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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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  Senator Ben Cardin

Chairman

Senator Ben Cardin

  Representative Steve Cohen

Co-Chairman

Representative Steve Cohen

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  • Press and Media

    The Helsinki Commission is your best source for the latest information on human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Our leadership and Commissioners regularly comment on developments throughout the 57 participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. They also issue Congressional Record Statements, make speeches, author op-eds, and introduce legislation related to security, human rights, and fundamental freedoms throughout the OSCE region. To arrange an interview or learn more about Helsinki Commission initiatives, hearings, briefings, and other events please contact: Stacy Hope Director of Communications 202-225-1901 csce[dot]press[at]mail[dot]house[dot]gov Helsinki Commission Press Releases Helsinki Commission Statements Helsinki Commission Speeches Helsinki Commission in the News

  • Podcast: Lost and Found

    Only July 11, 1995, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys from the town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina were rounded up, gunned down, and buried in mass graves by Bosnian Serb forces, in what was the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II. The brutality of the genocide of Srebrenica was compounded by the deliberate effort by those responsible to hide their crimes. The use of mass graves and the subsequent movement of remains of the murdered using heavy machinery meant that the identification of the victims seemed nearly impossible at the time.  Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, Kathryne Bomberger, director general of the International Commission on Missing Persons, discusses how ICMP has helped families of the Srebrenica victims find closure and pursue justice. She also discusses the commission’s evolution from dealing with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia to its work worldwide—including in Syria, Colombia, and elsewhere—today. "Helsinki on the Hill" is series of conversations hosted by the U.S. Helsinki Commission on human rights and comprehensive security in Europe and beyond. The Helsinki Commission, formally known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Transcript | Episode 12 | Lost and Found: How the International Commission on Missing Persons Helps Find Closure and Pursue Justice

  • Decoding the OSCE

    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is the world’s largest regional security organization with 57 participating States representing more than a billion people. Its origins trace back to the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, which contains a broad range of measures focused on politico-military, economic and environmental, and human aspects designed to enhance comprehensive security and cooperation in the region, and the decades of multilateral diplomacy that followed. The OSCE operates coordinated efforts, adapted to the needs of each participating State, to protect democracy, promote peace, and manage conflict. The organization focuses on creating sustainable change through shared values, and decisions are taken by consensus. Learn more about the OSCE’s operations and institutions below. The Helsinki Process and the OSCE: On August 1, 1975, the leaders of the original 35 OSCE 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 Helsinki 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. The Security Dimension The Economic Dimension The Human Dimension Four Decades of the Helsinki Process: The gatherings following the Final Act became known as the Helsinki Process. The process became a diplomatic front line in the Cold War and a cost-effective diplomatic tool to respond to the new challenges facing Europe during the post-Cold War era. Since its inception over forty years ago, the Helsinki Process and the OSCE continue to provide added value to multilateral efforts enhancing security and cooperation in Europe. OSCE Institutions, Structures, and Meetings: The OSCE sets standards in fields including military security, economic and environmental cooperation, and human rights and humanitarian concerns. The OSCE also undertakes a variety of preventive diplomacy initiatives designed to prevent, manage and resolve conflict within and among the participating States. The Consensus Rule: The OSCE operates using a consensus decision-making process. Consensus fosters ownership of decisions by all OSCE participating States, enables them to protect key national priorities, and creates an important incentive for countries to participate in the OSCE.  It also strengthens the politically binding nature of OSCE commitments. The Moscow Mechanism: The OSCE’s Moscow Mechanism allows for the establishment of a short-term fact-finding mission to address a specific human rights concern in the OSCE region. OSCE Election Observation: Election observation is one of the most transparent and methodical ways to encourage States’ commitment to democratic standards and has become a core element of the OSCE’s efforts to promote human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Parliamentary Diplomacy of the OSCE: The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) offers opportunities for engagement among parliamentarians from OSCE participating States. The OSCE PA debates current issues related to OSCE commitments; develops and promotes tools to prevent and resolve conflicts; supports democratic development in participating States; and encourages national governments to take full advantage of OSCE capabilities. Non-Governmental Participation in the OSCE: One of the advantages of the OSCE is that it is the only international organization in which NGOs are allowed to participate in human dimension meetings on an equal basis with participating States. NGOs—no matter how small—can raise their concerns directly with governments. 

