Organization of American States

OAS in Dictionary

The Organization of American States (abbreviated as OAS by AbbreviationFinder) works for peace, security, democracy and development in America. All 35 independent states on the dual continent are members of the intergovernmental organization, although in 1962 Cuba was excluded from all participation. Since 2009, it has been stated that Cuba is welcome to enter into a dialogue as long as it takes place on the basis of OAS principles.

When the OAS was formed in 1948, the main purpose was to work for peace. During the first years, many conflicts could be averted, while economic and social cooperation gained momentum. Frosty relations between the United States and many of the Latin American countries, however, weakened the OAS during the 1970’s and into the 1980’s.

The wave of democratization that swept across the continent in the 1980’s paved the way for increased cooperation. With the revolutionary changes of the 1990’s, OAS gained more leeway. The fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War meant that Latin America was no longer a game plan for the East-West conflict.

OAS has also been given new impetus by the Summits of the Americas, which have been held regularly at the highest level since 1994. OAS has taken on a leading role in the collaboration, and the organization has been reformed and modernized, thus gaining more independence and strength.

Today, the development of democracy is high on the OAS agenda. Since 2001, there has been a special democracy charter, partly because the countries have come to see the connections between social and economic security, poverty reduction, democracy and long-term security.

OAS is the organization’s English abbreviation (Organization of American States) which is also usually used in Swedish. In the other three official languages, French, Portuguese and Spanish, the abbreviation is OAE (Organization des États Américains, Orgnização dos Estados Americanos, Organización de los Estados Americanos).

The emergence

OAS is considered the world’s oldest regional organization. Eighteen countries, including the United States, formed the International Union of American Republics in 1890 at a conference in Washington to facilitate trade between the countries. Since then, there have been regular meetings between the countries of the region.

A permanent body in Washington, called the Pan-American Union in 1910, administered the activities, and meetings between the states served as the highest decision-making bodies. The Pan American Union Building in Washington is still OAS ‘headquarters today.

Gradually, the collaboration developed to also include security issues. With the First and Second World Wars in fresh memory, it was considered necessary in the late 1940’s to strengthen the continent’s protection against attacks from countries outside the region. In the Rio Pact of 1947, the US states agreed to establish a collective security system, which was based on an attack on a state being seen as an attack on all of them.

In 1948, the OAS was formed by 20 Latin American states and the United States. Between 1967 and 1991, the OAS gained 13 new members in and around the Caribbean as they became independent states. Canada did not become a permanent observer until 1972 and a full member until 1990.

Development cooperation

According to the charter, OAS will, among other things, work for peace and security on the continent. In the early years helped the OAS to several conflicts were resolved primarily in Central America and the Caribbean, the economic and social cooperation evolved and that an independent regional development bank established in 1959. IADB (Inter-American Development Bank, IDB or IADB), the World Bank as a model. Economic and social cooperation was further strengthened at a Uruguay summit in 1961, when the Punta del Este Charter was adopted. It aimed to strengthen democracy, close income gaps, achieve rapid economic development and social justice.

However, OAS’s collective security systems did not work very well, partly due to conflicting views on what the organization should stand for. The United States primarily wanted to stop communism in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Latin American states disapproved of the superpower’s gunboat diplomacy and direct interference, as when the elected government in Guatemala was overthrown with US support in 1954.

The United States had wanted to see the OAS intervene directly in connection with the Cuban Revolution of 1959, but had to content itself with excluding Cuba from work in the OAS in 1962, even though the country remained a member of the organization. Communist Cuba’s offensive policy of spreading revolutionary ideas was considered contrary to the goals of the OAS.

New irritation was created in 1965 when the United States invaded the Dominican Republic, for fear that a left-wing phalanx in the military would reinstate the democratically elected left-wing government that the United States had two years earlier helped to get rid of through a coup. The invasion was strongly criticized internationally, which contributed to the United States handing over responsibility to the OAS, which held general elections.

Organization of American States