CP/RES. 759 (1217/99) corr.1
15 December 1999
CP/RES. 759 (1217/99)
GUIDELINES FOR THE PARTICIPATION OF
CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS IN OAS ACTIVITIES
THE PERMANENT COUNCIL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN
HAVING SEEN the report by the Chair of the Committee on Civil Society
Participation in OAS Activities and having studied the document prepared
by that Committee, “Guidelines for the Participation of Civil Society
Organizations in OAS Activities” (CP/CSC-4/99 rev. 7); and
BEARING IN MIND:
General Assembly resolution “The Organization of American States and
Civil Society” [AG/RES. 1661 (XXIX-O/99)] containing the mandate for the
Permanent Council to prepare guidelines for civil society participation
in OAS activities and to adopt them before December 31, 1999;
The standards on cooperative relations between the Organization of
American States and the United Nations, UN specialized agencies, and
other national and international agencies contained in resolution
AG/RES. 57 (I-O/71) and resolution CP/RES. 704 (1129/97) on the legal
status of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the Organization;
The General Assembly’s recognition of the significant contribution of
civil society organizations to activities of the OAS and its organs and
The work carried out since 1995 by the Permanent Council and its
subsidiary bodies to increase the degree to which appropriate
nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations might
become more closely involved in, and contribute to, the activities of
the Organization, as well as its examination of ways to implement the
tasks entrusted to the OAS in the Santiago Plan of Action with respect
to civil society,
1. To adopt the attached Guidelines on Participation by Civil Society
Organizations in OAS Activities, which will supplement existing
provisions in the Organization, will contribute to its modernization,
and ensure the enhancement of relations between it and civil society.
2. To instruct the Secretary General to take the necessary measures
to enable the implementation of these Guidelines and to report thereon
to the Permanent Council prior to the thirtieth regular session of the
3. To encourage member states to disseminate information on these
Guidelines among civil society organizations in their respective
4. To congratulate the Committee on Civil Society Participation in
OAS Activities for the efficient way in which it has complied with the
General Assembly mandate in the preparation of the above-mentioned
5. To report to the General Assembly at its thirtieth regular session
on the implementation of resolution AG/RES. 1661 (XXIX-O/99).
GUIDELINES FOR PARTICIPATION BY CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS IN OAS
The Organization of American States (OAS) has taken a special
interest in potential contributions by civil society organizations to
the activities of its organs, agencies, and entities. For that reason,
the OAS Charter assigned the handling of possible special agreements or
arrangements between the Organization "and other American agencies of
recognized international standing" to the Permanent Council in 1948.
Over the past 50 years, the various organs, agencies, and entities of
the OAS have developed, in the context of their institutional aims,
various kinds of relationships with national and international
institutions. This wealth of experience, which has given rise to some
outstanding innovations in the arena of intergovernmental agencies, has
also revealed the need to channel the contributions of those
institutions and organizations by developing appropriate regulations.
That is why the General Assembly–which in 1971 had already adopted
provisions to govern cooperative relations between the OAS and "other
international and national organizations"–came to adopt resolutions to
complement the pertinent articles of the OAS Charter. The importance of
such cooperation was firmly established at the 1994 Summit of the
Americas in its declaration emphasizing the importance of civil society
organizations in enhancing and preserving democratic institutions. At
the Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development, held in Bolivia
in December 1996, various civil society institutions contributed
experience that enriched the Plan of Action of Santa Cruz de la Sierra.
The Plan of Action of the Second Summit of the Americas, held in 1998,
indicates that the OAS could serve as a forum for the exchange of
experience and information in connection with civil society
organizations, and entrusts the OAS with promoting suitable programs to
foster increased civil society participation in public affairs.
Thus began the second phase in the development of regulations and
mechanisms for channeling the contributions of civil society
organizations–an effort spearheaded by the OAS Permanent Council. The
Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs conducted an exhaustive
study of the subject and, in 1998, prepared a report on the legal status
of nongovernmental organizations at the OAS. For its part, the Special
Joint Working Group of the Permanent Council and the Inter-American
Council for Integral Development on the Strengthening and Modernization
of the OAS contributed to the development of guidelines for civil
society participation in OAS activities.
