Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

"OSCE" redirects here. For the examination model, see Objective structured clinical examination.
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
SecretariatVienna, Austria
Official languages English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish
Type Intergovernmental organization
Membership 57 participating states
11 partners for cooperation
   SecretaryGeneral Italy Lamberto Zannier
   Chairman-in-Office Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier
   Officer for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
Germany Michael Georg Link
   Representative on Freedom of the Media Bosnia and Herzegovina Dunja Mijatović
   High Commissioner on National Minorities Finland Astrid Thors
   As the CSCEa July 1973 
   Helsinki Accords 30 July – 1 August 1975 
   Paris Charter 21 November 1990 
   Renamed OSCE 1 January 1995 
   Total 50,119,801 km2
19,351,363 sq mi
   2010 estimate 1,229,503,230 (2nd)
   Density 24.53/km2
63.5/sq mi
a. Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control and the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections. It employs around 3,460 people, mostly in its field operations but also in its secretariat in Vienna, Austria and its institutions. It has its origins in the 1975 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) held in Helsinki, Finland.

The OSCE is concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict rehabilitation. Its 57 participating states are located in Europe, northern and central Asia and North America and cover much of the land area of the Northern Hemisphere. It was created during the Cold War era as an East–West forum.[1]


Helmut Schmidt, Erich Honecker, Gerald Ford and Bruno Kreisky at the 1975 CSCE summit in Helsinki, Finland.

The Organization has its roots in the 1973 Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). Talks had been mooted about a European security grouping since the 1950s but the Cold War prevented any substantial progress until the talks at Dipoli in Espoo began in November 1972. These talks were held at the suggestion of the Soviet Union which wished to use the talks to maintain its control over the communist countries in Eastern Europe, and President of Finland Urho Kekkonen hosted them in order to bolster his policy of neutrality. Western Europe, however, saw these talks as a way to reduce the tension in the region, furthering economic cooperation and obtaining humanitarian improvements for the populations of the Communist bloc.

The recommendations of the talks, in the form of "The Blue Book", gave the practical foundations for a three-stage conference called the "Helsinki process".[2] The CSCE opened in Helsinki on 3 July 1973 with 35 states sending representatives. Stage I only took five days to agree to follow the Blue Book. Stage II was the main working phase and was conducted in Geneva from 18 September 1973 until 21 July 1975. The result of Stage II was the Helsinki Final Act which was signed by the 35 participating states during Stage III, which took place in Finlandia Hall from 30 July – 1 August 1975. It was opened by Holy See’s diplomat Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who was chairman of the conference.

The concepts of improving relations and implementing the act were developed over a series of follow-up meeting, with major gatherings in Belgrade (4 October 1977  8 March 1978), Madrid (11 November 1980  9 September 1983) and Vienna (4 November 1986  19 January 1989).

The collapse of the Soviet Union required a change of role for the CSCE. The Charter of Paris for a New Europe, signed on 21 November 1990, marked the beginning of this change. With the changes capped by the renaming of the CSCE to the OSCE on 1 January 1995, accordingly to the results of the conference held in Budapest, Hungary, in 1994. The OSCE now had a formal secretariat, Senior Council, Parliamentary Assembly, Conflict Prevention Centre, and Office for Free Elections (later becoming the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights).

In December 1996, the "Lisbon Declaration on a Common and Comprehensive Security Model for Europe for the Twenty-First Century" affirmed the universal and indivisible nature of security on the European continent.

In Istanbul on 19 November 1999, the OSCE ended a two-day summit by calling for a political settlement in Chechnya and adopting a Charter for European Security. According to then Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov, this summit marked a turning point in Russian perception of the OSCE, from an organization that expressed Europe's collective will, to an organization that serves as a Western tool for "forced democratization".[3]

After a group of thirteen Democratic United States senators petitioned Secretary of State Colin Powell to have foreign election monitors oversee the 2004 presidential election, the State Department acquiesced, and President George W. Bush invited the OSCE to do so.[4][5]


The six official languages of the OSCE are English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.

