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Development of Private International Law

Private international law has long been the instrument that has regulated the relations among our societies, facilitating the movement of persons, exchanges of goods and services, fostering integration, and combating illegal cross-border activities. The process of codification of private international law in the inter-American context has been one of the ongoing legal activities of the American states since the closing decades of the 1800s. This work has taken different institutional forms and is currently being carried out as a legal process through the Specialized Conferences on Private International Law (CIDIPs).

When the first CIDIP was held in 1975, the OAS set out upon a familiar road upon which it first embarked toward the end of the 19th century. The adoption of the first Treaties of Montevideo in 1889 and of the Bustamante Code in 1928 laid the groundwork for the establishment of private international law in this Hemisphere.

Since the start of work on the codification of private international law, two different approaches have been taken. The first involved a global approach that envisaged a single body of rules including all the rules of this discipline, while the other approach envisaged a process that was more gradual and progressive, involving the drafting of specific international instruments in discrete areas of the law.

The approach of drafting a single code was the prevailing one during the Congress of Lima in 1877 and culminated in the adoption of a single code of international law, the Bustamante Code, at the Sixth International Conference of American States in Havana in 1928.

In the period immediately following the establishment of the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Juridical Committee made new efforts to codify all the different areas of private international law. To that end, the Committee proposed to review the Bustamante Code to determine whether it was possible to merge its provisions with those of the Montevideo treaties of 1889 and 1939-1940, in light of the U.S. Restatement of the Law of the Conflict of Laws for private international law.

As a result of this effort, the Inter-American Juridical Committee prepared a draft code, which was not supported by the Member States of the Organization. This led to the abandonment of the global approach to codification of this legal discipline and the beginning of the second stage, in which sectoral codification of private international law predominated.

Thus, in 1971, the mechanisms previously used in the treatment of private international law in the American context were replaced by the Specialized Conferences, or CIDIPs, with which we are familiar today. The Charter of the OAS describes Specialized Conferences as “intergovernmental meetings to deal with special technical matters or to develop specific aspects of inter-American cooperation”[1]/  

[1]. Charter of the Organization of American States, Article 122.


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