Organization of American States (OAS)
Organisation des Etats Américains (OEA)
Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA)
Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA)
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Established 14 Apr 1890, Washington DC (USA), as International Union of American Republics -- Union internationale des républiques américaines -- Unión Internacional de las Repúblicas Americanas, at 1st International Conference of American States -- Conférence internationale des Etats Américains -- Conferencia Internacional Americana. Since then, April 14 has been celebrated as Pan-American Day. The original purpose of the Union was to ensure prompt collection and distribution of commercial information through its central office, the Commercial Bureau of the American Republics -- Bureau commercial des républiques américaines -- Oficina Comercial de la Repúblicas Americanas, in Washington DC. The 2nd International Conference of American States, 1901, Mexico City (Mexico), adopted the Protocol of Adherence of the American Republics to the conventions framed by the First Hague Peace Conference, 1899, while the name of the Commercial Bureau was changed to International Commercial Bureau -- Bureau commercial international -- Oficina Comercial Internacional. The 3rd International Conference of American States, 1906, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), expanded the duties of the Bureau to include educational matters. At the 4th International Conference of American States, 1910, Buenos Aires (Argentina), the name of the International Union of American Republics was changed to Union of American Republics -- Union des républiques américaines -- Unión de las Repúblicas Americanas, and that of the International Commercial Bureau to Pan American Union (PAU) -- Union panaméricaine (UPA) -- Unión Panamericana (UPA).
The 5th International Conference of American States, 1923, Santiago (Chile), formalized a technique for the pacific settlement of disputes in the Treaty to Avoid or Prevent Conflicts between the American States (Gondra Treaty). It also approved a resolution leading to the founding of the Pan American Highway System. The International Conference of American States on Conciliation and Arbitration (a special conference), 1929, Washington DC, further strengthened the principles of arbitration and conciliation with the signing of the General Treaty of Inter-American Arbitration and the General Convention of Inter-American Conciliation. The 7th International Conference of American States, 1933, Montevideo (Uruguay), adopted the Convention on Rights and Duties of States, establishing the equality of states and the principle that no state has the right to intervene in the internal affairs of another. At the Inter-American Conference for Maintenance of Peace (a special conference) 1936, Buenos Aires, conventions were adopted incorporating the principle of consultation for the pacific settlement of controversies and in the event of an international war outside America that might menace the peace of the American republics. Subsequently, 3 meetings were called to devise strategy for the defence of the Western Hemisphere during World War II: 1939, Panama; 1940, Havana (Cuba); 1942, Rio de Janeiro.
Through the Act of Chapultepec -- Acta de Chapultepec, adopted by the Inter-American Conference on the Problems of War and Peace (a special conference), 1945, Mexico City, the system of consultation was broadened; likewise, a resolution was adopted that declared in part that 'the security and solidarity of the Continent are affected to the same extent by an act of aggression against any of the American states by a non-American state, as by an act of aggression of an American state against one or more American states', and that such aggression against one or more of them would be considered aggression against them all. The meeting also created the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES), superseding Inter-American Financial and Economic Advisory Committee. CIES is itself currently replaced by the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI). The Inter American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security (a special conference), 1947, Rio de Janeiro, put into effect permanently the provisions of the Act of Chapultepec through the drawing up of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty). The Treaty defines the principal obligations of the signatories in the event of armed attacks against an American state or acts of aggression short of armed attack; a security zone in which the treaty is operative was drawn and the Organ of Consultation was created.
