OAS – Concept, functions, objectives and member countries

We explain what the OAS is and the different functions of this organization. In addition, its objectives and countries that compose it.

The OAS was created on April 30, 1948.

What is the OAS?

The OAS is the Organization of American States (OAS in English), an international pan-American organization and regional scope of action, Created April 30, 1948 with the idea of ​​operating as a multilateral instance for the integration of the continent.

Its headquarters are in the District of Columbia, United States, with regional offices in its 35 member countries, and its official languages ​​are Spanish, English, French and Portuguese.

The origins of the OAS date back to the First Pan American International Conference, established in 1890 with the purpose of laying the foundations for a commercial integration between the Americas.

Subsequently, in 1948, 21 nations affiliated to said organization met in Bogotá, Colombia, to sign the Charter of the Organization of American States, thus formally initiating the OAS.

Despite its express purposes of integration and solidarity among all the nations of the American continent, the OAS has been criticized or controversial on numerous occasions.

Perhaps the best known are the lack of support for Argentina during its confrontation with Great Britain over the Malvinas or Falklands Islands (in fact, Chile and the United States supported the European country) and Resolution VI of 1962, in which the decision to expel Cuba from the organization, in the context of the tensions of the Cold War. This resolution subsequently became invalid, but Cuba never rejoined the OAS.

Subsequent polemics have arisen the idea that the OAS responds to not exactly Pan-Americanist interests, but to the veiled imperialist interests, favoring US interests in the region under the guise of reinforcing democracy.

These accusations have been spearheaded by the Venezuelan government, which announced in 2017 its official withdrawal from the organization, and proposed CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) as a Latin American alternative to the OAS.

Functions of the OAS

The OAS is a forum for political cooperation.

The OAS has essentially diplomatic and representative functions, since it is a forum for political cooperation. However, it is empowered to exercise a certain level of coercion in cases that warrant it, as long as it does not violate fundamental principles of its charter, such as the right to sovereignty of nations, and as long as it has the positive vote of Member States. The OAS can also promote human development in its various areas: academic, civic, political, among others.

Objectives of the OAS

The OAS offers support in electoral and democratic matters to its member countries.

The objectives of the OAS are summarized in four fundamental guidelines:

  • Political dialogue. To solve problems of diverse nature among the member states, serving as a political forum for the region, moving towards common objectives. For this, the countries adhere to the guidelines of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
  • Cooperation. The OAS provides support in various areas to member countries, strengthening their institutional framework and offering support in electoral and democratic matters, such as electoral observation, study grants, and support in the face of natural disasters.
  • Follow-up mechanisms. The organization maintains various measurement mechanisms among its member states, to offer data and statistics regarding fundamental aspects of democratic life, such as the control of drug use, citizen rights, etc.
  • Legal heritage. The member countries of the OAS sign multilateral treaties that allow common legislation on sensitive issues, such as the sale of arms, the rights of disabled people or the reduction of poverty.

OAS member countries

The OAS is made up of the following member countries:

Costa RicaBarbados
CubaTrinidad and Tobago
Dominican RepublicJamaica
The SaviorSurinam
MexicoSt. Vincent and the Grenadines
DominicaOld and bearded
San CristobalSt. Lucia

Venezuela is a member state in the process of separation.