The Chairman-in-Office of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Netherlands Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, is set to travel to Central Asia this weekend, taking in four of the five OSCE participating states in the region.
"The important thing really is to keep up the dialogue with the Central Asian countries," spokeswoman for the Chairman-in-Office, Stella Ronner told IRIN from the Hague. "This is all the more true since the presence of other international organizations there is relatively modest."
The OSCE has placed special emphasis on the countries of Central Asia which despite being in varying forms of transition, are faced with difficult and painstaking political and economic transition processes.
"They have no tradition of democracy and pluralism. Their democratic institutions need to be developed, and the OSCE, with its presence on the ground, can help."
Ronner added, however, that trying to encourage reforms, good governance and economic development was a long process, noting it was important to be realistic and adapt one's expectations accordingly. "The achievements made and the progress achieved can only be measured in small steps," she said, noting in some instances, this meant small concessions about circumstances in prison or even the release of just one individual.
"But it is worth the effort, and there really is no alternative to dialogue and constructive engagement," she said.
Central Asia is important for the organisation because it is part of the OSCE and there are a number of issues that can be better addressed with the involvement and engagement of a region which internationally is largely overlooked.
"We need to join hands, for instance when it comes to the fight against terrorism," the OSCE official stated.
Arriving in Kazakhstan on Sunday, the Chairman-in-Office will make subsequent visits to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In addition to human rights, he will hold discussions on democracy, good governance, economic cooperation and politico-military security-related matters. Furthermore, the dialogue will also include specific priorities of the OSCE Chairmanship, such as various forms of trafficking and the fight against terrorism.
As further evidence of the organisation's keen interest in the region, earlier this year de Hoop Scheffer appointed former Finish President, Marrti Ahtisaari, who has already made two visits to the region, as his personal envoy for Central Asia.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions