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Commission on security and cooperation in Europe

U. S. Helsinki Commission

Mission

We are a US government commission that promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Nine Commissioners are members of the Senate, nine are members of the House of Representatives, and three are executive branch officials.

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Chairman

Representative Alcee L. Hastings

 

Co-Chairman

Senator Roger F. Wicker

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  • IMPLEMENTATION OF THE HELSINKI ACCORDS VOL. IV - REPORTS ON SOVIET REPRESSION AND THE BELGRADE CONFERENCE

    In light of first anniversary of the creation of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, this hearing focused on the work and the plight of courageous individuals who utilized the Helsinki accords as instruments for advancing international respect for human rights. In particular, the hearing delved into the case of Anatoly Shcharansky, one of the most courageous spokesmen of human rights in the U.S.S.R., faces treason charges as groundless as they are ominous. The Soviet decision to hold a show trial for Shcharansky with phony evidence and counterfeit witnesses combined with the earlier arrest of members of Helsinki monitoring groups in Russia, Ukraine, and most recently, in Georgia, were in violation of the Helsinki accords.

  • Second Semiannual Report on the Implementation of the Helsinki Final Act - US Department of State

    The Second Semiannual Report by the President to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act from December 1, 1976 to May 31, 1977.

  • Implementation of the Helsinki Accords Vol. III – Information Flow, And Cultural And Educational Exchanges

    In this hearing, Commissioner Dante Fascell and others discussed the impact that the Helsinki Accords had on easing and expanding the flow of ideas and information across ideological and international frontiers. The rationale for this hearing, which consisted of three mornings of testimony, was that, while the Commission has had a long and storied history of hearing and discussing the movement of people, one goal of the Helsinki Accords is to diminish the obstacles that keep the views of others out, which are also the borders that restrict freedom of movement for people.

  • Implementation of the Helsinki Accords Vol.I - Human Rights & Contacts

    Hon. Dante Fascell, Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, presided over this hearing on the implementation of the Helsinki Accords. This hearing focused on the Commisison's consideration of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords dealing with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and with freer movement of people and information. The purpose was to define what the Commission knew of implementation of the accords and of their violations, to explore proposals for advancing compliance, and to seek advice on the role the accords played bettering East-West relations. Hon. Fascell was joined by Leonard Garment, former U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and Vladimir Bukovsky, former Soviet political prisoner.

  • Implementation of the Helsinki Accords Vol I - Human Rights and Contacts

    This hearing focused on the implementation of the Helsinki Accords and explored proposals for advancing compliance.  The Commissioners and witnesses discussed how the accords could better East-West relations. They discussed how the framework of the Helsinki accords helps provide protection against armed intervention in internal affairs, or the threat of such intervention.  The Commissioners heard testimonies from those working on human rights in Warsaw Pact countries and from many American citizens seeking reunification with relatives in Warsaw Pact countries.

  • East-West Economic Cooperation-Basket II-Helsinki Final Act

    Our immediate business is to look at Basket IT, whose scope is greater than mere questions of trade and commerce, because in many ways politics is economics. Basket IT was designed to enhance economic cooperation among CSCE states in a way to loosen restraints inhibiting dealings between the Soviet bloc and the West. The hearing will offer suggestions on resolving problems of trade with eastern CSCE states; and how the U.S. Government deals with Basket II problems and how it can improve the overall trade picture by exploiting Basket II provisions in order to bolster East-West trade initiatives.

