Official Name:  Organization of American States


Headquarters:  Washington, DC.

Established:  April 14, 1890, as the International Union of American 
Republics.  Became the Pan American Union in 1910, then the Organization 
of American States in 1948 with the adoption of the OAS Charter in 
Bogota, Colombia.

Purposes:  To strengthen peace and security in the hemisphere, promote 
representative democracy, ensure the peaceful settlement of disputes 
among members, provide for common action in the event of aggression, and 
promote economic, social, and cultural development.

Members:  35--Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, The Bahamas, Barbados, 
Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba(1), 
Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, 
Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, 
Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, 
Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Uruguay, and 

Permanent Observers:  31--Algeria, Angola, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, 
Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, 
Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of 
Korea, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, 
Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

Official Languages:  English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Principal Organs:  General Assembly; Meeting of Consultation of Foreign 
Ministers; Permanent Council; Inter-American Economic and Social Council 
(CIES); Inter-American Council for Education, Science, and Culture 
(CIECC); Inter-American Juridical Committee; Inter-American Commission 
on Human Rights (IACHR); and the General Secretariat.

Specialized Organizations:  Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM); 
Inter-American Children's Institute (IACI); Inter-American Indian 
Institute (IAII); Pan American Institute for Geography and History 
(PAIGH); Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA); 
and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Other Entities:  Inter-American Court of Human Rights; Inter-American 
Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD); Inter-American Defense Board 
(IADB); Inter-American Defense College (IADC); Inter-American 
Development Bank (IDB); the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).

Budget (1994):  Regular fund (operations): $69 million, financed by 
assessed contributions from all members.  The U.S. share is 59%.  
Voluntary funds:  $23 million, financed by contributions from all member 
states (the U.S. provides $11 million), some permanent observers, 
international financial institutions, and development agencies.  

(1) Cuba is a member, although it has been excluded from participation 
since 1962 for incompatibility with the principles of the OAS Charter.

The Organization of American States, the oldest regional international 
organization in the world, traces its origins to the Congress of Panama, 
convoked by Simon Bolivar in 1826 and attended by representatives from 
Central and South America.  That congress drafted the Treaty of 
Perpetual Union, League and Confederation, signed by the delegates but 
ratified only by Gran Colombia (today's Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and 

Hemispheric countries continued the discussion of an inter-American 
system, and the first concrete step was taken in 1889, when the First 
International Conference of American States convened in Washington, DC.  
Delegates agreed to create, on April 14, 1890, the International Union 
of American Republics "for the prompt collection and distribution of 
commercial information."  The agreement also established the Commercial 
Bureau of the American Republics in Washington as the union's 
secretariat, with the participation of 18 Western Hemisphere nations, 
including the United States.  In 1910, the Commercial Bureau became the 
Pan American Union, and American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie donated 
$5 million to construct a permanent head-quarters in Washington, DC.

Despite progress toward regional solidarity, it became clear that 
unilateral action could not ensure the territorial integrity of the 
American nations in the event of extra-continental aggression, such as 
occurred in World War II.  To meet the challenges of global conflict in 
the post-war world, nations of the hemisphere adopted a system of 
collective security, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance 
(Rio Treaty) signed in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro.

The OAS Charter was adopted at the Ninth International Conference of 
American states in Bogota, Colombia, in 1948.  It reaffirmed the 
fundamental rights and duties of states, proclaimed the goals of the new 
organization, and established its organs and agencies.  That conference 
also approved the American Treaty on Pacific Settlement (Pact of Bogota) 
and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.  The OAS 
Charter proclaims it to be a regional agency within the UN system.

Concern over slow economic development led the United States and 19 
other OAS members to establish the Inter-American Development Bank in 
1959.  This reflected concern that the World Bank (which included Latin 
American countries in its list of eligible borrowers) was preoccupied 
with infrastructure and not sufficiently attuned to the need for 
"social" lending as well as industrial and agricultural aid.  In 1960, 
the OAS produced the Act of Bogota, which called for a hemisphere-wide 
commitment to economic and social development.  That set the stage for 
OAS support for the Alliance for Progress.

The 1948 OAS Charter has been amended twice:  by the 1967 Protocol of 
Buenos Aires, which went into effect in February 1970, and by the 1985 
Protocol of Cartagena, which took effect in November 1988.  Further 
amendments, incorporated in the Protocol of Washington (December 1992) 
and the Protocol of Managua (June 1993), have not yet taken effect.