The 9th International Conference of American States, 1948, Bogota, adopted the Charter of the Organization of American States, and the Union of American Republics changed its name to Organization of American States, although the General Secretariat of the OAS continued to be called the Pan American Union. The International Conference of American States was renamed Inter-American Conference -- Conférence interaméricaine -- Conferencia Interamericana. The 1948 Conference also approved: American Treaty on Pacific Settlement (Pact of Bogota); American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man -- Déclaration américaine des droits et devoirs de l'homme -- Declaración Americana de los Derechos y Deberes del Hombre; Economic Agreement of Bogota; the setting up of Committee on Inter-American Organizations, which studied clauses of the OAS Charter and resolutions approved by the 9th Conference with relation to Inter-American Organizations - 'Specialized Organizations' and other entities. The 10th Inter-American Conference, 1954, Caracas (Venezuela), changed the direction and orientation of the policies and programs of the OAS by emphasizing economic, social, and cultural development. The 7th Meeting of Consultation (under the Charter), 1960, San José (Costa Rica), adopted the Declaration of San José -- Declaración de San José that denounced all types of intervention that could endanger American solidarity. The Act of Bogota set forth measures for the social improvement and economic development of the countries within the framework of Operation Pan America -- Opération Panaméricaine -- Operación Panamericana, and laid the foundation of the Alliance for Progress -- Alliance pour le progrès -- Alianza para el Progreso. The Alliance for Progress became a reality when OAS adopted the Charter of Punta del Este and the Declaration to the Peoples of America -- Déclaration aux peuples d'Amérique -- Declaración a los Pueblos de América.
The 8th Meeting of Consultation (under the Rio Treaty), 1962, Punta del Este (Uruguay), approved a resolution excluding the Government of Cuba from participation in the inter-American system. The First Special Inter-American Conference, 1964, Washington DC, approved the Act of Washington that sets guidelines for the admission of new members to the Organization. The 10th Meeting of Consultation (under the Charter), 1965, Washington DC, considered the 'serious situation created by armed strife in the Dominican Republic' and created an Inter-American Peace Force for that occasion. The 3rd Special Inter-American Conference, 1967, Buenos Aires, approved the Protocol of Amendments to the Charter of the OAS, known as Protocol of Buenos Aires. At a Meeting of American Chiefs of State, 1967, Punta del Este (Uruguay), the Declaration of the Presidents of America was signed, spelling out the means for the American nations to intensify inter-American cooperation. The OAS Charter, as amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires, entered into force on 27 Feb 1970, providing the Organization with a new structure. The General Assembly replaced the Inter-American Conference and the functions previously carried out by Inter-American Peace Committee were assigned to the Permanent Council of OAS, assisted by Inter-American Committee on Peaceful Settlement. The first meeting of the General Assembly was held in 1971, San José, under the terms of the Charter as amended. At its 3rd regular session, 1973, Washington DC, the General Assembly created a Special Committee for the purpose of restructuring the inter-American system so that it might respond adequately to changing hemisphere and world conditions.
Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal (Panama Canal Treaty) and Protocol to the Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal, 1977, which were signed at the OAS, entered into force on 1 Oct 1979. The Inter-American Convention on Extradition was approved in 1981. In its 12th regular session, 1982, Washington DC, the General Assembly ratified 24 July 1982 through 24 July 1983 as the Bicentennial Year of the Birth of the Liberator Simón Bolivar, February 18 was declared the Day of the Women of the Americas. 1986 was declared as the 'Inter-American Year of Peace'. At its 14th Special Session, 5 Dec 1985, Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), the General Assembly approved the Protocol of Amendment to the Charter of the Organization of American States (Protocol of Cartagena de Indias), which entered into force 16 Nov 1988.
At its 21st Regular Session, June 1991, Santiago de Chile, the OAS General Assembly adopted the 'Santiago Commitment to Democracy and the Renewal of the Inter-American System', in which member states declared, among other things, their 'inescapable commitment to the defence and promotion of representative democracy and human rights in the region, within the framework of respect for the principles of self-determination and non-intervention'. At the same meeting, the General Assembly approved a resolution on 'Representative Democracy' (AG/RES 1080), instructing OAS Secretary General to call for immediate convocation of a meeting of the Permanent Council in the event of any occurrence giving rise to sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic political institutional process or of the legitimate exercise of power by the democratically elected government in any OAS member state.
'Charter Reform': At its 16th Special Session, 14 Dec 1992, OAS General Assembly adopted the 'Protocol of Washington' containing amendments to the OAS Charter principally to incorporate provisions of AG/RES 1080 on Representative Democracy. New Article 8 bis provides that a member whose democratically elected government has been overthrown by force may be suspended from exercising the right to participate in sessions of OAS organs. Also, the eradication of extreme poverty is incorporated among essential purposes of the Organization.