  • Report of the Study Mission to Europe

    Study Mission of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe visited 18 signatories of the Helsinki Final Act between November 5 and November 23, 1976. The purpose of the Mission was to gather information about the current status of implementation of the provisions of the Helsinki accords and to establish contacts with key European political and governmental officials as well as private individuals and organizations concerned with various aspects of the implementation process. The CSCE Study Mission was composed of Rep. Dante B. Fascell, D-Fla. (Commission chairman); Sen. Claiborne Pell, D-R.I. (co-chairman); Rep. Jonathan Bingham, D-N.Y.; Rep. Millicent Fenwick, R-N.J.; and Rep. Paul Simon, D-Ill. Travelling individually, Commissioners and staff aides met with government officials and parliamentarians in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands,' Norway, the Holy See, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia, as well as with experts at NATO, the European Community, the Council of Europe, UNESCO, the Intergovernmental Committee on European Migration, the OECD, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The Mission regrets that it could not confer with all signatory countries at this time and intends to do so in the future. The limited time available precluded visits to some countries. The Warsaw Pact countries, however, refused to permit the Commissioners to visit their countries, an action which runs counter to the very spirit of Helsinki. Additionally, the Study Mission met with half a dozen private refugee organizations, a number of recent Soviet exiles, more than 30 businessmen and organizations active in East-West trade, a cross section of journalists specializing in Eastern European affairs, and more than 20 individuals and private institutions conducting research on Helsinki implementation questions. Commission members Mansfield Sprague and James G. Poor from the Departments of Commerce and Defense, respectively, attended the initial and final joint Study Mission sessions in Brussels and London, and Commissioner Monroe Leigh of the Department of State attended the Brussels meetings.

  • First Semiannual Report on the Implementation of the Helsinki Final Act - US Department of State

    The First Semiannual Report by the President to the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on the implementation of the Helsinki Final Act.

  • Helsinki Final Act (Long Version)

    The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which opened at Helsinki on 3 July 1973 and continued at Geneva from 18 September 1973 to 21 July 1975, was concluded at Helsinki on 1 August 1975 by the High Representatives of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Yugoslavia. During the opening and closing stages of the Conference the participants were addressed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as their guest of honour. The Director-General of UNESCO and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe addressed the Conference during its second stage. During the meetings of the second stage of the Conference, contributions were received, and statements heard, from the following non-participating Mediterranean States on various agenda items: the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Israel, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia.

  • The Helsinki Final Act

    The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, which opened at Helsinki on 3 July 1973 and continued at Geneva from 18 September 1973 to 21 July 1975, was concluded at Helsinki on 1 August 1975 by the High Representatives of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Finland, France, the German Democratic Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Yugoslavia. During the opening and closing stages of the Conference the participants were addressed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as their guest of honour. The Director-General of UNESCO and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe addressed the Conference during its second stage. During the meetings of the second stage of the Conference, contributions were received, and statements heard, from the following non-participating Mediterranean States on various agenda items: the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Israel, the Kingdom of Morocco, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Tunisia.

  • Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe

    In July 1973 the Foreign Ministers of 33 European countries and the United States opened the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), in Helsinki. Since then the participants have made slow but steady progress on a broad range of security, political, economic and other issues of mutual concern. As the conference reaches what appears to be a conclusive stage interest in its eventual outcome has mounted both in Congress and throughout the Nation: Special concern has been expressed over the implications the Conference may have for such issues as human rights in Eastern Europe, the division of Germany, U.S. force levels in Europe, and the future of the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

  • Publications

    Through publications including annual reports, reports specific to particular OSCE issues, compiled digests of recent OSCE developments, and transcripts of official hearings and briefings, the Helsinki Commission provides valuable information to human rights activists, analysts, academics, government officials, and members of the media. Annual Reports Articles Reports Digests Transcripts

