U.S. Department of State 
Background Notes: Organization of American States, March 1998 
Released by the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs. 

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*, 
Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, 
Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, 
Peru, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the 
Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Uruguay, 
and Venezuela. 

*Cuba is a member, although its present government has been excluded 
from participation since 1962 for incompatibility with the principles of 
the OAS Charter. 

Permanent Observers: 43--Algeria, Angola, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and 
Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, 
Equatorial Guinea, European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, 
Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, 
Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Poland, 
Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sri Lanka, 
Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Yemen. 

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

Principal Organs: General Assembly; Meeting of Consultation of Foreign 
Ministers; Permanent Council; Inter-American Council for Integral 
Development (CIDI); 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 
Telecommunications Commission (CITEL); Inter-American Development Bank 
(IDB); the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). 

Budget (1998): Regular fund (operations): $80 million, financed mainly 
by assessed contributions from all members. The U.S. share is 59%. 
Voluntary funds: $11 million, financed by contributions from all member 
states (the U.S. provided $7 million), some permanent observers, 
international financial institutions, and development agencies. 


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 during the rest of that century. The first concrete step was 
taken in 1889, when the First International Conference of American 
States convened in Washington, DC. On April 14, 1890, delegates created 
the International Union of American Republics "for the prompt collection 
and distribution of commercial information." They 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 headquarters in Washington, DC, 
which is today the OAS building. 

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 extra-continental aggression. To meet 
the challenges of global conflict in the post-war 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 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 four times: by the 1967 Protocol 
of Buenos Aires, which went into effect in February 1970; by the 1985 
Protocol of Cartagena, which took effect in November 1988; by the 1993 
Protocol of Managua, which took effect in March 1996; and by the 1992 
Protocol of Washington, which took effect in September 1997. 

The Buenos Aires 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 to facilitate peaceful settlement of disputes; removed 
obstacles (involving border disputes) 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 Managua 
Protocol created the Inter-American Council for Integral Development 
(CIDI) to replace the Economic and Social Council and the Council for 
Education, Science, and Culture. The key objectives of CIDI are to serve 
as a forum for technical policy level discussions on matters related to 
development, to be a catalyst and promoter of development activities, 
and to strengthen a hemispheric partnership among OAS countries to 
promote cooperation for development and to help eliminate extreme 
poverty in the hemisphere. 

Ratification of the Washington Protocol made the OAS the first regional 
political organization to permit suspension of a member whose 
democratically constituted government is overthrown by force. This 
protocol also amended the Charter to include the eradication of extreme 
poverty as one of the organization's essential purposes.

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

The OAS helps preserve democracy by mobilizing the hemisphere in the 
face of threats to democratic rule. It acted under the mandate of 
General Assembly Resolution 1080 (1991) to support democracy in Haiti, 
Peru, Guatemala, and Paraguay. It also provides development and other 
assistance designed to strengthen democratic institutions, observe 
elections, promote human rights, increase trade, fight drugs, and 
protect the environment. 

In recent years, OAS member states successfully negotiated major 
international agreements to curb hemispheric arms trafficking, combat 
corruption, fight narcotics and money laundering, and define fair 
telecommunications standards. OAS contributions in the fields of 
international law, juridical cooperation, 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. 

The OAS is implementing important portions of the Plan of Action from 
the 1994 Miami Summit of the Americas and the 1996 Bolivia Summit on 
Sustainable Development, and is expected to play a similar role after 
the April 1998 Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile. That summit is 
also likely to assign the OAS a role in the summit management process. 


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 Secretary of State 
Madeleine K. Albright told the OAS Conference on the Americas in 
Washington on March 5, 1998: 

"The OAS is a living example of the determination and foresight of our 
predecessors . . . . For as the embodiment of the inter-American system, 
the OAS will take the lead in much of what the hemisphere's leaders 
decide. As the OAS host country, the United States is committed to its 
future. We want to work with you to enhance its role as the deliberative 
and normative forum for the hemisphere."

