Relations with the OSCE

  • Last updated: 31 Jul. 2023 09:00

The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE) is an important partner for NATO. Allies attach great importance to the role of the OSCE in fostering dialogue, building trust, and upholding the rules-based international order. The OSCE establishes the principles that govern international relations in the Euro-Atlantic area and embodies a comprehensive approach to human security. The two organisations play complementary roles in building security and maintaining stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. Both support the principles that underpin the European security order. Both also acknowledge the need for a coherent and comprehensive approach to crisis management, which requires effective application of both military and civilian means.


  • NATO and the OSCE cooperate at both the political and operational levels in a range of areas including: conflict prevention and resolution; post-conflict rehabilitation; arms control and countering the proliferation of small arms and light weapons; counter-terrorism; promoting the Women, Peace and Security agenda; combatting trafficking in human beings; and addressing emerging security challenges, including climate change and security.
  • At the political level, NATO and the OSCE exchange views on thematic and regional security issues of common interest through exchanges by senior leadership, direct cooperation and regular staff-to-staff talks.
  • The two organisations complement each other’s efforts in the field: NATO initiatives to support defence reform, mine clearance and the destruction of stockpiles of arms and munitions, dovetail with OSCE efforts aiming to build peace and stability (successful examples of such cooperation include the Western Balkans and South Caucasus).
  • At recent summits and in the NATO 2022 Strategic Concept – NATO’s core policy document, which sets the Alliance’s strategic direction for the coming years – the Allies have reiterated the importance of the OSCE’s role in regional security and as a forum for dialogue on issues relevant to Euro-Atlantic security, not least on arms control and disarmament.
  • NATO Allies fully support the promotion of arms control, military transparency, and confidence- and security-building measures through the modernisation of all of the political-military tools in the OSCE toolbox, especially the Vienna Document.
  • The Alliance aims to further enhance NATO’s cooperation with the OSCE as decided at the 2016 Warsaw Summit. A permanent liaison presence has been established to that effect in Vienna.



Political dialogue

NATO and the OSCE conduct regular dialogue and meetings at all levels. This includes meetings between the Secretary Generals of the two organisations, meetings with the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, attendance at the OSCE Ministerial Councils, attendance at the OSCE’s Annual Security Review Conference and other events. Upon invitation, the OSCE participates in NATO programmes, policies and plans. Also, OSCE staff have been periodically invited to brief the NATO Political Committee and other relevant NATO bodies. 

Since 1998, NATO and OSCE secretariats hold regular staff talks annually. These talks provide an opportunity to deepen and further develop staff contacts, as well as to exchange views and information on security-related issues of mutual interest, such as security sector reform, climate change and security, counter-terrorism, the role of women in armed conflict, human security, emerging security challenges, combatting trafficking in human beings, non-proliferation, disarmament, arms control and controlling the spread of small arms and light weapons.


Arms control

NATO attaches great importance to conventional arms control and provides an essential consultative and decision-making forum for its members on all aspects of arms control and disarmament. The OSCE plays a vital role in arms control in Europe, with key international arms control agreements – including the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and the Vienna Document – having been agreed through OSCE processes and channels.


Cooperation in the Western Balkans

Practical cooperation between the OSCE and NATO is best exemplified by the complementary missions that have been undertaken by both organisations in the Western Balkans.

Within the framework of operations conducted in the Western Balkans region, representatives from both organisations in the field have met regularly to share information and discuss various aspects of their cooperation.


Between January 1998 and March 1999, the OSCE mounted a Kosovo Verification Mission to monitor compliance on the ground with the Holbrooke-Milosevic cease-fire agreement. NATO conducted a parallel aerial surveillance mission. Following a deterioration in security conditions, the verification mission was forced to withdraw in March 1999.

