The Organization of American States, formed in 1948, is the world’s oldest regional organization. It was established to promote among its member states democracy, human rights, security, trade, and development. It is comprised of the 35 independent states of the Americas (Cuba is suspended) and has granted permanent observer status to 63 states, as well as to the European Union. The OAS constitutes the principal political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere.
The OAS accomplishes its purposes by means of the following:
- The General Assembly;
- the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs;
- the Councils (the Permanent Council and the Inter-American Council for Integral Development);
- the Inter-American Juridical Committee;
- the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights;
- the General Secretariat;
- the specialized conferences;
- the specialized organizations; and
- other entities established by the General Assembly.
The General Assembly is the supreme organ of the Organization of American States and comprises the delegations of all the member states. All member states are represented at the General Assembly and have the right to one vote.
The Permanent Council, comprised of the Ambassadors of each member state and permanent observer, attends to the matters entrusted to it by the General Assembly or the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs; monitors the maintenance of friendly relations among the member states and the observance of the standards governing General Secretariat operations.
For more information on the OAS, visit www.oas.org
Belize’s Role in the OAS
Since joining the OAS in 1991, Belize has been an active member of the Organization. Through its Embassy representatives, Belize actively participates in its various committees and specialized organizations in accordance with Belize’s foreign policy and development agenda.
Some of the main issues pursued by Belize in the OAS include:
- Working with the OAS General Secretariat in support of a continued effective and impartial role by the OAS in the ongoing process relating to the territorial differendum between Belize and Guatemala. Under the auspices of the OAS, Belize and Guatemala signed on December 8, 2008, a Special Agreement under which the parties agreed to submit the territorial differendum to the International Court of Justice after obtaining from the people of Belize and Guatemala via referenda.
- The preservation of peace and security in the hemisphere through tackling issues of small arms trafficking, human trafficking, and the drug trade.
- Creating opportunities for increased trade and economic development through information-sharing of technologies and expertise; funding for development and social projects; and increasing the capacity and financing of small businesses.
- Promoting awareness of socio-economic issues such as climate change, the role of women in the hemisphere, the impact of increased regional migration, and the nexus between crime and violence and development.
Belize is a member of both the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Central American Integration System (SICA), and works closely with both sub-regional blocks to pursue matters of interest to the country. As Chair of the Caucus of CARICOM Ambassadors in Washington, DC during the period January – June 2009, Belize played a major role in the negotiations that led to the lifting of the 1961 OAS Resolution calling for the suspension of Cuba in June 2009, and in the preparations for the V Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2009.
Belize Chaired the OAS Permanent Council during the period 1st July to 30th September 2008, and it used this period as the helm of the Organization to focus on raising political awareness of the threats, challenges and opportunities inherent in climate change.