For its part, in 1998 the General Assembly instructed the Permanent
Council to study means of increasing the level of participation by civil
society organizations in OAS activities and ways to implement the
Santiago Plan of Action's mandates to the OAS relating to civil society.
In 1999, the General Assembly decided to establish, within the Permanent
Council, a Committee on Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities,
whose tasks include developing rules to ensure such participation.
The OAS has thus acquired considerable experience with civil society
participation in its activities. Initially, the different forms that
participation took were developed by individual organs in accordance
with their particular aims. Especially apt examples are the ties
established by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the
Department of Sustainable Development (formerly Regional Development and
Environment), and the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission. These
different forms of relationship are reflected in the statutes and rules
of procedure of those OAS bodies. In addition, civil society
organizations traditionally attend the sessions of the OAS General
This tradition of OAS cooperation with civil society organizations is
based on the significant contributions these organizations can make to
OAS work, since they can contribute knowledge and additional information
to decision-making processes, raise new issues and concerns that will
subsequently be addressed by the OAS, lend expert advice in their areas
of expertise, and contribute to consensus-building in many spheres.
Bearing in mind recent changes in the responsibilities of non-state
actors in public life and their increasingly important role at the
national, regional, and international levels–trends acknowledged by the
OAS and the Summit of the Americas–new mechanisms and methods must be
identified to improve current standards and practices in order to adapt
them to these new phenomena.
Within this framework, a new phase, i.e., efforts to facilitate
participation by civil society organizations in OAS activities overall,
began in 1994. In order to bear fruit, civil society participation must
be oriented by a clear and yet flexible regulatory framework. Such
flexibility is achieved by way of periodic review of participation in
OAS activities. These Guidelines thus represent a further step toward
enhancing civil society participation in OAS activities.
GUIDELINES FOR PARTICIPATION BY CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS IN OAS
1. Purpose. The purpose of these guidelines is to govern
participation by civil society organizations in activities of the
organs, agencies, and entities of the Organization of American States
(OAS), in accordance with the inter-governmental nature of the OAS and
the provisions of the Charter of the Organization, in particular
Articles 91.d, 95.d, 103, and 112.h, the statutes and rules of procedure
of the corresponding organs, and the rules governing the conduct of OAS
activities in pursuit of its essential purposes.
2. Definition. “Civil society organization” is understood to mean any
national or international institution, organization, or entity made up
of natural or juridical persons of a nongovernmental nature.
3. Scope of participation by civil society organizations.
a. Civil society organizations may attend the activities of the OAS,
make presentations, provide information, and, at the request of the
organs, agencies, and entities of the OAS, provide expert advice, in
accordance with these guidelines. They may also participate in
operational activities relating to the design, financing, and execution
of cooperation programs, in accordance with applicable regulations and
specific agreements negotiated for this purpose.
b. The provisions of these Guidelines complement but do not modify
the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, the Rules of Procedure
of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), the rules
governing the inter-American specialized conferences and organizations,
and the rules governing the inter-American committees of CIDI.
4. Principles to govern participation by civil society organizations
in OAS activities. Civil society organizations may participate in OAS
activities in accordance with the following principles:
a. The matters with which they are concerned must fall within the
competence of the OAS, and the aims and purposes they pursue must be
consistent with the spirit, aims, and principles established in the
Charter of the OAS.
b. Participation by civil society organizations in OAS activities
shall have the purpose of enabling the organs, agencies, or entities of
the OAS to benefit, in a manner consistent with their operational
regulations, from expert advice or specialized information provided to
them by those organizations on subjects in which those organizations
have special competence or interest and from the cooperation such
organizations may provide.
c. Participation by civil society organizations in OAS activities
should further the activities of its organs, agencies, and entities
without prejudice to the regulatory, policy-making, and policy
implementation functions established by the instruments that govern
those organs, agencies, and entities.
d. Participation by civil society organizations in OAS activities,
while welcome, shall not be interpreted as a concession of negotiating
functions–which are the exclusive preserve of the States–and shall not
alter the intergovernmental nature of the organs, agencies, and entities
of the OAS.
