Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
last updated September 1, 2005

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in which many CEE/FSU countries participate has addressed violence against women and the emergence of trafficking in women.* The organization does not create binding obligations for national governments, but has provided participating states with guidance in the area of human rights as one means of building security in Europe.  

The trafficking unit of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has a website, which includes links to key documents that address anti-trafficking policy and initiatives. The following are summaries of recent action that the OSCE has taken in the area of trafficking in persons:

On May 14, 2004, the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) announced the publication of a handbook to guide OSCE participating states in creating and sustaining a National Referral Mechanism  to protect and promote the human rights of trafficked persons.

The handbook can assist OSCE participating States in implementing the OSCE Action Plan to Combat Trafficking in Human Beings (Decision No. 557) that the Permanent Council of the OSCE adopted on July 24, 2003. The plan incorporates best practices and an advanced approach to anti-trafficking policies and recommendations for cooperation among OSCE participating states in the fight against human trafficking. The Plan addresses the protection of victims, the prevention of human trafficking and the prosecution of those who facilitate or commit the crime. This Plan was officially endorsed by OSCE participating states at the December 2003 Maastricht Ministerial Council (Decision No. 2/03).  This Ministerial Council Decision also establishes an OSCE mechanism to provide OSCE participating states with assistance in the fight against human trafficking.  The mechanism includes a Special Representative to be appointed in 2004 and a special unit in the OSCE Secretariat.

The OSCE Reference Guide for Anti-Trafficking Legislative Review, created in September 2001, provides a comprehensive view of the types of legislation necessary for an effective anti-trafficking policy.  The guide addresses prevention, prosecution and protection and assistance for victims, providing international standards, examples of national legislation and recommendations for legal initiatives that fall within each broad topic. 

In 2000, the Ministerial Council adopted Decision No. 1, Enhancing The OSCE's Efforts To Combat Trafficking In Human Being (MC(8).DEC/1), in which the OSCE agreed to strengthen its activities to combat trafficking and called upon all OSCE institutions to develop and implement anti-trafficking programs.  In addition, the OSCE committed to

take necessary measures, including by adopting and implementing legislation, to criminalize trafficking in human beings, including appropriate penalties, with a view to ensuring effective law enforcement response and prosecution.  Such legislation should take into account a human rights approach to the problem of trafficking, and include provision for the protection of the human rights of victims, ensuring that victims of trafficking do not face prosecution solely because they have been trafficked.

On the issue of the provision of victim services, the language used by the Ministerial Council is weaker, stating that the OSCE would "consider adopting legislative or other appropriate measures, such as shelters, which permit victims of trafficking in persons to remain in their territories, temporarily or permanently, in appropriate cases; . . . and developing policies concerning the provision of economic and social benefits to victims as well as their rehabilitation and reintegration in society." 

The commitments of the OSCE were reiterated by a later Ministerial Council decision, Decision No. 6 (MC(9).DEC/6) of December 2001.

The OSCE has also created a number of working documents, which can be informative to advocates working on legislative change.  The OSCE background paper Trafficking In Human Beings: Implications for the OSCE, (1999/3), for example, defines OSCE commitments to combat trafficking and includes an overview of international standards, which obligate States to prevent violations of human rights, to investigate violations, to take appropriate action against the violators, and to afford remedies and reparation to those who have been injured as a consequence of such violations.  The background paper provides an analysis of the status of implementation of anti-trafficking measures in the OSCE region.  The background paper is also available in Russian here.

The Moscow Concluding Document of 1991 creates political obligations, though not legal obligations, for OSCE Member States "to seek to eliminate all forms of violence against women, and all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitution of women including by ensuring adequate legal prohibitions against such acts and other appropriate measures."  

* CEE/FSU States which participate in the OSCE include Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.