The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has 56 participating states. It is the only security policy cooperation body in Europe in which all European states – as well as the USA, Canada and the Central Asian countries – participate on equal terms. Today, the OSCE is an organisation focusing on conflict prevention, crisis management and democracy development in the field.

The OSCE works with security issues from a broad perspective. The organisation’s operations are based on a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses the politico-military dimension and the human dimension (democracy and human rights), as well as the economic and environmental dimensions.

During the 1990s, emphasis in the OSCE shifted from long-term negotiations on norm-building and military confidence-building to crisis management, conflict prevention and reconstruction efforts. The flexible structure and cost-effective organisation of the OSCE allows for rapid preventive action, often in close cooperation with other international bodies.

Efforts for the rule of law
One of the OSCE’s fundamental principles is that long-term security presupposes democracy, respect for human rights and a functioning state under the rule of law. A key to the OSCE’s success is that respect for human rights is considered an integral part of politics and not as a free-standing issue. Human rights abuses are considered as political phenomena that can pose a threat to security.

A state’s participation in the OSCE entails a commitment to respect and comply with human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is responsible for promoting conditions for democratic elections among OSCE participating states and assisting their efforts to build and strengthen democratic institutions. ODIHR is also tasked with monitoring how OSCE participating states comply with and implement adopted commitments in the human dimension. ODIHR also acts within the OSCE as a contact point on Roma issues and works actively to combat human trafficking.

High Commissioner on National Minorities
The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities works as an instrument of preventive diplomacy by seeking to identify and work toward early resolution of ethnic tensions that could risk peace, stability and relations between OSCE member states. The High Commissioner is not an ombudsman for minority issues, however, or an inspector of individual human rights violations. The main tools of the High Commissioner are the recommendations provided in accordance with its mandate to governments in countries where measures are necessary in the area of minorities. The recommendations often concern rights to citizenship, non-discrimination, opportunities to use one’s own language, education in minority languages and opportunities to participate in and actively influence political life.

Representative on Freedom of the Media
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media is tasked with monitoring developments within media and freedom of speech in the entire OSCE area and supporting the efforts of participating states to develop these areas, as well as calling attention to instances when states violate their commitments to freedom of speech.

Trafficking in human beings
Since 2003 the OSCE has had a Special Representative for Combating Trafficking who is based in Vienna. The task of the Special Representative is to assist participating states in implementing their commitments and applying the recommendations in the OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings.

Read more on the OSCE website
Read more about Sweden and the OSCE
Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
The OSCE Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings

High Commissioner on National Minorities