Searching for Peace in Europe and Eurasia: An Overview of Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Activities

By Paul Van Tongeren; Hans Van De Veen et al. | Go to book overview

2
The OSCE:
Uniquely Qualified for a
Conflict-Prevention Role

Wolfgang Zellner

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has been
one of the world's fastest growing international governmental organ-
izations in field operations, staff, and budget. This chapter deals with
two questions: First, it asks which political qualities enable the
OSCE to perform crisis-prevention tasks and examines the limits of
the organization. Second, it gives an overview of the most important
prevention instruments, namely the high commissioner on national
minorities and OSCE field activities
.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the successor to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) established in 1975 with the signing of the Helsinki Final Act. Whereas the CSCE, before 1990, consisted of a loose series of conferences, the OSCE is an international governmental organization (IGO) that currently boasts twentyone different field operations with about 4,400 staff members (1,100 international and 3,300 local) in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.1 Nearly 90 percent of the OSCE's budget of approximately 208 million euro in 2000 was spent on field activities. In 1993, the OSCE's budget totaled only 12 million euro and it employed only a few dozen staff members in field missions.2

Five closely interrelated political characteristics qualify the OSCE for conflict prevention tasks:

1. Since the Charter of Paris in 1990, the OSCE has a common and comprehensive value base including human and minority rights, democracy, the rule of law, and a market economy. This unique normative groundwork is the basis for all its practical activities. However, in spite of the fact that the fifty-five participating states voluntarily have agreed on these politically binding norms in a series of documents, many states frequently disregard their OSCE commitments. This is not only true for transition states in Eastern and Southeastern Europe,

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