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Permanent Observers and the OAS: Shared Values, Joint Progress
  • 71 countries, 87 programs, and 45 years capture the commitment that Permanent Observers have shown to the OAS, its member countries and the values they all share.

  • The relationship between the OAS and the Permanent Observers is based on the premise that in transnational and cross-cutting issues, concerted action and inter-regional cooperation are the path to effectiveness.

“The willingness of the 72 Permanent Observers to the OAS to incorporate themselves more and more into the activities and projects of the Organization constitutes a palpable recognition of the relevance of our region in the global scenario. Our alliance with the Observers has not only brought greater economic opportunities, rights and democracy to our populations, but has also helped to strengthen relations between Member States and the Observers. ”

Secretary General Luis Almagro during the OAS General Assembly June 19, 2017

In 1971, the OAS General Assembly approved the resolution that led to the creation of permanent observer status, that has since has allowed countries outside the region to participate, contribute to and reinforce the principles, objectives and programs of the Organization. At that time, a universe of opportunities for cooperation was opened, one that would not only cross borders, but also oceans and cultures.

Today, OAS observer countries include Spain, France and Italy, nations with strong and historic ties with the region; but also others traditionally less associated with the Americas such as Azerbaijan, Benin, Iceland, Latvia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka and Yemen. All of them share the characteristics of having strengthened ties with the Americas through the OAS.

Spain was the first country that in 1972 obtained the status of observer and the first to have a permanent representation with an Ambassador. Then, that same year, Israel, Holland, Italy, France, Germany and Belgium followed suit. In the following 44 years, another 64 countries joined with the same spirit, have participated and supported the work of the Organization, and have been able to broaden the impact of their international cooperation.


A mutually beneficial relationship

Permanent Observers are key partners in carrying out the OAS mission, providing support to programs and connecting the Americas with the global community. Through their participation in the OAS, the observers promote the Organization's efforts to strengthen democracy, defend human rights, ensure a multidimensional approach to security and promote integral development.

From support for cybersecurity and civil registry initiatives to disaster assistance programs and missions for the promotion of peace and the fight against corruption, observer countries have provided essential support to achieve the main objectives set by the member countries of the regional Organization. Thus, between 2015 and 2016, the observers’ contributions to OAS programs totaled more than 31 million dollars, which demonstrates the value and trust they place in it as a partner in the search for solutions to face the more pressing challenges not only at the regional, but also at the global level.

But the cooperation between the OAS and its Permanent Observers goes beyond financial contributions dedicated to specific projects and priority areas; it also includes technical assistance, academic scholarships, professional training opportunities and the exchange of best practices and experiences from country to country, field visits and training for officials of the member states, among other activities.

Fruits of OAS-Observer cooperation are evident in programs and initiatives that have had concrete results and a direct impact on the lives of millions of inhabitants of the hemisphere. Examples include:

  • The creation of the Mission to Support the Fight against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH) in 2016, which has contributed to improve the quality of the services provided by the justice system and the prevention of corruption and impunity.
  • Progress in the promotion of mutual confidence measures in the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala.
  • The Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia (MAPP) that has monitored, accompanied and verified the process since 2004.
  • Since 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has been able to process 52,013 documents and has received 1,089 new petitions thanks to the implementation of an individual electronic petitions system.
  • The creation of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights.
  • Strengthening the Universal Civil Identity Program in the Americas (PUICA) through projects that have been implemented in 19 member countries and that have helped expand the coverage of birth registrations, which has contributed to broaden registration of minors contributing to reducing rates of under-registration rates from 11% in 2008 to 6% in 2016.
  • The strengthening of the Inter-American Labor Administration Network (RIAL) that promotes decent, dignified and productive work by training more than 1,000 public servants, and that has 140 cooperation programs related to labor issues.
  • The program of judicial facilitators that is currently implemented in 8 countries where 12,541 facilitators offer guidance and collaboration with the authorities to resolve judicial issues at the local level.
  • The creation of the Asset Recovery Network in the Caribbean that facilitates the identification, freezing and confiscation of assets.
  • The development of 6 national cybersecurity strategies in the region and the expansion to 21 countries in the region that have government-led Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT).
  • Creation of the Inter-American Teacher Education Network, which has collaborated with 17 Ministries to promote professional education for teachers, reaching out to more than 23,000 educators.

“The inter-American system is a unique system, an example for the whole world. Although we are a geographically remote country, the Republic of Serbia respects the fundamental principles and shares the values on which the OAS was founded, including, respect for international law, peaceful coexistence, the sovereignty of States, democracy, human rights, cooperation and solidarity.”

Political Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of Delegation of Serbia
Ambassador Zoran Vujić

On the other hand, the observer status allows countries outside the hemisphere to access a diverse multilateral diplomatic forum in which they contribute to the rich dialogue on international issues. In an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world, working with observers allows the Organization to foster and chart a new era of collaboration for peace, security and development in the Americas.

Every year, the OAS General Assembly offers a platform for dialogue between member countries and observer countries. In the context of this hemispheric meeting, authorities of the observer countries present their visions and priorities of what cooperation with the OAS means to them and how they hope to continue strengthening their work with the Organization.

As the interest of physically distant nations to get closer to the Americas through a partner such as the OAS grows year-to-year, it becomes clearer that the ties of cooperation that unite the hemisphere with the rest of the world are precisely those in which the OAS has put forth its effort: to promote development, peace, prosperity and equal rights for all. The vote of confidence that 72 nations have placed in the work of the Organization brings with it a very high commitment, one that is understood and valued beyond what we understand today as frontiers marked by the Pacific and the Atlantic and that gives a renewed meaning to the word "association."

Reference: E-097/18