Who We Are

The Organization of American States (OAS) is the world’s oldest regional organization, dating back to the First International Conference of American States, which was held in Washington, D.C. from October 1889 to April 1890.  At that conference, the establishment of the International Union of American Republics was approved and the stage was set for the weaving together of a web of provisions and institutions that came to be known as the inter-American system, the oldest of the international institutional systems.

The OAS came into being in 1948 with the signing, in Bogotá, Colombia, of the Charter of the OAS. The Charter entered into force in December 1951 and was subsequently amended by the Protocol of Buenos Aires, which was signed in 1967 and which entered into force in February 1970; by the Protocol of Cartagena de Indias, which was signed in 1985 and which entered into force in November 1988; by the Protocol of Managua, which was signed in 1993 and which entered into force on January 29, 1996; and by the Protocol of Washington, which was signed in 1992 and which entered into force on September 25, 1997.

The OAS was established to achieve among its member states, as stated in Article 1 of its Charter, “an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence.” Today it comprises the 35 independent states of the Americas and has granted permanent observer status to 63 states, as well as to the European Union.  The Organization of American States constitutes the principal political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere.

The OAS uses a four-pronged approach to effectively implement its essential purposes, based on its pillars:  democracy, human rights, security, and development.