Organization of American States

Last updated: 9 December 2023


The Organization of American States (OAS) brings together the nations of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation on democratic values, defend common interests, and debate the major issues facing this region and the world.  The OAS is the region’s principal multilateral forum for strengthening democracy, promoting human rights, and confronting shared problems such as poverty, terrorism, illegal drugs and corruption.  It plays a leading role in carrying out mandates established by the hemisphere’s leaders through the Summits of the Americas.

The member countries set major policies and goals through the General Assembly, which gathers the hemisphere’s ministers of foreign affairs once a year in regular session.  Ongoing actions are guided by the Permanent Council, made up of ambassadors appointed by the member states. From May 2005 until May 2015, the Secretary General of the OAS was José Miguel Insulza. A new Secretary General, Luis Almagro of Uruguay, replaced Mr. Insulza in May 2015. He promised to be a “tireless fighter for American unity.” In 2016, much of the agenda of the OAS was focused on Venezuela, with the OAS members, Secretary General, and General Secretariat issuing various statements calling on the region to “defend democracy” in Venezuela and the Venezuelan government to dialogue with the opposition and restore democracy and the rule of law.

This continued into 2017, with the head of the OAS, Luis Almagro, in March 2017 urging the OAS to suspend Venezuela as a result of its suppression of protests and trying protestors in military courts. This has put Almagro at odds not only with Venezuela but also Bolivia and Cuba, which support Venezuela. In February 2017, Cuba even barred Almagro from entering the country to receive a democracy award. Almagro replied on Twitter that, “My trip to Cuba was no different than others I have made to attend similar events in Latin America organized by civil society… without the government supporting them, but without censoring them because they are part of the tolerance of democratic systems and values.” Despite this opposition from Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba, in October 2017, the OAS still declared Venezuela’s gubernatorial elections to be illegitimate, citing a series of irregularities including the lack of independent poll observers. The opposition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) coalition was routed in the October 15, 2017 vote by President Nicolas Maduro’s party, which won in 18 of Venezuela’s 23 states.

In 2018, in addition to Venezuela, Nicaragua moved to the top of the OAS agenda. NGOs came “under threat” in the country during protests that left hundreds dead. The protests against the government of President Daniel Ortega began in April 2018 over proposed reforms to the social security system that would reduce pension benefits so Nicaragua could cover a budget shortfall. However, citizens who took to the streets were met with a violent crackdown from the government, which continued as protesters expanded their demands to include opposing corruption and authoritarianism. Ortega accused them of being terrorists and plotting coups.

At the fourth plenary session of the OAS, which was held on June 5, 2018, the OAS issued a Declaration of Support for the People of Nicaragua. In addition, following its visit to Nicaragua on May 17-21, 2018, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a preliminary report. Among the recommendations were that Nicaragua should:

1.    Cease immediately the repression of the demonstrators and the arbitrary detention of those who participate in the protests.
2.    Respect and guarantee the full enjoyment of the right to protest, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and political participation of the population.
3.    Create an international investigation mechanism on the acts of violence that occurred, with guarantees of autonomy and independence to ensure the right to the truth and to properly identify those responsible.
4.    Guarantee the life, integrity and security of all the people who are demonstrating and exercising their rights and public liberties and suffering the consequences of the environment of repression, especially students, children and adolescents.
5.    Offer effective guarantees to protect the people who gave testimony to the IACHR or who in some way participated in its activities in the country; and refrain from taking or allowing retaliation against them.

In June 2019, at the 49th OAS General Assembly, resolutions on Venezuela and Nicaragua were approved. According to the U.S. ambassador to the OAS, the resolution on Nicaragua was aimed at “trying to return democracy to Nicaragua.” Despite the resolution, the OAS has been stymied in investigating human rights abuses in Venezuela. On February 4, 2020, for example, the members of the OAS mission to Venezuela were stopped from boarding their plane in Panama and described their experience as “shameful” and “unusual.” Instead of collecting information in Venezuela, the members, traveled to Colombia to gather testimonies from victims of Venezuelan human rights violations who are living across the border. In 2020, the OAS General Assembly again condemned Venezuela’s undermining of democracy.

The theme for the 51st General Assembly, which was hosted by Guatemala but was held virtually from November 10-12, 2021, was “Towards Renewal in the Americas.” The Assembly approved resolutions on the situation in Nicaragua and Haiti and on the COVID-19 pandemic, among other documents. In October 2022, Peru hosted the General Assembly with a theme of “Together against Inequality and Discrimination.”