The first protocol created the annual General Assembly and gave equal 
status to the Permanent Council, the Economic and Social Council, and 
the Council for Education, Science, and Culture.  The second group of 
amendments strengthened the role of the Secretary General, provided 
procedures for facilitating peaceful settlement of disputes, removed 
obstacles to the entry of Belize and Guyana, and called for 
strengthening economic and social development by measures to increase 
trade, enhance international financial cooperation, diversify exports, 
and promote export opportunities.

The third set of amendments (Washington Protocol), when ratified by two-
thirds of the member states, will add a new article permitting the 
suspension of a member whose democratically constituted government is 
overthrown by force.  It will also amend existing articles to include 
the eradication of extreme poverty as one of the organization's 
essential purposes.  The fourth set of amendments, when ratified, will 
create an Inter-American Council for Integral Development to replace the 
Economic and Social Council and the Council for Education, Science, and 
Culture.  The new council is intended to improve delivery of technical 
cooperation, thereby helping eliminate extreme poverty.

The basic objectives of the OAS, as laid out in its charter, are to 
strengthen peace and security; to promote the effective exercise of 
representative democracy; to ensure the peaceful settlement of disputes 
among members; to provide for common action in the event of aggression; 
to seek solutions to political, juridical, and economic problems that 
may arise; to promote, by cooperative action, economic, social, 
educational, scientific, and cultural development; and to limit 
conventional weapons so as to devote greater resources to economic and 
social development.

The promotion of peace and democracy are thus core OAS concerns.  To 
that effect, the OAS has observed elections in El Salvador, Haiti, 
Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and, most 
recently, in the Dominican Republic for the controversial May 16, 1994, 

Following the 1990 elections in Nicaragua, the OAS took primary 
responsibility for the voluntary repatriation and resettlement of the 
former Contras.  On Haiti, the OAS forged the hemispheric consensus on 
the need to restore democracy there.  The OAS called for a commercial 
embargo, sent in human rights monitors, coordinated humanitarian 
assistance, and strove consistently to negotiate a peaceful solution.  
OAS contributions in the fields of international law, juridical 
cooperation, legal development, and facilitation of regional trade have 
been substantial and have provided the basis for effective observance of 
a host of regional treaties concluded since 1889.

As it enters its second century, the OAS is strengthening its efforts to 
promote and consolidate democracy.  The Unit for Democracy and highly 
successful election observation missions set the stage for broadened 
human rights work, a regional program to fight drug abuse and 
trafficking, and the first hemisphere-wide environmental action plan.  
The OAS is also playing a supportive role in trade expansion and 
hemispheric development.

The organization's new Secretary General, Cesar Gaviria, is dedicated to 
expanding its range of activities.  Gaviria, who served as President of 
Colombia from 1990 to 1994, became the first sitting president to be 
elected OAS Secretary General.  He brings to the job strong leadership 
skills and creativity that he demonstrated as Colombia's head of state.


The U.S. is committed to strengthening and working with the OAS.  This 
reflects the U.S. Government's determination to make optimal use of 
multilateral diplomacy to resolve regional problems and to engage its 
neighbors on topics of hemispheric concern.  As President Clinton said 
in announcing the Summit of the Americas on March 11, 1994:

We've arrived at a moment of very great promise and great hope for the 
Western Hemisphere.  Democratic values are ascendant.  Our economies are 
growing and becoming more intertwined every day through trade and 
investment.  Now we have a unique opportunity to build a community of 
free nations, diverse in culture and history, but bound together by a 
commitment to responsive and free government, vibrant civil societies, 
open economies, and rising living standards for all our people.

The most elemental and historic U.S. interest in the Western Hemisphere-
-shared by virtually all hemispheric states--is to prevent interventions 
of any sort by states outside the hemisphere.  A second fundamental 
interest shared by the U.S. and other nations is the maintenance of 
peace among the states of the hemisphere.  The OAS provides a means to 
promote the consolidation of democracy with due regard for the charter 
principle of non-intervention.

All OAS members share a common concern for democracy, economic 
development, and human rights.  Major U.S. interests and objectives in 
the hemisphere coincide with the goals and work of the OAS:  The 
promotion and strengthening of democracy and human rights, narcotics 
control, environmental protection, legal development, economic 
assistance and technical cooperation, and trade and economic integration 
and development.  Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott, speaking at the OAS 
General Assembly in Belem, Brazil, on June 6, 1994, said, "We all agree 
that the natural vehicle for enhancing this cooperation is the 
Organization of American States."