Participating states

OSCE signatories as of 2012
  signed Helsinki Final Act only
  partner for cooperation
State Admission Signed the
Helsinki Final Act
Signed the
Charter of Paris
Language Currency Capital
 Albania 19 June 1991 16 September 1991 17 September 1991 Albanian Albanian lek Tirana
 Andorra 25 April 1996 10 November 1999 17 February 1998 Catalan Euro Andorra la Vella
 Armenia 30 January 1992 8 July 1992 17 April 1992 Armenian Armenian dram Yerevan
 Austria 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 German Euro Vienna
 Azerbaijan 30 January 1992 8 July 1992 20 December 1993 Azerbaijani Azerbaijani manat Baku
 Belarus 30 January 1992 26 February 1992 8 April 1993 Belarusian, Russian Belarusian ruble Minsk
 Belgium 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Dutch, French, German Euro Brussels
 Bosnia and Herzegovina 30 April 1992 8 July 1992   Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark Sarajevo
 Bulgaria 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Bulgarian Bulgarian lev Sofia
 Canada 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 English, French Canadian dollar Ottawa
 Croatia 24 March 1992 8 July 1992   Croatian Croatian kuna Zagreb
 Cyprus 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Greek, Turkish Euro Nicosia
 Czech Republic 1 January 1993  [Note 1]  [Note 1] Czech Czech koruna Prague
 Denmark 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Danish Danish krone Copenhagen
 Estonia 10 September 1991 14 October 1991 6 December 1991 Estonian Euro Tallinn
 Finland 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Finnish, Swedish Euro Helsinki
 France 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 French Euro Paris
 Georgia 24 March 1992 8 July 1992 21 January 1994 Georgian Georgian lari Tbilisi
- as  West Germany
- as  East Germany
25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 German Euro Berlin
 Greece 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Greek Euro Athens
 Hungary 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Hungarian Hungarian forint Budapest
 Iceland 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Icelandic Icelandic krona Reykjavik
 Ireland 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Irish, English Euro Dublin
 Italy 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Italian Euro Rome
 Kazakhstan 30 January 1992 8 July 1992 23 September 1992 Kazakh, Russian Kazakhstani tenge Astana
 Kyrgyzstan 30 January 1992 8 July 1992 3 June 1994 Kyrgyz, Russian Kyrgyzstani som Bishkek
 Latvia 10 September 1991 14 October 1991 6 December 1991 Latvian Euro Riga
 Liechtenstein 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 German Swiss franc Vaduz
 Lithuania 10 September 1991 14 October 1991 6 December 1991 Lithuanian Euro Vilnius
 Luxembourg 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 French, German, Luxembourgish Euro Luxembourg
 Macedonia[Note 2][6] 12 October 1995     Macedonian, Albanian Macedonian denar Skopje
 Malta 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 English, Maltese Euro Valletta
 Moldova 30 January 1992 26 February 1992 29 January 1993 Romanian Moldovan leu Chișinău
 Monaco 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 French Euro Monaco
 Mongolia 21 November 2012[Note 3]   Mongolian Mongolian tögrög Ulaanbaatar
 Montenegro 22 June 2006 1 September 2006   Montenegrin Euro Podgorica
 Netherlands 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Dutch Euro Amsterdam
 Norway 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Norwegian Norwegian krone Oslo
 Poland 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Polish Polish złoty Warsaw
 Portugal 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Portuguese Euro Lisbon
 Romania 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Romanian Romanian leu Bucharest
 Russia (as  USSR) 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Russian Russian ruble Moscow
 San Marino 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Italian Euro City of San Marino
 Serbia (as  FR Yugoslavia) 10 November 2000 27 November 2000 27 November 2000 Serbian Serbian dinar Belgrade
 Slovakia 1 January 1993  [Note 1]  [Note 1] Slovak Euro Bratislava
 Slovenia 24 March 1992 8 July 1992 8 March 1993 Slovene Euro Ljubljana
 Spain 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Spanish Euro Madrid
 Sweden 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Swedish Swedish krona Stockholm
  Switzerland 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 German, French, Italian, Romansh Swiss franc Bern
 Tajikistan 30 January 1992 26 February 1992   Tajik Tajikistani somoni Dushanbe
 Turkey 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Turkish Turkish lira Ankara
 Turkmenistan 30 January 1992 8 July 1992   Turkmen Turkmenistan manat Ashgabat
 Ukraine 30 January 1992 26 February 1992 16 June 1992 Ukrainian Ukrainian hryvnia Kiev
 United Kingdom 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 English Pound sterling London
 United States 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 English US dollar Washington D.C.
 Uzbekistan 30 January 1992 26 February 1992 27 October 1993 Uzbek Uzbekistani som Tashkent
  Vatican City 25 June 1973 1 August 1975 21 November 1990 Italian, Latin Euro Itself
  1. 1 2 3 4 Czechoslovakia was an original signatory
  2. Referred to by the OSCE as the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia"
  3. Asia partner for co-operation 2004-2012.