The OAS is the premier multilateral forum for dealing with political 
issues in the Western Hemisphere. Participation in the organization 
enables the United States to rally international support for key U.S. 
political objectives. In addition to its work to strengthen and promote 
democracy and respect for human rights, the OAS provides valuable 
support on two highly important issues: trade and drugs. The OAS has 
refocused its trade efforts to promote free trade and economic 
integration. Its Trade Unit provides valuable technical support to the 
working groups dealing with the issues involved in the creation of a 
hemispheric free trade area, to which OAS governments committed 
themselves at the 1994 Miami Summit of the Americas. In 1996, the OAS 
produced a counternarcotics strategy that will guide collective actions 
into the 21st century. The OAS has also produced internationally 
acclaimed model legislation on precursor chemicals and money laundering 
control. In 1997, the OAS drafted and approved the world's first 
convention to regulate the international trade in firearms and prevent 
their diversion into criminal hands.

The OAS has successfully adopted reforms, both by significant staff cuts 
and by restructuring the Secretariat to deal with the hemisphere's new 
priorities. It has implemented the recommendations of an outside audit 
of positions, resulting in downgrades of nearly one-half the work force. 
The OAS has decreased its staff by 20% since 1995 and maintained a no-
growth budget for four straight years. Despite these constraints, the 
OAS has augmented programs supporting priority interests of the 
hemisphere, such as democracy, human rights, trade and the environment, 
by reducing or eliminating programs of lower priority. More reforms are 
envisioned in the areas of personnel evaluation, budgetary priorities, 
financial management, and conference capabilities. 


Secretary General--Cesar Gaviria Trujillo (Colombia), elected to a five-
year term in 1994.
Assistant Secretary General--Christopher R. Thomas (Trinidad and 
Tobago), elected to a second five-year term in 1995.
Address--Organization of American States 
17th St. and Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20006 
(tel. 202-458-3000).
Internet:  http://www.oas.org
OAS Foreign Trade Information System: http://www.sice.oas.org

U.S. Permanent Representative to the OAS--Ambassador Victor Marrero, 
sworn in January 5, 1998.
Address--U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS
ARA/USOAS, Rm. 6494
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520 
(tel. 202-647-9376). 


The promotion of peace and democracy are core OAS concerns. The OAS Unit 
for Promotion of Democracy (UPD) is entirely dedicated to building, 
strengthening, and preserving democracy. Charter amendments and 
Resolution 1080 also enable the OAS to help preserve democracy by 
mobilizing the hemisphere in the face of threats to democratic rule in a 
member state. 

The 1991 OAS General Assembly created an unprecedented automatic 
mechanism, known as Resolution 1080, to deter illegal action against 
democratically elected governments. This resolution requires 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. 

Resolution 1080 has been used four times: Following the coup in Haiti in 
1991, the "auto-coups" in Peru in 1992 and Guatemala in 1993, and the 
threat to the government of Paraguay in 1996. U.S. Deputy Secretary of 
State Talbott told the June 1996 OAS General Assembly in Panama that 
"this organization has moved decisively to defend democracy when it was 
in peril. In all four cases. . .the long-term benefits for the entire 
hemisphere are already apparent." 

In Haiti, the OAS was deeply engaged in seeking a peaceful solution to 
the crisis caused by the September 30, 1991 coup that sent President 
Aristide into exile. OAS foreign ministers met in October 1991 and 
called for political and economic isolation of the de facto regime. The 
OAS and UN created a joint International Civilian Mission (ICM) to 
monitor the human rights situation. 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 led the way in calling for suspension 
of air transportation links to the island nation. The ICM provided on-
site reports about human rights abuses, and after the restoration of 
President Aristide's government, continued its work to promote respect 
for human rights and to further democracy in that 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." The hemisphere's foreign ministers met on April 13, called for the 
reestablishment of democratic institutional order in Peru, and asked the 
Secretary General to head a small mission of foreign ministers to Peru 
to bring about a dialogue between the government and other political 

In May 1992, President Fujimori traveled to Nassau, Bahamas, to attend 
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. OAS foreign ministers 
closed their meeting on Peru in December 1992, in view of expected 
continued OAS assistance to modernize electoral procedures in Peru. 