Secretary General--Cesar Gaviria Trujillo (Colombia), elected to five-
year term in 1994.
Assistant Secretary General--Christopher R. Thomas (Trinidad and 
Tobago), elected to five-year term in 1990.

Address--Organization of American States, 17th St. and Constitution 
Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20006 (tel. 202-458-3000).

U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS--Ambassador Harriet C. Babbitt, 
sworn in April 12, 1993.

Address--U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS, ARA/USOAS, Rm. 6494, U.S. 
Department of State, Washington, DC 20520 (tel. 202-647-9376).


In a speech in Mexico City on May 9, 1994, Secretary Christopher noted 

The movement to democracy in Latin America is a great epic of the late 
20th century.  It is not captured in any single image as indelible as 
the fall of the Berlin Wall or the sight of South Africans marking their 
ballots and claiming their freedom.  But democracy's victories in this 
hemisphere, from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, to Nicaragua, El 
Salvador, and Guatemala, are just as vital to the cause of liberty.

The 1991 OAS General Assembly created an unprecedented automatic 
mechanism, known as Resolution 1080, to deter illegal action against 
democratically elected governments.  This resolution authorizes the 
Secretary General to convene the Permanent Council and then hemispheric 
foreign ministers within 10 days after a coup or other interruption of a 
legitimate, elected government.

This was followed by the December 1992 adoption of a charter amendment 
which, when it takes effect upon ratification by two-thirds of the OAS 
members, allows for suspension from participation in OAS policy bodies 
of any member country in which a democratically elected government is 
overthrown by force.

Resolution 1080 has been applied three times:  following the coup in 
Haiti in 1991 and the "auto-coups" in Peru in 1992 and Guatemala in 

In Haiti, the OAS was deeply engaged in seeking a peaceful solution to 
the crisis since the September 30, 1991, coup that sent President 
Aristide into exile.  OAS foreign ministers met in October 1991 and 
called for the political and economic isolation of the de facto regime.  
The ministers asked Secretary General Baena Soares to lead several high-
level missions to Haiti to bring both sides together in a dialogue to 
resolve the crisis.  In continuing efforts in this regard, the OAS 
played an important role along with the UN in the international 
mediation effort which culminated in the Governors Island agreement, the 
recognized framework for resolving the political impasse in Haiti.  The 
OAS and UN created a joint International Civilian Mission (ICM) to 
monitor the human rights situation in Haiti.  As the Governors Island 
process stalled, due to the failure of the military leaders to carry out 
their obligations, the OAS held special meetings of foreign ministers in 
1993 and 1994 to increase pressure against the de facto regime.

The OAS recommended a full commercial embargo against Haiti two years 
before the UN and also lead the way in calling for suspension of air 
transportation links to the island nation.  The OAS meeting of foreign 
ministers on Haiti, meeting in Belem, Brazil, in June 1994, called on 
member states to support the reconfiguration of the UN Mission in Haiti 
(UNMIH) and to provide assistance to Haitians fleeing human rights 
violations in their country.

In Peru, President Fujimori's April 5, 1992, announcement of extra-
constitutional measures led to the second use of Resolution 1080.  The 
OAS Permanent Council called for the immediate "reinstatement of 
democratic institutions and respect for human rights under the rule of 
law."  In the second use of Resolution 1080, the hemisphere's foreign 
ministers met April 13, 1992, called for the re-establishment of 
democratic institutional order in Peru, and asked the Secretary General 
to head a small mission of foreign ministers to travel to Peru to bring 
about a dialogue between the authorities and the other political forces 
in that country.

In May 1992, President Fujimori traveled to Nassau, Bahamas, to attend 
the second session of the OAS foreign ministers' meeting on Peru, where 
he told them he would call elections for a constituent congress to 
exercise legislative powers and to draft a new constitution.  The OAS 
sent over 200 observers to monitor those elections, held November 22, 
1992, as well as a small team for the municipal elections on January 29, 
1993.  The OAS closely monitored the elections.  Although there were 
occasional irregularities as well as some violence aimed at disrupting 
the electoral process, the elections were considered generally free and 
fair.  Following election of the constituent congress and in view of 
expected continued OAS assistance to modernize electoral procedures in 
Peru, OAS foreign ministers decided in December 1992 to close their 
meeting on Peru.

