The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was created in 1995, but originates from the 1975 Conference on
Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Its main documents are the Helsinki Final Act (1975), the Charter of Paris for a New Europe (1990), the Istanbul Charter for European Security (1999) and the Astana Commemorative Declaration (2010). The OSCE is a cooperative security organization which does not apply coercive measures, but must seek the host country’s agreement before becoming active in the event of a crisis or conflict. Decision-making within the OSCE requires a consensus among all 57 participating states.
The OSCE Secretariat is located in Vienna. Since July 2017, Thomas Greminger (Switzerland) is serving as its Secretary General.
While not initiatives of the Organization, several bodies are directly related to the OSCE. The Open Skies Consultative Commission
is the implementing body of the Open Skies Treaty. Another body is the Joint Consultative Group, which is based in Vienna and deals with questions related to the compliance of states with the provisions of the 1990 Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.
57 Participating States
With its wide membership of 57 participating States, the OSCE covers the region “from Vancouver to Vladivostok”, including all European countries and the USA, Canada and Central Asian States. It also has six Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia) and five Asian Partners for Co-operation (Afghanistan, Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand).
Importance of the OSCE
Over the years, the OSCE has become a major instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, non-military crisis management and
post-conflict rehabilitation. Moreover, the OSCE constitutes an important forum for arms control and disarmament in the field of conventional arms. The OSCE also works intensively on transnational threats, such as terrorism, illicit drugs, human trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass-destruction.
By establishing confidence building measures (CBMs), the OSCE contributes to stability and security. Building upon the concept of
“comprehensive security”, the OSCE works in the politico-military dimension, the economic and environmental dimension and the human dimension, with many activities in the field.
The OSCE is supporting participating States in their transformation processes by offering sustainable help in building and strengthening their capacities. Currently, the OSCE employs around 2.700 staff and runs 16 field missions in Eastern Europe, South-Western Europe and Central Asia
The OSCE chair is held at yearly intervals by one participating State, which plays an important role in managing the Organization’s work and in its external representation. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the country holding the chairmanship is the Chairman-in-Office (CiO) of the OSCE. Italy currently holds the Chairmanship of the Organisation, while, in 2019, it will be the Slovak Republic’s turn to chair the OSCE. The CiO can appoint Personal and Special Representatives, who use their political weight and diplomatic skills to assist the activity of the Chair in specific ares (regional or thematic).
The OSCE Secretariat, under the direction of the Secretary General, is the backbone of the Organization and provides support for the Chair’s activities.
The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is located in Warsaw. It promotes democratic processes, particularly by monitoring elections in the participating States, and provides practical support aimed at strengthening democratic institutions and fostering civil society structures. The annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) is held every September in Warsaw.
The Office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities is located in The Hague and seeks to identify and address ethnic tensions at the earliest possible stage.
The office of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, based in Vienna, was established to monitor compliance with this important fundamental right and acts as a media freedom watchdog in the OSCE region.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE is the parliamentary dimension of the OSCE. The primary task of the 323-member Assembly is to facilitate inter-parliamentary dialogue, an important aspect of the overall effort to meet the challenges of security and democracy throughout the OSCE area. The current President is Giorgi Tsereteli (Georgia).