Partners for co-operation

Mediterranean States



Legal status

A unique aspect of the OSCE is the non-binding status of its constitutive charter. Rather than being a formal treaty ratified by national legislatures, the Helsinki Final Act represents a political commitment by the heads of government of all signatories to build security and cooperation in Europe on the basis of its provisions. This allows the OSCE to remain a flexible process for the evolution of improved cooperation, which avoids disputes and/or sanctions over implementation. By agreeing to these commitments, signatories for the first time accepted that treatment of citizens within their borders was also a matter of legitimate international concern. This open process of the OSCE is often given credit for helping build democracy in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, thus leading to the end of the Cold War. Unlike most international intergovernmental organizations, however, the OSCE does not have international legal personality on account of the lack of legal effect of its charter.[8] As a result, its headquarters’ host, Austria, had to confer legal personality on the organization in order to be able to sign a legal agreement regarding its presence in Vienna.[9]

Structure and institutions

Political direction to the organization is given by heads of state or government during summits. Summits are not regular or scheduled but held as needed. The last summit took place in Astana (Kazakhstan), on 1 and 2 December 2010. The high-level decision-making body of the organization is the Ministerial Council, which meets at the end of every year. At ambassadorial level the Permanent Council convenes weekly in Vienna and serves as the regular negotiating and decision-making body. The chairperson of the Permanent Council is the ambassador to the Organization of the participating State which holds the chairmanship. From 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015 the Chairman-in-Office is Minister for Foreign Affairs of Serbia, Ivica Dačić, who succeeded Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.

In addition to the Ministerial Council and Permanent Council, the Forum for Security Co-operation is also an OSCE decision-making body. It deals predominantly with matters of military co-operation, such as modalities for inspections according to the Vienna Document of 1999.[10]

The OSCE's Secretariat is located in Vienna, Austria. The current Secretary General is Lamberto Zannier of Italy, who took over from Marc Perrin de Brichambaut of France.[11] The organization also has offices in Copenhagen, Geneva, The Hague, Prague and Warsaw.

A meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council at the Hofburg in Vienna, Austria.

As of March 2016, the OSCE employed 3,462 staff, including 513 in its secretariat and institutions and 2,949 in its 17 field operations.[12]

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe passes resolutions on matters such as political and security affairs, economic and environmental issues, and democracy and human rights. Representing the collective voice of OSCE parliamentarians, these resolutions and recommendations are meant to ensure that all participating states live up to their OSCE commitments. The Parliamentary Assembly also engages in parliamentary diplomacy, and has an extensive election observation program.

The oldest OSCE institution is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), established in 1991 following a decision made at the 1990 Summit of Paris. It is based in Warsaw, Poland, and is active throughout the OSCE area in the fields of election observation, democratic development, human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination, rule of law, and Roma and Sinti issues. The ODIHR has observed over 150 elections and referendums since 1995, sending some 35,000 observers. It has operated outside its own area twice, sending a team that offered technical support to the 9 October 2004 presidential elections in Afghanistan, an OSCE Partner for Co-operation, and an election support team to assist with parliamentary and provincial council elections on 18 September 2005. ODIHR is headed by Michael Georg Link.

The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, established in December 1997, acts as a watchdog to provide early warning on violations of freedom of expression in OSCE participating States. The representative also assists participating States by advocating and promoting full compliance with OSCE norms, principles and commitments regarding freedom of expression and free media. As of 2011, the current representative is expert in media law from Bosnia and Herzegovina Dunja Mijatovic.[13]

The High Commissioner on National Minorities was created on July 8, 1992 by the Helsinki Summit Meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. It is charged with identifying and seeking early resolution of ethnic tension that might endanger peace, stability or friendly relations between participating states.

Secretary General

The incumbent of this post acts as the representative of the Chairperson-in-Office, and as the OSCE's chief administrative officer. Since the post was created in 1992, Secretaries-General of the OSCE have been:

  1. Germany Wilhelm Höynck (1993–1996)
  2. Italy Giancarlo Aragona (1996–1999)
  3. Slovakia Ján Kubiš (1999–2005)
  4. France Marc Perrin de Brichambaut (2005–2011)
  5. Italy Lamberto Zannier (2011–)


OSCE Permanent Council venue at the Hofburg, Vienna.

The responsibilities of the Chairman-in-Office (CiO) include

The chairmanship rotates annually, and the post of the chairman-in-office is held by the foreign minister of the participating State which holds the chairmanship. The CiO is assisted by the previous and incoming chairman-in-office; the three of them together constitute the Troika.[14] The origin of the institution lies with the Charter of Paris for a New Europe (1990), the Helsinki Document 1992 formally institutionalized this function.[15]