In the third use of Resolution 1080, a May 26, 1993, Permanent Council 
session convoked an ad hoc meeting of foreign ministers (MFM) on 
Guatemala in Washington on June 3, in response to then-President 
Serrano's suspension of constitutional democracy on May 25.  The MFM 
strongly condemned Serrano's actions, called for the immediate re-
establishment of constitutional democracy in Guatemala and sent 
Secretary General Baena Soares to Guatemala.  The MFM was to reconvene 
in Managua on June 7 to consider what further action to take.  Instead, 
Baena Soares reported on the Guatemalan Congress's election of Ramiro de 
Leon Carpio as President, replacing Serrano.  President de Leon flew to 
Managua June 8 to address the General Assembly to express appreciation 
for the forthright OAS action that had been a major factor in bringing 
about the prompt restoration of constitutional democracy in Guatemala.

The OAS has become one of the leading organizations in the hemisphere in 
election observation.  As a multilateral organization, OAS observers are 
often able to establish closer relationships with and gain greater 
access to political and electoral institutions than other observer 
groups can.  The OAS, in addition, has been able to organize larger 
electoral missions and keep observers on the ground longer than other 

The 1990 Nicaraguan elections were the first the OAS observed in a 
systematic way.  OAS monitoring of that election helped increase 
confidence in the process and encouraged all parties to accept the final 
results.  While the OAS, at the request of the host government 
concerned, had sent small teams of elections observers throughout the 
hemisphere, the magnitude and scope of the mission in Nicaragua--more 
than 433 observers and an OAS presence six months before the elections 
and for weeks afterward--suggested the need to institutionalize OAS 
support for democracy.

To develop lessons learned in these observations, the OAS set up a 
democracy unit in the OAS Secretariat in 1991.  That unit was 
responsible for, among other activities, organizing the recent 
observation of the 1994 Dominican elections.  The OAS sent a 27-person 
team to observe the May 16 elections, which were characterized by 
reports of widespread disenfranchisement that prejudiced opposition 
leader Jose Francisco Pena Gomez.  The OAS kept observers in the 
Dominican Republic for three months to help the Dominicans find a 
solution to the political crisis caused by doubts over the accuracy of 
the official election results, which had given President Joaquin 
Balaguer a slight edge.  OAS mediators helped broker a solution that led 
to an agreement to hold new elections within two years.


Peaceful settlement of disputes is central to the OAS under its own 
mandate and is consistent with the UN Charter.  In border conflict 
situations, beyond actual intervention, the very existence of the OAS 
and the possibility that it might take action tends to have a chilling 
effect on any unilateral resort to force.  For example,

--  In 1981, Peru and Ecuador announced a cessation of their border 
conflict at an OAS meeting convened for the purpose of considering that 

--  In 1988, a naval incident between Colombia and Venezuela was defused 
following a public appeal by the OAS Secretary General and special 
sessions of the Permanent Council; and

--  In 1989, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago died in a shooting 
incident between a Trinidadian fishing trawler and a Venezuelan national 
guard patrol boat.  At the request of the two governments, the OAS 
Secretary General appointed three experts, whose recommendations led to 
a solution accepted by both sides.

In the 1960s and 1970s, OAS peace-keeping took several forms:

--  In 1964, in response to proof of Cuban support for revolutionary 
groups in Venezuela, the OAS voted that members should break diplomatic 
relations with Cuba;

--  In the Dominican Republic in May 1965, the OAS played the central 
peace-keeping role, creating an Inter-American peace force for the first 
time.  After elections in June 1966, the force was withdrawn;

--  The OAS provided the framework and impetus for resolution of a 1969 
border conflict (called the "Soccer War") between Honduras and El 
Salvador, including border-inspection forces in 1969-70 and for the four 
years following a recurrence of tensions in 1976; and

--  In 1978, the OAS responded to Costa Rican allegations of border 
violations by Nicaragua by creating a committee of civilian observers to 
monitor the border.  In 1978, the OAS also sought to arrange the 
peaceful departure of dictator Anastasio Somoza from Nicaragua and his 
replacement by a democratic government, but the effort failed in the 
face of Somoza's determination to stay in power.  The following year, 
however, as armed resistance against Somoza mounted, an OAS resolution 
called for replacement of the Somoza regime by a democratic government.

During the tense pre-election period in 1989, OAS monitoring in 
Nicaragua contributed decisively to the fairness of the February 25, 
1990, elections.  The presence of impartial OAS observers gave voters 
confidence and assured that the results would be respected.