  • The Security Dimension

    From its inception in the early 1970s, the Helsinki process – which includes the original Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), follow-up activities after 1975 and, since 1995, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – has been a multilateral, politically binding security arrangement. Having successfully addressed the challenges of the Cold War, this arrangement has maintained its relevance in the present era of regional conflict, arms proliferation, terrorism and other emerging threats by combining a uniquely comprehensive definition of security with flexibility and innovation of response. Defining Security Comprehensively The first of three chapters of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, commonly known as Basket I, deals with “Questions Relating to Security in Europe.” This chapter first sets forth 10 Principles guiding relations between participating States: Principle I: Sovereign equality, respect for the rights inherent in sovereignty; Principle II: Refraining from the threat or use of force; Principle III: Inviolability of frontiers; Principle IV: Territorial integrity of States; Principle V: Peaceful settlement of disputes; Principle VI: Non-intervention in internal affairs; Principle VII: Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief; Principle VIII: Equal rights and self-determination of peoples; Principle IX: Cooperation among States; and Principle X: Fulfillment in good faith of obligations under international law. Some of the principles can be found in earlier international agreements, including the UN Charter, but the “primary significance” which the Final Act gave them all provided a uniquely comprehensive, political-military definition of security, particularly by making respect for human rights and the building of democratic institutions in one participating State a legitimate concern of all others. By committing to apply them “equally and unreservedly,” the OSCE also recognized a linkage between progress in one of these areas and progress in the others, a concrete and significant conceptual contribution to European security. The justification for balancing progress was most explicitly stated in the 1990 Charter of Paris for a new Europe, where the participating States expressed their conviction that “in order to strengthen peace and security among [them], the advancement of democracy, and respect for and effective exercise of human rights are indispensable.” Early Soviet proposals for a pan-European conference were designed to manipulate the military balance in Europe, divide the United States from its allies and confirm Soviet hegemony over East-Central Europe. The OSCE’s new and unifying definition of security, however, instead formed a basis for ending the Cold War’s division of Europe and for recognizing that severe and continual violations of human rights are often the source of a conflict. Democratic development, therefore, was subsequently made a prerequisite for building a stable peace. Participating States today seek to ensure its realization “from Vancouver to Vladivostok” and to give this definition wider application around the globe. Building Confidence and Security Through Transparency The Final Act’s first chapter also contains specific military commitments which, as developed in subsequent documents, enhance European security in modest but very concrete ways. Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs) – such as prior notification of troop maneuvers and observation of military exercises – that form the core of this work on military aspects of security overcame barriers of secrecy and diminished the threat of surprise attack or misunderstanding of military activity. For a few tense years in the early 1980s, OSCE negotiations were the only place where East and West sat at the same table to discuss security matters. The 1986 Stockholm Document not only achieved progress through measures for greater transparency but ushered in a new era of effective, mutually beneficial East-West arms control encompassing both nuclear and conventional forces. The OSCE capitalized on this success in the 1990s by expanding military openness and encouraging further reductions in force levels. A web of interlocking and mutually reinforcing arms control obligations and commitments links the politically binding Vienna Document of 1999 on CSBMs with the related 1990 Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) and the 1992 Treaty on Open Skies, both legally binding and negotiated on an East-West basis, to form a framework for arms control. Reinforcing the regime of new measures in the Vienna Document 1999 is an updated mechanism for consultation and cooperation regarding unusual military activities. An Agreement on Adaptation of the CFE Treaty was also signed in 1999, taking into account realities associated with the break-up of the Warsaw Pact and the demise of the Soviet Union. NATO countries, however, have linked ratification of the agreement to Russia’s implementation of commitments made in parallel with the 1999 Istanbul OSCE Summit to the withdrawal Treaty-Limited Equipment and military forces from Moldova, and the withdrawal or destruction of excess equipment, the closure of two bases and negotiations on remaining Russian bases and facilities in Georgia. To date, these commitments remain unfulfilled, making it impossible for the Agreement on Adaptation to come into force and for additional OSCE States, including some NATO allies, to become parties. Maintaining a Security Dialogue The Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) was established in 1992 to provide constant attention to implementation of existing arms control agreements, including through regular information exchanges, and to strengthen them when possible. The Forum also encourages a dialogue among the participating States on topics of common concern, such as non-proliferation measures, the importance of adhering to international humanitarian law and civil-military emergency preparedness. The adoption of the 1994 Code of Conduct on Political-Military Aspects of Security, which broke new ground by formulating norms on the role of armed forces in democratic societies, was among the FSC’s first notable achievements. The adoption in 2000 of the Document on Small Arms and Light Weapons was a later but even more significant achievement, providing a basis for developing guidelines on dealing with threats such weapons can pose, as well as for providing assistance upon request in securing stockpiles, disposing of small arms and enhancing border controls to reduce illicit arms trafficking. Security issues are also discussed during the Annual Security Review Conference, the first of which was held in 2003. These conferences provide impetus for bringing new ideas for activity relating to European security into the OSCE framework. Meetings of OSCE foreign ministers and summits of heads of state/government have addressed security issues of paramount concern such as the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. Addressing Regional Conflicts Regional conflicts erupting in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s have been responsible for the most egregious violations of Helsinki principles since their adoption. In response, considerable effort has been devoted by the participating States to developing early warning of potential conflict, offering “good offices” for bringing conflicting parties together, monitoring borders vulnerable to sources of instability and ensuring that sub-regional arms control and security-enhancing measures are adopted and implemented. A good example of the latter were the Article II, Article IV and Article V agreements originally mandated by the Annex 1-B of 1995 Dayton General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, the OSCE has contributed to the training of civilian police in several post-conflict situations. The need to respond to regional conflicts also required the OSCE to become more than a negotiating forum. OSCE field operations, taking many forms, including efforts by OSCE institutions and designated representatives, began in the early 1990s. Significant among them, especially given the ethnic character of regional tensions, was the establishment of the High Commissioner for National Minorities with a specific task to provide early-warning of potential conflict. Field activities, however, take their most visible form as field missions of various sizes deployed at one time or another in places like Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Chechnya, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Kosovo and Serbia and Montenegro. Since 1992, the OSCE has had the capability to organize unarmed peacekeeping forces, although the need for more robust operations in conflict areas has precluded serious activity in this regard. Combating Terrorism The events of September 11, 2001, galvanized OSCE efforts to combat terrorism. An OSCE Charter on Preventing and Combating Terrorism, adopted in 2002, targeted four strategic areas for specific action: policing, border control, trafficking and money laundering. The Action Against Terrorism Unit established in the OSCE Secretariat provides assistance to participating States, often in field activities along with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, in strengthening the legal framework for combating terrorism. OSCE efforts have sought to strengthen personal travel and document security as well as transport container security. The OSCE has also broadened the application of export controls on man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). The Helsinki Commission’s Role The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (the Helsinki Commission) is a U.S. Government agency, established in 1976 pursuant to Public Law 94-304, mandated to “monitor the acts of the signatories which reflect compliance with or violation of the articles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe…” While particular emphasis was given to “provisions relating to Cooperation in Humanitarian fields,” today known as the Human Dimension, the Commission also monitors developments regarding the Security Dimension and has similarly sought to encourage greater compliance with commitments adopted by the participating States on the basis of consensus. Activities in recent years have included hearings on combating terrorism and on illegal arms/weapons transfers, briefings on the U.S. chairmanship of the Forum for Security Cooperation and on OSCE police training, as well as attendance at security-related OSCE meetings.

