The Organization of American States (Spanish: Organización de los Estados Americanos, Portuguese: Organização dos Estados Americanos, French: Organisation des États américains), or the OAS or OEA, is a continental organization that was founded on 30 April 1948, for the purposes of regional solidarity and cooperation among its member states. Headquartered in the United States capital Washington, D.C., the OAS's members are the 35 independent states of the Americas.
"Democracy for peace, security, and development"
• Assistant Secretary General
|30 April 1948|
|40,275,678 km2 (15,550,526 sq mi)|
• 2008 estimate
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The notion of an international union in the New World was first put forward during the liberation of the Americas by José de San Martín and Simón Bolívar who, at the 1826 Congress of Panama (still being part of Colombia), proposed creating a league of American republics, with a common military, a mutual defense pact, and a supranational parliamentary assembly. This meeting was attended by representatives of Gran Colombia (comprising the modern-day countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela), Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, The United Provinces of Central America, and Mexico but the grandly titled "Treaty of Union, League, and Perpetual Confederation" was ultimately ratified only by Gran Colombia. Bolívar's dream soon floundered with civil war in Gran Colombia, the disintegration of Central America, and the emergence of national rather than New World outlooks in the newly independent American republics. Bolívar's dream of American unity was meant to unify Hispanic American nations against external powers.
The pursuit of regional solidarity and cooperation again came to the forefront in 1889–1890, at the First International Conference of American States. Gathered together in Washington, D.C., 18 nations resolved to found the International Union of American Republics, served by a permanent secretariat called the Commercial Bureau of the American Republics (renamed the International Commercial Bureau at the Second International Conference in 1901–1902). These two bodies, in existence as of 14 April 1890, represent the point of inception to which the OAS and its General Secretariat trace their origins.
At the Fourth International Conference of American States (Buenos Aires, 1910), the name of the organization was changed to the Union of American Republics and the Bureau became the Pan American Union. The Pan American Union Building was constructed in 1910, on Constitution Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C.
In the mid-1930s, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt organized an inter-American conference in Buenos Aires. One of the items at the conference was a "League of Nations of the Americas", an idea proposed by Colombia, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. At the subsequent Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Peace, 21 nations pledged to remain neutral in the event of a conflict between any two members. The experience of World War II convinced hemispheric governments that unilateral action could not ensure the territorial integrity of the American nations in the event of external aggression. To meet the challenges of global conflict in the postwar world and to contain conflicts within the hemisphere, they adopted a system of collective security, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) signed in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro.
The Ninth International Conference of American States was held in Bogotá between March and May 1948 and led by United States Secretary of State George Marshall, a meeting which led to a pledge by members to fight communism in the western hemisphere. This was the event that saw the birth of the OAS as it stands today, with the signature by 21 American countries of the Charter of the Organization of American States on 30 April 1948 (in effect since December 1951). The meeting also adopted the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, the world's first general human rights instrument.
The transition from the Pan American Union to OAS would have been smooth if it had not been for the assassination of Colombian leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. The Director General of the former, Alberto Lleras Camargo, became the Organization's first Secretary General. The current Secretary General is former Uruguayan minister of foreign affairs Luis Almagro.
Significant milestones in the history of the OAS since the signing of the Charter have included the following:
In the words of Article 1 of the Charter, the goal of the member nations in creating the OAS was "to achieve an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence." Article 2 then defines eight essential purposes:
Over the course of the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War, the return to democracy in Latin America, and the thrust toward globalization, the OAS made major efforts to reinvent itself to fit the new context. Its stated priorities now include the following:
The Organization of American States is composed of an Organization of American States General Secretariat, the Permanent Council, the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, and a number of committees.
The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States consists of six secretariats.
The various committees of the Organization of American States include:
The General Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of OAS. It convenes once every year in a regular session. In special circumstances, and with the approval of two-thirds of the member states, the Permanent Council can convene special sessions.
The Organization's member states take turns hosting the General Assembly on a rotating basis. The states are represented at its sessions by their chosen delegates: generally, their ministers of foreign affairs, or their appointed deputies. Each state has one vote, and most matters—except for those for which the Charter or the General Assembly's own rules of procedure specifically require a two-thirds majority—are settled by a simple majority vote.