In response to requests from incoming President Violeta Chamorro and 
outgoing President Daniel Ortega, Secretary General Baena Soares kept 
OAS observers in Nicaragua after the election.  Meanwhile, he and UN 
Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar negotiated terms of reference 
for their organizations to implement the joint verification and support 
commission (CIAV) called for by the Central American presidents to 
verify compliance with the Tela and subsequent agreements.  Under CIAV 
auspices, the OAS has assisted more than 100,000 people (former 
combatants and their families) and monitored and sought to protect their 
human rights.  

In response to a Nicaraguan Government request, the June 1993 General 
Assembly extended CIAV activities for two more years and expanded its 
mandate to include displaced persons and former members of the 
Nicaraguan army.  Months later, CIAV played a leading role in obtaining 
the release of hostages taken by rebel groups in two separate but 
simultaneous incidents.

OAS support for the peace process and democracy in Suriname began in 
1991 with the fielding of a 40-person delegation to observe the National 
Assembly elections.  In 1992, the OAS assisted in the negotiations 
between the government and illegally armed groups.  In line with a 
settlement reached in August 1992, an OAS mission helped collect and 
destroy weapons from armed groups that had operated throughout 
Suriname's rural areas.  In 1993 and 1994, the OAS monitored compliance 
with the peace accord and assisted in the removal of land mines.

The Washington Protocol, signed on February 23, 1992, called for the 
deployment of an OAS civilian presence in Haiti to facilitate the 
restoration of democracy in that island nation.  Further talks in 
September 1992 resulted in the deployment to Haiti of OAS/DEMOC, a small 
civilian mission tasked with working with democratic institutions in the 
country.  That presence was greatly expanded when former Argentine 
Foreign Minister Dante Caputo, serving as a special envoy of both the 
OAS and UN Secretaries General, attained agreement for a joint OAS/UN 
International Civilian Mission (ICM).  Between January 1993 and July 
1994, the OAS deployed over 100 human rights monitors throughout Haiti, 
with permanent offices in each of Haiti's nine provinces.  They, 
together with a small number of UN observers, investigated and reported 
on incidents of abuse of human rights, as well as carrying out civic 
education programs.  Their very presence had the effect of easing 
tensions, particularly in rural areas.

The ICM was withdrawn from Haiti from October 1993 to January 1994, due 
to the deterioration of the security situation.  In July 1994, in an 
attempt to diminish the international spotlight on the military's 
increasing human rights abuses, the Haitian de facto regime ordered the 
ICM to leave Haiti.  ICM members began returning to Haiti in October 
1994 following the return of President Aristide.


Located in Washington, DC, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 
(IACHR) is distinguished from other multilateral organizations' human 
rights entities by its political autonomy.  Its seven commission members 
are elected in their own right, not as representatives of governments.  
IACHR autonomy is further enhanced by its prerogative to initiate human 
rights investigations without the approval of the Secretary General or 
the Permanent Council.

Human rights in the inter-American system are based on the 1948 American 
Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man and the 1969 American 
Convention on Human Rights.  The United States signed the American 
Convention on Human Rights in 1977; ratification is under study.

The IACHR and Inter-American Court of Human Rights--located in San Jose, 
Costa Rica--give the OAS an active and, at times, forceful role in 
promoting and protecting human rights.  Through both private persuasion 
and published reports on human rights infringements, the IACHR has been 
instrumental in improving OAS members' human rights practices and has 
helped to resolve conflicts.

The IACHR's annual report has chapters on human rights problems in 
general, individual cases, and country status reports.  The IACHR also 
publishes special reports, which have been effective in challenging 
abuses in specific countries.  Its continuing special on-site reports on 
the situation of human rights in Haiti have kept the international 
spotlight focused on the dire human rights situation there and have been 
praised by local Haitian NGOs.  The IACHR played a key role in the 1989 
release of almost 2,000 political prisoners held by the Sandinista 
regime in Nicaragua.

The IACHR's membership is:  Oscar Lujan Fappiano (Argentina); Patrick L. 
Robinson (Jamaica); Leo Valladares Lanza (Honduras); Alvaro Tirado Mejia 
(Colombia); Claudio Grossman (Chile); John Donaldson (Trinidad and 
Tobago); and W. Michael Reisman (U.S.).