  • Principled Foreign Policy

    The 10 principles of the Helsinki Final Act provide a robust framework for the development of U.S. foreign policy. From respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states to human rights and fundamental freedoms, these commitments underpin peace and stability in the OSCE region and form the basis of comprehensive security for all people. Peace, security, and prosperity cannot be sustained if national governments repress their citizens, stifle their media, or imprison members of the political opposition. Authoritarian regimes become increasingly unstable as citizens chafe under the bonds of persecution and violence, and pose a danger not only to their citizens, but also to neighboring nations. Human rights within states are crucial to security among states. Prioritizing respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, defending the principles of liberty, and encouraging tolerance within societies all are vital to the promotion of democracy and to U.S. national security. Active engagement with other OSCE participating States reflects the dedication of the United States to security and cooperation in Europe and Central Asia. The Helsinki Commission strives to ensure that the protection of human rights and democratic development are central to U.S. foreign policy; that they are applied consistently in U.S. relations with other countries; and that that violations of Helsinki provisions are given full consideration in U.S. policymaking. This includes balancing national security interests with respect for human rights to achieve long-term positive outcomes rather than short-term gains; promoting the sustainable management of resources; battling corruption; and protecting the fundamental freedoms of all people, especially those who historically have been persecuted and marginalized.

  • Join Our Team

    Passionate about human rights and fundamental freedoms in North America, Europe, and Eurasia? Put your regional and policy expertise to use at the Helsinki Commission. A small professional staff supports the 21 members of the bipartisan, bicameral Commission; we also offer paid fellowships in the summer, fall, and winter terms. Available positions at the Helsinki Commission Fellowships at the Helsinki Commission The Helsinki Commission accepts unpaid intern applications on a rolling basis. To apply, please e-mail a cover letter and resume to csce[dot]internship[at]mail[dot]house[dot]gov. Please be sure to indicate the semester for which you are applying. PLEASE NOTE: In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Helsinki Commission has suspended our unpaid internship program indefinitely. Please check back frequently for updates.  