In the third use of Resolution 1080, OAS foreign ministers met in 
Washington on June 3, 1993, in response to then-President Serrano's May 
25 suspension of constitutional democracy in Guatemala. They condemned 
Serrano's actions, called for the immediate reestablishment of 
constitutional democracy in Guatemala and sent then-Secretary General 
Baena Soares to Guatemala. The ministers reconvened in Managua on June 7 
to consider what further action to take. Baena Soares was able to report 
the Guatemalan Congress's constitutional election of Ramiro de Leon 
Carpio as President, replacing Serrano. President de Leon flew to 
Managua to express appreciation to the General Assembly for the 
forthright OAS action that had been a major factor in bringing about the 
prompt restoration of constitutional democracy in Guatemala. 

In April 1996, Paraguayan Army Commander General Oviedo attempted to 
force President Wasmosy to resign. In the face of this threat to 
democracy, the OAS Permanent Council met and called for a meeting under 
Resolution 1080. Secretary General Gaviria travelled to Paraguay to 
express support for President Wasmosy, who also received significant 
international support, including a call from President Clinton. 
President Wasmosy's decision not to give in to Oviedo's demands 
attracted widespread support from the Paraguayan people and the entire 
hemisphere, and preserved democracy in that nation. In view of the 
successful resolution of the situation, a meeting of foreign ministers 
was never held on this issue. 

The OAS is 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. The OAS, in addition, has the institutional capacity to organize 
larger electoral missions and keep observers on the ground longer than 
other organizations. 

The 1990 Nicaraguan elections were the first observed by the OAS 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 previously 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--pointed to a need to institutionalize OAS 
support for democracy. 

The OAS established the Unit for Promotion of Democracy in 1991. In 
addition to overseeing the organization's electoral missions, the UPD 
also administers small country programs to improve democratic 
institutions and processes in response to requests from more than a 
dozen member states. These programs seek to improve democratic 
governance, for example, by facilitating the dissemination and exchange 
of knowledge about democratic values and political systems and the 
exchange of experiences among institutions and experts on themes related 
to the promotion of democracy. The UPD has also begun projects to foster 
national reconciliation in states experiencing internal conflict. 


Peaceful settlement of disputes is a basic objective of the OAS. The OAS 
created a Committee on Hemispheric Security in 1993 and made it a 
permanent body in 1995. The OAS has also organized and sponsored 
conferences on confidence and security building measures, designed to 
strengthen military-to-military relations, decrease historic rivalries 
and tensions, and create an environment allowing democratic governments 
to maintain and modernize defense forces without triggering suspicions 
from their neighbors or leading to an arms race. These meetings were 
held in Santiago, Chile, in 1995 and San Salvador, El Salvador, in 
February 1998. 

Under the auspices of the OAS, member states met in Lima, Peru, in 1996 
in the largest gathering of countries to discuss counterterrorism. The 
meeting approved an action plan listing practical steps members should 
take to combat terrorism. The states also endorsed the characterization 
of terrorist acts, regardless of motivation, as criminal rather than 
political crimes.

During 1997, in an effort to hinder the activities of terrorists, 
criminals, narcotics traffickers, and other violent groups, OAS members 
negotiated an Inter-American Convention against the Illicit Manufacture 
of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other 
Related Materials. At the signing ceremony November 14, 1997, President 
Clinton hailed this agreement as underscoring "the new dynamism" of the 
OAS, saying that:

"Our hemisphere is setting a new standard for the world in taking on 
global challenges--last year, with our pathbreaking convention against 
corruption, today with this arms trafficking agreement. Together, we're 
showing the way of the 21st century world: democratic partners working 
together to improve the prosperity and security of all their people."