The General Assembly's powers include setting the OAS's general course and policies by means of resolutions and declarations; approving its budget and determining the contributions payable by the member states; approving the reports and previous year's actions of the OAS's specialized agencies; and electing members to serve on those agencies.
Although Canada has been a founding member of the League of Nations in 1919 and has joined international organizations since that date, it chose not to join the OAS when it was first formed, despite its close relations with the United States. Canada became a Permanent Observer in the OAS on 2 February 1972. Canada signed the Charter of the Organization of American States on 13 November 1989 and this decision was ratified on 8 January 1990.
In 2004–2005, Canada was the second largest contributor to the OAS, with an annual assessed contribution representing 12.36 percent of the OAS Regular Budget (US$9.2 million) and an additional C$9 million in voluntary contributions to specific projects. Shortly after joining as a full member, Canada was instrumental in the creation of the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, which provides support for the strengthening and consolidation of democratic processes and institutions in OAS member states.
During the 6th Conference of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Costa Rica, from 16 to 20 August 1960, a conviction against the State of the Dominican Republic was agreed to unanimously. The penalty was motivated because the foreign ministers checked the veracity of the claim that the Rafael Trujillo regime had sponsored an attack against Rómulo Betancourt, at that time, constitutional president of Venezuela. The meeting was attended by foreign ministers from 21 American nations, including Cuba, which at that time had not yet been expelled from the inter-American system.
All countries, including the United States and Haiti broke off diplomatic relations with the Dominican Republic. Additionally an economic blockade that affected the exports of sugar was applied, which at that time was the pillar of the Dominican economy.
It was the first application of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, which had been adopted at the OAS on July 29, 1960.
The current government of Cuba was excluded from participation in the Organization under a decision adopted by the Eighth Meeting of Consultation in Punta del Este, Uruguay, on 31 January 1962. The vote was passed by 14 in favor, with one against (Cuba) and six abstentions (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Mexico). The operative part of the resolution reads as follows:
#That adherence by any member of the Organization of American States to Marxism-Leninism is incompatible with the inter-American system and the alignment of such a government with the communist bloc breaks the unity and solidarity of the continents.
- That the present Government of Cuba, which has officially identified itself as a Marxist-Leninist government, was incompatible with the principles and objectives of the inter-American system.
- That this incompatibility excluded the present Government of Cuba from participation in the inter-American system.
This meant that the Cuban nation was still technically a member state, but that the current government was denied the right of representation and attendance at meetings and of participation in activities. The OAS's position was that although Cuba's participation was suspended, its obligations under the Charter, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, etc. still hold: for instance, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights continued to publish reports on Cuba's human rights situation and to hear individual cases involving Cuban nationals. However, this stance was occasionally questioned by other individual member states.
Cuba's position was stated in an official note sent to the Organization "merely as a courtesy" by Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Raúl Roa on 4 November 1964: "Cuba was arbitrarily excluded ... The Organization of American States has no juridical, factual, or moral jurisdiction, nor competence, over a state which it has illegally deprived of its rights."
The reincorporation of Cuba as an active member regularly arose as a topic within the inter-American system – for instance, it was intimated by the outgoing ambassador of Mexico in 1998 – but most observers did not see it as a serious possibility while the present government remained in power. Since 1960, the Cuban administration had repeatedly characterized the OAS as the "Ministry of Colonies" of the United States of America. On 6 May 2005, President Fidel Castro reiterated that the island nation would not "be part of a disgraceful institution that has only humiliated the honor of Latin American nations." After Fidel Castro's recent retirement and the ascent of his brother Raúl to power, this official position was reasserted. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez promised to veto any final declaration of the 2009 Summit of the Americas due to Cuba's exclusion.
On 17 April 2009, after a "trading of warm words" between the administrations of U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said he would ask the 2009 General Assembly to annul the 1962 resolution excluding Cuba.
On 3 June 2009, foreign ministers assembled in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, for the OAS's 39th General Assembly, passed a vote to lift Cuba's suspension from the OAS. The United States had been pressuring the OAS for weeks to condition Cuba's readmission to the group on democratic principles and commitment to human rights. Ecuador's Foreign Minister Fander Falconí said there will be no such conditions. "This is a new proposal, it has no conditions—of any kind," Falconí said. "That suspension was made in the Cold War, in the language of the Cold War. What we have done here is fix a historic error." The suspension was lifted at the end of the General Assembly, but, to be readmitted to the Organization, Cuba will need to comply with all the treaties signed by the Member States, including the Inter-American Democratic Charter of 2001. A statement issued by the Cuban government on 8 June 2009 stated that while Cuba welcomed the Assembly's gesture, in light of the Organization's historical record "Cuba will not return to the OAS."