e. Arrangements for participation by civil society organizations in
OAS activities are distinct from the rights accorded to member states,
permanent observers, and entities and organs of the inter-American
5. Responsibilities of the organs, agencies, and entities of the OAS
with respect to participation by civil society organizations in their
a. The Permanent Council, through its Committee on Civil Society
Participation in OAS Activities ("the Committee"), shall monitor the
arrangements established between civil society organizations and the OAS
within the scope of the functions conferred upon it by the Charter of
b. The other organs, agencies, and entities of the OAS shall govern
their relations with civil society organizations in ways that are
consistent with their own governing provisions and that will best serve
their purposes and specific mandates, with due regard to these
c. The General Secretariat shall carry out the duties entrusted to it
by the Permanent Council through the Committee, shall implement the
mechanisms and procedures detailed below, and shall present
recommendations as it sees fit to the Committee, with a view to
improving the system once established.
6. Application to participate. In order for a civil society
organization to participate in the activities of the OAS, it must direct
an application to the Secretary General. The Secretary General shall
refer the application to the Committee, which shall examine it, make
such recommendations as it sees fit, and submit it to the Permanent
Council for a decision. The application should contain the following
a. Official name, address, and date of establishment of the
organization and the name(s) of its directors and legal representative(s).
b. Its primary areas of activity and their relationship to the
activities of the OAS organs, agencies, and entities in which it wishes
c. Reasons why it believes its proposed contributions to OAS
activities would be of interest to the Organization.
d. Identification of the OAS work areas in which it proposes to
support ongoing activities or to make recommendations on the best way to
achieve OAS objectives.
e. The application shall be accompanied by the following documents:
• Charter or constitution • Statutes • Most recent annual report •
Institutional mission statement • Financial statements for the previous
fiscal year, including reference to public and private sources of
7. Registration of civil society organizations. The General
Secretariat shall establish a register of all civil society
organizations approved by the Permanent Council for participation in OAS
activities. The General Secretariat shall keep this register updated,
and shall publish it on the OAS web site in the area pertaining to civil
8. Conditions of eligibility. In examining the application to
participate submitted by a civil society organization, the Committee
shall take into account the following factors in preparing its
a. The civil society organization shall be of recognized standing
within its particular field of competence and shall be of a
b. The civil society organization shall have an institutional
structure that includes appropriate mechanisms for holding its officers
accountable and subject to its members. It shall also have a legal
representative and an executive officer, as well as established
c. The civil society organization shall obtain its resources
primarily from its affiliates or individual members, and shall have
provided a listing of its sources of financing and any donations
received, including, in particular, those originating from government
sources. Those organizations that are not membership-based shall also
provide a listing of sources of financing and any donations received, in
particular, those originating from government sources.
d. The Committee must satisfy itself in particular that the
institutional and financial structure of the civil society organization
is transparent and affords it a degree of independence.
e. The Committee shall not process applications to participate from
civil society organizations that have their headquarters or conduct
their principal activities in any territory over which there exists a
sovereignty dispute between an OAS member state and a state outside the
9. Geographic origin of the civil society organizations. The
Committee should seek to ensure the registration of civil society
organizations from all member states, in order to facilitate just,
balanced, effective, and genuine participation by all regions of the
10. Comments and requests for reports by member states. During the
Committee's examination of applications to participate, member states
may submit comments and request information from the organization in
question. These comments and requests shall be sent to that organization
for a response.
11. Responsibilities of registered civil society organizations. By
registering, the civil society organization assumes the following
a. Answer inquiries from the organs, agencies, and entities of the
OAS and provide advisory services to them upon request.
b. Disseminate information on OAS activities to its members.
c. Present to the General Secretariat, before December 31 of each
year, a report, containing an executive summary, on its participation in
OAS activities during that year, its financial situation and sources of
funding, and the activities planned for the coming year. This report
shall be transmitted by the General Secretariat to the Committee.
d. Keep the information on its executive officers up to date.
