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Vienna hosts the OSCE headquarters

3. October 2016

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world's largest regional security organisation. It comprises 57 participating states and is headquartered in Vienna. The participating states span the northern hemisphere from Vancouver to Vladivostok and comprise all European countries as well as the US, Canada, the Central Asian countries and Mongolia. Other countries from Asia and the Mediterranean region are involved as partners.

The OSCE has its origins in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which was established in 1975 during the phase of detente between East and West. The Helsinki Final Act (1975), the Charter of Paris (1990), the Charter for European Security of Istanbul (1999) and the Astana Declaration (2010) are the major agreements adopted by the OSCE, which define a steadily grown system of political obligations on the basis of a comprehensive and cooperative concept of security. This means that the OSCE operates on the principle of unanimity and does not force any decisions on its members.

Vienna provides a platform for dialogue

The OSCE offers a forum for political dialogue on a broad spectrum of security-related issues and a platform for joint action, with the aim to improve living conditions for individuals and communities. With its comprehensive concept of security, which encompasses politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects, the OSCE helps the states to overcome differences and build trust by cooperating in the fields of conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict management. Through its institutions, its special units and its network of field operations the OSCE addresses joint security issues, such as arms control, terrorism, good governance, energy security, human trafficking, democratisation, media freedom and national minorities. Currently, the OSCE works towards stabilising the Ukraine conflict by sending more than 1,000 observers and staff members to the monitoring mission in Eastern Ukraine and by having established the negotiation format of the Trilateral Contact Group, which is composed of representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE.

Austrian chairmanship in 2017

The OSCE is chaired on a rotating basis by the participating states. Each state holds the chairmanship for one year and in this capacity plays a major role in steering the work of the organisation and in representing the OSCE externally. The foreign minister of the chairing state holds the function of the "Chairperson-in-Office". At the OSCE Ministerial Council in Basle in December 2014, Austria was tasked by the participating states to take over the OSCE chairmanship in 2017. Thus, Austria will succeed Germany, which is chairing the organisation in 2016, and will hold this responsible and important function for the second time after its chairmanship in 2000. The OSCE chair has a wide variety of tasks and therefore is a key political player. In this role as a mediator, Austria can build on its foreign-policy experience and priorities to strengthen security in Europe. Managing conflicts, preventing and fighting transnational threats to internal security and restoring trust in a common space with 1.2 billion people will be some of the challenges and priorities of the Austrian chairmanship. The City of Vienna will also participate in the activities and events in the wake of the Austrian chairmanship and will present the OSCE's work to the participants of the Assembly of European Regions Conference held on 24 and 25 October 2016 in Vienna.