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Organization of American States

Seventeenth Street and Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20006


Assistant Secretary GeneralNestor Mendez

The Organization of American States seeks an order of peace and justice among its member states, promotes their solidarity and strengthens their collaboration, and defends their sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.

The Organization of American States (OAS) brings together the countries of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation and advance common interests. At the core of the OAS mission is a commitment to democracy. Building on this foundation, OAS works to promote good governance, strengthen human rights, foster peace and security, expand trade, and address the complex problems caused by poverty, drugs, and corruption. Through decisions made by its political bodies and programs carried out by its General Secretariat, OAS promotes greater inter-American cooperation and understanding.

OAS member states have intensified their cooperation since the end of the cold war, taking on new and important challenges. In 1994, the region's 34 democratically elected presidents and prime ministers met in Miami for the First Summit of the Americas, where they established broad political, economic, and social development goals. They have continued to meet periodically since then to examine common interests and priorities. Through the ongoing Summits of the Americas process, the region's leaders have entrusted the OAS with a growing number of responsibilities to help advance the countries' shared vision.

With four official languages—English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French—the OAS reflects the rich diversity of peoples and cultures across the Americas. The OAS has 35 member states: the independent nations of North, Central, and South America, and of the Caribbean. Since 1962, Cuba has been barred from participation by resolution of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs. Countries from all around the world are permanent observers, closely following the issues that are critical to the Americas and often providing key financial support for OAS programs.

Member states set major policies and goals through the General Assembly, which gathers the hemisphere's foreign ministers once a year in regular session. The Permanent Council, made up of ambassadors appointed by member states, meets regularly at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, to guide ongoing policies and actions. The chairmanship of the Permanent Council rotates every 3 months, in alphabetical order of countries. Each member state has an equal voice, and most decisions are made through consensus.

Also under the OAS umbrella are several specialized agencies that have considerable autonomy: the Pan American Health Organization in Washington, DC; the Inter-American Children's Institute in Montevideo, Uruguay; the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in San Jose, Costa Rica; and the Pan American Institute of Geography and History and the Inter-American Indian Institute, both in Mexico City.

In 1948, at the Ninth International Conference of American States, 21 nations of the hemisphere signed the OAS Charter: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba (barred from participation), Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States of America, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Subsequently, 14 other countries joined the OAS by signing and ratifying the Charter. They were Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Grenada, Suriname, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Canada, Belize, and Guyana. This brings the number of member states to 35.

Sources of Information

A–Z Index

The "Topics" web page presents a collection of popular topics in alphabetical order.

Career Opportunities

Information on employment, consultancies, and internships is available online.

Climate Change

In 2016, the OAS's Department of Sustainable Development published the report "Climate change: A comparative overview of the rights based approach in the Americas." In the report's forward, Michael Burger described it as giving "readers a comparative overview that may serve as an important reference for governments, judges, NGOs, business actors and anybody else involved in shaping the global post-2030 agenda."


A calendar of conferences is available online.

Contact Information

Phone and fax numbers and the OAS postal and street address are available on the "Contact Us" web page.


The most important OAS documents, including its founding Charter and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, are available on its website. Along with these essential documents, links to other key reference material—such as annual reports of the Secretary General, OAS resolutions, agreements, and treaties—are also available.


A short history of the OAS is available.

Language Assistance

The OAS maintains English and Spanish versions of its website. Some web pages are also available in French and Portuguese. Language tags appear above the search box in the top right corner of most of the site's pages.

Media Center

Newsletters, press releases, and speeches by OAS leaders are posted in the media center.

Members States

Information on the 35 independent states of the Americas—all of which have ratified the OAS Charter and are member states—is available on the OAS website.

Organizational Structure

The "Our Structure" web page is a good starting point for learning about the major organs of the OAS.

Organizational List

The "Organizational List" web page brings informational resources on the OAS's component parts together in one place.

Permanent Representatives

A list of permanent representatives to the OAS is available on its website.


OAS publications in English and Spanish are available online.


Information on OAS scholarships is available online.

Social Media

The OAS tweets announcements, news, and other noteworthy items on Twitter.

The OAS has a Facebook account.

The OAS posts video news on its Vimeo channel.

Staff Directory

The OAS maintains an online staff directory. To see the complete directory, leave all fields blank and click on the search button.