Rene Wadlow

Abkhazia: The Role of Small States in the World Society

In an earlier article for AbkhazWorld at the time I thought that the Palestinian request for UN membership might be accepted and so end a logjam for contested states to join the UN, I had written of “the Liechtenstein Option”. Historically, although Liechtenstein was recognized as a European state, all its foreign affairs and economic ties was handled by Switzerland. Liechtenstein had no real international personality and if thought of at all, was considered a fairytale country with a castle on a hill.

However, when in a referendum, the Swiss people had decided not to join the United Nations, Liechtenstein decided that it would join as an independent state. It had also participated from the start in the 1975 Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (become in 1995 the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe —OSCE). In order to highlight that it is not a fairytale state, Liechtenstein has played an active and constructive role in the United Nations, in the negotiations concerning the International Criminal Court and in the OSCE.

Liechtenstein has a small but competent diplomatic corps which it need not move around so that each diplomat learns in detail how the multilateral institution works. As the longest-serving Ambassador to the OSCE, Ambassador Maria-Pia Kothbauer has been the Dean of the Permanent Council since 2004, the Permanent Council being the OSCE’s main decision-making body that meets weekly in Vienna.

Liechtenstein has chosen the roles of ethnic and national minorities as its chief focus of expertise and finances an important institute on minorities housed at Princeton University in the USA.

In the same way, Abkhazia must show that it is more than simply existing, but rather that it has a unique role to play in the world society. Although it is not yet a member of the United Nations or the OSCE, it can start to project an image of a strong contributor to essential world issues.

Perhaps a “Monaco Option” could be considered. Monaco, given its Mediterranean geographic location and the interest of its Princely family has made the study of the Mediterranean and its fish life a long-standing interest. As the concern of the world society for issues of environmental protection, global warming, and ecologically-sound development has grown, the focus of Monaco has moved from being an interesting scientific hobby to a central issue. Now many look to Monaco for its important expertise in the safeguard of the seas and oceans.

Obviously, the choice of a national focus and contribution to the world society can be made only by the people and government of Abkhazia as well as how to promote that “Abkhazia Option.” Since for the moment it is unlikely that Abkhazia will be able to join the OSCE (membership must be accepted by all) it might be possible to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as its most geographically western member after the Russian Federation. With Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Iran joining as permanent observers, the geographic centre of gravity of the SCO has moved from its China-Central Asia-Russia origin. We see today a general broadening of what had started as narrower regional organizations.

If Abkhazia proposes joining the SCO, Abkhazia must consider what contribution it can make to a largely Asian community of states with numerous tensions but also old and distinguished cultures. For Abkhazia choices must be made before membership, but joining the SCO would give it a voice in a growingly dynamic part of the world.

Rene Wadlow
President and Representative to the UN, Geneva, Association of World Citizens. SWITZERLAND

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