In border conflict situations, the existence of the OAS and the 
possibility it might take action tend to have a chilling effect on any 
unilateral resort to force. For example, 

-- 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 action to resolve conflicts took several 

-- In 1964, in response to 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 
peacekeeping role, creating an Inter-American peacekeeping 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, the OAS called for 
replacement of the Somoza regime by a democratic government. 

More recently, the OAS has been involved in conflict resolution and 
national reconciliation activities, such as the following:

Nicaragua. OAS election monitoring in Nicaragua contributed decisively 
to the fairness of the February 25, 1990 elections. The presence of 
impartial OAS observers throughout the registration and balloting gave 
voters confidence and assured that the results would be respected. The 
OAS also monitored the 1996 elections which saw a successful transition 
from one elected president to the next. 

During the 1989-90 election process, the OAS and the UN set up the joint 
verification and support commission (CIAV) called for by the Central 
American presidents to verify compliance with the Central American peace 
accords. Under CIAV auspices, the OAS 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 and 
expanded its mandate to include all 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. At the request of the newly-elected 
government, CIAV has been extended through mid-1997. 

Suriname. 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. 

Haiti. A February 23, 1992, agreement signed in Washington 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 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 the OAS and the UN, 
attained agreement for a joint OAS/UN International Civilian Mission 
(ICM). In 1993-94, 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, and 
also carried out civic education programs. Their very presence had the 
effect of easing tensions, particularly in rural areas. While continuing 
to monitor the human rights situation, the ICM and the OAS are 
supporting a number of initiatives to strengthen democratic institutions 
and promote development. The OAS also observed the 1995 elections in 
Haiti, the first time in that country's history that one elected 
president succeeded another. 


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, but has not yet ratified it. 

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 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. From 1990-94, its special on-site reports 
on Haiti kept the international spotlight focused on the dire human 
rights situation there and were praised by local Haitian NGO's. The 
IACHR played a key role in the 1989 release of almost 2,000 political 
prisoners held by the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. In 1997, the OAS 
and member states began an evaluation of the inter-American human rights 
system to determine how best to further strengthen it. 

As of early 1998, the IACHR's membership is: Chairman: Carlos Ayala 
Corao (Venezuela); Sir Henry Forde (Barbados); Helio Bicudo (Brazil); 
Claudio Grossman (Chile); Alvaro Tirado Mejia (Colombia); Jean Joseph 
Exume (Haiti); and Robert Goldman (U.S.). 


The 1994 Miami Summit of the Americas plan of action charged the OAS 
with finding a hemispheric approach to fight corruption. The Inter-
American Convention Against Corruption, negotiated under OAS auspices 
during 1995-96, is the world's first treaty instrument to address this 
scourge. On March 29, 1996, 21 nations signed it at the conclusion of 
negotiations in Caracas. The U.S. and Guatemala signed the Convention at 
the June 1996 OAS General Assembly in Panama, bringing to 23 the total 
number of signatories.

The Convention entered into force for Paraguay and Bolivia on March 6, 
1997, when they became the first countries to deposit their instruments 
of ratification. It subsequently came into force for six other countries 
that ratified it; the U.S. is engaged in the ratification process. The 
OAS Permanent Council's Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs is 
concentrating on follow-up and implementation of the Convention. In 
addition, the OAS's Inter-American Juridical Committee is drafting model 
legislation on illicit enrichment and transnational bribery. As a result 
of its ground-breaking efforts on corruption and subsequent experience, 
the OAS now participates as an observer in the OECD bribery working 


The OAS narcotics program was launched at the Inter-American Specialized 
Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs in April 1986--the first Western 
Hemisphere meeting to deal with all aspects of the drug problem. 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 
31 because of growing interest in the program and concern about the drug 
problem. The first projects were implemented in 1988. 

The program has identified five priority lines of action: development of 
domestic and international law, establishment of an inter-American drug 
information system, demand reduction, alternative development, and 
strengthening national drug commissions. 

