asked my opinion on OSCE's present and future. Unusually, I agreed with the other participants. There will be no break-through and, in any case, nobody knows what sort of breakthrough is needed or wanted. After all, even Clinton and Clegg were talking about two completely different aims, never mind everyone else. But there is, I added, an inertia about all international and transnational organizations. Once they exist they just go on existing. Partly, there are too many people who have a vested interest in their continued existence but largely it is the unthinkability of somebody standing up and saying: the OSCE has never achieved anything and will never achieve anything. Let's disband it. But think how useful that would be.

There are now only two questions to ask. First is why on earth did we send Nick Clegg to Kazakhstan? The second is how do I get a well-paid job with some think-tank to write solemn articles about the bleedin' obvious.

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