Summits of heads of State and Government

Summit Date Place Country Decisions
I 30 July – 1 August 1975 Helsinki  Finland Closing of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Signing of the Final Act (Helsinki Act).
II 19–21 November 1990 Paris  France (Second CSCE Summit). Signing of the Charter of Paris for a New Europe (Paris Charter), the Vienna Confidence and Security Building Measures (CSBM) Document and the CFE Treaty.
III 9–10 July 1992 Helsinki  Finland Final Document: The Challenges of Change. Creation of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Forum for Security Co-operation and the Economic Forum. Suspension of FR Yugoslavia from membership.
IV 5–6 December 1994 Budapest  Hungary Final Document: Towards a Genuine Partnership in a New Era. Approval of a multi-national peace-keeping force to Nagorno-Karabakh. Endorsement of the Code of Conduct on politico-military aspects of security.
V 2–3 December 1996 Lisbon  Portugal (First OSCE Summit). Lisbon Declaration on a Common and Comprehensive Security Model for Europe for the Twenty-First Century. Adoption of a Framework for Arms Control.
VI 18–19 November 1999 Istanbul  Turkey Signing of the Istanbul Document and the Charter for European Security.
VII 1–2 December 2010 Astana  Kazakhstan Adoption of the Astana Commemorative Declaration, which reconfirms the Organization's comprehensive approach to security based on trust and transparency.

Ministerial Council Meetings (ordinary)

Council Date Place Country Decisions
1st 19–20 June 1991 Berlin  Germany Admission of Albania
2nd 30–31 January 1992 Prague  Czechoslovakia Admission of ten former Soviet republics.
3rd 14–15 December 1992 Stockholm  Sweden Creation of the post of Secretary General and appointment of Max van der Stoel as first High Commissioner on National Minorities.
4th 30 November – 1 December 1993 Rome  Italy Establishment of the Mission to Tajikistan.
5th 7–8 December 1995 Budapest  Hungary Establishment of the Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina to carry out the tasks assigned to the OSCE in the Dayton Peace Agreements.
6th 18–19 December 1997 Copenhagen  Denmark Creation of the Co-ordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities and the Representative on Freedom of the Media.
7th 2–3 December 1998 Oslo  Norway
8th 27–28 November 2000 Vienna  Austria Vienna Declaration on the OSCE's activities in South-Eastern Europe. Re-admission of FR Yugoslavia.
9th 3–4 December 2001 Bucharest  Romania Bucharest Declaration. Bucharest Plan of Action for Combating Terrorism. Creation of the Strategic Police Matters Unit and a Senior Police Adviser in the OSCE Secretariat.
10th 6–7 December 2002 Porto  Portugal Porto Declaration: Responding to Change. OSCE Charter on Preventing and Combating Terrorism.
11th 1–2 December 2003 Maastricht  Netherlands Strategy to Address Threats to Security and Stability in the Twenty-First Century. Strategy Document for the Economic and Environmental Dimension.
12th 6–7 December 2004 Sofia  Bulgaria
13th 5–6 December 2005 Ljubljana  Slovenia Statement on the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Approval of the Border Security and Management Concept.
14th 4–5 December 2006 Brussels  Belgium Brussels Declaration on Criminal Justice Systems. Ministerial Statement on Supporting and Promoting the International Legal Framework against Terrorism.
15th 29–30 November 2007 Madrid  Spain Madrid Declaration on Environment and Security. Ministerial Statement on Supporting the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
16th 4–5 December 2008 Helsinki  Finland
17th 1–2 December 2009 Athens  Greece Ministerial Declarations on Non-Proliferation and on the OSCE Corfu Process.
16–17 July 2010 Almaty  Kazakhstan Informal discussions on Corfu Process progress, the situation in Kyrgyzstan and the [forthcoming? preceding?] OSCE summit.
18th 6–7 December 2011 Vilnius  Lithuania Decisions on responses to conflicts and transnational threats; to enhance capabilities in early warning; early action; dialogue facilitation and mediation support; and post-conflict rehabilitation. Decisions to enhance engagement with OSCE Partners for Co-operation, Afghanistan in particular.
19th 6–7 December 2012 Dublin  Ireland Helsinki+40 Process: clear path to the 2015 40th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, intent to reinforce and revitalize the OSCE; unanimous support for Transdniestrian settlement process: negotiated, comprehensive, just and viable solution to the conflict; strengthening good governance: deepening engagement in preventing and countering corruption, addressing transnational threats, and adding an anti-terrorism framework to earlier decisions on threats from information and communication technologies, drugs and chemical precursors and strategic policing; despite Ireland's hopes, a decision on human rights was not reached: greater, still, was concern for the Council's trend of human rights decision-failures.[16]
20th 5–6 December 2013 Kiev  Ukraine
21st 4–5 December 2014 Basel   Switzerland
22nd 3–4 December 2015 Belgrade  Serbia

