Directory of Economic, Commodity and Development Organizations - table of contents


Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA)
Organizaçao dos Estados Americanos (OEA)
Organisation des Etats Américains (OEA)


17th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW                   Telephone:   [1](202)458-3000
Washington, DC 20006                                      Facsimile:   [1](202)458-3967
USA                                                       E-mail:

     Secretary General:                    ...  César GAVIRIA
     Assistant Secretary General:          ...  Luigi R. EINAUDI
     Assistant Secretary, Legal Affairs:   ...  Enrique LAGOS
     Assistant Secretary, Management:      ...  James R. HARDING
     Executive Secretariat for the
       Inter-American Agency for
       Cooperation:                        ...  Ronald SCHEMAN
     Executive Secretary, Inter-American
       Commission on Human Rights:         ...  Santiago CANTON
     Director, Office of Science
       and Technology:                     ...  Alice RANGEL DE PAIVA ABREU
     Director, Art Museum of the Americas: ...  Ana M. ESCALLON
     Director, Columbus Memorial Library:  ...  Beverly LAKE

LANGUAGES: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish


The Organization of American States (OAS) was established in 1890 at the First International Conference of American States, the outgrowth of inter-American cooperative action that started in 1826. Its Charter was signed on April 30, 1948, at the Ninth International Conference of American States held in Bogota, Colombia, and entered into force on December 13, 1951. A Protocol of Amendment to the Charter was signed at the Third Special Inter-American Conference at Buenos Aires, February 27, 1967. The amended Charter entered into force on February 27, 1970. A new Protocol of Amendment to the Charter was signed at the Fourteenth Special Session of the General Assembly held in Cartagena, Colombia, in December 1985. It entered into force in November 1988. On June 10, 1993, the Protocol of Managua introduced new and major amendments to the Charter. It entered into force in January 1996. The Protocol of Washington, which went into effect in 1997, established that a "Member State of the Organization, whose government has been overthrown by force, may be suspended of its right to participate in the Organization's councils."


35 member countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela

Permanent Observer status: Cyprus, Denmark, European Union, Finland, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom


The General Assembly is the supreme authority. It meets annually to decide general action and policy of the Organization.

The Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs considers urgent problems of common interest to the American States and acts as the Organ of Consultation. It is called at the request of any Member State after approval by the Permanent Council of the Organization.

The Permanent Council of the Organization takes cognizance of any matter referred to it by the General Assembly or the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. It acts as provisional Organ of Consultation in case of an armed attack within the territory of an American State. It keeps vigilance over the maintenance of friendly relations among the Member States and the observance of the standards governing the operation of the General Secretariat. It is composed of one representative from each member country with the rank of ambassador. The chairmanship rotates quarterly.

The second Council of the OAS is the newly established Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), which replaces the Inter-American Economic and Social Council (CIES) and the Inter-American Council for Education, Science and Culture (CIECC). CIDI was created on January 29, 1996, when two-thirds of the OAS membership ratified the Protocol of Managua of Amendments to the Charter of the Organization, which gives a new impetus and approach to the promotion of cooperation in the Americas aimed at achieving integral development and eliminating abject poverty in the Hemisphere. CIDI becomes a modern structure for the implementation of policies and programs to comply with those objectives.

The General Secretariat, formerly known as the Pan American Union, is the central, permanent organ of the OAS. The Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General are elected by the General Assembly for five-year terms.

The General Assembly established the Special Committee on Trade (CEC) to replace the Special Committee for Consultation and Negotiation (CECON). The purpose of the new Committee is to promote trade liberalization and expansion among the countries of the hemisphere. Accordingly its function is to serve as a forum for discussion and analysis of trade and trade-related issues.

In the Secretariat for Management, the Assistant Secretary for Management is responsible for the overall planning, organizing, coordinating, directing, and control of administrative activities relating to program-budgeting, financial management, personnel administration, purchase of goods and services, automated data processing, internal publications, building and grounds, communications, and the security of property and persons. The Assistant Secretary serves as the principal adviser to the Secretary General on these matters and performs such other functions as the Secretary General may delegate to him, including the delivery of administrative services to all operations of the General Secretariat at headquarters and in the field.

The Secretariat for Legal Affairs provides counsel and legal services to the General Assembly, the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Councils and the other organs, agencies and entities, and the General Secretariat; it issues legal opinions when so requested by the organs of the OAS on the interpretation and application of inter-American instruments; and collaborates in the preparation of programs of the Inter-American Specialized Conferences of a legal nature, prepares studies and documents for them, and provides technical assistance when such conferences are held. It also cooperates with the governments and institutions of the Member States in holding seminars and other meetings designed to promote and advance inter-American juridical development; maintains a publications program for the dissemination of the legislation of the Member States and the instrument, resolutions and recommendations approved by the organs of the OAS, and prepares other legal publications of interest to the Organization.

This Secretariat also advises the General Secretariat on legal questions concerning its activities and acts as the legal representative of the Secretary General. Finally, it provides technical and secretariat services to the Inter-American Juridical Committee, as well as to the OAS Administrative Tribunal.

The Art Museum of the Americas is dedicated to contemporary art in the Americas. The Museum collects, preserves and exhibits works of artistic or historical merit. It organizes exhibits at headquarters, touring exhibits, lectures and other cultural events. The Museum also produces written and visual materials to promote artistic expression and cultural understanding and cooperation in the Hemisphere.

Columbus Memorial Library. Established by the First International Conference of American States on April 8, 1890, the Columbus Memorial Library's collections are consulted by readers and researchers interested in issues that concern American and Inter-American Relations. The Library administers a program of reference services for the members of the permanent missions, General Secretariat staff and the general public. It keeps the historical files, photographs, and original documents archives of the OAS. The respective direct telephone and facsimile numbers for the Library are: [1](202)458-6037 and [1](202)458-3914.

UPDATED:  December 2003

Directory of Economic, Commodity and Development Organizations - table of contents