At its 19th Special Session, 8 June 1993 in Managua (Nicaragua), the General Assembly approved the 'Protocol of Managua' of Amendments to the Charter of the Organization. The Managua Protocol entered into force on 29 Jan 1996, when ratified by two-thirds of OAS member states. It gives new impetus and approach to the promotion of cooperation in the Americas aimed at achieving integral development and eliminating extreme poverty in the Hemisphere. Under the Protocol, the Councils on Economic and Social Affairs and Education, Science and Culture are replaced by the CIDI, and other measures taken to improve the delivery of technical cooperation to the member states.
(a) To strengthen the peace and security in the hemisphere;
(b) To promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of non-intervention;
(c) To prevent possible causes of difficulties and to ensure the pacific settlement of disputes that may arise among the member states;
(d) To provide for common action on the part of those states in the event of aggression;
(e) To seek the solution of political, juridical, and economic problems that may arise among them;
(f) To promote, by cooperative action, their economic, social, and cultural development;
(g) To achieve an effective limitation of conventional weapons that will make it possible to devote the largest amount of resources to the economic and social development of the member states.
Additional purpose, approved 14 Dec 1992: To eradicate extreme poverty which constitutes an obstacle to the full democratic development of the peoples of the hemisphere.
'Principles' reaffirmed by the American States:
(a) International law is the standard of conduct of states in their reciprocal relations;
(b) International order consists essentially of respect for the personality, sovereignty, and independence of states, and the faithful fulfilment of obligations derived from treaties and other sources of international law;
(c) Good faith shall govern the relations between states;
(d) The solidarity of the American States and the high aims which are sought through it require the political organization of those states on the basis of the effective exercise of representative democracy;
(e) Every state has the right to choose, without external interference, its political, economic, and social system and to organize itself in the way best suited to it, and has the duty to abstain from intervening in the affairs of another state. Subject to the foregoing, the American States shall cooperate fully among themselves, independently of the nature of their political, economic, and social systems;
(f) The American States condemn war of aggression: victory does not give rights;
(g) An act of aggression against one American State is an act of aggression against all the other American States;
(h) Controversies of an international character arising between two or more American States shall be settled by peaceful procedures;
(i) Social justice and social security are bases of lasting peace;
(j) Economic cooperation is essential to the common welfare and prosperity of the peoples of the continent;
(k) The American States proclaim the fundamental rights of the individual without distinction as to race, nationality, creed, or sex;
(l) The spiritual unity of the continent is based on respect for the cultural values of the American countries and requires their close cooperation for the high purposes of civilization;
(m) The education of peoples should be directed toward justice, freedom, and peace.
Additional principle incorporated 14 Dec 1992: the elimination of abject poverty as an essential part of the promotion and consolidation of representative democracy and the common and shared responsibility of the American States.
At the 20th Special Session, Feb 1994, Mexico City (Mexico), the General Assembly approved 2 resolutions, one containing a 'General Policy Framework and Priorities: Partnership for Development' and the other agreeing on a 'Commitment on a Partnership for Development and Struggle to Overcome Extreme Poverty'.
At the 24th Regular Session, June 1994, Belém (Brazil) the Assembly adopted the 'Declaration of Belém do Para' in which Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Heads of Delegation of Member States declared: their firm commitment to strengthening the OAS as the main hemispheric forum of political consensus so that it may support the realization of member states in promoting and consolidating peace, democracy, social justice and development in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter; their decision to promote and deepen cooperative relations in economic, social, educational, cultural, scientific, technological and political fields; their commitment to continue and further dialogue on hemispheric security so as to consolidate and strengthen mutual confidence; their determination to continue contributing to the objective of general and complete disarmament under effective international control; their determination to strengthen regional cooperation to increase effectiveness of efforts to combat illicit use of narcotic drugs and traffic therein; their decision to cooperate in a reciprocal effort towards preventing and punishing terrorist acts, methods and practices, and development of international law in this matter; and their commitment to promote economic and social development for indigenous populations of their countries.Available with paid subscription only.