  • 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 Human Dimension

    The OSCE participating States have identified the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms as one of the basic purposes of government and reaffirmed that recognition of these rights and freedoms constitutes the foundation of freedom, justice and peace. When the Helsinki Final Act was signed in Helsinki, Finland in 1975, it enshrined among its ten Principles Guiding Relations between participating States (the decalogue), a commitment to "respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of thought, conscience religion or belief, for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion" (Principle VII). In addition, the Final Act included a section on cooperation regarding humanitarian concerns, including transnational human contacts, information, culture and education. The HFA and subsequently adopted OSCE agreements are not treaties and are therefore viewed as political commitments, not legal obligations. The Helsinki Commission has a special mandate 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, with particular regard to the provisions relating to Cooperation in Humanitarian fields [i.e., the human dimension]." Since 1990, the Helsinki Commission has particularly focused on restrictions on the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; the treatment of persons belonging to ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, including Roma; human rights violations in conflict settings and the prevention of torture. In addition, the Commission has monitored aspects of the transition to democracy, including challenges to the rule of law, free and fair elections, and the impact of corruption on the human and other dimensions of the OSCE. What is the "Human Dimension?" The Human Dimension was a term coined during the drafting of the 1989 Vienna Concluding Document. This term was designed as a short-hand phrase to describe the human rights and humanitarian provisions of the agreements concluded within the framework of the Helsinki process. Consensus: All of the agreements of the Helsinki process have been adopted on the basis of consensus; i.e., each participating State has agreed to every provision in each OSCE document.   Universality: Each participating State is equally bound by each document. All countries which joined the Helsinki process after 1975 have pledged, as a condition for membership, to "accept in their entirety all commitments and responsibilities contained in these documents and [. . . ] to act in accordance with their provisions."   Establishing Common Standards on Human Rights: Through the negotiation of successive agreements, the OSCE participating States gradually expanded the body of shared commitments. It was often the case, however, that Soviet-bloc countries might concede to a provision in principle, only to undermine it through the operation of national laws, rules, or regulations. The 1989 Vienna Concluding Document stated, "In this context, [the participating States] confirm that they will respect each other's right freely to choose and develop their political, social, economic and cultural systems as well as their right to determine their laws, regulations, practices and policies. In exercising these rights, they will ensure that their laws, regulations, practices and policies conform with their obligations under international law and are brought into harmony with the provisions of the Declaration on Principles and other CSCE commitments." By 1990, as the Iron Curtain began to fall, the OSCE Heads of State and Government declared in the Charter of Paris for a New Europe: "We undertake to build, consolidate and strengthen democracy as the only system of government of our nations." Two OSCE documents enshrined the practice of raising human rights concerns. First, the 1989 Vienna Concluding Document committed each participating State (1) to respond to requests for information and to representations from any other participating State on specific cases or broad situations relating to commitments in the human dimension; (2) to meet bilaterally with participating States requesting such a meeting to examine these cases or situations; (3) to bring these cases and situations to the attention of the other participating States; and (4) to provide, if it deems necessary, information on what has transpired under the first two points at OSCE meetings. Further establishing the OSCE commitments as the basis for bilateral and multilateral dialogue, the 1991 Moscow Concluding Document stated: "The participating States emphasize that issues relating to human rights, fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law are of international concern, as respect for these rights and freedoms constitutes one of the foundations of international order. They categorically and irrevocably declare that the commitments undertaken in the field of the human dimension of the CSCE are matters of direct and legitimate concern to all participating States and do not belong exclusively to the internal affairs of the State concerned."