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 conducted training programs to 
help governments adopt and implement these regulations as well as the 
1990 regulations on precursor chemicals, resulting in stronger laws and 
improved enforcement in both areas. 

-- 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 narcotics traffickers. 

-- In 1996, CICAD served as the forum successfully to negotiate a 
Hemisphere Anti-Drug Strategy, as called for by the 1994 Summit of the 

-- A group of experts is developing a mechanism to evaluate 
implementation of the decisions taken by a ministerial meeting in Buenos 
Aires in December 1995 to improve banking and other controls in the 
fight against money laundering. 

-- In November 1997, CICAD approved model regulations to control the 
diversion of firearms, explosives, and ammunition into criminal hands, 
which were negotiated by a group of experts under CICAD auspices. 

-- In late 1997 and early 1998, CICAD held informal consultations on the 
U.S. proposal to establish a multilateral mechanism for monitoring and 
evaluating national counternarcotics programs.


The Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) was created 
in 1996 when the Protocol of Managua charter amendments entered into 
force. CIDI is responsible for coordinating OAS development and 
technical cooperation activities in a partnership intended to attract 
financial support from donor countries, international development 
institutions, and other sources. The Special Committee on Trade (SCT), 
the Sustainable Development Committee (CIDS), the Social Development 
Committee, the Permanent Executive Committee, and their subgroups 
provide guidance and evaluation to the OAS secretariat on relevant 
policies, projects, and other activities.

In 1997, CIDI negotiated and approved the new OAS Strategic Plan for 
Partnership for Development for the years 1997-2000. To address CIDI's 
priorities, this plan identified guidelines for action in the areas of 
social development and the creation of productive employment; education; 
economic diversification and integration, trade liberalization and 
market access; scientific development, exchange and transfer of 
technology; strengthening democratic institutions; sustainable 
development of tourism; sustainable development and the environment; and 
culture. In 1997, CIDI approved an inter-American program to combat 
poverty and discrimination, and an inter-American program for 
sustainable development. New programs expected to be approved in 1998 
include those for sustainable development of tourism and culture. CIDI 
also established a special multilateral fund to contribute to the 
financing of national and multilateral cooperation programs, projects 
and activities carried out under the Strategic Plan. It also established 
criteria for eligibility and evaluation of CIDI's partnership for 
development activities.

In November 1997, the U.S. announced that $2.1 million pledged to CIDI 
for "institutional strengthening" will be directed to advancing CIDI's 
development partnership approach by support for four innovative concepts 
expressed in CIDI's Strategic Plan. The U.S. funds will be used to help 
CIDI promote the involvement of the private sector in its development 
partnership; to develop partnerships with foundations and academic 
institutions; to reform the OAS fellowship system; to apply new 
communication and data processing technologies to cooperation 
activities; and to develop support systems for cooperative research and 

CIDI replaced the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES) and 
the Inter-American Council for Education, Science, and Culture (CIECC). 
For 50 years, CIES promoted cooperation among the nations of the 
Americas in pursuit of economic and social development, especially 
during the period of the Alliance for Progress. CIECC implemented 
multinational projects in education; materials technology, 
biotechnology, and food; environment and natural resources; and managed 
an $8-million annual graduate fellowship program. More than 80,000 
students from the hemisphere have benefited from OAS fellowship 
programs, resulting in a network of specialists working in government 
entities, cooperation agencies, and private business.

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. 

For 25 years, the OAS has 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 organization to 
serve as an executing agency for their environmental projects. The 
General Assembly approved the first hemispheric program of action for 
environmental protection in 1991. It provides a non-binding framework 
that identifies objectives and recommends specific measures to member 
states for regional cooperation. 