Following the expulsion of its President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras' membership of the Organization was suspended unanimously at midnight on 5 July 2009. The de facto government had already announced it was leaving the OAS hours earlier; this was not, however, taken into account by the OAS, which did not recognize that government as legitimate. An extraordinary meeting had been conducted by the OAS in Washington, D.C., with Zelaya in attendance. The suspension of Honduras was approved unanimously with 33 votes (Honduras did not vote). This was the first suspension carried out by the OAS since that of Cuba in 1962.
After Zelaya's return to Honduras in 2011, the country was re-admitted to the Organization on 1 June 2011 with 32 votes in favor and 1 (Ecuador) against. Venezuela expressed some reservations.
On 26 April 2017, Venezuela announced its intention to withdraw from the OAS. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez said that President Nicolás Maduro planned to publicly renounce Venezuela's membership on 27 April 2017. It would take two years for the country to formally leave. During this period, the country does not plan on participating in the OAS.
During the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis, the National Assembly — recognized in January 2019 by the OAS as the sole leading body in the country — designated a special envoy as representative to the OAS, the lawyer Gustavo Tarre Briceño.
As of 31 January 2014, there are 69 permanent observer countries including the four countries with territory or territories in the Americas—Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom; as well as the European Union.
The Organization's official languages are Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. The Charter, the basic instrument governing OAS, makes no reference to the use of official languages. These references are to be found in the Rules of Procedure governing the various OAS bodies. Article 51 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, the supreme body of the OAS, which meets once a year, states that English, French, Portuguese and Spanish are the four official languages. Article 28 stipulates that a Style Committee shall be set up with representatives of the four official languages to review the General Assembly resolutions and declarations. Article 53 states that proposals shall be presented in the four official languages. The Rules of Procedure and Statutes of other bodies, such as the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), the Permanent Executive Committee of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CEPCIDI), the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM), the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Juridical Committee (CJI), technical bodies of the OAS, also mention the four official languages in which their meetings are to be conducted. Policy is therefore dictated through these instruments that require use of the four official languages at meetings.
Although a number of other languages have official status in one or more member states of OAS (Dutch in Suriname; Haitian Creole alongside French in Haiti; Quechua and Aymara in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia; Guaraní in Paraguay), they are not official languages of the Organization.
Alberto Lleras Camargo (3 July 1906 – 4 January 1990) was the 20th President of Colombia (1958–1962), and the 1st Secretary General of the Organization of American States (1948–1954). A journalist and liberal party politician, he also served as Minister of Government, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and as Minister of National Education in the administrations of President Alfonso López Pumarejo. He briefly attended the National University of Colombia in Bogotá to study politics, but dropped out later to pursue journalism.
Lleras Camargo served as congressman of Colombia. He was also a cousin of later president Carlos Lleras Restrepo. He died in 1990 after suffering a long illness.American Convention on Human Rights
The American Convention on Human Rights, also known as the Pact of San José, is an international human rights instrument. It was adopted by many countries in the Western Hemisphere in San José, Costa Rica, on 22 November 1969. It came into force after the eleventh instrument of ratification (that of Grenada) was deposited on 18 July 1978.
