Human rights and security issues in the broadest sense are at the heart of the OSCE. Human rights have not only been seen as a central issue in themselves but also as an integral part of European security.
OSCE activities were originally divided into three groups of topics, so-called baskets: security policy issues, cooperation on economics, science, technology and environmental protection, and cooperation on human rights. Nowadays, the whole thing is emphasized instead, that everything is connected in a broad concept of security where the individual’s safety is at the center.
The OSCE’s activities were dominated from the outset by military policy cooperation and cooperation on human rights. Since the beginning of the 1990’s, various conflict prevention measures and crisis management have come to the fore. Cooperation in the economic and scientific fields has largely taken the form of expert meetings and seminars.
Once a year, the Permanent Council (see Structure) is convened for a meeting called the Economic and Environmental Policy Forum to discuss, in a broad perspective, issues related to security in the Member States. The OSCE has also arranged meetings on small business and tourism, science and technology, environmental protection and cultural heritage and more.
According to shopareview, the OSCE is the only European organization that is considered a regional organization within the meaning of the UN Charter, with responsibility for ensuring international peace and security in the region.
As a common thread throughout the OSCE’s history, work is being done on so-called confidence-building measures. They are already included in the Final Act of 1975. Member States must inform in advance of major military exercises. These exercises should also be observable by other states. Later, the confidence-building measures have been developed in several stages.
Confidence-building measures are primarily military policy and are about eliminating causes of political tension, strengthening states’ trust in each other and reducing the risk of military conflict as a result of misunderstandings or mistakes. To achieve this, the main focus has been on openness about military conditions. This openness has turned old-fashioned secrecy upside down and created a mutual insight into military conditions that has reduced the risk of dangerous misunderstandings.
At the Stockholm Conference, concluded in 1986 (see Framväxten), the Member States agreed that the voluntary rules of the Final Act for pre-registration and observation of military exercises would be politically binding, in other words mandatory. The Stockholm Conference also drafted provisions for a control system that allowed for on-the-spot inspections if it was suspected that a Member State was not living up to its obligations. With the Cold War in the background, this was a significant breakthrough for control and monitoring of how different countries comply with international agreements.
The results of the Stockholm Conference have in turn been further developed through negotiations that took place in Vienna in three stages. The 1994 Vienna Document contains not only detailed provisions on the exchange of information on military forces, but also a new agreement for states to inform each other of their military doctrines, forces and budget forecasts for the next five years. The Vienna document was revised and adopted in a new form in 1999.
An important agreement in close connection with the OSCE is the so-called Open Skies agreement on air surveillance of states’ military facilities and activities.
Subsequently, the OSCE has drawn up several other agreements on the exchange of military information, on the principles of trade in conventional weapons, as well as rules for the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and crisis stabilization measures.
During the 1990’s, the OSCE shifted to prioritizing the control of the various agreements over developing new trust-building tasks. This scrutiny takes place mainly at a special annual meeting, but the confidence-building measures are also discussed on an ongoing basis in the OSCE Security Forum.
The Budapest Summit in 1994 adopted a military policy code of conduct which, among other things, deals with democratic control of armed forces. The code stipulates, among other things, that the OSCE States may not tolerate or support armed forces that are not subject to constitutionally appointed bodies. If the use of force cannot be avoided in order to maintain the internal order of a state, the use of force must be proportionate to the current security needs.
Due to the Russian-backed armed conflict in Ukraine since 2014, the code of conduct can be said to have come into serious swing.
The code also stipulates that military personnel must be trained in international humanitarian law. This means, among other things, that military personnel must be aware that each individual is responsible for his or her actions.
The code has been invoked both by Russia and by states that have been critical of Russian action in Chechnya. Russia, on the other hand, argued that the code justified, or even demanded, the disarmament of the Chechen breakaway forces that violated the Russian constitution.
Many OSCE States, on the other hand, questioned whether the Russian forces in Chechnya respected the Code of Conduct’s rules of discretion and moderation in military action. The Istanbul Summit in 1999 emphasized in the final declaration that the situation in Chechnya was not an internal Russian matter and that a political dialogue must be initiated. However, this was never done, and the OSCE’s activities in Chechnya were suspended in 2003, after Russian forces had in principle crushed the Chechen resistance.