/Policy/ - Acts as a forum for consultation and negotiation of inter-American agreements on collective and national efforts towards peacekeeping, defence of human rights, promotion and protection of democracy and economic, social, scientific, educational and cultural development.
/Operations/ - Emphasis of technical assistance is on national planning, reinforced by regional, inter-American and other multilateral cooperation. Cooperation for development is based on the groundwork of earlier OAS programs. Each member government determines its requirements and presents a National Technical Cooperation Program corresponding to its country's needs, listing specific projects ranked in order of priority. The OAS Program Budget is approved by the General Assembly.
/Applications of Representative Democracy Resolution AG/RES 1080/ - The Permanent Council examines the situation, then decides on and convenes an ad hoc meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs or a special session of the General Assembly, all within a 10-day period. The Resolution has so far been applied 3 times:
- 1. 'Haiti': Following the coup d'Etat in Haiti and expulsion of the democratically elected President, 1991, Ministers of Foreign Affairs approved 2 resolutions, calling for: (1) full restoration of the rule of law and of constitutional order and the immediate reinstatement of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the exercise of his legitimate authority, and recommending diplomatic isolation of those holding power in Haiti and suspension of economic, financial and commercial ties and aid and technical cooperation other than for strictly humanitarian purposes; (2) the setting up of a civilian mission to re-establish and strengthen constitutional democracy. In May 1992, an ad hoc Meeting of Foreign Ministers again condemned the disruption of the democratic system and called for additional measures to implement the trade embargo, increase humanitarian aid and monitor the human rights situation. They charged the OAS Secretary-General to facilitate dialogue among all Haitian sectors to bring about re-establishment of institutional democracy, to seek a peaceful resolution to the crisis and to consider bringing the situation to the attention of the UN Security Council as a means of bringing about global application of the trade embargo. Following negotiations with the de facto government, a joint OAS/UN civilian mission - International Civilian Mission to Haiti (MICIVIH) (mandate terminated 1999) - was sent to Haiti. UN and OAS actions to restore democratic government to Haiti are continuing.
- 2. 'Peru': Apr 1992, following decision of President Alberto Fujimori of Peru to disband Congress and rule by decree, an ad hoc Meeting of Foreign Ministers convened immediately, approved 2 resolutions calling for restoration of constitutional government and dispatched a special mission. President Fujimori attended a session of the ad hoc Meeting, May 1992, Bahamas, when he pledged prompt return to democratic rule. The OAS subsequently sent a number representatives to monitor the election of a Constituent Congress, 22 Nov 1992. An ad hoc Meeting of Foreign Ministers, 14 Dec 1992, reaffirmed the willingness of member states to continue cooperating to strengthen democratic institutions and absolute respect for human rights in Peru, declaring it would adjourn upon installation of the Democratic Constituent Congress. This Congress was installed, 30 Dec 1992, and OAS was invited to send observers for municipal elections scheduled on 29 Jan 1993 and for the referendum on the new Constitution in October 1993.
- 3. 'Guatemala City (Guatemala)': 25 May 1993, following suspension of the Constitution by the President of Guatemala; the Permanent Council met immediately, convened an ad hoc Meeting of Foreign Ministers and requested the Secretary General to carry out a fact-finding mission to Guatemala with the Foreign Ministers of Nicaragua, Uruguay and Barbados and to report their findings to an ad hoc Meeting of Foreign Ministers on 3 June 1993, Washington DC (USA). Following that meeting the Secretary General and other members of the mission returned to Guatemala. By the next ad hoc Meeting of Foreign Ministers, 8 June 1003, Managua (Nicaragua), at 23rd Regular Session of the OAS General Assembly, the Constitutional Court had declared the positions of President and Vice-President of Guatemala vacant and, in accordance with the Constitution, Congress had elected Mr Ramiro De Leon Caprio as the new President of that country. On taking note of these facts the ad hoc Meeting was adjourned.
