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The Organization of American States

The purposes of the Organization of American States (OAS) are to strengthen the peace and security of the Hemisphere; to prevent possible causes of difficulties and to ensure the pacific settlement of disputes that may arise among the member states; to provide for common action on the part of those states in the event of aggression; to seek the solution of political, juridical, and economic problems that may arise among them; and to promote, by cooperative action, their economic, social, and cultural development.

To achieve these objectives, the OAS acts through the General Assembly; the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs; the three Councils (the Permanent Council, the Inter-American Economic and Social Council, and the Inter-American Council for Education, Science, and Culture); the Inter-American Juridical Committee; the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights; the General Secretariat; the Specialized Conferences; and the Specialized Organizations.

The General Assembly holds regular sessions once a year and special sessions when circumstances warrant. The Meeting of Consultation is convened to consider urgent matters of common interest and to serve as Organ of Consultation in the application of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (known as the Rio Treaty), which is the main instrument for joint action in the event of aggression. The Permanent Council takes cognizance of matters referred to it by the General Assembly or the Meeting of Consultation and carries out the decisions of both when their implementation has not been assigned to any other body; monitors the maintenance of friendly relations among the member states and the observance of the standards governing General Secretariat operations; and, in certain instances specified in the Charter of the Organization, acts provisionally as Organ of Consultation under the Rio Treaty. The other two Councils, each of which has a Permanent Executive Committee, organize inter-American action in their areas and hold regular meetings once a year. The General Secretariat is the central, permanent organ of the OAS. The headquarters of both the Permanent Council and the General Secretariat is in Washington, D.C.

The Organization of American States is the oldest regional society of nations in the world, dating back to the First International Conference of American States, held in Washington, D.C., which on April 14, 1890, established the International Union of American Republics. When the United Nations was established, the OAS joined it as a regional organization. The Charter governing the OAS was signed in Bogota in 1948 and amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires, which entered into force in February 1970. Today the OAS is made up of thirty-two member states.

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

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