Organization of American States


The Organization of American States is the world’s oldest regional organization, dating back to the First International Conference of American States, held in Washington, D.C., from October 1889 to April 1890. That meeting approved the establishment of the International Union of American Republics, and the stage was set for the weaving of a web of provisions and institutions that came to be known as the inter-American system, the oldest international institutional system.

The OAS came into being in 1948 with the signing in Bogotá, Colombia, of the Charter of the OAS, which entered into force in December 1951. It was subsequently amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires, signed in 1967, which entered into force in February 1970; by the Protocol of Cartagena de Indias, signed in 1985, which entered into force in November 1988; by the Protocol of Managua, signed in 1993, which entered into force in January 1996; and by the Protocol of Washington, signed in 1992, which entered into force in September 1997.

The Organization was established in order to achieve among its member states—as stipulated in Article 1 of the Charter—”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.”

Today, the OAS brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere. In addition, it has granted permanent observer status to 67 states, as well as to the European Union (EU).

The Organization uses a four-pronged approach to effectively implement its essential purposes, based on its main pillars: democracy, human rights, security, and development.

Our Structure

The Organization of American States accomplishes its purposes by means of the following:

The General Assembly;

The Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs;

The Councils (the Permanent Council and The Inter-American Council for Integral Development);

the Inter-American Juridical Committee;

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;

The General Secretariat;

the specialized conferences;

The specialized organizations; and

Other entities established by the General Assembly.

The General Assembly is the supreme organ of the Organization of American States and comprises the delegations of all the member states. All member states are represented at the General Assembly and have the right to one vote.

The Permanent Council attends to the matters entrusted to it by the General Assembly or the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs; monitors the maintenance of friendly relations among the member states and the observance of the standards governing General Secretariat operations; and acts provisionally as Organ of Consultation under the Rio Treaty.