What is the OSCE? Composition, missions and OSCE observers


What is the OSCE? The history of this organization is as follows. In 1973, an international meeting was held at which issues of cooperation and security in Europe (CSCE) were discussed. Participated 33 states. It ended with the signing by the heads of state and government in Helsinki of an act that became a long-term program of action for the construction of a united, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Europe. Organization is key to the European Community. It has broad powers to resolve various conflicts, monitor the observance of human rights in individual countries, monitor environmental safety.


Evolution of the organization

What is the OSCE? According to the Helsinki Final Agreements, the following issues related to European security are related to the main activities of the organization: cooperation in the fields of science, economics, technology, the environment, humanitarian and other fields (human rights, information, culture, education). This is the mission of the OSCE. Important milestones in the development of the Helsinki process were the meetings of the participating States in Belgrade (1977-1978), Madrid (1980-1983), Vienna (1986-1989).


The OSCE summit meetings in Paris (1990), Helsinki (1992), Budapest (1994), Lisbon (1996) and Istanbul (1999) have become very important. As a result of the gradual institutionalization and decision-making on the creation of the post of Secretary-General (1993) and the Permanent Council of the CSCE, it acquired the features of an international regional organization. In accordance with the decision of the Budapest Summit in 1995, the CSCE changed its name to the OSCE. Abbreviation: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In 1996, very important decisions and documents were adopted at the Lisbon meeting of the heads of the participating countries. First, the concept of European security in the 21st century was defined. It dealt with the need to arrange a new Europe without borders and dividing lines. In essence, this document was the basis for the creation of the European Union. Second, the CFE Treaty (conventional arms treaty) has been updated.

What is the OSCE? Today, the organization’s members are 56 countries, including all European, post-Soviet, Canada, USA and Mongolia. This composition of the OSCE allows the organization to solve many issues at the global level. Its mandate covers a huge list of issues of the military-political, environmental, economic and scientific fields. The objectives of the organization are: countering terrorism, arms control, environmental and economic security, the protection of democracy and human rights, as well as many others. OSCE countries have equal status. Decisions are made on the basis of consensus. There are various OSCE institutions. What it is, we will understand below.



The organization primarily focuses its efforts on preventing various regional conflicts, resolving controversial and crisis situations, eliminating the consequences of wars, etc. The main means of maintaining security and solving the achievement of the organization’s main goals are three categories of tools. The first are:

  • arms proliferation control;
  • fiduciary and security arrangements;
  • measures to diplomatically prevent various conflicts.

The second category includes security in the field of economics and ecology. The third category includes everything related to human rights, freedom of conscience and so on. It:

  • human rights activities;
  • election monitoring in various countries;
  • promoting the development of democratic institutions.


It should be understood that the decisions of the OSCE are recommendatory and not binding. However, they have great political significance. The organization employs 370 people in leadership positions and another 3.5 thousand work in field missions.


Summits are called meetings of representatives of the participating countries at the highest level. They are representative forums with the participation of heads of state and government, which, as a rule, are held every two to three years to discuss the state of security and stability in the OSCE region, take relevant decisions, determine the main directions of the organization’s activities in the short and long term prospects.


Council of Ministers and Permanent Council

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the member states of the organization take part in the meetings of the Council of Ministers. It is the central decision-making and governing body of the OSCE. The Permanent Council is an active body within which political consultations are held at the level of permanent representatives of the participating States, decisions are made on all issues of current OSCE activities. PS Plenary meetings are held every Thursday in Vienna.

Parliamentary Assembly

The OSCE has its own Parliamentary Assembly. Plenary meetings are held twice a year with the support of the Secretariat of the PA, located in Copenhagen. The OSCE Chairman maintains contact with the PA on an ongoing basis, informs its participants about the work of the organization. The PA Chairman is elected for a period of one year.


The OSCE Secretariat, which is headed by the Secretary General, manages the missions and centers of the organization deployed in the participating States, serves the activities of other governing bodies, provides for holding various conferences, deals with administrative and budgetary issues, personnel policy, is responsible for liaison with international organizations, press, etc. The Secretariat is located in Vienna (Austria), with a subsidiary office in Prague (Czech Republic). To improve the efficiency of the work of the Secretariat and other institutions of the organization in the economic and environmental planes, in January 1998, the position of the Co-ordinator of OSCE activities in the fields of economics and the environment has been introduced.


Acting chairman

What is the OSCE? The face of this organization and the main political figure is the Chairman-in-Office. He is responsible for coordinating and advising on current political affairs. In his work, the Chairman-in-Office relies on the help of:

  • The predecessor and successor, who work together with him in the format of the three.
  • Special groups, which he also appoints.
  • Personal representatives, who are also appointed by the Chairman-in-Office, with the provision of a specific mandate and the definition of a list of tasks in various fields of competence of the OSCE.

Bureau of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (abbreviated to ODIHR)

This structure contributes to the holding of democratic elections in the participating States (including the direction of observation missions), and also provides practical assistance in establishing democratic institutions and human rights, strengthening the foundations of civil society and the rule of law. The ODIHR office is located in Warsaw.

High Commissioner for National Minorities (HCNM)

This official is responsible for the early warning of conflicts related to minority issues. The Secretariat of the HCNM is located in The Hague.


Media Freedom Representative

This official contributes to the fulfillment by the participating countries of their obligations in the field of mass media. The position of a media representative is critical to ensuring the normal functioning of an open democratic society, as well as a system of government accountability to its citizens. This OSCE institution was established in late 1997.

OSCE Missions

Missions function as a kind of OSCE field structure. In Southeastern Europe they are present in Albania: the OSCE mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo (Serbia). In Eastern Europe: an office in Minsk, a mission in Moldova, a project coordinator in Ukraine. In the South Caucasus: OSCE mission in Georgia, offices in Yerevan and Baku, representative of the Chairman-in-Office on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In Central Asia: mission in Tajikistan, OSCE centers in Almaty, Ashgabat, Bishkek, Tashkent. These institutions are important tools in conflict prevention and on-the-spot crisis management. OSCE observers perform their functions in many hot spots and conflict regions.

Economic and Environmental Forum

These are annual events that are held to give impetus to the economies of the participating States. They also make proposals for practical measures aimed at the development of economic cooperation between countries.

Security Cooperation Forum

This body carries out its work on a permanent basis in Vienna. It consists of representatives of delegations of OSCE participating States, discusses issues of arms control, disarmament, strengthening confidence and security measures.

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