Chairmanship history

Chairmanship of the OSCE is held by a member state on a calendar-year basis, with the minister for foreign affairs of that state performing the function of Chairman-in-Office. The table below shows the holders since 1991.[17]

Year Country Chairman-in-Office
1991  Germany Hans-Dietrich Genscher (from June)
1992  Czechoslovakia Jiří Dienstbier (until 2 July); Jozef Moravčík (from 3 July)
1993  Sweden Margaretha af Ugglas
1994  Italy Beniamino Andreatta (until 11 May); Antonio Martino (from 12 May)
1995  Hungary László Kovács
1996   Switzerland Flavio Cotti
1997  Denmark Niels Helveg Petersen
1998  Poland Bronislaw Geremek
1999  Norway Knut Vollebaek
2000  Austria Wolfgang Schüssel (until 4 February); Benita Ferrero-Waldner (from 5 February)
2001  Romania Mircea Geoană
2002  Portugal Jaime Gama (until 6 April); António Martins da Cruz (from 7 April)
2003  Netherlands Jaap de Hoop Scheffer (until 3 December); Bernard Bot (from 4 December)
2004  Bulgaria Solomon Passy
2005  Slovenia Dimitrij Rupel
2006  Belgium Karel De Gucht
2007  Spain Miguel Ángel Moratinos
2008  Finland Ilkka Kanerva (until 4 April); Alexander Stubb (from 5 April)
2009  Greece Dora Bakoyannis (until 5 October); George Papandreou (from 6 October)
2010  Kazakhstan Kanat Saudabayev
2011  Lithuania Audronius Ažubalis
2012  Ireland Eamon Gilmore
2013  Ukraine Leonid Kozhara
2014   Switzerland Didier Burkhalter
2015  Serbia Ivica Dačić
2016  Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier
2017  Austria
2018  Italy

Fiscal history

Since 1993, the OSCE's budget by year (in millions of euros,) has been:

  • 2015 ... €141.1 million
  • 2014 ... €142.3 million
  • 2013 ... €144.8 million
  • 2012 ... €148.4 million
  • 2011 ... €150.0 million
  • 2010 ... €150.7 million
  • 2009 ... €158.6 million
  • 2008 ... €164.1 million
  • 2007 ... €186.2 million
  • 2006 ... €186.2 million
  • 2005 ... €186.6 million
  • 2004 ... €180.8 million
  • 2003 ... €165.5 million
  • 2002 ... €167.5 million
  • 2001 ... €194.5 million
  • 2000 ... €202.7 million
  • 1999 ... €146.1 million
  • 1998 ... €118.7 million
  • 1997 ... €43.3 million
  • 1996 ... €34.9 million
  • 1995 ... €18.9 million
  • 1994 ... €21 million
  • 1993 ... €12 million

Relations with the United Nations

The OSCE considers itself a regional organization in the sense of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter[18] and is an observer in the United Nations General Assembly.[19] The Chairman-in-Office gives routine briefings to the United Nations Security Council.[20]

The three dimensions

Politico-military dimension (first dimension)

The OSCE takes a comprehensive approach to the politico-military dimension of security, which includes a number of commitments by participating States and mechanisms for conflict prevention and resolution. The organization also seeks to enhance military security by promoting greater openness, transparency and co-operation.

Arms control[21]

The end of the Cold War resulted in a huge amount of surplus weapons becoming available in what is known as the international grey market for weapons. The OSCE helps to stop the - often illegal - spread of such weapons and offers assistance with their destruction. The OSCE hosts the annual exchange of information under the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. The OSCE has also implemented two additional exchanges of information, the Vienna Document and the Global Exchange of Military Information. The Open Skies Consultative Commission, the implementing body for the Treaty on Open Skies, meets monthly at its Vienna headquarters.[22]

Border management[23]

The actions taken by the OSCE in border monitoring range from conflict prevention to post-conflict management, capacity building and institutional support.

Combating terrorism[24]

With its expertise in conflict prevention, crisis management and early warning, the OSCE contributes to worldwide efforts in combating terrorism.

Conflict prevention[25][26]

The OSCE works to prevent conflicts from arising and to facilitate lasting comprehensive political settlements for existing conflicts. It also helps with the process of rehabilitation in post-conflict areas.

Military reform

The OSCE's Forum for Security Co-operation provides a framework for political dialogue on military reform, while practical activities are conducted by field operations, as well as the Conflict Prevention Centre.


OSCE police operations are an integral part of the organization's efforts in conflict prevention and post-conflict rehabilitation.


The OSCE was a rather small organization until selection by the international community to provide electoral organization to post war Bosnia and Herzegovina in early 1996. Ambassador Frowick was the first OSCE representative to initiate national election in September 1996, human rights issues and rule of law specifically designed to provide a foundation for judicial organization within Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The OSCE had regional offices and field offices, to include the office in Brcko in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina which remained in limbo until the Brcko Arbitration Agreement could be decided, finalized and implemented.

