The Secretariat, under the direction of the Secretary General, provides operational support to the Organization.

Secretary General

The Secretary General (SG) acts as the representative of the Chair-in-Office and supports him/her in all activities aimed at attaining the goals of the OSCE. He/she is appointed for a term of three years, which may be extended for a second and final term of three years. 

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid. (Cristina Marasescu)

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid. (Cristina Marasescu)

The Secretary General’s mandate was adopted in 2004. The SG has a strong administrative role and a slightly weaker political role. As Chief Administrative Officer, he/she is responsible for implementing the decisions adopted by participating States as well as for presenting the annual budget to the OSCE Permanent Council. The SG also oversees the management of field operations and of all OSCE executive structures. 

The political role is mainly related to supporting the process of political dialogue of OSCE states. In this regard, the Secretary General is authorized, in consultation with the Chair-in-Office, to bring any matter that he/she deems relevant to the attention of the Permanent Council. The Secretary General’s political role was further expanded in a decision adopted at the 2011 Vilnius OSCE Ministerial Council meeting. In the decision, OSCE participating States authorize the Secretary General to provide early warning to the Permanent Council, in consultation with the Chairmanship, on any situation of emerging tensions or conflicts in the OSCE area and to suggest possible responses by the OSCE. 


The duties of the Secretariat include:

  • Managing OSCE structures and operations within the political guidelines set down by the Permanent Council and other political decision-making bodies

  • Working closely with the CiO in the preparation and guidance of OSCE meetings

  • Providing briefing notes, speaking points and background information to the Chairmanship for any political meetings of the CiO with interlocutors in OSCE pS

  • Publicizing OSCE policies and practices. Supporting the Chairmanship in issuing press releases

  • Mainstreaming gender equality across OSCE activities and providing support to states in implementing gender-related policies, including on women, peace and security

  • Providing operational and administrative support to OSCE field operations via the Secretariat’s Conflict Prevention Centre

  • Translating political commitments in the area of transnational threats into concrete action, for example related to cyber security, anti-terrorism activities, border security and management, and police-related activities

  • Translating political commitments in the economic and environmental dimension into concrete activities, including on good governance, transboundary water management and hazardous waste management

  • Assisting states in their efforts to prevent human trafficking via the Office of the Special Representative and Coordinator

  • Maintaining contacts with international organizations and OSCE PfC.

  • Advising on budgetary proposals and financial implications of proposals 

  • Overseeing personnel issues and implementing transparent recruitment procedures, including gender equity within the OSCE


The Secretariat includes the following structures: is

Refer to the OSCE website for more information about the various structures in the Secretariat.

The Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC)

The OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security is closely tied to the four stages of conflict, which are known as the “Conflict Cycle”: 1) early warning, 2) conflict prevention, 3) crisis management, and 4) post-conflict rehabilitation. 

Ambassador Tuula Yrjölä, Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC) and Deputy Head of the OSCE Secretariat. (OSCE/Jonathan Perfect)

Ambassador Tuula Yrjölä, Director of the OSCE Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC) and Deputy Head of the OSCE Secretariat. (OSCE/Jonathan Perfect)

The OSCE’s Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC) was established by the “Charter of Paris for a New Europe” in 1990 to help reduce the risk of conflict and to support the OSCE and its 57 pS in addressing the Conflict Cycle. It works together with Field Operations (FO) to reduce the risk of armed conflict in the OSCE region.

The Conflict Prevention Center provides early warning of emerging crises, policy advice, analysis and support to the Secretary General, Chairmanship, pS and FOs. Since its founding, the CPC has facilitated dialogue and mediation, and developed a toolbox of skills and activities to lessen the chances of confrontation between and within OSCE States. 
The CPC is composed of four primary divisions: 

  • The Forum for Security Co-operation Support Section (FSC)

  • The Policy Support Service (PSS) 

  • The Programming and Evaluation Support Unit (PESU) 

  • The Operations Service (OS) 

The Operations Service is broken out into four thematic units: 

  • The Planning and Analysis team 

  • The Mediation Support Team 

  • The Security Sector/Governance Reform (SSG/R) 

  • The Situation/Communications Room (SitCom)

Gender Issues Programme

The Gender Issues Programme works to promote gender equality both within the OSCE and in supporting participating States in the implementation of the Gender Action Plan (at their request), as well as to mainstream gender as a cross-cutting issue across the three dimensions of the OSCE. 

