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What is the OSCE


What is the OSCE

The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe)

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is based in Vienna and is a pan-European security organization whose 57 Participating States cover a geographic area stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. As a regional agreement in compliance with Chapter 8 of the United Nations Charter, the OSCE is an essential early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation instrument in the region.

The OSCE’s approach to global security is cooperative. It deals with a wide range of issues connected to security, including arms control, preventive diplomacy, confidence and security building measures, human rights, democratization and economic and environmental security. All the States participating in OSCE activities (so-called “Participating States”) enjoy equal status and decisions are adopted on the basis of the principle of consensus. 

The Organization performs its activity in three essential sectors (called “dimensions”), initially called “baskets” in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE): the Politico-Military Dimension deals with the military aspects of security; the Economic and Environmental Dimension prevalently deals with the issue of energy, the environment and economic development; the Human Dimension, is dedicated to the rule of law and protecting human rights.

The Foreign Ministers of the OSCE Participating States hold annual meetings called Ministerial Councils. The Heads of State and Government may convene in a Summit (the last was held in Astana in December 2010). The OSCE’s ordinary decision-making body for regular political consultations is the Permanent Council, which assembles the permanent representatives of the Participating States.

The Chairperson-in-Office of the OSCE holds the office for one calendar year, and exercises policy orientation functions, promotes political dialogue and is responsible for the Organization’s executive functions. The Secretary-General holds a three-year mandate and assists the Chairperson. The Secretary-General’s tasks include managing the OSCE structures and missions on the ground. In the OSCE system, three independent institutions are especially important: 1) the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), headquartered in Warsaw; 2) the Representative on Freedom of the Media, headquartered in Vienna; 3) the High Commissioner on National Minorities, headquartered in The Hague.

The OSCE has its own network of Missions that operate through different mandates in the Balkans and in South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The OSCE Chairperson-in Office: functions and tasks

The OSCE Chairmanship is held for one calendar year (1st January – 31st December) by the OSCE Participating State designated as such by a decision of the Ministerial Council.

The Chairmanship, on behalf of the Ministerial Council and of the Permanent Council (composed of the Permanent Representatives of the Participating States) is in charge of coordinating and holding consultations on the OSCE’s current issues. In particular, the Chairmanship coordinates the decision-making process and defines the OSCE’s priority activities. The following are some of the tasks entrusted to the Chairmanship:

-          Chairs Summits, the Ministerial Council, the Permanent Council and OSCE-related bodies;

-          Coordinates the consultations on OSCE’s current issues;

-          Transmits projects, reports and position papers to the Permanent Council;

-          Submits recommendations on specific issues to the Permanent Council;

-          Notifies the decisions taken in the Summits, the Ministerial Council and the Permanent Council to the Secretariat, the OSCE institutions and field operations;

-          Handles procedures relative to appointments and assignments;

-          Represents the OSCE externally, in consultations with Participating States and relying on the assistance of the Secretary-General;

-          Appoints the Special and Personal Representatives of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.


The Country that exercises the Chairmanship chairs the Permanent Council, which convenes once a week in Vienna to discuss the main developments relative to the OSCE area and is one of the Organization’s main decision-making bodies. The Chairmanship’s tasks include drafting the weekly agenda of the Permanent Council in cooperation with the OSCE Secretariat, which assists the Chairmanship in the performance of its activities. The Minister of Foreign Affairs attends the first Permanent Council meeting of the year as Chairperson-in-Office; the following meetings are customarily chaired by the Permanent Representative.

In the exercise of his/her functions, the Chairperson-in-Office is assisted by the Secretariat of the OSCE. 

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