Brcko become a "special district" and remains so today.

The OSCE essentially took the place of the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina in part because the Bosnian leadership felt deep contempt for the UN efforts to stop the war which began in 1991 and ended in 1995. During the time the United Nations were attempting a political solution, thousands of UN troops were posted in and around Bosnia and Herzegovina with special emphasis on Sarajevo. Between the inclusive dates of 1991 through 1995, over 200,000 Bosnians were killed and over one million displaced and another million as refugees.

The OSCE continues to have a presence and a number of initiatives to bring a sustained peace to the region.

Economic and environmental dimension (second dimension)

Activities in the economic and environmental dimension include the monitoring of developments related to economic and environmental security in OSCE participating States, with the aim of alerting them to any threat of conflict; assisting States in the creation of economic and environmental policies, legislation and institutions to promote security in the OSCE region.

Economic activities

Among the economic activities of the OSCE feature activities related to migration management, transport and energy security. Most activities are implemented in co-operation with partner organizations.

Environmental activities

The OSCE has developed a range of activities in the environmental sphere aimed at addressing ecologic threats to security in its participating States. Among the activities feature projects in the area of hazardous waste, water management and access to information under the Aarhus Convention.

Human dimension (third dimension)

The commitments made by OSCE participating States in the human dimension aim to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; to abide by the rule of law; to promote the principles of democracy by building, strengthening and protecting democratic institutions; and to promote tolerance throughout the OSCE region.

Combating trafficking in human beings

Since 2003 the OSCE[27] has had an established mechanism for combating trafficking in human beings, as defined by Article 3 of the Palermo Protocol,[28] which is aimed at raising public awareness of the problem and building the political will within participating states to tackle it effectively.

The OSCE actions against trafficking in human beings are coordinated by the Office of the Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.[27] Maria Grazia Giammarinaro,[29] a judge in the Criminal Court of Rome, took Office as the Special Representative in March 2010. From 2006 to 2009 this Office was held by Eva Biaudet, a former Finnish Minister of Health and Social Services. Biaudet currently serves as Finnish Ombudsman for Minorities. Her predecessor was former Austrian Minister Helga Conrad, who served as the first OSCE Special Representative for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings.

The activities around Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in the OSCE Region of the Office of the Special Representative include:[30]


The OSCE claims to promote democracy and assist the participating states in building democratic institutions.


Education programmes are an integral part of the organization's efforts in conflict prevention and post-conflict rehabilitation.


As part of its democratization activities, the OSCE carries out election assistance projects in the run-up to, during, and following elections. However, the effectiveness of such assistance is arguable—Kazakhstan, for example, despite being the former chair of the OSCE, is considered by many to be one of the least democratic countries in the world. Moreover, the recent democratic advances made in other Central Asian republics, notably Kyrgyzstan, have led to rumours of Soviet-style disruption of the Kyrgyz democratic process by, in particular, Kazakhstan and Russia. This may be in large part due to fears over the long-term stability of these countries' own quasi-dictatorships.

Gender equality

The equality of men and women is an integral part of sustainable democracy. The OSCE aims to provide equal opportunities for men and women and to integrate gender equality in policies and practices.

Human rights

The OSCE's human rights activities focus on such priorities as freedom of movement and religion, preventing torture and trafficking in persons.

National and international NGOs

OSCE could grant consultive status to NGOs and INGOs in the form of "Researcher-in-residence programme" (run by the Prague Office of the OSCE Secretariat): accredited representatives of national and international NGOs are granted access to all records and to numerous topical compilations related to OSCE field activities.

Media freedom

The OSCE observes relevant media developments in its participating states with a view to addressing and providing early warning on violations of freedom of expression.

Minority rights

Ethnic conflict is one of the main sources of large-scale violence in Europe today. The OSCE's approach is to identify and to seek early resolution of ethnic tensions, and to set standards for the rights of persons belonging to minority groups and High Commissioner on National Minorities has been established.


