The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, human rights, freedom of the press, and fair elections. Most of its 3,500-plus staff are engaged in field operations, with only around 10% in its headquarters.
The OSCE is an ad hoc organization under the United Nations Charter (Chap. VIII), and is concerned with early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. Its 56 participating States are from Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia and North America and cover most of the northern hemisphere. It was created during the Cold War era as an East-West forum.
In addition to the Ministerial Council and Permanent Council, the Forum for Security Co-operation is also an OSCE decision-making body. It deals predominantly with matters of military co-operation, such as modalities for inspections according to the 1999 Vienna Document.
The OSCE's Secretariat is located in Vienna, Austria. The current Secretary General is Marc Perrin de Brichambaut of France, who took over from Ján Kubiš of Slovakia. The Organization also has offices in Copenhagen, Geneva, The Hague, Prague and Warsaw.
The OSCE employs close to 440 persons in its various institutions. In the field, the Organization has about 750 international and 2,370 local staff.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe issues resolutions, including a controversial measure in 2005 endorsing full representation of the District of Columbia residents in the United States Congress .
The oldest OSCE institution is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, established in 1990. It is based in Warsaw, Poland, and is active throughout the OSCE area in the fields of election observation, democratic development, human rights, tolerance and non-discrimination, and rule of law. To prevent election fraud the ODIHR has observed over 150 elections and referendums since 1995, sending more than 15,000 observers. It has operated outside its own area twice, sending a team that offered technical support to the October 9, 2004 presidential elections in Afghanistan, an OSCE Partner for Co-operation, and an election support team to assist with parliamentary and provincial council elections scheduled on 18 September 2005.
The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, established in December 1997, acts as a watchdog to provide early warning on violations of freedom of expression in OSCE participating States. The Representative also assists participating States by advocating and promoting full compliance with OSCE norms, principles and commitments regarding freedom of expression and free media. The current Representative is former Hungarian parliamentarian Miklos Haraszti .
The OSCE had regional offices and field offices, to include the office in Brcko in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina which remained in limbo until the Brcko Arbitration Agreement could be decided, finalized and implemented.
Brcko become a "special district" and remains so today.
The OSCE essentially took the place of the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina in part because the Bosnian leadership felt deep contempt for the UN efforts to stop the war which began in 1991 and ended in 1995. During the time the United Nations were attempting a political solution, thousands of UN troops were posted in and around Bosnia and Herzegovina with special emphasis on Sarajevo. Between the inclusive dates of 1991 through 1995, over 200,000 Bosnians (now termed "Bosniacs") were killed and over one million displaced and another million as refugees.
The OSCE continues to have a presence and a number of initiatives to bring a sustained peace to the region.
Following an unprecedented period of activity in the 1990s and early 2000s, the OSCE has in the past few years faced accusations from the CIS states (primarily Russia) of being a tool for the Western states to advance their own interests. For instance, the events in Ukraine in 2004 (the "Orange Revolution") led to allegations by Russia of OSCE involvement on behalf of the pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko. At the 2007 Munich Conference on Security Policy, Vladimir Putin made this position very clear:
Russia and its allies are advancing the concept of a comprehensive OSCE reform, which would make the Secretariat, institutions and field presences more centralized and accountable to collective consensus-based bodies and focus the work of the Organization on topical security issues (human trafficking, terrorism, non-proliferation, arms control, etc.), at the expense of the "Human Dimension", or human rights issues. The move to reduce the autonomy of the theoretically independent OSCE institutions, such as ODIHR, would effectively grant a Russian veto over any OSCE activity. Western participating States are opposing this process, which they see as an attempt to prevent the OSCE from carrying out its democratization agenda in post-Soviet countries.
The recommendations of the talks, "The Blue Book", gave the practical foundations for a three-stage conference, the Helsinki process. The CSCE opened in Helsinki on July 3, 1973 with 35 states sending representatives. Stage I only took five days to agree to follow the Blue Book. Stage II was the main working phase and was conducted in Geneva from September 18, 1973 until July 21, 1975. The result of Stage II was the Helsinki Final Act which was signed by the 35 participating States during Stage III, which took place in Finlandia Hall from July 30 to August 1, 1975. It was opened by Holy Sees diplomat Agostino Cardinal Casaroli who was chairman of the conference.
The concepts of improving relations and implementing the Act were developed over a series of follow-up meeting, with major gatherings in Belgrade (October 4, 1977 - March 8, 1978), Madrid (November 11, 1980 - September 9, 1983), and Vienna (November 4, 1986 - January 19, 1989).
The collapse of Communism required a change of role for the CSCE. The Charter of Paris for a New Europe which was signed on November 21, 1990 marked the beginning of this change. With the changes capped by the re-naming of the CSCE to the OSCE on January 1, 1995, accordingly to the results of the conference held in Budapest, in 1994. The OSCE now had a formal Secretariat, Senior Council, Parliamentary Assembly, Conflict Prevention Centre, and Office for Free Elections (later becoming the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights).
In December 1996, the "Lisbon Declaration on a Common and Comprehensive Security Model for Europe for the Twenty-First Century" affirmed the universal and indivisible nature of security on the European continent.
In Istanbul on November 19, 1999, the OSCE ended a two-day summit by calling for a political settlement in Chechnya and adopting a Charter for European Security. According to then Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov, this summit marked a turning point in Russian perception of the OSCE, from an organization that expressed Europe's collective will, to an organization that serves as a Western tool for "forced democratization.
After a group of thirteen Democratic United States senators petitioned Secretary of State Colin Powell to have foreign election monitors oversee the 2004 presidential election, the State Department acquiesced, and President George W. Bush invited the OSCE to do so.
|1991||Hans-Dietrich Genscher||none||1992||Jiří Dienstbier||Jozef Moravčík||1993||Margaretha af Ugglas||none||1994||Beniamino Andreatta||Antonio Martino||1995||Laszlo Kovacs||none||1996||Flavio Cotti||none||1997||Niels Helveg Petersen||none||1998||Bronislaw Geremek||none||1999||Knut Vollebaek||none||2000||Wolfgang Schüssel||Benita Ferrero-Waldner||2001||Mircea Geoană||none||2002||Jaime Gama||Antonio Martins da Cruz||2003||Jaap de Hoop Scheffer||Bernard Bot||2004||Solomon Passy||none||2005||Dimitrij Rupel||none||2006||Karel De Gucht||none||2007||Miguel Ángel Moratinos||none||2008||Ilkka Kanerva||Alexander Stubb||2009||Theodora Bakoyannis||2010||Marat Tazhin|
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