The bodies responsible for overseeing compliance with the Convention are the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, both of which are organs of the Organization of American States (OAS).Charter of the Organization of American States
The Charter of the Organization of the American States (otherwise known the Charter of the OAS) is a Pan-American treaty that sets out the creation of the Organization of American States. It was signed at the Ninth International Conference of American States of 30 April 1948, held in Bogotá, Colombia. The treaty came into effect on 13 December 1951.Cuba–OAS relations
Despite being a founding member of the Organization of American States (OAS), Cuba was effectively suspended from 31 January 1962 to 3 June 2009. Thus, for almost the entire time that the OAS has been operating, Cuba has been barred from sending representatives to the OAS and effectively had its membership suspended. It was not until 3 June 2009 that foreign ministers of OAS member countries assembled for the OAS's 39th General Assembly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, passed a vote to lift Cuba's suspension from the OAS.César Gaviria
César Augusto Gaviria Trujillo (Spanish: [ˈsesaɾ auˈɣusto ɣaˈβiɾja tɾuˈxiʝo] ; born March 31, 1947) is a Colombian economist and politician who served as the President of Colombia from 1990 to 1994, Secretary General of the Organization of American States from 1994 to 2004 and National Director of the Colombian Liberal Party from 2005 to 2009. During his tenure as president, he summoned the Constituent Assembly of Colombia that enacted the Constitution of 1991.Foreign relations of Belize
Belize maintains 14 embassies to foreign countries, one consulate, and three missions to international organizations. In 1990, Belize became a member of the Organization of American States.Foreign relations of Guyana
After independence in 1966, Guyana sought an influential role in international affairs, particularly among Third World and non-aligned nations. It served twice on the UN Security Council (1975–76 and 1982–83). Former Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, and Attorney General Mohamed Shahabuddeen served a 9-year term on the International Court of Justice (1987–96).
Guyana has diplomatic relations with a wide range of nations, and these managed primarily through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The European Union (EU), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Organization of American States (OAS) have offices in Georgetown.
Guyana strongly supports the concept of regional integration. It played an important role in the founding of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), but its status as the organization's poorest member limits its ability to exert leadership in regional activities. Guyana has sought to keep foreign policy in close alignment with the consensus of CARICOM members, especially in voting in the UN, OAS, and other international organizations. In 1993, Guyana ratified the 1988 Vienna Convention on illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and cooperates with US law enforcement agencies on counter-narcotics efforts.
Two neighbours have longstanding territorial disputes with Guyana. Since the 19th century, Venezuela has claimed all of Guyana west of the Essequibo River – 62% of Guyana's territory. At a meeting in Geneva in 1966, the two countries agreed to receive recommendations from a representative of the UN Secretary General on ways to settle the dispute peacefully. Diplomatic contacts between the two countries and the Secretary General's representative continue. Neighbouring Suriname also claims the territory east of Guyana's New River, a largely uninhabited area of some 15,000 square kilometres (5,800 sq mi) in southeast Guyana. Guyana and Suriname also disputed their offshore maritime boundaries. This dispute flared up in June 2000 in response to an effort by a Canadian company to drill for oil under a Guyanese concession. Guyana regards its legal title to all of its territory as sound. However, the dispute with Suriname was arbitrated by the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea and a ruling in favor of Guyana was announced in September 2007.Guyana is also a member of the International Criminal Court with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the US-military (as covered under Article 98).Galo Plaza
Galo Lincoln Plaza Lasso de la Vega (February 17, 1906 – January 28, 1987) was an Ecuadorian statesman who served as President of Ecuador from 1948 to 1952 and Secretary General of the Organization of American States from 1968 to 1975. He is the son of former Ecuadorian President Leonidas Plaza.General Assembly of the Organization of American States
The General Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of the Organization of American States (OAS).
The General Assembly came into being as a part of the restructuring of the OAS that took place following adoption of the Protocol of Buenos Aires (signed 27 February 1967; in force as of 12 March 1970), which contained extensive amendments to the Organization's Charter. Prior to these changes, the OAS's top body was the Inter-American Conference, which in turn was the successor to the International Conference of American States.
The Charter requires that the General Assembly convene once every year in a regular session.
In special circumstances, and with the approval of two-thirds of the member states, the Permanent Council can convene special sessions.
The Organization's member states take turns hosting the General Assembly on a rotating basis.
The states are represented at its sessions by their chosen delegates: generally, their ministers of foreign affairs, or their appointed deputies. Each state has one vote, and most matters – except for those for which the Charter or the General Assembly's own rules of procedure specifically require a two-thirds majority – are settled by a simple majority vote.
The General Assembly's powers include setting the OAS's general course and policies by means of resolutions and declarations; approving its budget and determining the contributions payable by the member states; approving the reports and previous year's actions of the OAS's specialized agencies; and electing members to serve on those agencies.Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the IACHR or, in the three other official languages – Spanish, French, and Portuguese – CIDH, Comisión Interamericana de los Derechos Humanos, Commission Interaméricaine des Droits de l'Homme, Comissão Interamericana de Direitos Humanos) is an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Along with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, it is one of the bodies that comprise the inter-American system for the promotion and protection of human rights.