  • Podcast: Nagorno-Karabakh

    The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains one of the world’s most intractable and long-standing territorial and ethnic disputes. Its fragile no-peace, no-war situation poses a serious threat to stability in the South Caucasus region and beyond. The conflict features at its core a fundamental tension between two key tenets of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act: territorial integrity and the right to self-determination. Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, former U.S. Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, joins Helsinki Commission Senior Policy Advisor Everett Price to discuss the history and evolution of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the OSCE's role in conflict diplomacy and the prospects for a lasting peace. "Helsinki on the Hill" is series of conversations hosted by the U.S. Helsinki Commission on human rights and comprehensive security in Europe and beyond. The Helsinki Commission, formally known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Transcript | Episode 8 | Nagorno-Karabakh

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Podcast: Open Skies

    What was a Russian military plane doing taking pictures over Washington, DC? Arms control experts Alexandra Bell, Senior Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, and Anthony Wier, Legislative Secretary for Nuclear Disarmament and Pentagon Spending at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, discuss the Treaty on Open Skies. The Open Skies agreement fosters inter-military transparency and cooperation among 34 different countries—including the United States and Russia—by allowing participants to overfly each other’s territory to record and share imagery of military and other installations. During the episode, Bell and Weir outline the role of Open Skies in the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, the treaty’s benefits, the complexity of execution, and current challenges in implementation. "Helsinki on the Hill" is series of conversations hosted by the U.S. Helsinki Commission on human rights and comprehensive security in Europe and beyond. The Helsinki Commission, formally known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Transcript | Episode 4: Open Skies | Helsinki on the Hill

  • Human Rights at Home

    By signing the Helsinki Final Act, the United States committed to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, even under the most challenging circumstances. However, like other OSCE participating States, the United States sometimes struggles to implement humane migration policies, ensure transparency in political leadership, safeguard press freedom, and counter hate and discrimination. The Helsinki Commission strives to ensure that U.S. practices remain consistent with international standards and that the United States remains responsive to legitimate concerns raised in the OSCE context, including about the conduct of elections; the death penalty, use of force by law enforcement, and other criminal justice practices; and the status and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. In 1979, the Helsinki Commission hosted a series of hearings to examine whether the United States was meeting its commitments under the Helsinki Final Act. It was the first time that a participating State reviewed its own record in such a manner, considering criticism by other signatories and domestic monitoring groups. In the 2000s, commissioners addressed the toll that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, along with other practices undertaken as part of the “War on Terror,” was taking on U.S. leadership on human rights. The commission also has organized events examining ethnic profiling in Europe and the U.S. and highlighting U.S. government reform efforts through “constitutional policing” initiatives. Commissioners—especially those who have observed elections abroad—have also been supportive of OSCE election observation missions to the United States. Engaging in such candid self-assessment allows the United States to legitimately demand a similar level of reflection from other OSCE participating States. In addition, through hearings, briefings, and other public awareness activities, the commission increases U.S. citizen engagement with international institutions like the OSCE and deepens American relationships with civil society organizations throughout the region.

  • Podcast: Parliamentary Diplomacy in Action

    Through participation in parliamentary assemblies, national legislators can wield global influence on issues ranging from counterterrorism to climate change. Roberto Montella, Secretary General of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and Ruxandra Popa, Secretary General of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, peel back the curtain on activities of their institutions and underscore the value of parliamentary diplomacy in promoting security, prosperity, and human rights worldwide. "Helsinki on the Hill" is series of conversations hosted by the U.S. Helsinki Commission on human rights and comprehensive security in Europe and beyond. The Helsinki Commission, formally known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Transcript | Episode 9 | Parliamentary Diplomacy in Action

