Welcome

The OSCE Code of Conduct on politico‑military aspects of security

Article

The German OSCE Chairmanship this year introduced a new aspect to the series of outreach events: at the Conference on the Code of Conduct on politico-military aspects of security at the Federal Foreign Office on 2 and 3 June, the focus, for the first time, was on democratic control of the armed forces.

Events relating to the Code of Conduct

Participants in the OSCE conference on the Code of Conduct on politico-military aspects of security held at the Federal Foreign Office on 2 and 3 June 2016
Participants in the OSCE conference on the Code of Conduct on politico-military aspects of security held at the Federal Foreign Office on 2 and 3 June 2016© Federal Foreign Office

The German OSCE Chairmanship this year introduced a new aspect to the series of outreach events: at the Conference on the Code of Conduct on politico-military aspects of security at the Federal Foreign Office on 2 and 3 June, the focus, for the first time, was on democratic control of the armed forces. The 40 or so parliamentarians among the 120 guests from 30 OSCE participating States and partner States discussed parliamentary control and oversight of the security sector, including both police and private-sector stakeholders. The main subjects of discussion were the current status of and future challenges for the implementation of the Code of Conduct and the various national perspectives and approaches.

The Code of Conduct: One of the most important normative OSCE documents

More than 20 years after its adoption in December 1994 (entry into force on 1 January 1995), the OSCE Code of Conduct on politico-military aspects of security has lost none of its relevance. It takes up fundamental OSCE principles, such as recognition of state sovereignty, territorial integrity and the inviolability of borders, a commitment to peaceful conflict resolution, renunciation of the threat of force, and states’ right to choose their alliances freely. These principles are extremely pertinent for a peaceful Euro-Atlantic security order today.

The Code is one of the most important normative OSCE documents since the early 1990s. It contains politically binding rules on the OSCE participating States’ deployment of armed forces both at home and abroad and, in particular, on the democratic control of armed forces and other armed state organs. This strengthens the political neutrality of the armed forces and makes it easier for soldiers to exercise their civil rights. The German Government attaches great importance to these principles, especially in view of Germany’s history. Through the Code of Conduct, these norms – which are already anchored in many national regulations – have become international norms, having been declared a “matter of direct and legitimate concern” to all participating States (cf. paragraph 1 of the Code).

With its comprehensive objective based on the rule of law, the Code goes beyond the OSCE’s politico-military dimension to create a close connection with the human dimension of the OSCE acquis. The Code gained in importance with the decision in 2003 to include information on national counter-terrorism efforts in the OSCE participating States’ reports.

Implementation reports and review conferences

The Code’s main tools are the annual exchange of information by means of participating States’ implementation reports and regular review conferences. At the beginning of 2008, the OSCE Forum for Security Cooperation (FSC) decided to publish all Code implementation reports on the OSCE website. Germany is in favour of making better use of the data collated through the exchange of information, and of assessing them more closely. The current exchange of information from the Federal Republic of Germany can be found here.

To spread knowledge of the Code beyond the OSCE member states, the Federal Foreign Office funded its translation into Arabic in 2013. The main objective is to make it more accessible to the OSCE’s Mediterranean Partners, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

Arabic translation of the Code of Conduct

OSCE Code of Conduct on politico-military aspects of security, 3 December 1994 (PDF, 27 KB)