Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE is a forum for inter-parliamentary dialogue and cooperation on matters of security (conflict prevention and arms control), supporting economic development and the sustainable use of natural resources, promoting respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It brings together more than 320 members of parliament from 57 countries in Europe, Asia and North America.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE was founded in 1991 by the parliamentary leaders of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, formerly known as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. It based this step on the
Helsinki Final Act of 1975, in accordance with the
Charter of Paris for a New Europe of 1990.
Mandate of the OSCE PA
The Parliamentary Assembly pursues a number of objectives:
- assess the implementation of the OSCE’s objectives by participating states;
- discuss subjects addressed by the Ministerial Council and summit meetings of OSCE heads of state or government;
- develop and promote mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflicts;
- support the strengthening and consolidation of democratic institutions in OSCE participating states;
- ensure the democratic conduct of elections in participating states;
- helping to develop the OSCE’s institutional structures and relations between existing OSCE institutions.
To achieve these objectives, the Assembly adopts a final declaration at its annual session in July, which it sends both to the OSCE Council of Ministers and to the parliaments of the participating states. This declaration is based on resolutions prepared by the rapporteurs of its committees and by its members. The committees also address current international issues. Various programmes have been set up to develop and strengthen democracy. In this framework, the Assembly regularly sends election observers to countries where elections are held, and special missions are sent to areas of latent or open crisis.
Functioning of the OSCE PA
At the beginning of July each year, the Assembly meets in plenary session in a participating state. It also holds an annual winter meeting and an autumn meeting. The work of the Assembly is shared between three committees corresponding to the three main sections of the Helsinki Final Act (security, development of cooperation between states, human rights).
The Assembly has established several ad hoc committees. These address matters requiring questions close parliamentary attention, such as migration, countering terrorism or its own procedures and working practices.
Finally, special representatives serve as a point of contact to respond to regional and topical problems. They coordinate the work of the Assembly and ensure that its action is relevant to these issues. The areas and issues covered by the special representatives include Mediterranean affairs, South-Eastern Europe, gender issues, human trafficking, anti-Semitism, fighting corruption.
Role of the Delegation to the OSCE PA
The Swiss delegation helps to promote national interests by taking a position on the deliberations of the OSCE PA. In particular, it has initiated numerous resolutions adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on subjects relating to respect for human rights, politico-military aspects of security and good governance among others. To this end, it maintains close contacts with representatives of the Federal Administration. It has regular exchanges with the other national delegations to the OSCE PA, as well as with the OSCE's high authorities. Members of the delegation also participate in election observation missions conducted by the Assembly in coordination with the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
The Committee for Political Affairs and Security, also known as the «first committee», is responsible for issues concerning political relations between different countries and military security, including security measures, disarmament, peace-keeping, the prevention of conflicts, crisis management and the peaceful solution of differences.
The «second committee» deals with questions related to the second dimension of the Helsinki Final Act and goes by the name of the General committee for Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and the Environment. Economic cooperation and the development of market economies in countries which did not have such a system before are of growing importance for the Parliamentary Assembly.
Human rights have been at the core of the OSCE’s activities since the start of the Helsinki Process. Reflecting the development of the situation in Europe, the «third committee» is officially called the General committee for Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues. This committee addresses the sensitive humanitarian issues that are included in the third dimension of the Helsinki Final Act. A large part of the problems that arise in this area are dealt with by the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw, as well as by the High Commission for National Minorities and the OSCE representative for free media.