  • The Economic Dimension

    Economic, scientific and environmental cooperation were grouped together in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and form the economic dimension of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Based on the view that trade, as well as scientific and environmental collaboration, enhance security, OSCE efforts in this area are designed to facilitate and build on the transition from command to market economies, to lessen economic disparities between participating States, and to combat economic and environmental threats to security. Within the economic and environmental dimension, as it is generally referred, the OSCE countries have adopted a wide range of commitments designed to foster free market economies and enhance economic cooperation, including better economic and commercial information and improved business contacts and facilities. They have also agreed on industrial cooperation measures such as harmonization of standards and arbitration of disputes. Additionally, this dimension includes cooperative efforts in the fields of science (such as physics, chemistry, meteorology, oceanography, space research) and technology (e.g., energy, new technologies, computer technology). With respect to the environment, participating States have committed to study bilateral and multilateral environmental problems and ways to increase the effectiveness of national and international protection measures. Areas of specific interest include trans-boundary air and water pollution, marine protection, and protection of the Mediterranean environment. Key Economic and Environmental Commitments The 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the 1983 Madrid Concluding Document and the 1989 Vienna Concluding Document contained general commitments on cooperation in the economic and environmental spheres. The 1990 Charter of Paris and the Concluding Document of the Bonn Conference on Economic Cooperation in Europe, also from 1990, articulate the aim of the OSCE participating States to usher in a new era of economic relations and exchanges following the collapse of communism. These documents contain commitments designed to develop free and competitive market economies as well as environmentally sustainable economic growth and development. The 1999 Istanbul Charter for European Security broke new ground in the economic commitments as it was the first time that the participating States collectively recognized that corruption poses a great threat to the OSCE’s shared values. The countries, at Istanbul, committed themselves to combat corruption and the conditions that foster it. The 2003 Maastricht Ministerial Council updated the Bonn Economic Strategy document by adopting concrete measures designed to foster sustainable development, improve corporate governance, promote regional integration and overall to address the uneven economic development among OSCE States and to address the emergence of new threats to security and stability. The OSCE Economic Forum With the collapse of communism, states in Central and Eastern Europe as well as those of the former Soviet Union embarked on a difficult process of economic transition. This transition has been threatened by high unemployment, corruption and weak rule of law, factors that hinder investment, impede economic growth and fuel illegal economic activities. Environmental degradation, mismanagement and uneven distribution of natural resources have also caused tension in communities and between countries. In the early 1990s, the United States attempted to give political stimulus to the dialogue on the transition to free market economies and to suggest practical efforts to assist in their development. Thus, in 1992 the OSCE Economic Forum was created as an annual conference designed to enhance dialogue on the transition to free-market economies; suggest practical means of developing free-market systems and economic cooperation; provide an annual focus for activities by targeting major issues of economic or environmental concern; contribute to the elaboration of specific recommendation and follow-up activities; and review the implementation of the participating States' commitments described in key documents. OSCE Projects The OSCE economic and environmental commitments, and activities of the OSCE in this area, reflect the desire of participating States for economic development that contributes to stability and treats citizens fairly. The Office of the Coordinator of OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities under the OSCE Secretariat, was created in 1997 to strengthen the ability of the Permanent Council and the OSCE institutions to address economic, social and environmental aspects of security. For example, labor migration within the OSCE region allows for an important source of income for residents of less-developed countries who are able to find work in more economically vibrant countries. With this opportunity also comes the risk of trafficking or exploitation. The OSCE has developed a “Handbook on Establishing Effective Labour Migration Policies in Countries of Origin and Destination” in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). This handbook serves as a discussion point and best practices guide for participating States seeking to develop effective regional labor migration management. Part of the OSCE’s effort to combat human trafficking is also encompassed in this work. Lack of economic opportunities, unemployment and loss of social cohesion are the main factors that contribute to women's and children's, but also men's vulnerability to trafficking. The Economic Coordinator’s office has developed an Anti-Trafficking Programme on Public-Private Co-operation in the Prevention of Trafficking in Human Beings (ATP). The ATP aims at addressing both the demand and supply side of trafficking in human beings by promoting self-regulation of the private sector; awareness-raising in countries of destination, in particular in Western countries; and creating economic empowerment opportunities for potential victims of trafficking in countries of origin. The environment is also recognized as a key factor in not only economic development, but security as well. Environmental degradation, resource scarcity, the uneven distribution of natural resources or resource abundance are emerging as potential triggers or accelerating factors of tensions within and among states. One of the ways the OSCE is addressing environmental issues is through the Environment and Security Initiative (ENVSEC) that provides a framework for cooperation on environmental issues across borders and promoting peace and stability through environmental cooperation and sustainable development. 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 has also focused attention on the economic and environmental dimension of the OSCE, including related commitments and decisions. Activities in recent years have included hearings stressing the importance of democratic governance, transparency and the role of civil society as well as a hearing specifically focused on the lingering consequences of the Chornobyl disaster. Initiatives have also been undertaken on topics ranging from ethics standards and parliamentary immunity to combating corruption and international crime.