Following an unprecedented period of activity in the 1990s and early 2000s (decade), the OSCE has in the past few years faced accusations from the CIS states (primarily Russia) of being a tool for the Western states to advance their own interests. For instance, the events in Ukraine in 2004 (the "Orange Revolution") led to allegations by Russia of OSCE involvement on behalf of the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko. At the 2007 Munich Conference on Security Policy, Vladimir Putin made this position very clear:

"They [unnamed Western States] are trying to transform the OSCE into a vulgar instrument designed to promote the foreign policy interests of one or a group of countries. And this task is also being accomplished by the OSCE's bureaucratic apparatus, which is absolutely not connected with the state founders in any way. Decision-making procedures and the involvement of so-called non-governmental organizations are tailored for this task. These organizations are formally independent but they are purposefully financed and therefore under control".[31][32][33][34]

Russia and its allies are advancing the concept of a comprehensive OSCE reform, which would make the Secretariat, institutions and field presences more centralized and accountable to collective consensus-based bodies and focus the work of the Organization on topical security issues (human trafficking, terrorism, non-proliferation, arms control, etc.), at the expense of the "Human Dimension", or human rights issues. The move to reduce the autonomy of the theoretically independent OSCE institutions, such as ODIHR, would effectively grant a Russian veto over any OSCE activity. Western participating States are opposing this process, which they see as an attempt to prevent the OSCE from carrying out its democratization agenda in post-Soviet countries.

Following the 2008 U.S. presidential election, OSCE's ODIHR was accused of having double standards by Russia's lawmaker Slutsky. The point was made that while numerous violations of the voting process were registered, its criticism came only from within the United States (media, human rights organizations, McCain's election staff), while the OSCE known for its bashing criticism of elections on the post-Soviet space remained silent.[35][36]

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

In 2004 the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly sent election observers to the U.S. Presidential elections. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s president at the time was Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings. Hastings had previously been impeached for corruption by the U.S. Congress. The OSCE faced criticism of partisanship and double standards due to Hastings's past and the fact that the OSCE's mandate was to promote democracy and the values of civil society.[37]

In 2010 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe was criticized from within by the Latvian delegation for lacking transparency and democracy. Spencer Oliver (b. 1938) secretary general of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, who has held the post since the organization's inception in 1992, faced a challenge from the Latvian Artis Pabriks. According to the rules of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly the incumbent general secretary can only be replaced with a full consensus minus one. Pabriks called the rules "quite shocking from the perspective of an organization that's monitoring elections".[38]

In 2014, Ilkka Kanerva was elected the president of the OSCE PA. Kanerva had previously been fired from his post as foreign minister of Finland after lying about sending over 200 text messages to an erotic dancer.[39]

2012 Texas controversy

Before the U.S. presidential elections of November 2012, the OSCE announced its intention to send electoral observers to Texas and to other U.S. states. This prompted the Attorney General of Texas Greg Abbott to send letters to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to the OSCE,[40] threatening to arrest OSCE officials if they should enter electoral premises in Texas and break Texas law.[41] In reply, the U.S. Department of State stated that OSCE observers enjoyed immunities.[42] In the event, no incidents between OSCE and Texas authorities were recorded during the elections.

Allegations of pro-Russian bias (War in Donbass)

OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine

The organization has come under increasing criticism in the Russian–Ukraine conflict. During the War in Donbass, an OSCE observer allowed Russian separatists to use the organization's marked vehicle, which prompted the belief that the OSCE was biased in the war and not interested in carrying out its duties of mediating a ceasefire. The organization issued a statement regretting the incident.[43] The organization has also been criticized by Ukraine for failing to monitor the implementation of the Minsk Protocol. The agreement called for a creation of a 40 km buffer zone, but upon Ukrainian forces withdrawing from their 20 km portion of the buffer, Russian separatists simply occupied the abandoned territory without withdrawing from their own 20 km buffer. Likewise, there continues to be reports of separatists using OSCE marked vehicles for transportation. Moreover, the mission also received criticism that only 2 checkpoints on the Russian–Ukrainian border are currently being monitored, which has been described as "seriously inadequate" by Daniel Baerm the US ambassador to the OSCE. The mission has also been criticized for waiting months to deploy drones to help monitor the border as well as withdrawing them after only several weeks of use due to Russian electronic attacks. Ukraine has stated that approximately 80% of the OSCE observers located near Mariupol were Russian citizens and many had ties to Russian security agencies such as the FSB and GRU. The organization has also been accused of revealing the locations of Ukrainian troops to Russian forces during the conflict and that Russian OSCE observers may be directly coordinating separatist artillery strikes on Ukrainian positions.[44][45][46][47][48] On 1 December 2014, an OSCE observer was injured by Ukrainian counter artillery fire while observing militants firing at Ukrainian forces. The OSCE team was located next to two pro Russian mortar teams. The OSCE team did not radio in or record the Russian mortar team firing on Ukrainian positions. Critics stated that the unorthodox behavior of being located next to an active separatist artillery position and not reporting the incident showed that the OSCE team was not acting in an impartial manner.[49] On 27 October 2015 a suspended OSCE monitor confirmed he was a former employee of Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate. The suspended SMM stated he had no trouble receiving the position and neither the OSCE nor Ukraine's Security Service thoroughly checked his background.[50] Following the report the OSCE issued a comment stating the monitor has been fired due to violations of the organization's code of conduct.[51] On 6 April 2016 photos of OSCE monitors attending the wedding of a Russian separatist were found. The wedding was hosted in June 2015. The OSCE expressed regret over the incident, issuing a statement saying “The unprofessional behavior displayed by the monitors in the picture is an individual incident that should not be abused to cast a shadow on the reputation of other mission members.” The OSCE reported that the monitors were no longer with the OSCE special monitoring mission.[52]