  • Commissioners

    The Helsinki Commission consists of 21 Commissioners, 18 of whom come from the U.S. Congress. Nine Senators and nine Representatives – five from the majority and four from the minority in each chamber – are selected by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, respectively. The remaining three Commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce, usually at the Assistant Secretary level. U.S. House of Representatives Chairman Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Ranking Member Joe Wilson, South Carolina Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama Emanuel Cleaver, II, Missouri Steve Cohen, Tennessee Brian Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania Richard Hudson, North Carolina Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Marc Veasey, Texas U.S Senate Co-Chairman Roger F. Wicker, Mississippi Ranking Member Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland John Boozman, Arkansas Cory Gardner, Colorado Marco Rubio, Florida Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Thom Tillis, North Carolina Tom Udall, New Mexico Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Executive Branch Department of State - to be appointed Department of Defense - to be appointed Department of Commerce - to be appointed Past Commissioners All Commissioners - By Congress All Commissioners - Legislative Branch All Commissioners - Executive Branch

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Find answers to our most frequently asked questions about the Helsinki Commission, Helsinki Commissioners, and the OSCE. Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission)   What is the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe? The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe—also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission—is an independent U.S. government commission that advances American national security and national interests by promoting human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries. The Helsinki Commission monitors and encourages compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE commitments by strengthening human rights monitoring, defending those persecuted for acting on their rights and freedoms, and ensuring that compliance with Helsinki provisions are given due consideration in U.S. foreign policy. The Helsinki Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine members from the U.S. House of Representatives, and one member each from the U.S. Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.  The work of the Helsinki Commission covers issues in all three “dimensions” of the OSCE: politico-military challenges (“first”); economic and environmental cooperation (“second”); and the defense of human rights (“third”). Topics range from ongoing conflicts in the OSCE zone and emerging challenges including terrorism and insecurity in cyberspace, to combating corruption through economic transparency, to promoting full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms across the 57 OSCE participating States. The commission regularly convenes public hearings and briefings to draw attention to violations of OSCE commitments, to assess the OSCE as a vehicle to address U.S. concerns in a given foreign policy area, and to explore different approaches and best practices within the OSCE region. Commission leaders regularly issue public statements pertaining to the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, and often initiate or are involved in the passage of related legislation. The Helsinki Commission also authors articles and reports concerning implementation of OSCE commitments in participating States and organizes official delegations to participating States and OSCE meetings to address and assess democratic, economic, security, and human rights developments firsthand. It is the primary organizer of U.S. congressional delegations to meetings of the OSCE PA, and uniquely contributes to U.S.  representation in the OSCE by  joining the Department of State and other Executive Branch agencies to prepare for and participate in a wide variety of multilateral meetings, consultations, and negotiations. Why is a U.S. government commission referred to by the name of a capital in Europe? The Helsinki Commission takes its name from the location where the original 35 participating States of today's OSCE gathered to sign the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe: Helsinki, Finland. Why is the Helsinki Commission important? The Helsinki Commission reflects the overarching commitment of the United States to security and cooperation in Europe, and has played a vital role in introducing and promoting the concept of human rights as an element in U.S. foreign policy decision-making globally. Through its work, the Helsinki Commission has helped ensure U.S. support for democratic development in Eastern and Central Europe, and continues to push for greater respect for human rights in Russia and the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia. The Helsinki Commission participated in the debates of the 1990s on how the United States should respond to conflicts in the Balkans, particularly Bosnia, Kosovo, and elsewhere, and does the same today in regard to Russia’s aggression toward its neighbors. It has pushed U.S. policy to take action to combat trafficking in persons, anti-Semitism and racism, and intolerance and corruption, as well as other problems which are not confined to one country’s borders. The Helsinki Commission also was the first to propose concrete OSCE commitments regarding free and fair elections. By 1990, commissioners and staff had already observed the conduct of the first multi-party elections in seven East and Central European countries transitioning from one-party communist states to functioning democracies. Since then, commissioners and staff have observed well over 100 elections, and the commission continues to support OSCE observation efforts, focusing on countries where resistance to democratic change remains the strongest. What is the relationship between the Helsinki Commission and the OSCE? The Helsinki Commission monitors and encourages compliance with the Helsinki Final Act—the founding document of today’s OSCE—and subsequent OSCE commitments. However, it is