The OAS narcotics program was launched at the first Western Hemisphere 
meeting to deal with all aspects of the drug problem--the Inter-American 
Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs in April 1986.  In 
accordance with the program of action adopted at that meeting, the OAS 
General Assembly in November 1986 created the Inter-American Drug Abuse 
Control Commission (CICAD), which meets twice a year to direct the 
program and assess the drug situation in the hemisphere.  Originally 
composed of 11 member governments, the commission has been expanded to 
24 because of growing interest in the program and concern about the drug 

The first projects were implemented in 1988.  The program has identified 
five priority lines of action:  Development of domestic and 
international law, education for prevention, mobilization of the private 
sector, establishment of an inter-American drug information system, and 

The OAS program has produced notable results:

--  At the April 1990 ministerial meeting on narcotics in Ixtapa, 
Mexico, top officials from throughout the hemisphere, including the U.S. 
Attorney General, took several actions in the area of legal development, 
including approval of model regulations on the control of precursor and 
essential chemicals.

--  The 1992 OAS General Assembly approved model regulations on money 
laundering and asset forfeiture.  The OAS is carrying out training 
programs to help governments adopt and implement these regulations as 
well as the 1990 regulations on precursor chemicals.

--  Under a hemisphere plan of action for cooperation in drug abuse 
prevention education approved in June 1990, Central American governments 
are implementing a regional program with OAS technical support, and the 
Andean countries are planning theirs.

--  In late 1993 and early 1994, CICAD launched a project aimed at 
strengthening the ability of governments to stop the international trade 
in firearms intended for narco-traffickers.

--  CICAD's efforts to mobilize private groups and community 
organizations were boosted by the first multilateral teleconference on 
public and private sector cooperation for drug abuse prevention in 1990 
and a multi-sector conference on strategies for mass media campaigns in 

--  In 1993 and 1994, CICAD carried out an intensive review of 
hemispheric strategies against drug trafficking and abuse.  As a result, 
the commission approved a new high-priority program area:  the 
strengthening of the national commissions or other bodies tasked with 
developing policy and coordinating drug programs.


For 25 years, the OAS has actively helped member states incorporate 
environmental considerations into development projects.  International 
development institutions have recognized the organization's in-house 
expertise and leadership role, and a number of these institutions have 
undertaken cooperative initiatives with the OAS or contracted the OAS to 
serve as an executing agency for their environmental projects.

During the 1960s, OAS technical services concentrated on the survey, 
evaluation, and development of natural resources.  In the 1970s, the 
scope was expanded to include the principal components of regional 
development, such as socio-economic analysis, preparation of regional 
strategies for development, project formulation, environmental 
management, and institutional development.  In the 1980s, special 
emphasis was placed upon multinational projects involving the management 
and conservation of natural resources, preservation of tourism areas and 
national parks, development of river basins and border regions, and 
mitigation of natural hazards.

The 1991 General Assembly approved the first hemispheric program of 
action for environmental protection.  It provides a non-binding 
framework that identifies objectives and recommends specific measures to 
member states for regional cooperation.


The General Secretariat is the permanent and central organ of the OAS, 
executing programs and policies decided upon by the General Assembly and 
the three councils.  Directed by the Secretary General, it occupies a 
key position within the inter-American system and serves the entire 
organization and all member states.  The Secretary General and the 
Assistant Secretary General are elected by the General Assembly for 
five-year terms.  They can be re-elected once and cannot be succeeded by 
a person of the same nationality.

Senior secretariat officials appointed by the Secretary General include 
the executive secretaries of CIES, CIECC, and the drug abuse control 
commission (CICAD), the legal adviser, the assistant secretary for 
management, and the executive director of the human rights commission.  
Secretariat personnel conduct the activities of the democracy unit and 
serve as the staff for the commissions, councils, and other bodies.

The staff of the General Secretariat is composed of personnel chosen 
mainly from the member states, with consideration given to geographic 
representation.  Staff members, numbering about 700, are considered 
international civil servants.  The OAS Secretariat also maintains a 
small office in most member states.

The General Assembly is the supreme organ of the OAS.  It holds a 
regular session each year, either in one of the member states or at 
headquarters in Washington, DC.  In special circumstances, and with the 
approval of two-thirds of the member states, the Permanent Council can 
convoke a special session of the General Assembly.  Delegations are 
usually headed by foreign ministers.  In addition to deliberating on 
current issues, the General Assembly approves the program and budget; 
sets the bases for fixing member-state quota assessments; establishes 
measures for coordinating the activities of the organs, agencies, and 
entities of the OAS; and determines the general standards that govern 
the operation of the General Secretariat.  General Assembly decisions 
usually take the form of resolutions, which must be approved by a 
majority vote of all members (two-thirds for agenda, budget and certain 
other questions).

