What is OSCE?

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the largest regional security organisation in the world with 55 participating States from Europe, Central Asia and North America.

What makes the OSCE unique is it was the first regional security organisation to include a human dimension in its mandate. The philosophy being that regional security is dependent on co-operation between the participating States and on the strengthening of the human dimension. Taking positive steps in the areas of human rights, democratisation, election monitoring and establishing the rule of law are seen as security building measures. The OSCE is also active in early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.

The OSCE approach to security is comprehensive and co-operative in the sense that all OSCE participating States have equal status, and decisions are based on consensus.

Structures and institutions

The OSCE provides a forum for consultation and negotiation among the participating States. The OSCE decision-making bodies are:

The Permanent Council - the main regular decision-making body of the Organisation, convenes weekly in Vienna to discuss current developments in the OSCE area and to make appropriate decisions.

The Forum for Security Co-operation - meets weekly in Vienna to discuss and make decisions regarding military aspects of security in the OSCE area, in particular confidence- and security-building measures.

The Economic and Environmental Forum - convenes once a year in Prague to focus on economic and environmental factors that affect security in the OSCE area.

Summits - OSCE Heads of State or Government meet periodically to set priorities and provide orientation at the highest political level. Each Summit is preceded by a review conference, where the implementation of OSCE commitments is reviewed and Summit documents are negotiated.

Ministerial Council - a meeting of OSCE Foreign Ministers is convened in those years when no Summit takes place to review OSCE activities and to make appropriate decisions.

The Organisation has developed several structures and institutions to follow-up on the political decisions negotiated by the participating States, one of them is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) - read more here.

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