The IACHR is a permanent body, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., United States, and it meets in regular and special sessions several times a year to examine allegations of human rights violations in the hemisphere.
Its human rights duties stem from three documents:
the OAS Charter
the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
the American Convention on Human RightsInter-American Court of Human Rights
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an autonomous judicial institution based in the city of San José, Costa Rica. Together with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, it makes up the human rights protection system of the Organization of American States (OAS), which serves to uphold and promote basic rights and freedoms in the Americas. The Court rules on whether a State has violated an individual's human rights, rather than if individuals are guilty of human rights violations.J. William Middendorf
John William Middendorf II (born September 22, 1924) is a former Republican United States diplomat and Secretary of the Navy.José Miguel Insulza
José Miguel Insulza Salinas (born June 2, 1943) is a Chilean politician who served as Secretary General of the Organization of American States from 2005 to 2015. He previously served as Chile's Foreign Minister from 1994 to 1999, and as Interior Minister from 2000 to 2005.Member states of the Organization of American States
All 35 independent nations of the Americas are member states of the Organization of American States (OAS).Pan American Union Building
The Pan American Union Building is the headquarters for the Organization of American States. It is located at 17th Street N.W. between C Street N.W. and Constitution Avenue, Northwest, Washington, D.C. on the former site of the John Peter Van Ness Mansion. The cornerstone was laid on May 11, 1908, by Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root, and Andrew Carnegie, and the building was dedicated on April 26, 1910.In 1919, the initial meeting of the International Labour Organization was held in the building.In 1969, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.Permanent representative
A permanent representative is a diplomat who is the head of a country’s diplomatic mission to an international organisation.Organizations that receive permanent representatives from their member states include the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, NATO, the European Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Organization of American States. Permanent representatives can be sent to subunits or field offices of an organization. For example, in addition to the permanent representatives sent to the United Nations headquarters in New York City, UN member states also appoint permanent representatives to other UN offices, such as those in Geneva, Nairobi, and Vienna.
Permanent representatives are often informally described as ambassadors. However, although a permanent representative typically holds the diplomatic rank of an ambassador, because he or she is accredited to an international organisation the official title is permanent representative. For example, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations is technically called the Permanent Representative to the UN, even though he or she is widely referred to as an ambassador.
Diplomatic representatives of the Pope are titled apostolic nuncio or papal nuncio, which is equivalent to permanent representative.Some international organizations, such as UNESCO, use the title permanent delegate to refer to the head of a diplomatic mission accredited to them.Secretary General of the Organization of American States
According to the Charter of the Organization of American States:
The Secretary General shall direct the General Secretariat, be the legal representative thereof, and [...] be responsible to the General Assembly for the proper fulfillment of the obligations and functions of the General Secretariat.The Secretary General of the Organization shall be elected by the General Assembly for a five-year term and may not be reelected more than once or succeeded by a person of the same nationality. In the event that the office of Secretary General becomes vacant, the Assistant Secretary General shall assume his duties until the General Assembly shall elect a new Secretary General for a full term.The Secretary General, or his representative, may participate with voice but without vote in all meetings of the Organization.The Secretary General may bring to the attention of the General Assembly or the Permanent Council any matter which in his opinion might threaten the peace and security of the Hemisphere or the development of the Member States.Summits of the Americas
The Summits of the Americas (SOA) is a series of international summit meetings bringing together the leaders of countries in the OAS. All countries have sent representatives to all meetings except for Cuba, who was expelled from the OAS under US pressure after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. Cuba participated in the 7th Summit held in Panama in 2015 and sent its foreign minister to the subsequent 2018 summit. In the early 1990s, what were formerly ad hoc summits came to be institutionalized into a regular "Summit of the Americas" based on the principles of democracy and free trade. The meetings, organized by a number of multilateral bodies led by the Organization of American States, provide an opportunity for discussions about a variety of issues and topics.United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States
The following is a list of people who have served as United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States, or the full title, Representative of the United States of America to the Organization of American States, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.
Organization of American States (OAS)
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