not part of the OSCE. As part of its mandate, the Helsinki Commission regularly convenes public hearings and briefings to draw attention to violations of OSCE commitments, to assess the OSCE as a vehicle to address U.S. concerns in a given foreign policy area, and to explore different approaches and best practices within the OSCE region. Commission leaders regularly make public statements pertaining to the provisions of the Helsinki Final Act, and often initiate or are involved in the passage of related legislation. The Helsinki Commission also authors articles and reports concerning implementation of OSCE commitments in participating States and organizes official delegations to participating States and OSCE meetings to address and assess democratic, economic, security, and human rights developments firsthand. It is the primary organizer of U.S. Congressional Delegations to meetings of the OSCE PA, and uniquely contributes to U.S.  representation in the OSCE by  joining the Department of State and other Executive Branch agencies to prepare for and participate in a wide variety of multilateral meetings, consultations, and negotiations. What is the relationship between the Helsinki Commission and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly? With 17 of 323 seats, the United States has the largest representation in the OSCE PA, which assures a strong U.S. commitment to security in the OSCE region. The Helsinki Commission is the primary organizer of U.S. congressional delegations to OSCE PA meetings, and provides additional support to commissioners who hold various leadership positions in the assembly. Members of the U.S. Congress have consistently held leadership positions in the OSCE PA since its inception. What is the difference between the Helsinki Commission and the Helsinki Committees found in other countries? The Helsinki Commission is an independent U.S. government commission. Helsinki Committees are non-governmental human rights organizations that play a vital role in monitoring the compliance of their respective participating States with the Helsinki Final Act. Helsinki Committees generally have no formal affiliation with their national governments.  How does the Helsinki Commission help implement the Helsinki Accords? The Helsinki Commission has no enforcement power, not least because the Helsinki Accords are politically—not legally—binding. As an independent commission of the U.S. government, the Helsinki Commission monitors and encourages compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE commitments by strengthening human rights monitoring, defending those persecuted for acting on their rights and freedoms, and ensuring that compliance with Helsinki provisions are given due consideration in U.S. foreign policy. How does the Helsinki Commission decide what issues to focus on? The work of the Helsinki Commission covers issues in all three “dimensions” of the OSCE: politico-military challenges (“first”); economic and environmental cooperation (“second”); and the defense of human rights (“third”). Topics range from ongoing conflicts in the OSCE zone and emerging challenges including terrorism and insecurity in cyberspace, to combating corruption through economic transparency, to promoting full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms across the 57 OSCE participating States. Promoting basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, along with other humanitarian concerns, has historically been the cornerstone of the commission’s work and remains central to its mandate. The Helsinki Commission pays particular attention to those countries where severe and persistent violations of human rights and democratic norms occur.  In practice, this has translated into a strong focus on Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia.  The commission also responds to shortcomings and setbacks in other countries, including those with more extensive development in the areas of democracy and human rights.  In response to the recent sharp geopolitical deterioration in the OSCE region, highlighted by Russian aggression against Ukraine and Georgia, the commission has renewed its focus on political-military challenges. This has included a focus on Russia’s violations of key Helsinki Final Act commitments, which have also included flouting key arms control and military transparency measures.  Is the Helsinki Commission a part of Congress? No. The Helsinki Commission is an independent U.S. government commission. However, 18 of the 21 Helsinki Commissioners represent the legislative branch. The remaining three Helsinki Commissioners represent the executive branch. Is the Helsinki Commission a part of the Department of State? No. The Helsinki Commission is an independent U.S. government commission. However, the Helsinki Commission maintains a close working relationship with the Department of State: one of the 21 Helsinki Commissioners represents the State Department; the Helsinki Commission hosts a State Department detailee in its office; and one Helsinki Commission staff member is a full member of the U.S. Mission to the OSCE. How is the Helsinki Commission funded? Like all U.S. government entities, the commission is funded by an appropriation from the U.S. Congress: in this case, as part of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations legislation. What do Helsinki Commission staff members do? Members of the Helsinki Commission are supported by a professional staff with in-depth regional and policy expertise. Helsinki Commission staff work with commissioners to organize public hearings and briefings to draw attention to violations of OSCE commitments, to assess the OSCE as a means to address U.S. concerns in a given foreign policy area, and to explore different approaches and best practices within the OSCE region. They also support commissioners in the development of statements and legislation related to the Helsinki Final Act; author articles and reports concerning implementation of OSCE commitments in participating States; and organize official delegations to participating States and OSCE meetings to address and assess democratic, economic, security, and human rights developments firsthand. Is the Helsinki Commission affiliated with a political party? No. The Helsinki Commission is an independent, bicameral, bipartisan, and