A consultation meeting of foreign ministers can be called by any member 
state, either "to consider problems of an urgent nature and of common 
interest to the American States" (OAS Charter) or to serve as an organ 
of consultation in cases of armed attack or  other threats to 
international peace and security (Rio Treaty).  In either case, the 
request must be directed to the Permanent Council of the OAS, which 
decides by absolute majority vote if the meeting is to be called.  In 
cases between member states, the affected parties are excluded from 
voting.  Should an armed attack take place within the territory of an 
American state or within the Western Hemisphere security zone defined by 
the Rio Treaty, a meeting of consultation is held without delay.  Until 
the ministers of foreign affairs can assemble, the Permanent Council is 
empowered to act as a provisional organ of consultation and make 

The Permanent Council, composed of ambassadors representing each member 
state, usually meets every two weeks throughout the year in Washington, 
DC.  The council, its four standing committees, and special working 
groups conduct the day-to-day business of the OAS, which involves 
implementing mandates from the General Assemblies, designing and 
assessing activities to promote democracy and strengthen human rights, 
considering requests from members, debating and approving resolutions on 
current issues, and dealing with reports from subsidiary organs.

In an emergency, a special session of the council can be called 
immediately by its chairman or at the request of any member.  The chair 
rotates every three months, in alphabetical order.  Unlike the UN 
Security Council, no member can exercise a veto in the Permanent 
Council.  Many OAS members place great importance upon obtaining 
consensus before decisions are made.  The Permanent Council also serves 
provisionally as the organ of consultation (for meetings of foreign 
ministers) and every year acts as the preparatory committee for the 
General Assembly.

The Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES)(1) founded in 
1945, is one of the permanent organs, under provisions of the 1948 
charter.  It promotes cooperation among the nations of the Americas in 
pursuit of rapid economic and social development.  CIES oversees 
technical assistance provided to member countries by the OAS 
Secretariat.  Its recent projects include improvement of development 
finance administration; trade development and facilitation; skills 
training; small business assistance; development of border regions and 
river basins; natural resource development and environmental management; 
and planning to mitigate damage caused by natural disasters.

CIES manages the OAS trade information service known as SICE, which 
makes trade information available in a coherent, easy-to-use data bank.  
Designed to promote economic growth through trade facilitation, SICE 
consists of 29 databases, which include current trade statistics, import 
tariffs, trade regulations, and lists of potential buyers and sellers.

The 1993 General Assembly, reflecting new economic and trade realities 
in the hemisphere, as well as the organization's increased membership, 
created a Special Committee on Trade to facilitate consultations on 
trade policy issues.  The committee, which serves as an informational 
forum and clearing house on trade liberalization and integration efforts 
in the hemisphere, held its first meeting in May 1994.  The United 
States is represented on the committee by Deputy U.S. Trade 
Representative Charlene Barshefsky.

The Inter-American Council for Education, Science, and Culture 
(CIECC)(1) was established by the resolution of Maracay in 1968 to 
advance regional integration and contribute to the development of the 
member countries.

(1)  1  When the Protocol of Managua charter amendments are ratified, 
the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES) and the Inter-
American Council for Education, Science, and Culture (CIECC) will be 
replaced by a single body, the new Inter-American Council for Integral 
Development.  This new council will have overall responsibility for 
coordinating all development assistance, a move expected to improve 
cooperation and to attract greater financial support from donor 
countries and international development institutions.

Starting in 1990, CIECC began to implement the new priority 
multinational projects in basic education, education for work, materials 
technology, biotechnology and food, environment and natural resources, 
micro-electronics and informatics, preservation and use of cultural 
heritage, and cultural policies.  Apart from the multinational aspect, 
these projects must have a strong training component and seek to build 
the infrastructure of the country.

CIECC manages an $8-million annual graduate fellowship program.  More 
than 80,000 students from the hemisphere have benefited from CIECC and 
related fellowship programs.  The program effectively has created a 
network of specialists working in government or cooperation agencies, as 
well as in private business.