The OSCE 2004 Action Plan for the Promotion of Gender Equality (Gender Action Plan) provides the basis for the Organization’s activities on gender equality: 

  • Ensuring that all OSCE policies, programmes and activities are gender mainstreamed

  • Providing staff members with tools and training on gender mainstreaming
  • Developing a professional, gender-sensitive organizational culture and working environment

  • Increasing the share of female managers in senior positions

  • Supporting the efforts of participating States in achieving gender equality;
  • Promoting the role of women in conflict prevention, crisis management and peace reconstruction processes

The implementation of the Gender Action Plan is monitored, and progress is reported on by the Secretary General in an annual presentation to the PC.

Official Ceremony of Taking Oath and the Launch of the New Police Patrol Service, Kyiv, 4 July 2015. (OSCE/Tetiana Medun)

Official Ceremony of Taking Oath and the Launch of the New Police Patrol Service, Kyiv, 4 July 2015. (OSCE/Tetiana Medun)

The Gender Issues Programme develops operational tools, guidelines, capacity-building, and training materials to assist staff members in mainstreaming gender in their work. It also implements thematic programmes to support pS and OSCE executive structures in integrating a gender perspective in all three dimensions, as well as addressing cross cutting issues of gender equality.

Thematic work includes: 

The Gender Section promotes an inclusive and respectful work environment free and with zero tolerance for sexual harassment. It also works to promote gender parity on panels at OSCE events and to monitor the number of women and men on panels of events in different dimensions as well as at the PC. 

The Gender Focal Points Network 

The OSCE has appointed gender focal points in each Field Operation and Institution, as well as in all departments of the Secretariat, who are tasked to assist and support in the implementation of the Gender Action Plan. A network of these gender focal points meets on an annual basis. Several FOs have full-time gender advisers and officers.

Office of the Co-ordinator of Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) 

The Office of the Co-ordinator of the OSCE Economic and Environmental Activities (OCEEA) was established in 1997. The objective of the OCEEA is to strengthen security and stability in the OSCE region by promoting co-operation on economic and environmental issues, which make up the Economic and Environmental Dimension (EED) - the so-called Second (2nd) Dimension - of OSCE’s comprehensive approach to security. 

The Economic and Environmental Committee works closely with officers in OSCE FOs and assists in the identification, monitoring and working to mitigate risks to security and stability in the economic and environmental fields, as well as in facilitating the design and implementation of economic and environmental-related policies and projects. OCEEA activities include assisting pS in: 

The OCEEA holds a series of Economic and Environmental committee preparatory meetings throughout the year. These lead up to the Economic and Environmental Dimension Implementation Meeting (EEDIM), and to the Economic and Environmental Forum (EEF), which is the highest-level annual meeting in September in Prague, the Czech Republic. The representatives of governments, civil society, business community and other international organizations, engage in dialogue on common economic and environmental challenges, to: identify practical solutions, to contribute to the elaboration of recommendations and follow-up activities to address these security related EED issues, providing direction for future work and political stimulus to the work of the 2nd dimension.

Transnational Threats Department (TNTD)

The Transnational Threats Department (TNTD) was established in 2012 to ensure better co-ordination, strengthened coherence and more efficient use of the OSCE’s resources in addressing transnational threats (TNT), and to optimize support provided to the SG, CiO and to pS on TNT-related matters. It is comprised of the following units: 

The OSCE Mediterranean Points of Contact discussing the engagement of women in border security during the Border Security and Management Training for Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation, Floriana, 29 June 2018. (OSCE/Eugenia Reznikowa)

The OSCE Mediterranean Points of Contact discussing the engagement of women in border security during the Border Security and Management Training for Mediterranean Partners for Co-operation, Floriana, 29 June 2018. (OSCE/Eugenia Reznikowa)

In addition, the OSCE hosts different fora on security issues such as the Annual Security Review Conference (ASRC). This forum provides a platform for enhancing security dialogue and for reviewing the security work undertaken by the OSCE and its participating States, as well as an opportunity to exchange views on issues related to arms control and confidence- and security-building measures, and to promote the exchange of information and co-operation with relevant international and regional organizations and institutions.