Quick Guide: The OSCE

Quick Guide: The OSCE

BBC News
June 2 2004

Flags of member nations at the OSCE HQ (Picture: OSCE)
Membership: 55 nations
Headquarters: Vienna, Austria
Budget: 185.7m euros (2003)
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE,
aims to prevent conflict and manage crises in Europe, the Caucasus
and central Asia.
The organisation is based in Vienna, Austria, but many of its 3,500
staff work in the field. The OSCE is particularly active in the
countries of the former Yugoslavia and in the republics of the

The organisation’s mandate is broad. It aims to promote democracy and
human rights and to resolve regional conflicts. To this end it
encourages political, social and media reforms.

The OSCE has no peacekeeping contingents, but may call on the
resources of other international bodies, including the UN and Nato.


The OSCE’s forerunner, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in
Europe (CSCE), was set up in 1972 as a forum for dialogue between
nations. It brought Nato and Warsaw Pact countries to the meeting

Moldova: OSCE monitors removal of Russian arms (OSCE/Neil Brennan)
In 1975 the CSCE produced the Helsinki Final Act. The signatories –
from East and West – promised to respect basic freedoms and human
rights and to recognise Europe’s post-war borders.

At the end of the Cold War, the CSCE became a fully-fledged
organisation and provided the framework for reducing conventional
armed forces in Europe.

The organisation adopted its present name in 1994 to reflect its more
permanent structure.

Members, decision-making

The OSCE has 55 member states. These are drawn mainly from Europe,
the Caucasus and Central Asia. The United States and Canada are
members of the OSCE.

All OSCE members have equal status within the body. Decisions are
reached by consensus, except in the case of “clear, gross and
uncorrected violations” of OSCE commitments by a member country.

Member states fund the running of the organisation and its missions.


Summit Conference: Leaders of member states meet once every two or
three years to map out the OSCE’s priorities
Ministerial Council: The OSCE’s main governing body meets annually,
except in a Summit Conference year; it comprises foreign affairs
ministers of member countries
Permanent Council: Undertakes the day-to-day running of OSCE
activities; comprises permanent representatives of member states who
meet once a week


Chairman-in-office: The position is held by the foreign affairs
minister of a member state for a one-year term. The incumbent has
overall responsibility for the organisation.

Secretary-general: Responsible for managing OSCE operations, the
secretary-general is the representative of the chairman-in-office.

OSCE on the ground

Albania: A substantial OSCE presence aims to promote democracy, human
rights and media freedom.

Monitors on Georgia-Chechnya border (OSCE/Alexander Nitzsche) Armenia
and Azerbaijan: The OSCE is working for a political settlement between
Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed Nagorno Karabakh region. It
has monitored elections in both states and maintains offices in their
capital cities.

Belarus: The OSCE has repeatedly clashed with President Alexander
Lukashenko after it condemned as fraudulent elections which he won in
2001. The OSCE office in Minsk undertakes projects related to the
body’s principles.

Bosnia: An OSCE mission aims to strengthen the legal system and
de-segregate the education system.

Central Asia: The OSCE maintains offices in the capitals of Uzbekistan,
Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. The OSCE monitors
elections in the region. It has warned that a failure to develop
democracy will make Central Asia more vulnerable to extremism. The
OSCE has criticised human rights standards in Turkmenistan.

Chechnya: The organisation has urged a political solution to the
conflict and has expressed concerns about the climate of violence and
the lack of independent media in the republic. In 2002 Russia refused
to renew the mandate of the OSCE’s mission.

Elections in Kosovo: OSCE is committed to democracy-building
Croatia: An OSCE mission advises on democratisation and human rights.

Georgia: The OSCE urges a political resolution to the status of the
breakway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. OSCE
monitors are in place on the Georgia-Chechnya border.

Kosovo: As part of the UN Mission in Kosovo, a large OSCE presence is
involved in democracy-building and human rights monitoring. The OSCE
police school trained more than 6,000 officers for Kosovo’s new,
multi-ethnic police force.

Macedonia: Originally set up in 1992 to prevent the Balkan conflict
from spreading, the OSCE mission expanded following the 2001 conflict
between ethnic Albanian rebels and government forces. The
organisation has trained a new multi-ethnic police force.

Moldova: The OSCE is working for a political settlement between
Moldova and the breakaway Trans-Dniestr region.

Macedonia: 2001 conflict prompted the OSCE to boost its presence
Serbia and Montenegro: The federation was admitted to the OSCE in
2000, eight years after the old Yugoslavia was suspended during the
war in Bosnia. An OSCE mission based in Belgrade has set the
promotion of democratisation, human rights and media freedom as its

Ukraine: The OSCE runs projects on media freedom, military and legal