Ministerial Council and Permanent Council
OSCE’s highest body is the top meeting of OSCE’s heads of state and heads of government that assembles irregularly (the most recent took place on 1-2 December 2010 in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana) and outlines the general political direction of the organisation. On the level of foreign ministers, there is the annual Ministerial Council. On the level of ambassadors, there is the Permanent Council, consisting of permanent representatives who regularly meet once a week in Vienna for political consultations and decision-making.
The Presidency of the OSCE Permanent Council changes every year. In 2010, the presidency was held by Kazakhstan, in 2011 Lithuania, 2012 Ireland, 2013 Ukraine, 2014 Switzerland and 2015 Serbia.
The Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC)
Meets weekly in Vienna to discuss and make decisions regarding military aspects of security in the OSCE area, in particular the Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs).
Economic and Environmental Forum (EEF)
EEF is the most important annual OSCE meeting in the field of economy and environment where a discussion occurs on the subject proposed by the OSCE Presidency which helps to develop recommendations to advance this measure.
The main goal of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) is the further inclusion of its member states to solving European questions of policy and security in order to advance civilian control over military questions and raise the responsibility and influence of parliamentary representatives. OSCE PA works in the form of annual sessions of the general assembly, organized by the parliaments of different member states simultaneously with the committees’ sessions. Based on the three main themes of the Helsinki final act, three committees have been formed: the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment and the General Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. The committees prepare the reports and decision projects for the annual general assembly. The decisions of the Parliamentary Assembly are sent forward into the OSCE Ministerial Council and the parliaments of OSCE member states.
Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)
The field of human rights is handled by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR). Main subjects that are handled are: elections, human trade, defence of democracy, education, gender equality, free media, protection of minorities, tolerance, prohibition of discrimination, and rule of law.
As of 2008, the director of ODIHR has been Janez Lenarcic from Slovenia.
ODIHR activities are focused on supporting democratic development in OSCE member states, monitoring the fulfilment of the human dimension obligations, human dimension cooperation with inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations and integration of the human dimension to other OSCE activities. ODIHR’s tasks are both observing and supervising elections as well as organising meetings and seminars on all concise questions for applying the human dimension in OSCE member states. ODIHR holds an annual conference on the human dimension supervision – Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). It is a forum, where the member states’ human rights obligations are discussed.
The human dimension mechanism in the OSCE system also means the possibility for other participating states to inquire information on the obligations taken up within the frame of the OSCE human dimensions. On the countries’ request, it is also possible to have bilateral meetings on the subject of human dimension, “including in situations and single cases to solve them”. The approval of the involved state is not required for starting this procedure.
The institution of High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM)
The OSCE institution of High Commissioner on National Minorities was formed in 1992 with the aim of addressing, as early as, possible tensions that might cause conflicts within the OSCE region.
The High Commissioner on National Minorities is in direct contact with the involved parties of a crisis situation that is potentially dangerous to stability and security – the representatives of the minority and the state – to further dialogue, trust and cooperation between the two. The High Commissioner emphasises the necessity of fulfilling the development of human rights protection and democratic institutions in order to prevent conflicts.
As of 4 July 2007 the High Commissioner on National Minorities is Knut Vollebaek. The High Commissioner Vollebaek visited Estonia on the invitation of the Foreign Minister in March 2009. In the summer of the same year, Estonia, in cooperation with the High Commissioner, organised a regional seminar to introduce the “Bolzano/Pozen recommendations (the recommendations concern the relations between the minorities living abroad and their “motherland”; the primary principle is that the rights of the national minorities should first and foremost be defended by their country of residence). Estonia considers the Bolzano recommendations an important document and supports their efficient implementation. The High Commissioner visited Estonia also in June 2011.
Representative on Freedom of the Media
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes the development of media in all member states, propagates and advances the fulfilment of the principles and obligations of the freedom of expression and freedom of media. Representative on the Freedom of Media can “collect and accept applications, proposals and observations from the states and other parties of interest (such as organisations or institutions, the media and its representatives or non-governmental organisations) on fulfilling, strengthening and developing the OSCE principles and obligations. AS of 11 March 2010, the Representative on Freedom of the Media is Dunja Mijatovic.