Specialized Organizations And Other Entities

Much important inter-American business is conducted under separate 
entities, some of which are independent, some fully or partially funded 
by the OAS, and others consisting simply of periodic hemispheric 
meetings which receive support from the OAS Secretariat.  Subjects 
covered include agriculture, labor, copyrights, private international 
law, highways, ports and harbors, railways, telecommunications, health 
and sanitation, statistics, travel, child welfare, Indian affairs, and 
tourism.  The conferences are attended by high-level officials and 
technical experts to further inter-American cooperation in these fields.

The Inter-American Children's Institute (IACI), with headquarters in 
Montevideo, Uruguay, is concerned with the problems of mothers, 
adolescents and families, including growing numbers of "street 
children."  It serves as a center for social action and programs in the 
fields of health, education, social legislation, legislation on 
adoptions, social service, and statistics.  IACI has contributed 
extensively to international jurisprudence in the field of family law; 
the most recent example of this work is model legislation on 
international adoption.

The Inter-American Commission on Women (CIM), established in 1928, was 
the first international organization focusing on women's issues.  It 
works to extend the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural 
rights of women in the hemisphere.  Since its founding, women have 
gained full political rights in every member country.  Now concerned 
with women's integration into development and decisionmaking processes, 
recent CIM research and seminars have focused on women and politics 
(1988), women and employment (1989), and violence against women (1990).

The Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) was created during World War II 
to plan and coordinate collective hemispheric defense.  In 1993, it 
arranged for training by the U.S. Department of Defense of a team of 15 
de-mining instructors from Latin American nations, who, in turn, 
instructed members of the Nicaraguan military on techniques for removing 
thousands of landmines left in the countryside as a result of civil 
conflict during the 1980s.  In October 1994, the IADB began training 
programs in Honduras to extend de-mining there and in Costa Rica.

The Inter-American Defense College (IADC), supervised by the IADB, 
enhances military professionalism and promotes regional military 
cooperation.  The college usually trains about 60 students per year, 
most of whom are field-grade officers, who attain leadership positions 
in their respective services.

Other entities in the inter-American system are financed outside the OAS 
budget.  Except for the PADF, which relies heavily on private-sector 
contributions, and the IDB, which has significant financial support from 
non-hemispheric members, the U.S. quota assessment is, as for the OAS 
itself, roughly 60%.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the first of the regional 
development banks, was established in 1959 as a result of deliberations 
in the OAS to provide lending attuned to the development needs of Latin 
America and the Caribbean.  In addition to nations of the hemisphere, 15 
European nations plus Japan and Israel are now members, but only Latin 
American and Caribbean members are eligible borrowers.  The IDB's 
ordinary capital window provides development funds at market-related 
terms, while its Fund for Special Operations offers financing at 
concessional terms for projects in countries classified as economically 
less developed.

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), 
headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica, assists member states in 
promoting rural development to advance the well-being and progress of 
entire populations.  By strengthening national agricultural 
institutional systems, IICA supports efforts to increase agricultural 
productivity, employment opportunities in rural sectors, and rural 
participation in development activities.  IICA has an excellent record 
in preventing the spread of threatening animal and plant diseases and in 
helping members develop food production.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is also the Western 
Hemisphere arm of the UN World Health Organization (WHO).  It works 
closely with member countries to coordinate hemispheric efforts to 
combat disease and promote physical and mental health.  It has 
contributed significantly to eradicating communicable diseases and 
promoting improved sanitation and health conditions.

The Pan American Institute for Geography and History (PAIGH) encourages 
the coordination, standardization, and publication of regional 
geographic, historical, cartographic, and geophysical studies.  Member 
countries receive information and technical assistance to locate and 
develop their natural resources.  The PAIGH preserves and documents 
historical data through research and publication.  It also facilitates 
cooperative relationships between U.S. agencies and other countries in 
such vital areas as aviation safety.

The Inter-American Indian Institute (IAII), headquartered in Mexico 
City, initiates, coordinates, and directs research to promote better 
understanding of the health, education, and economic and social problems 
of Indian populations.  It provides technical assistance for programs of 
Indian community development, trains personnel in agriculture and 
marketing, and provides scientific information on Indians of the 
Americas.  It serves as an excellent vehicle for cooperation among 
countries of the hemisphere with substantial Indian populations.

The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) is a unique quasi-public 
international organization which, although it was created by the OAS, 
receives more than half its financial support from U.S. corporations and 
other private sources.  PADF has channeled more than $100 million into 
development projects that mobilize private sector support in recipient 
countries.  It also coordinates disaster relief.  The PADF qualifies for 
charitable donations under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code Section 


Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage