OSCE “Failed” in Georgia Warnings

A former senior OSCE official, Ryan Grist, told the BBC he had warned of Georgia’s military activity before its move into the South Ossetia region. He said it was an “absolute failure” reports were not passed on by bosses. Mr Grist said: “The OSCE had been working in South Ossetia for many many years. We were the one institution that knew, had a feel for what was going on there at the mission level. “There clearly wasn’t the eye on the ball on the higher diplomatic level I would say. Because it was clear that something was brewing.” He said he had made it “very clear” at a briefing to ambassadors there was a “severe escalation”. […] “It would give the Russian Federation any excuse it needed in terms of trying to support its own troops,” Mr Grist said. Mr Stubb said the OSCE only had “diplomatic means” but admitted those means had failed.

Some personal observations:

  • Information is shaped and revised as it percolates through the layers of a bureaucracy in both international and regional organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental.  In other words, “the inevitable problems of hierarchy (both formal and informal) include the filtering and distortion of information, a slower pace of decision making, and restricted or highly specified procedures for access to required resources.”  Since the “likelihood of information moving from one person to another is proportional to the strength of their relationship,” a hierarchical approach to early warning and response is unlikely to be effective. [This is an excerpt from my 2007 ISA paper: PDF].

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