What is the Organization of American States (OAS)?
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The Organization of American States is the world's oldest regional organization, dating back to the First International Conference of American States in Washington D.C., beginning in 1889. Since then, the OAS has functioned as the premier international organization for the Western Hemisphere, acting as a "United Nations" for the countries of North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. The organization became known as the Organization of American States after the signing of the OAS Charter in 1948 in Bogota, Colombia. The charter entered into force in 1951, and has since been amended in 1967, 1970, 1985, 1992, and 1993.
The OAS is comprised of 35 member states and has granted permanent observer status to 59 others, as well as the European Union. The essential purposes of the OAS are: to strengthen peace and security in the hemisphere; to promote and consolidate representative democracy, with due respect for the principle of nonintervention; to prevent possible causes of difficulties and to ensure peaceful 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, through 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 goals through several bodies which meet regularly in Washington. They include the General Assembly, individual conferences and committees, specialized organizations, and other entities established by the General Assembly. The General Assembly holds regular sessions once a year, but also may meet in special sessions as necessary. The Meeting of Consultation is an emergency session that can be convened to consider matters of urgent interest or to serve as a consultative body under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (aka the Rio Treaty). The Permanent Council discusses matters entrusted to it by the General Assembly or the Meeting of Consultation, and is responsible for executing the decisions of both organs. It also monitors the maintenance of friendly relations among the member state and the observance of the standards governing the operations of the General Secretariat (the part of the OAS that is the central and permanent executive and administrative organ of the organization).
The member states of the OAS are: Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, the United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Organizational Structure of the OAS