How Frozen Are the OSCE’s Wars?


René Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

6 Nov 2020 – As Anthony Judge has pointed out a number of times on TMS, one must choose one’s metaphor or symbol for a political situation with care.  A metaphor can take on a life of its own and thus have consequences well beyond just a figure of speech. This is particularly true of the “frozen conflict” metaphor used for the armed conflicts in States linked to the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The Association of World Citizens has been particularly concerned with the current conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh among Azerbaijan, the Republic of Artsakh, and Armenia.  The Association also presented proposals for negotiated settlements within the framework of world law in the earlier conflicts in Georga on Abkhazia and South Osseta, Moldova-Transnistra, and Ukraine -Donetsk and Lukansk.

The “frozen conflict” metaphor is not completely false as it brings to mind a frozen river with ice on top and rushing water beneath which at any moment may break through the ice.  However, the “frozen conflict” metaphor has had the consequence that those who should be involved in creating new peaceful conditions look away, more concerned with other issues.

This has been especially true for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)   which created the 11-State committee for mediation of the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict called the Minsk Group with France, the U.S.A. and Russia as co-chairs.  The Minsk Group has organized a number of mediation meetings but these meetings have led to modifications neither to the broad situation nor to any real cooperation between Azerbaijan and Armenia.  The Minsk Group was increasingly seen in the Caucasus as ineffectual.  Frustration with the lack of progress was strongest among the leaders of Azerbijan who had been arguing since the 1994 ceasefire in the 1992-1994 war that their territorial integrity is being violated by Armenia. The Armenia reply is that the Nagorno-Karabakh has a majority of Armenian people and that they have a right to self-determination.

As a consequence of the lack of any progress through mediation, it is the conflict resolution procedures that are frozen not the conflicts themselves. Given the difficulties for multinational governmental organizations such as the United Nations and the OSCE to act, non-governmental networks of conflict resolution and peacebuilding must be developed and strengthened.

The metaphor of the flowing streams coming together in confluence to become a river of consequence may be the appropriate metaphor.


René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Nov 2020.

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