What is it?
It is the world’s oldest international regional organization.
It came into being in 1948 with the signing, in Bogotá, Colombia, of the Charter of the OAS, which entered into force in December, 1951. Then it was amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires, signed in 1967, which entered into force in February, 1970. After that, the Protocol of Cartagena de Indias, signed in1985 and entered into force in 1988, by the Protocol of Managua signed in 1993, which entered into force in January 1996; and by the Protocol of Washington, signed in 1992, which entered into force in September 1997.
Some people are of the opinion that the antecedents of the inter-American system were around the times of the Congress of Panama, convened by Simón Bolivar in 1826. Thefact is that it was only in 1889 that the American States decided to meet periodically and to create a shared system of norms and institutions. In the meantime there were conferences and meetings that attempted to give birth to the system, but it was only at the invitation of the Government of the United States that the process began that was to continue successively until this day.
The FirstInternational Conference of American States was held in Washington, D.C., October 1889 to April 1890 “ for the purpose of discussing and recommending for adoption to their respective Governments some plan of arbitration for the settlement of disagreements and disputes that may hereafter arise between them, and for considering questions relating to the improvement of business intercourse and means ofdirect communication between said countries, and to encourage such reciprocal commercial relations as will be beneficial to all and secure more extensive markets for the products of each of said countries."
Eighteen American States took part in that Conference, where it was agreed to constitute the "International Union of American Republics for the prompt collection and distribution of commercialinformation," with its headquarters in Washington. Later it was to become the “Pan American Union” and, eventually, as its functions expanded, today’s General Secretariat of the OAS. With respect to legal matters, the Conference recommended adopting provisions to govern extradition; it declared that conquest does not create rights; and it produced guidelines for the drafting of a treaty onarbitration that could avoid recourse to war as a means to resolve controversies among American nations. This Conference laid the foundations of what would later become the inter-American system: commercial concerns directed toward achieving greater integration; legal concerns with strengthening state and private sector ties in a peaceful environment of regional cooperation and security; and theestablishment of specialized institutions in different spheres.
The Charter of the Organization of American States was the result of a long process of negotiation that began in 1945. Numerous names were originally proposed for the new institution: “Union,” “Regional Community,” or “Organization,” and, after the last of these had been chosen, there was discussion of whether to use “States,” “Nations,” or“Republics.” The word “Republics” was not chosen in order not to exclude other forms of government that might exist in the region, and “Nations” was ruled out as being more cultural or sociological than legal. So that left the name we know today: “Organization of American States.”
The 1948 Charter has been modified, via Protocols of Amendment, on four occasions: Buenos Aires, 1967; Cartagena deIndias, 1985; Washington, 1992, and Managua, 1993.
According to the 2 Article of the Charter of the OAS:
"The Organization of American States, in order to put into practice the principles on which it is founded and to fulfil its regional obligations under the Charter of the United Nations, proclaims the following essential purposes:
a. To strengthen the peace and security of the...