The Organization of American States
Organization of American States (OAS), regional alliance comprising the autonomous nations of the Americas. The OAS was founded April 30, 1948, by 21 nations at the Ninth Inter-American Conference, held at Bogot·, Colombia. The organization is an outgrowth of the International Union of American Republics, founded in 1890 at the First International Conference of American States, held in Washington, D.C.
The main purposes of the OAS, as described in the charter, are
- " to strengthen the peace and security of the continent;
- to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the policy of nonintervention;
- to prevent possible causes of difficulties and to ensure the pacific settlement of disputes that may arise among the Member States;
- to provide for common action on the part of those States in the event of aggression;
- to seek the solution of political, juridical, and economic problems that may arise among them;
- to promote, by cooperative action, their economic, social, and cultural development; and
- 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."
The charter of the OAS has been amended on four different occasions: by the Protocol of Buenos Aires, signed in 1967 and in force since 1970; the Protocol of Cartagena de Indias, approved in 1985 and in force since 1989; and the Protocols of Washington (1992) and Managua (1993), which will become effective upon ratification by two-thirds of the member states.
The amendments were designed to further economic development and integration among the nations of the hemisphere; to promote and defend representative democracy; to help overcome poverty; and to render more effective the provision of technical cooperation. The Protocol of Washington stated as one of the main purposes of the OAS "to eradicate extreme poverty, which constitutes an obstacle to the full democratic development of the peoples of the hemisphere."
The OAS functions through eight major organs:
- the General Assembly;
- the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs;
- the Councils (Permanent Council; Inter-American Economic and Social Council; and Inter-American Council for Education, Science and Culture);
- the Inter-American Juridical Committee;
- the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;
- the General Secretariat;
- the Specialized Conferences; and
- the Specialized Organizations. Upon ratification of the Protocol of Managua, a new Inter-American Council for Integral Development will replace the current Inter-American Economic and Social Council and the Inter-American Council for Education, Science and Culture.
The secretary general directs the General Secretariat and is its legal representative. The secretary general is elected by the General Assembly for a five-year term and cannot be elected for more than two terms. The seat of the General Secretariat is in Washington, D.C. The Secretariat also has offices in the member states.
The founding members of the OAS are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The other members joined as follows: Antigua and Barbuda (1981), Commonwealth of the Bahamas (1982), Barbados (1967), Belize (1991), Canada (1989), Dominica (1979), Grenada (1975), Guyana (1991), Jamaica (1969), Saint Lucia (1979), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (1981), Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis (1984), Suriname (1977), and Trinidad and Tobago (1967).