International organisations

This section contains information on the United Nations (UN), the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union (EU).

Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was established in 1973 as the 'Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe' (CSCE).
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What is the OSCE?

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) was established in 1973 as the 'Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe' (CSCE). A European security organisation had been under discussion since the 1950s, but the Cold War prevented any progress on this front, until talks began in Helsinki in November 1972. The recommendations of those talks, "The Blue Book", formed the basis for a three-stage conference in Helsinki. During the third phase of the Conference (30 July and 1 August 1975), the Helsinki Accords were signed by the 35 participating countries. On 1 January 1995, following the collapse of communism, the CSCE was renamed the OSCE.

What does the OSCE do?

The OSCE ensures the security of a geographical region stretching from Vancouver to Vladivostok. It now has 57 participating states from North America, Central Asia, and Europe. It is recognised as a regional organisation within the meaning of Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter. As the name suggests, the aim of this international organisation is to ensure security through cooperation. The OSCE handles the complete conflict cycle, such as early warning, conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict reconstruction.

The OSCE takes a comprehensive security approach, with the following dimensions:

  • political military: activities pertaining to this dimension focus on the following areas: police, arms control, border management, the fight against terrorism, conflict prevention and resolution and security sector reform and cooperation.
  • economic and environmental: since economic prosperity is essential for stability, the OSCE focuses on promoting a healthy economic environment in the participating states. The Strategic Document of December 2003 on the Economic and Environmental Dimension of the OSCE sets out the focus themes of this dimension: co-operation on economic good governance, sustainable development, and environmental protection. Transport, migration management, climate change, hazardous waste and water management, anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism are also addressed.
  • human: in the context of the third dimension, the OSCE promotes full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. Among other things, this dimension covers freedom of expression, press freedom, security of journalists, freedom of peaceful association, the rule of law - including the fight against torture and the death penalty - tolerance and non-discrimination, rights of minorities - including Roma & Sinti - and elections. The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) is the main body responsible for promoting human rights and democracy within the OSCE. To give impetus to democratic transitions, the ODIHR organises the OSCE international election observation missions and leads projects that are conducive to the proper conduct of elections.

Certain themes are covered in all three dimensions and are therefore cross-dimensional. Migration, Gender, Youth, Cyber/ICT Security and Trafficking in Human Beings are the most important.

OSCE activities also include:

  • missions on the ground: the OSCE deploys around 3,000 people for 15 missions and activities on the ground. They are active in Eastern Europe, South-Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. OSCE staff work on the ground to facilitate political processes, prevent, or resolve conflicts and promote civil society and the rule of law;
  • election observation missions: In line with the OSCE commitments, participating states are required to invite the Organisation to observe elections. The basic principles subscribed to by the 57 participating States are: universality, equality, justice, confidentiality, freedom, transparency, and responsibility. On the ground, experts need to monitor the complete electoral process: administrative organisation, political campaigns, voting procedures, media coverage and human rights issues.

What is Belgium's role in the OSCE?

The Permanent Representative of Belgium to the OSCE cooperates with a team of diplomats sitting in the various bodies of the OSCE, such as the Permanent Council, the Preparatory Committee, the Sub Committee for Economic and Environmental Activities, etcetera.

The Permanent Representation of Belgium to the OSCE is in the same building as the Belgian Embassy, as well as the Permanent Representation of Belgium to international organisations in Vienna, such as the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO).

The OSCE recruits’ staff for 15 field missions. These secondments are one-year contracts which can be renewed. Before the headquarters in Vienna launches a selection procedure, each State is invited to nominate candidates.
More information can be found on the OSCE website

What do the election observation missions do?

Under the aegis of the OSCE, Belgium participates in election observation missions organised by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, hereinafter referred to as the OSCE/ODIHR, by sending short-term observers.

The OSCE/ODIHR conducts election observations in OSCE-participating States to assess the extent to which elections respect fundamental freedoms and are characterised by equality, universality, political pluralism, trust, transparency, and accountability. These election observation missions consist of:

  • a core team of electoral experts;
  • long-term observers deployed for a period of six weeks;
  • short-term observers deployed for around ten days.

As part of a multilateral framework, election observation missions are deployed based on the following principles:

Election observation missions are unpaid (but cover expenses), incidental and ad hoc missions for people who sometimes come from highly diverse backgrounds and often have an interest in the issue, in the context of their professional activities.

How to apply

The FPS Foreign Affairs (FPS FA) selects candidates based on their qualifications and objective motivations. The procedure for submitting valid candidacies for such missions is as follows:

  1. Candidates must be registered in our database via the standard form. Registration does not imply that you are a candidate for a given mission. It is only a mandatory prerequisite for any candidacy. Once this has been done, it does not have to be repeated. However, it is still possible at any time if the candidate wishes to make any changes to update their CV.
  2. Candidates must complete an e-learning made up of several modules. It can be interrupted, saved, and resumed at any time. The certificate issued upon completion of the e-learning must be sent to
  3. Candidates interested in a given mission are invited to explicitly submit their candidacy by sending an e-mail to Candidacies must be received by us no later than six weeks prior to the election day for which the candidate is applying. In making its selection, the FPS FA will not be able to take into account candidates who have not completed this procedure in time.
  4. The selection procedure incorporates the following criteria:
    • the availability of the budget of the FPS FA;
    • the skills and expertise of the candidates, for example previous experience in the region and/or in the country, previous electoral experience including training in the field of electoral observation, the language skills, experience working in crisis and highly volatile security environments, etcetera;
    • the linguistic balance between French and Dutch candidates; 
    • the gender balance;
    • the balance between internal and external candidates in the FPS FA.
  5. Candidates can find the calendar for observation missions on the OSCE website.
  6. It is necessary to repeat points 2) and 3) each time the candidate wishes to apply for a new mission.