The Department of International Affairs (DIA) of the Secretariat for External Relations (SER) is responsible for advising the Secretary General on all matters relating to civil society and developing and executing activities and strategies designed to promote and broaden the participation of civil society organizations (CSOs) in activities related to the OAS.
DIA also directs and coordinates activities in this area with all the dependencies of the General Secretariat in their efforts to encourage civil society to take part in the Organization’s activities; provides secretariat services and technical support to the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities (CISC) of the Permanent Council in all matters related to civil society participation; and coordinates the Registry of CSOs in the OAS.
Since 1999, the Organization of American States (OAS) has created spaces for the participation of civil society organizations (CSOs) in its activities. Resolution CP/RES. 759, “Guidelines for the Participation of Civil Society Organizations in OAS Activities,” institutionalizes and provides a framework for civil society participation in the political bodies of the OAS.
Article 6 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter states that “it is the right and responsibility of all citizens to participate in decisions relating to their own development. This is also a necessary condition for the full and effective exercise of democracy. Promoting and fostering diverse forms of participation strengthens democracy.” Likewise, Article 26 explains that “the OAS will continue to carry out programs and activities designed to promote democratic principles and practices and strengthen a democratic culture in the Hemisphere, bearing in mind that democracy is a way of life based on liberty and enhancement of economic, social, and cultural conditions for the peoples of the Americas. The OAS will consult and cooperate on an ongoing basis with member states and take into account the contributions of civil society organizations working in those fields.”
The presence of civil society participation since 1999, including local groups and broad networks of NGOs and social actors, has contributed to reaching the hemispheric goals of strengthening democracy, protecting human rights, and promoting integral development and multidimensional security as well as other initiatives under way in the OAS that are a part of the inter-American agenda.
Mutual confidence and understanding has grown between CSOs and the OAS over the years, which are reflected in an increase in the number and level of involvement of CSOs in OAS initiatives, projects, and activities. To date, 424 CSOs have registered with the OAS and nearly 600 cooperation agreements have been established with civil society.