/Trade/ - 'Trade Unit of the OAS', created in 1995, assists OAS member countries with matters related to trade and economic integration in the Western Hemisphere, in particular, with their efforts to establish a Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA. The Unit provides technical support to member governments and prepares documents for the official FTAA Negotiating Groups providing details on the status quo of economic relationships in the region. These negotiations supersede those of OAS Special Committee on Trade (SCT), set up 1993, to promote trade liberalization and economic integration among countries of the Western hemisphere. The Special Committee has not met since 1996 and is not expected to meet again before completion of FTAA in 2005. In collaboration with a committee of donor institutions, headed by the Inter American Development Bank, an estimated US$ 7 million is being spent in 2003 on non-refundable cooperation in trade-related capacity building and sustainable development projects in Central America so as to enhance trade and improve the long-term economic well-being and development of the region as its countries embark on negotiation of US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). OAS assistance is channelled through the Trade Unit, Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD) and other subsidiary bodies, and through specialized organizations.
/Institution-building and Training Activities/ - OAS has created and strengthened national and regional research institutes and educational centres. Inter-American Program for Education also includes: fellowship program and provision of expertise and equipment for a variety of projects throughout member states; 'Hemispheric Action Plan to Reduce Disasters in the Educational Sector'. OAS Social Development and Education Unit serves as technical secretariat for the 'EDSAT-Americas Project' of National Education Telecommunications Organization - EDSAT Institute (NETO/EDSAT), which uses satellite and land technology to create a distance-education infrastructure. Common Market of Scientific and Technological Knowledge (MERCOCYT Program) promotes joint use of existing resources in science in Latin American countries. Instrumental in setting up: Network of Children's and Juvenile Literature Documentation Centers (CEDOC-LI).
/Other OAS Activities/ -
• OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security - first meeting Sep 2000, covers: small and light arms; confidence- and security-building measures; special security concerns of small island states and defense policies and practice; anti-personnel landmines; arms control; relations with other international and regional organizations and fora.
• Comité Interamericano Contra el Terrorismo (CICTE) - set up June 1999, to allow sharing of expertise and information on the activities of individuals, groups and movements linked to international terrorism, cooperation in tracking their methods of operation and sources of financing and development of anti-terrorism training programs.
• Mine-clearing program in Central America.
• 'Working Group on Probity and Public Ethics'.
• Special Committee on Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities - set up June 1999.
• ParlAmericas set up Mar 2001, Ottawa (Canada).
• 'Inter-American Program on the Promotion Women's Human Rights and Gender Equity and Equality'.
• 'Developing Cooperation Mechanisms in Labor Relations in Mercosur Countries' - project to develop expertise in mediation and alternative conflict-resolution techniques and an understanding of mediation as a vital tool in negotiating and resolving labour conflicts.
• 'OAS Caribbean Tourism Competitiveness and Sustainability Program', commenced 1998, including 2 projects - small hotels assistance; tourism awareness.
• 'American Cultural Capital' - Merida (Mexico) 2000, Pereira (Colombia) 2001.
• 'Awards': Andres Bello Award; Bernardo A Houssay Award; Gabriela Mistral Award; Manuel Noriega Morales Award; Beca de Investigación Marcus Garvey prize (1998) commemorating the centennial of Marcus Garvey's birth; past contests, tributes and awards for the work of composers or writers for example to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Heitor Villa- Lobos' birth.
• 'OAS Emergency Relief Fund (FONDEM)';
• 'OAS Special Fund for Democracy' - set up Nov 2000.
/Agreements concluded under OAS auspices and not mentioned above/ -
• Agreement Concluded between the Governments of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the OAS General Secretariat Relative to an Extension for the Technical Cooperation for Execution of the Integral Development Plan for the Border Region Shared by the Three Countries (Trifinio plan);
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Relations with Inter-Governmental Organizations
Relations with 105 inter-governmental organizations.
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Relations with Non-Governmental Organizations
Relations with 89 non-governmental organizations.
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PublicationsAvailable with paid subscription only.
Information ServicesAvailable with paid subscription only.
Members in 102 countries
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Type I ClassificationAvailable with paid subscription only.
Type II ClassificationAvailable with paid subscription only.
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UN Sustainable Development Goals **
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** UN SDGs are linked to the subject classification.
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