At its First Regular Meeting in April 1971 the OAS General Assembly recognized the interest of some states that were not members of the Organization in following its activities and attending its meetings and decided to establish the status of Permanent Observer (AG/RES. 50 (I/71). This status is unique to the OAS and provides a way for non-Member States to keep up with OAS activities and provide cooperation for its development programs. The Permanent Council was given the responsibility of determining the criteria for Permanent Observer status and implementing it. It accomplished this by approving, in January 1972, the procedures for granting Permanent Observer status contained in Resolution CP/RES. 52 (61/72). The 1972 procedures were later revised in June 1984 (CP/RES. 407 (573/84).
In accordance with the respective Rules of Procedure, Permanent Observers may attend the public meetings of the General Assembly and the Permanent Council and of their principal committees and, when invited by the corresponding presiding officer, the closed meetings of those bodies. They may also speak at meetings provided that the corresponding presiding officer so decides. Permanent Observers also receive the documents and publications of the Organization and are invited to attend specialized conferences and other meetings convoked by the OAS. The Permanent Observers provide cooperation, in the form of training opportunities, expert services, equipment, and cash contributions for various OAS programs.
To date, 67 states and the European Union have been granted the status of Permanent Observer to the OAS.
The Department of International Affairs (DIA) handles the day-to-day business associated with the Permanent Observer countries, whose interest and participation in the Organization's activities is growing. Informative meetings, sharing of documents and information and special events help promote these countries' active involvement and collaboration in General Secretariat activities.
At the present time, the OAS has 68 permanent observers. The list of Permanent Observers is as follows: Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Benin, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Vanuatu and Yemen.