The biggest boost for the OAS' environmental efforts came at the 1996 
Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development, held in Santa Cruz, 
Bolivia. At that summit, OAS members adopted the Declaration of Santa 
Cruz and Plan of Action, and gave the OAS a strong mandate to coordinate 
follow-up to those decisions. In March 1997, the OAS Sustainable 
Development Committee met for the first time and adopted an Inter-
American Program on Sustainable Development, which outlines actions the 
organization will carry out to give effect to its mandate from the 
Bolivia Summit. Under the Plan of Action, the OAS is engaged in 
developing an Inter-American Strategy for Public Participation in 
Sustainable Development Decision-making. This project will propose and 
test ways that governments and civil society organizations can work 
together to further sustainable development. 

The OAS trade unit, which works under the auspices of CIDI, provides 
technical support to several working groups created by the Miami Summit 
process to deal with issues involved in the creation of a Free Trade 
Area in the Americas. 

The trade unit also manages a 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. SICE's internet address is: http://www/sice.oas.org.


The General Secretariat is the permanent and central organ of the OAS, 
executing programs and policies decided upon by the General Assembly and 
the two 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 reelected once and cannot be succeeded by a 
person of the same nationality. 

Senior secretariat officials appointed by the Secretary General include 
the assistant secretaries for legal affairs and management, the 
executive secretaries of the development council (CIDI) and the drug 
abuse control commission (CICAD), the directors of the unit for the 
promotion of democracy and the trade unit, and the executive director of 
the human rights commission. Secretariat personnel conduct the 
activities of all the OAS units 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 575, are considered 
international civil servants. The OAS Secretariat also maintains a small 
office in many 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-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 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" (as stated in the OAS Charter) or to 
serve as an organ of consultation in cases of armed attack or other 
threats to international peace and security (per the 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 decisions. 

The Permanent Council, composed of ambassadors representing each member 
state, usually meets every two weeks throughout the year in Washington, 
DC. The council, its 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. OAS members place great importance on 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 Council for Integral Development meets annually at 
the ministerial level; its subsidiary entities meet more frequently. 
Consistent with its Strategic Plan, CIDI is implementing development-
related mandates assigned to the OAS by the summits of the Americas. 
CIDI also convokes ministerial-level sectoral meetings to consider 
specialized issues in the priority areas of the Strategic Plan.


Much important inter-American business is conducted by 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. Now concerned with women's 
integration into development and decision-making processes, CIM research 
and seminars have focused on women and politics, women and employment, 
and violence against women. The Inter-American Convention on the 
Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women 
(Convention of Belem do Para) was drafted under the auspices of the CIM. 
It was opened for signature at the OAS General Assembly in 1994 and has 
been signed by 28 OAS members. 

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 
demining instructors from Latin American nations, who, in turn, 
instructed members of the Nicaraguan military on techniques for removing 
thousands of land mines left in the countryside as a result of civil 
conflict during the 1980s. In 1995 and 1996, the IADB demining programs 
were extended to Honduras and Costa Rica; in 1997 demining began in 
Guatemala. The IADB's internet address is: 

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 Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), which 
relies heavily on private-sector contributions and a small subsidy from 
the OAS, and the IDB, which has significant financial support from non-
hemispheric members, the U.S. quota assessment for these entities is, as 
for the OAS itself, roughly 59%. 

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the first of the regional 
development banks, was established in 1959 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 bank's internet address is: 

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), 
headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica, assists member states in 
promoting agricultural health, strengthening national agricultural 
institutional systems, and eliminating barriers to trade in agricultural 
commodities. IICA supports efforts to increase agricultural 
productivity, employment opportunities in rural sectors, and rural 
participation in development activities. IICA also has an excellent 
record in preventing the spread of threatening animal and plant diseases 
and in helping members develop sustainable methods of food production. 

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is the Western Hemisphere 
arm of the UN World Health Organization (WHO). It coordinates 
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. PAHO's 
internet address is: http://www.paho.org.

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 Indian 
community development, trains personnel in agriculture and marketing, 
and provides scientific information on Indians of the Americas. 

The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) is a quasi-public 
international organization which, although 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 


Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by 
the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of 
official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact 
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. 
Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or 
fax (202) 512-2250. 

National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information, 
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet 
(www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-
1986 for more information.


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