The OSCE is a co-operative security organisation with a very comprehensive mandate addressing security-related issues including stability, arms control, human and minority rights, democratisation in the broadest sense and economic as well as environmental security. It is the only pan-European security forum in which Russia participates on an equal status. Its distinguishing characteristic is its wide membership, comprising 57 participating states, including all European countries and the USA, Canada, and the Central Asian states. The term co-operative means that the OSCE does not apply coercive measures, but must seek the host country's agreement before becoming active in the event of crisis or conflict.
In the past decade, the OSCE has become a major instrument for early warning, conflict prevention, non-military crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. Moreover, the OSCE constitutes an important forum for arms control and disarmament in the field of conventional arms.
The OSCE chair is assumed at regular intervals by one member state which then plays an important role in managing the Organization’s work and in its external representation. The foreign minister of the country holding the chair holds the office of Chairman-in-Office (CiO). The fact that decision-making within the OSCE requires a consensus among all 57 participating states represents a particular diplomatic challenge for the chair. The following participating states exercise this role: Ireland (2012), Ukraine (2013), Switzerland (2014), Serbia (2015). In 2000 Austria chaired the OSCE.
The OSCE Secretariat, under the direction of the Secretary General (since 2011 Lamberto Zannier) is the organisational backbone and provides support for the Chair's activities. It is based in Vienna, assisted by an office in Prague.
Besides, the OSCE is equipped with a number of instruments for the fulfilment of its tasks. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), headed since 2008 by the Slovenian diplomat Janez Lenarcic, is located in Warsaw and seeks to promote democratic elections, particularly by election monitoring, and provides practical support aimed at strengthening democratic institutions under the rule of law and fostering civil society structures. The office of the High Commissioner on National Minorities is located in The Hague and seeks to identify and resolve ethnic tensions at the earliest possible stage. The office of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, based in Vienna and currently held by Dunja Mijatovic from Bosnia-Herzegovina was established to monitor compliance with this important fundamental right.
A central instrument for conflict prevention, civil crisis management and consolidation of peace are the Long Term Missions. The OSCE has established 15 such field activities, involving approximately 2000 international and local staff members in the Balkans and the CIS (inter alia in the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia). The Chairman-in-Office may appoint Personal Representatives who use their political weight to assist in conflict management in the event of an imminent crisis.
The majority of the international experts active in OSCE field missions are seconded to the OSCE by participating states. Information on current job vacancies in OSCE field missions and details of the application procedure can be accessed online.
For further information please consult the Home Page of OSCE