The Organization of American States (OAS) is the world's oldest regional organization, dating back to the First International Conference of American States, held in Washington. D.C., on April 14, 1890. This meeting approved the establishment of the International Union of American Republics. The Charter of the OAS was signed in Bogota in 1948 and entered into force on December 13, 1951. The Charter was subsequently amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires signed in 1967, which entered into force on February 27, 1970, and by the Protocol of Cartagena de Indias, signed in 1985, which entered into force on November 16, 1988. The OAS currently has 35 Member States. In addition, the Organization has granted Permanent Observer status to 25 States in Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as to the Holy See and the European Economic Community.
The basic purposes of the OAS are as follows: to strengthen the peace and security of the continent; to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of nonintervention; 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; to promote, by cooperative action, their economic, social and cultural development, and to achieve an effective limitation of conventional weapons that will make it possible to devote the largest amount of resources to the economic and social development of the Member States.
The OAS accomplishes its purposes through the following organs: the General Assembly; the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs; the 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; the Specialized Organizations and other entities established by the General Assembly.
The General Assembly holds regular sessions once a year. Under special circumstances it meets in special session. The Meeting of Consultation is convened to consider urgent matters of common interest and to serve as Organ of Consultation under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty), the main instrument for joint action in the event of aggression. The Permanent Council takes cognizance of such matters as are entrusted by the General Assembly or the Meeting of Consultation and implements the decisions of both organs when their implementation has not been assigned to any other body, it monitors the maintenance of friendly relations among the Member States and the observance of the standards governing General Secretariat operations and also acts provisionally as Organ of Consultation under the Rio Treaty. The purpose of the other two Councils is to promote cooperation among the Member States in their respective areas of competence. These Councils hold one annual meeting and meet in special sessions when convoked in accordance with the procedures provided for in the Charter. The General Secretariat is the central and permanent organ of the OAS. The headquarters of both the Permanent Council and the General Secretariat is in Washington, D.C.
MEMBER STATES: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, The Bahamas (Commonwealth of), Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica (Commonwealth of), Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, 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 and Venezuela.