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What is the OSCE

The OSCE has 57 participating States in North America, Europe, Balkan, Caucasus, Russia, and Central Asia and is thus the world’s largest regional security organization. All 57 participating States enjoy equal status, and decisions are taken by consensus on a politically, but not legally binding basis. The OSCE encompasses 16 field missions based in Eastern Europe, Western Balkans, Caucasus, and Central Asia, including the Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (SMM) with approximately 800 observers. The OSCE furthermore includes three autonomous institutions – The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM), and the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). Together these constitute an effective toolbox in the effort to address a number of the region’s central challenges, e.g. the undermining of fundamental human rights, organized crime, corruption, irregular migration and undermining of the rule of law. The OSCE has a comprehensive approach to security that is divided into three interrelated and equally important dimensions.

The politico-military dimension:

Within the politico-military dimension, the OSCE seeks to create greater openness, transparency and co-operation. The organisation and its participating states have developed a comprehensive regime of arms control and confidence-building measures. Other areas of work include security sector reform and safe storage and destruction of small arms, light weapons and conventional ammunition.

The economic and environmental dimension:

Within the economic and environmental dimension, the OSCE supports efforts to promote good governance and environmental awareness, to tackle corruption, to share natural resources and efforts to strengthen sound management of environmental waste.

The human dimension:

All OSCE participating States agree in principle that sustainable security must be based on respect for human rights and well-functioning democratic institutions. The OSCE supports its participating States in strengthening democratic institutions, holding genuine and transparent democratic elections, promoting gender equality, and ensuring respect for human rights and media freedom.

The OSCE is founded on 10 principles, which are enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act from 1975:

1. Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty

2. Refraining from the threat or use of force

3. Inviolability of frontiers

4. Territorial integrity of states

5. Peaceful settlement of disputes

6. Non-intervention in internal affairs

7. Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief

8. Equal rights and self-determination of peoples

9. Co-operation among States

10. Fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law

If you would like to know more about the OSCE’s work, you can read more here.