The OSCE's star turn in American politics

The conservative blogosphere is alive with stories about Texas refusing to accept the presence of election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE). Oddly, many of these commentators insist on conflating the OSCE with the United Nations, and so the dispatch of OSCE observers to watch U.S. elections has been neatly melded into the right's general UN-skepticism. 

I haven't seen the OSCE drawn into the American political fray this directly since the mid-1990s. Then the issue was the Bosnian elections, which the OSCE was organizing and supervising. Many of us working in Bosnia at the time were convinced that the organization was being used to help advance Bill Clinton's reelection bid by showing tangible evidence of progress in Bosnia. Clinton had promised that American troops would be out of Bosnia quickly, and the premature elections seemed to be a way of punching the American ticket and heading for the exits. For a while, wags renamed the  OSCE the "Organization to Secure Clinton's Election."

The Multilateralist

The revenge of Laurent Gbagbo?

Former president of Cote d'Ivoire Laurent Gbagbo is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court, but his supporters appear to be quite active. UN-appointed experts have compiled substantial material on their machinations (h/t Security Council Report):

According to the Group’s sources, on 12 July 2012, a meeting took place inTakorady, Ghana, where various exiled groups supporting the regime of former President Gbagbo decided to unite their efforts and define a common course of action, with a view to regaining power in Côte d’Ivoire, including the development of a regional political and military strategy to identify possible bases of operations in neighbouring countries such as Mali.

Prominent Gbagbo supporters have rejected as "malicious lies" any assertions that they are linking up with extremists forces in Mali.

Whatever the truth here, the episode highlights the potentially important role that outside experts can play in Security Council deliberations, particularly regarding sanctions regimes. A different group of UN-appointed experts made a splash recently when they charged Rwanda with backing rebels in eastern Congo. Last summer, an expert panel accused Eritrea of supporting Islamist militias in Somalia.

For all its formal authority, the Security Council has remarkably little bureaucratic support or internal capacity to monitor compliance with resolutions. The Council obviously works with the broader UN bureaucracy, but the relationship is complicated and the Council cannot simply deploy that staff as it wishes. These panels of experts have emerged as an important tool in narrowing the chasm between what the Security Council decrees and what happens in the real world.