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OSCE

The Helsinki Final Act negotiators, the Foreign Ministers of the CSCE participating States, at the first Helsinki meeting in 1973. (OSCE)

The Helsinki Final Act negotiators, the Foreign Ministers of the CSCE participating States, at the first Helsinki meeting in 1973 (© OSCE)

The OSCE traces its origins to the détente phase of the early 1970s when the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) was created to serve as a multilateral forum for dialogue and negotiation between the East and the West. As a result of meetings held over two years in Helsinki and Geneva, the CSCE reached agreement on the Helsinki Final Act which was signed on 1 August, 1975. This document contained a number of key commitments on politico-military, economic and environmental and human rights issues that became central to the so-called 'Helsinki process'. It also established ten fundamental principles (the 'Decalogue') governing the behaviour of States towards their citizens as well as towards each other.

Its 57 participating states in Europe, Caucasus, Asia and North America cover most of the northern hemisphere. It actively contributes to endeavours in the spheres of early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, human rights, freedom of the press, fair elections, security aspects of economic and environmental issues and many others. The OSCE employs around 2.500 people, most of them working in various field operations. The main seat of the OSCE is in Vienna, whereas other OSCE offices and institutions are located in Copenhagen, Geneva, Hague, Warsaw or Prague.