Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The on-going nature of the Final Act has given the endeavor initiated at Helsinki the characteristics of an active process, one intended to grow and intensify as its commitments are fulfilled, and, in turn, expanded by the participating states. It is this sense of an on-going process which makes the Final Act unique among international documents. Unlike many treaties or other legally binding documents, the Final Act, which is non-binding, provided for a mechanism which allows periodic review of implementation progress in a series of multilateral forums. This review mechanism, in many respects, makes the issue of compliance, if not a legal requirement, then a matter of high political and moral concern to each of the signatories.

The political and moral commitment to fulfill the provisions of the Final Act stems from different sources. Primary is the diplomatic pressure deriving from the signing of the Final Act at the highest political level, the head of state. Another is the decision by all signatories, especially the East, to avoid embarrassment at review meetings by being singled out for lack of compliance. Also important is the feeling among many signatories, especially the neutral and non-aligned countries, that the Helsinki process represents the highest stage of detente and that, as such, it must constantly be reinvigorated, by strengthening its provisions.