See also


  1. Galbreath, David J. (2007). The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 9780203960943.
  2. "Final Recommendations of the Helsinki Consultations". Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. 3 July 1973. Retrieved 9 May 2015.
  3. Ivanov, Igor S., The New Russian Diplomacy, Nixon Center and Brookings Institution Press: Washington, D.C., 2002. pp. 97-98.
  4. U.S. invites international observers to Nov election", USA Today, 10 August 2004
  5. "International Monitoring of US Election Called 'Frightening'", Cybercast News Service
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 9 July 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  7. List of Partners for Co-Operation; Mediterranean and Asian States Archived 5 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. "Making a credible case for a legal personality for the OSCE", OSCE Secretariat
  10. "Vienna Document 1999 of the Negotiations on Confidence- and Security-building Measures" (PDF). Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. 16 November 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 April 2005. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  11. "Secretary General". 20 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
  12. "What is the OSCE?". Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. p. 7. Retrieved 1 April 2016.
  13. Representative on Freedom of the Media
  14. "The OSCE Chair-in-Office (CiO)". Retrieved 12 November 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  15. "Who we are". Retrieved 12 November 2014. External link in |website= (help)
  16. "19th OSCE Ministerial Council".
  17. OSCE Magazine, issue number 4/2009, December 2009, pages 20–23.
  18. "Secretariat - External Cooperation". OSCE.
  19. United Nations General Assembly Session 48 Resolution 5. Observer status for the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe in the General Assembly A/RES/48/5 22 October 1993. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
  20. United Nations Security Council Verbatim Report 5982. S/PV/5982 page 2. Mr. Stubb Finland 26 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
  21. "Arms control".
  22. "Open Skies Consultative Commission".
  23. "Border management".
  24. "Combating terrorism".
  25. "Conflict prevention and resolution".
  26. "Conflict prevention and resolution".
  27. 1 2 "Combating trafficking in human beings".
  28. Palermo Protocol
  29. Maria Grazia Giammarinaro
  30. Combating Trafficking in Human Beings in the OSCE Region
  31. The Munich Speech", Kommersant Moscow
  32. [OSCE: Election Experts Debate Russian Criticism] - [Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty © 2008]
  33. Criticism of OSCE by Nine CIS Countries Draws the Response
  34. "Austrian Study Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ASPR) - Peace Castle Austria" (PDF).
  35. "OSCE, ODIHR Showed Double Standard at U.S. Election, Russia’s Lawmaker Said", Kommersant, 6 November 2008
  36. "OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report" of the U.S. 2008 presidential election
  37. "US vote 'mostly free and fair'". BBC. 5 November 2004. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  38. An election in Copenhagen
  39. Graeme Baker (2 April 2008). "Finnish minister quits over saucy texts".
  41. "Texas Attorney General".
  42. Daily Press Briefing: October 26, 2012 US State Department
  43. "Наблюдатели ОБСЕ возили в своем автомобиле вооруженных боевиков Больше читайте здесь:". TSN. 3 Oct 2014. External link in |title= (help)
  44. "The OSCE monitoring mission has stopped using drones to monitor the situation in the rebel-held territories". OSCE news.
  45. "Миссия ОБСЕ в Украине под шквалом критики". EuroUA.
  46. "Литвин рассказал генсеку ОБСЕ, что критика в адрес Украины не всегда объективна". Gazeta.
  47. "Россия узнала от ОБСЕ места дислокации ряда подразделений сил АТО". Liga.
  48. "Минобороны: 80% сотрудников ОБСЕ в Мариуполе – россияне, среди них ФСБшники". Ukrinform.
  49. "OSCE observer is wounded from counter-fire while observing separatist militia firing a mortar at Ukrainian forces.". BurkoNews.
  50. "Suspended OSCE monitor confirms he's Russian GRU officer". UNIAN.
  51. "That Time A Russian OSCE Monitor In Ukraine Got Drunk, Said Too Much". Value Walk.
  52. "OSCE Expresses 'Regret' After Staff Shown At Separatist Wedding In Ukraine". Radio Free Europe.

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