inter-branch organization. The Helsinki Commission consists of 21 Commissioners, 18 of whom come from the U.S. Congress. Nine Senators and nine Representatives—five from the majority and four from the minority in each chamber—are selected by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, respectively. The remaining three commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce, usually at the Assistant Secretary level. How can I get a job or fellowship with the Helsinki Commission? Visit our join our team page. If I have an issue I want to bring to the Commission’s attention, who do I contact? Email info[at]csce[dot]gov or call (202) 225-1901 and one of our staff members will respond to your inquiry. Helsinki Commissioners   Who are the Helsinki Commissioners? The Helsinki Commission consists of 21 Commissioners, 18 of whom come from the U.S. Congress. Nine Senators and nine Representatives—five from the majority and four from the minority in each chamber—are selected by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, respectively. The remaining three Commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce, usually at the Assistant Secretary level. What do Helsinki Commissioners do? Commissioners regularly communicate with the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and other senior U.S. officials on OSCE-related matters and issue public statements on matters of concern as needed.  Commissioners meet officials and prominent visitors from other OSCE participating States in Washington, D.C., and travel to countries of concern to monitor and encourage implementation more directly, including through election observation.  When warranted, Senate and House Commissioners act in their capacity as members of Congress to introduce and seek passage of legislation, and a Helsinki Commission perspective is often evident in their foreign policy work.  How are Helsinki Commissioners selected? Eighteen of the 21 Commissioners are selected by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, respectively. The remaining three Commissioners are appointed by the President of the United States from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce, usually at the Assistant Secretary level. How long do Commissioners serve on the Helsinki Commission? Commissioners may serve on the Commission as long as they remain eligible and are selected by the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, or the President of the United States. Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe   What is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe? The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization. It spans 57 participating States reaching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Originally known as the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, today’s OSCE has its origins in the early 1950s, when the Soviet Union first proposed the creation of a pan-European security conference. After the Warsaw Pact renewed calls for such a conference, in May 1969, the Government of Finland sent a memorandum to all European countries, the United States, and Canada, offering Helsinki as a conference venue. On August 1, 1975, after three years of negotiation, the leaders of the original 35 participating States gathered in Helsinki and signed the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Also known as the Helsinki Accords, the Final Act is not a treaty, but rather a politically binding agreement consisting of three main sections informally known as "baskets," adopted on the basis of consensus. Basket I—the Security Dimension—contains a Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations between participating States, including Principle VII, which governs respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. It also includes a section on confidence-building measures and other aspects of security and disarmament aimed at increasing military transparency. Basket II—the Economic Dimension—covers economic, scientific, technological and environmental cooperation, as well as migrant labor, vocational training, and the promotion of tourism. Basket III is devoted to cooperation in humanitarian and other fields: freer movement of people; human contacts, including family reunification and visits; freedom of information, including working conditions for journalists; and cultural and educational exchanges. Principle VII and Basket III together have come to be known as the "Human Dimension." Since 1975, the number of signatories has expanded to 57, reflecting the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, and the desire of other nations to join. Institutionalization of the conference in the early 1990s led to its transformation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, effective January 1995. Today, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe sets standards in fields including military security, economic and environmental cooperation, and human rights and humanitarian concerns. In addition, the OSCE undertakes a variety of initiatives designed to prevent, manage, and resolve conflict within and among the participating States. The OSCE is headquartered in Vienna, Austria, where weekly meetings of the Permanent Council are held. In addition, specialized seminars and meetings are convened in various locations and periodic consultations are held among senior officials, ministers, and heads of state or government. What is the Helsinki Final Act? What are its three dimensions? Defining security in a uniquely comprehensive manner, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975—the founding document of today’s OSCE—contains 10 principles guiding inter-state relations, among them respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Also known as the Helsinki Accords, the Final Act is not a treaty, but rather a politically binding agreement consisting of three main sections informally known as "baskets," adopted on the basis of consensus. Basket I—the Security Dimension—contains a Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations between participating States, including Principle VII, which governs respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. It also includes a section on confidence-building measures and other aspects of security and disarmament aimed at increasing military transparency. Basket II—the Economic Dimension—covers economic, scientific, technological and environmental cooperation, as well as migrant labor, vocational training, and the promotion of tourism. Basket III is devoted to cooperation in humanitarian and other fields: freer movement of people; human contacts, including family reunification and visits; freedom of information, including working conditions for journalists; and cultural and educational exchanges. Principle VII and Basket III together have come to be known as the "Human Dimension." Is the Helsinki Final Act a treaty? No. It is a politically—though not legally—binding agreement. What is the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly? Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) was established in 1991 to offer opportunities for engagement among parliamentarians from the OSCE participating States. Today, the OSCE PA is an independent, consultative body consisting of 323 parliamentarians from OSCE participating States. As part of its remit, the OSCE PA assesses the implementation of OSCE objectives by participating States; discusses subjects addressed during meetings of the OSCE Ministerial Council and summit meetings of OSCE heads of state or government; develops and promotes mechanisms for the prevention and resolution of conflicts; supports the strengthening and consolidation of democratic institutions in OSCE participating States; and contributes to the development of OSCE institutional structures and of relations and cooperation between existing OSCE institutions. The OSCE PA also allows parliamentarians from participating States to introduce new issues and concerns that will ultimately need to be addressed by the OSCE itself in Vienna.  Efforts to combat trafficking in persons or to respond to anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance in society became central to the OSCE’s work as a result of initiatives coming from the Parliamentary Assembly.  With 17 of the 323 seats, the United States has the largest representation in the OSCE PA.  The active involvement of Members of Congress helps ensure that U.S. objectives and interests are advanced and that new issues of concern are placed on the OSCE diplomatic agenda, and assures other participating States of the depth of the U.S. commitment to the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. Members of the U.S. Congress have consistently held leadership positions in the OSCE PA since its inception. What are the other key OSCE institutions? The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) gets involved in situations where tensions involving national minorities could develop into a conflict. The High Commissioner addresses the short-term triggers of inter-ethnic tension or conflict and long-term structural concerns. If a participating State is not meeting its political commitments or international norms, the High Commissioner will assist by providing analysis and recommendations. Based on experience, the HCNM publishes thematic guidance on common challenges and best practices. The High Commissioner also provides structural support through small collaborative projects that aim to achieve sustainability through increasing local ownership. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) provides support, assistance and expertise to participating States and civil society to promote democracy, rule of law, human rights, and tolerance and non-discrimination. ODIHR observes elections, reviews legislation and advises governments on how to develop and sustain democratic institutions. The office conducts training programs for government and law-enforcement officials and non-governmental organizations on how to uphold, promote, and monitor human rights. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments as part of an early warning function and helps participating States abide by their commitments to freedom of expression and free media. The representative also holds annual regional media conferences, bringing together journalists, representatives of civil society and government, as well as academics, to discuss current media freedom issues. What does the U.S. Mission to the OSCE do? The United States Mission to the OSCE is a multi-agency team of more than thirty staff members from the Department of State and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A representative from the Helsinki Commission is also fully integrated into the mission. The mission coordinates with the rotating OSCE Chairmanship-in-Office and the OSCE Secretariat, negotiates with the other national delegations in Vienna, and works closely with U.S. embassies and the OSCE field presences situated throughout the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. The U.S. Mission to the OSCE represents the United States in the Permanent Council, the OSCE’s principal policy-making body. It also represents the United States in several other entities, including the Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC), the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), the Treaty in the Joint Consultative Group (JCG), and the Open Skies Consultative Commission (OSCC). What is the difference between an OSCE participating State and an OSCE Partner for Cooperation? The OSCE maintains special relations with 11 countries—known as Partners for Cooperation— to better address shared security challenges. Six of them (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia) are in the Mediterranean region, and four (Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Afghanistan) are in Asia. Australia is also an OSCE Partner for Cooperation. Although the OSCE dialogue with its Partners for Cooperation encompasses the full range of the organization’s activities, each group of partners focuses on specific issues of common interest. For example, Mediterranean Partners are particularly engaged with issues including anti-terrorism, border security, intercultural and interreligious dialogue, and tolerance and non-discrimination. Asian Partners look to the OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security and to confidence-and security-building measures as possible sources of good practice for their own region.

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