Since the adoption of UNSCR 1244 in June 1999, a new OSCE Mission in Kosovo was established as part of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). It is tasked, among other things, with supervising the progress of democratisation, building of institutions, and protection of human rights. The mission – the largest of the OSCE’s field operations – has been maintaining close relations with the Kosovo Force (KFOR), which has a mandate from the United Nations to guarantee a safe environment for the work of the international community.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In 1996, further to the Dayton Agreements and the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1031 in December 1995, NATO and the OSCE developed a joint action programme in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) and its successor, the Stabilisation Force (SFOR), have provided vital support for the implementation of the civilian aspects of the peace agreements.

NATO assisted Bosnia and Herzegovina in support of the OSCE’s work on arms control, confidence- and security-building measures, and small arms and light weapons/mine action in the country. This includes implementation support of the Dayton Agreements and the Vienna Document. Also, by providing security for OSCE personnel and humanitarian assistance, NATO has contributed to free and fair conduct of elections under the OSCE.

The Republic of North Macedonia

NATO pursued close cooperation with the OSCE in the country then known as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where a NATO Task Force provided additional security for international monitors in early 2000.

Border security

NATO and the OSCE cooperated in the management and securing of borders in the Western Balkans. At a high-level conference held in Ohrid in May 2003, five Western Balkans countries endorsed a Common Platform developed by the European Union, NATO, the OSCE and the then Stability Pact for South-East Europe aiming to enhance border security in the region. Each organisation supported those players, involved in the areas within its jurisdiction.



NATO cooperates with the OSCE to ensure that views and information are shared and that appropriate action can be taken more effectively in the fight against terrorism. The UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, international conventions and protocols against terrorism, together with relevant UN resolutions provide a common framework for efforts to combat terrorism.

In this context, NATO maintains close relations with the OSCE’s Transnational Threats Department’s Action against Terrorism Unit including through regular staff exchanges covering the areas of partner capacity-building, critical infrastructure protection, gender and terrorism, and countering the financing of terrorism, as well as with the Border Security and Management Unit, to help improve partners’ ability to secure borders. The OSCE also attends relevant NATO meetings and contributes to NATO’s counter-terrorism education and training. NATO staff have also contributed to the OSCE Counter-Terrorism Network Newsletter, sharing information on the Alliance’s relevant counter-terrorism lines of effort to a wider audience.


Women, Peace and Security (UNSCR 1325 and related Resolutions)

NATO recognises the disproportionate impact conflict and post-conflict situations have on women and girls, as outlined in UN Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security (WPS). NATO and its partners are committed to removing barriers for women’s participation in the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts, and in post-conflict efforts and cooperation. Moreover, NATO is committed to addressing the protection and security needs of women and girls, including the prevention of and response to conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence.

In this context, NATO cooperates with the OSCE on the WPS agenda. Consultation and collaboration with international organisations, such as the OSCE, offer considerable potential for advancing this agenda. NATO-OSCE cooperation takes place, among other things, in the framework of the Regional Acceleration of Resolution 1325, which was established as a forum to strengthen the implementation of the WPS agenda and to share best practices among gender experts.


Combatting trafficking in human beings

All NATO Allies are signatories to the United Nations (UN) Protocol on Trafficking in Persons. Allies are keenly aware that human trafficking fuels corruption and organised crime, and is an impediment to peace and security. NATO is not the primary organisation to combat trafficking in human beings, but supports the efforts of the international community and has developed a policy in this area – first in 2004, and then an updated policy in 2023. The policy enhances collaboration between Allies, international organisations and civil society, including on information-sharing and support to victims and survivors.

NATO and the OSCE have maintained substantial cooperation on combatting trafficking in human beings in recent years. Cooperation has included briefings and advice on various related aspects.


Climate change and security

NATO has been addressing security challenges related to the environment for many years. Climate change and security has been identified as a potential area of cooperation between the OSCE and NATO. OSCE staff attended the NATO Science for Peace and Security workshop on ‘Green Defence’ in 2021 and NATO staff participated in the OSCE High-Level Conference on Climate Change in 2023. Both organisations continue to engage in this field.