The Conflict Prevention Centre (CPC) was created on 21 November 1990 at the Paris Summit of Heads of State or Government of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE). It opened its doors as an independent office in Vienna on 18 March 1991, the first unit of the CSCE to be permanently based in the Austrian capital. When the CSCE Secretariat was moved from Prague to Vienna on 1 January 1994, the CPC was integrated into its structure. Today, the CPC is one of the main departments of the Secretariat of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as the CSCE was renamed from 1 January 1995.
Development of main tasks
Over the past decade, the tasks of the Conflict Prevention Centre have changed considerably. As its name implies, the CPC was originally established at the Paris Summit to "assist the [CSCE] Council in reducing the risk of conflict", mainly of a military nature. However, at subsequent OSCE Summits in Helsinki, Budapest and Istanbul, as well as at various Ministerial Councils, further tasks were assigned to the CPC.
The 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe mandated the CPC to help implement Confidence- and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs), as enshrined in the Vienna Document of 1990. These measures provide for the exchange and verification of information about participating States' armed forces and military activities. They also provide mechanisms for promoting co-operation among participating States with regard to military matters. The Paris Charter also established a Consultative Committee, composed of representatives from all participating States, tasked with supervising the work of the CPC, particularly in the area of CSBMs regime.
At the Second Ministerial Council in January 1992, participating States agreed on the Prague Document on Further Development of CSCE Institutions and Structures. This provided the Consultative Committee with the authority "to initiate and, with the assistance of the CPC Secretariat, execute fact-finding and monitor missions, in connection with paragraph 17 of the Vienna Document 1990" (Mechanism for Consultation and Co-operation as regards Unusual Military Activities). The same Ministerial Council institutionalised the CSCE's relationships with other international organizations, by inviting them to make appropriate contributions to future seminars organized by the CPC.
The Forum for Security Co-operation (FSC) was established at the Helsinki Summit in July 1992 to boost OSCE's activities with arms control, disarmament and confidence- and security-building, security co-operation and conflict prevention.
Establishment and strengthening of Field Operations
The capacity of the CPC was further enhanced in December 1992, when the Third Ministerial Council in Stockholm tasked the CPC with quickly strengthening its ability to provide operational support for CSCE preventive diplomacy missions and peacekeeping activities. A year later it was decided to dissolve the Consultative Committee at the Fourth Ministerial Council in Rome, and to transfer its competence to the Permanent Committee, while at the same time establishing the CSCE Secretariat in Vienna.
As part of the Secretariat, the role and responsibilities of the CPC were defined as providing "overall support to CSCE tasks in the fields of early warning, conflict prevention and crisis management, operational support of missions in the field and maintenance of a databank and communications network". The CPC was charged with all aspects of mounting and supporting the CSCE's growing list of missions and other field activities, which at the time included personnel, logistics and training. In addition, the CPC Director was tasked with assisting in the administration of the mechanisms drawn up to promote the peaceful settlement of disputes and to support the activities of the Special Committee, now known as the Forum for Security Co-operation. Over the next five years, the number of missions or other field activities supported by the CPC increased from three to 16.
The turning point for the OSCE was the opening of the first large mission in the former Yugoslavia, the Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, in December 1995. The next major phase in the CPC's development came in the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis and the experiences gathered from the rapid establishment in 1998-1999 of the largest OSCE field activity to date, the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM). These experiences led to recognition of the need to drastically enhance the Secretariat's operational capabilities.
The Charter for European Security, adopted at the Istanbul Summit in November 1999, established some new instruments for the OSCE. The CPC was specifically tasked with the formation of an Operation Centre (now renamed as the Operations Service). The Operations Centre gave the OSCE for the first time the appropriate means to plan all aspects of future missions and field activities. In 2000, the gradual implementation of the REACT (Rapid Expert Assistance and Co-operation Teams) programme - also adopted at the Istanbul Summit - resulted in the CPC handing its responsibility for mission staffing and training to a newly created department, the Department for Human Resources. These new mechanisms were all designed to speed up the deployment of new or enhanced field operations, whenever they might be called for by participating States.