12. Participation in OAS conferences. Participation by civil society
organizations in OAS conferences shall be governed by the following
a. A registered civil society organization may participate after
notifying the General Secretariat of the name(s) of the representative(s)
who will attend the conference.
b. A civil society organization that is not registered and wishes to
participate in an OAS conference shall submit an application to that
effect to the General Secretariat, which shall transmit it to the
Committee. The application shall contain the information specified in
c. After the Committee has made a preliminary review of the
application and has made such recommendations as it sees fit, the
application shall be transmitted to the committee or working group
charged with preparing for the conference, which shall take a final
decision and, if appropriate, shall issue accreditation to the applying
d. If a member state comments on or requests information with respect
to an application to participate, the civil society organization
referred to should be informed in time for it to be able to respond.
e. In all other respects, the participation of civil society
organizations in OAS conferences shall be governed by the rules
governing those activities.
13. Attendance and participation by civil society organizations in
the OAS at meetings of the Permanent Council, CIDI, and their subsidiary
a. Registered civil society organizations may designate
representatives to attend, as observers, public meetings of the
Permanent Council, CIDI, and their subsidiary bodies. Whether
representatives of civil society organizations may attend closed
meetings shall be determined by the chair of the meeting in question, in
consultation with the participating member state delegations.
b. The Secretariat shall provide registered civil society
organizations, in a timely manner, with information on the calendar of
public meetings and, when available, the order of business of such
c. A registered civil society organization may present written
documents, not exceeding 2,000 words, preferably in two of the official
languages of the OAS, on questions that fall within its particular
sphere of competence and appear on the agenda or order of business for
the meeting. These documents shall be distributed by the General
Secretariat to member states, insofar as possible, in two of the
official languages of the OAS. Texts exceeding 2,000 words shall be
accompanied by executive summaries in two of the official languages of
the OAS, which the Secretariat shall distribute sufficiently ahead of
time. The complete text of the document may be distributed in its
original language or languages, the cost to be borne by the civil
society organization in question.
d. In the case of meetings of committees of the Permanent Council or
of CIDI, registered civil society organizations may distribute written
documents in advance, in keeping with item 13.c, and, with prior
approval from the committee in question, may give a presentation at the
beginning of the deliberations. Civil society organizations may not
participate in deliberations, negotiations, or decisions adopted by
e. In the case of meetings of expert groups and working groups of the
Permanent Council or of CIDI, registered civil society organizations
that have special competence in the issue to be discussed shall receive
the relevant documents in advance and, with the prior approval of the
meeting, may present a statement at the beginning of the deliberations,
the text of which may be distributed in advance to the member states.
With such approval, they may also give a presentation once the
consideration of the issue has concluded. Civil society organizations
may not participate in deliberations, negotiations, or decisions adopted
by member states.
14. Review of participation by civil society organizations in OAS
activities. The Committee may conduct a periodic review of participation
by civil society organizations in OAS activities, with a view to
recommending to the Permanent Council any measures for improvement it
considers appropriate. For this purpose, the Committee shall take
account of the annual reports civil society organizations must submit
under item 11.c.
15. Suspension or cancellation of registration. The Committee may
recommend to the Permanent Council that it suspend or cancel the
registration of any organization if it has concluded that such
a. Has acted in a manner that is inconsistent with the essential aims
and principles of the OAS;
b. Has failed to make a positive or effective contribution to the
work of the OAS, as reflected in the reports submitted under item 11.c;
c. Has failed to submit reports for two consecutive years; or
d. Has furnished manifestly false or inaccurate information.
16. Term of suspension of registration. The Permanent Council may
suspend registration, upon a recommendation from the Committee, as a
result of the review referred to in items 14 and 15. The Permanent
Council shall determine the length of the suspension period, which in no
case may be longer than one year. Any civil society organization whose
registration has been suspended may apply to the Permanent Council to
reinstate its registration, in accordance with the procedure established
in item 7, after the period of suspension has expired.
17. Cancellation of registration. The Permanent Council may cancel
the registration of a civil society organization as a result of the
periodic review referred to in items 14 and 15. A civil society
organization whose registration has been cancelled may apply again to
the Permanent Council for recognition three years after the effective
date of cancellation.
18. Notification of the procedure to the civil society organization.
The Secretary General shall provide written notification to any
registered civil society organization before the Committee recommends
the suspension or cancellation of its registration. The Committee shall
provide the organization in question with a reasonable opportunity to
submit any comments, observations, or information it deems relevant.