  • 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 Co-Chairman Steve Cohen, Tennessee Ranking Member Joe Wilson, South Carolina Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama Emanuel Cleaver, II, Missouri Brian Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania Ruben Gallego, Arizona Richard Hudson, North Carolina Gwen Moore, Wisconsin Marc Veasey, Texas U.S Senate Chairman Ben Cardin, Maryland Ranking Member Roger F. Wicker, Mississippi Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut  John Boozman, Arkansas Marco Rubio, Florida Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Tina Smith, Minnesota  Thom Tillis, North Carolina 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

  • Safe, Inclusive, and Equitable Societies

    Civil rights are human rights, and advancing societies that are safe, inclusive, and equitable is central to the work of the Helsinki Commission.  As signatories of the Helsinki Final Act, the 57 participating States of the OSCE, including the United States, have committed to the protection and promotion of human rights “for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.”  The ability to participate freely in civil and political life without fear of discrimination or repression has been a key focus of the Helsinki Commission.  Some of the commission’s first activities addressed persecution in the Soviet Union based on religious affiliation, as well as on a denial of citizenship to Roma following the break-up of Czechoslovakia in the 1990s.  Helsinki Commission initiatives set the stage for the establishment of three OSCE personal representatives focused on tolerance and non-discrimination, as well as the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Office within the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the appointment of an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance.  Recent concerns around rights of refugees and migrants have led the commission to examine humanitarian responses and integration practices throughout the region, including participation in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Committee on Migration. Following the Helsinki Commission’s tradition of protecting and advancing human rights across the region—regardless of where people are from, or how they look, pray, or love—the commission called for the protection of LGBT and other vulnerable populations in Chechnya following an escalation in Russian human rights abuses in 2017.   The Helsinki Commission partners with the U.S. State Department, OSCE, and other stakeholders to empower communities to unite against bias and discrimination to foster truly democratic, inclusive, and free societies.  In addition to supporting OSCE action plans to address inequities in employment, political participation, and other sectors for women and minorities, joint initiatives like the Transatlantic Minority Political Leadership Conference and Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network advance representative policymaking with the understanding that a nation’s global prosperity and security rest on the full participation and opportunity for all members of society. 

  • Podcast: In the Beginning

    In the inaugural episode of "Helsinki on the Hill," the Helsinki Commission's first staff director, Spencer Oliver, shares how the Helsinki Commission evolved from its beginnings in the 1970s to become an organization that reflects the overarching commitment of the United States to security and cooperation in Europe, and that 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. He also shares details about the role he played in the creation of today's OSCE, and his service as the first secretary general of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly from 1992 to 2015. "Helsinki on the Hill" is series of conversations hosted by the U.S. Helsinki Commission on human rights and comprehensive security in Europe and beyond. The Helsinki Commission, formally known as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, promotes human rights, military security, and economic cooperation in 57 countries in Europe, Eurasia, and North America. Transcript | Episode 1: In the Beginning | Helsinki on the Hill

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