Update: 19.08.2011

The human dimension

During the Vienna Follow-up Meeting (4 November 1986 - 19 January 1989), the concept of the human dimension was introduced. The human dimension comprises human rights and basic freedoms, the rights of members of national minorities, questions on democracy and the rule of law as well as humanitarian issues.

The commitments of the human dimension

On a normative level the human dimension is constantly specified and substantiated by means of multilateral commitments. These are politically binding agreements consented to by all OSCE countries at the annual meetings.

The OSCE compiled all human dimension commitments between 1975 and 2011 in a handbook sorted by issues. No new commitments were issued since 2011. The agreements are subdivided into the following categories: structural requirements of a democratic society, human rights for all, human rights for specific groups, tolerance and non-discrimination, specific threats to human security.

The OSCE commitments form an important working basis for the Human Dimension Committee; frequently the OSCE Field Missions are also mandated to provide guidance as to their implementation.

Diplomatic mechanisms

An OSCE member state can try to evaluate the implementation of the commitments of the human dimension in a certain country by using specific mechanisms defined in the 1989 Vienna Final Act, the 1990 Copenhagen Document and in the 1991 Moscow Final Act. These mechanisms define the procedures for a bilateral request concerning the human rights situation in a country, including the deployment of appropriate OSCE multilateral expert envoys in order to conduct fact-finding missions.

As of September 2012, the Moscow mechanism was activated seven times (in respect of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Estonia, Moldova, Serbia-Montenegro, in the context of the NATO attack on former Yugoslavia, in Turkmenistan and Belarus). For the member states, resorting to the Moscow mechanism is regarded as a measure of last resort in seemingly forlorn situations. In addition, cooperation with the monitoring missions has not always proved successful.

Participation of the civil society

NGOs have multiple ways of participating within the limits of the human dimension. They can, for example, voice their position on the implementation of existing commitments at the annual «Human Dimension Implementation Meeting».

Since the OSCE Summit in Astana in 2010, an international NGO conference is held annually in parallel to the OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting. A NGO conference that took place immediately before the annual OSCE Foreign Ministers' Conference in December 2012 in Dublin/Ireland provided the foreign ministers with recommendations. Of main importance was the «Civic Solidarity Platform», an international coalition of around 50 international NGOs and NGOs from OSCE countries founded in 2011. The «Civic Solidarity Platform» is a highly active coalition producing reports and statements on developments in the OSCE countries.

Further information

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