Headquarters Washington, DC
Members 35
Established 1948
Founding Document Charter of the Organization of American States
Head Secretary General Luis Almagro (Uruguay)
Governing Bodies General Assembly
Permanent Council
Key Human Rights Agreements American Convention on Human RightsAmerican Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man; Inter-American Democratic Charter
Key Judicial Bodies Inter-American Court of Human RightsInter-American Commission on Human Rights (this is quasi-judicial body)
Antigua and Barbuda Dominica Panama
Argentina Dominican Republic Paraguay
The Bahamas Ecuador Peru
Barbados El Salvador Saint Kitts and Nevis
Belize Grenada Saint Lucia
Bolivia Guatemala Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Brazil Guyana Suriname
Canada Haiti Trinidad and Tobago
Chile Honduras** United States of America
Colombia Jamaica Uruguay
Costa Rica Mexico Venezuela
Cuba * Nicaragua

*By resolution of the Eighth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs (1962) the current Government of Cuba was excluded from participation in the OAS. However, on June 3, 2009, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Americas adopted a resolution that terminates that decision, and provides that Cuba’s participation in the OAS will be determined through a process of dialogue initiated at the request of the Government of Cuba, and in accordance with the practices, purposes, and principles of the OAS.

**On July 5, 2009, the Organization of American States (OAS) invoked Article 21 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, suspending Honduras from active participation in the hemispheric body. The unanimous decision was adopted following the June 28 coup d’état that expelled President José Manuel Zelaya from office. The OAS Secretary General, together with the duly designated representatives of various countries, have been instructed to intensify all diplomatic initiatives for the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, and the reinstatement of President Zelaya. In 2011, the OAS lifted the suspension of Honduras with the return of José Manuel Zelaya from exile.

Freedom of Association Legal Protection American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, Article XXII

American Convention on Human Rights: Article 16
Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights “Protocol of San Salvador”: Article 8
Judicial Bodies Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Civil Society Participation Ability to Participate in OAS Activities CSOs may participate in OAS meetings if they:
1) register with the OAS;
2) request to attend General Assembly and other specific conference meetings as a Special Guest; or
3) enter into a cooperative agreement.CSOs also participate through the Summit of the Americas.
Registration Process CSOs must follow the procedures outlined in Permanent Council in Resolution CP/RES. 759.
Registered CSOs 266
Human Rights Defenders Current Status Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the Americas

Freedom of Association

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Decisions Year
Case of Kawas Fernández v. Honduras 2009
Case of Escher et al. v. Brazil 2009
Case of Cantoral-Huamaní and García-Santa Cruz v. Peru 2007
Case of Huilca-Tecse v. Peru 2005
Case of Baena-Ricardo et al. v. Panama 2001
Advisory Opinion OC-5/85: Compulsory Membership in an Association Prescribed by Law for the Practice of Journalism 1985
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Cases Year
Mexico: Case 11.610, Loren Laroye Riebe Star, Jorge Barón Guttlein, and Rodolfo Izal Elorz 1999
Guatemala:  Case 10.518 :Hector Oqueli and Gilda Flores 1992
Argentina: Cases 9777 and 9718: Maximo Bomchil and Alejandro M. Ferrari 1988
Nicaragua: Case 7310: Nicaraguan Seamen’s Union 1982

Civil Society

Permanent Council Resolutions Year
CP/RES. 864, (1413/04), Organizations in OAS Activities and in the Summits of the American Process 2004
CP/RES. 840, (1361/03) Strategies for Increasing and Strengthening Participation by Civil Society Organizations in OAS Activities 2003
CP/RES.759 (1217/99), Guidelines for the Participation of Civil Society Organizations in OAS activities 1999
CP/RES.704 (1129/97), Status of Non-Governmental Organizations (CSOs) in the OAS 1997
General Assembly Resolutions Year
AG/RES. 2680 (XLI-O/11) Promotion of the Rights to Freedom of Assembly and of Association in the Americas 2011
AG/RES. 2407/08, Strengthening of human rights systems pursuant to the mandates arising from the Summits of the Americas 2008
AG/RES. 2517 (XXXIX-O/09), Human rights Defenders: Support for the Work of Individuals, groups, and organizations of civil society to promote and protect human rights  the Americas 2009
AG/RES. 2351/07, Civil Society Organizations and the Protection of Human Rights and Promotion of Democracy 2007

The Organization of American States (OAS) is an international organization created by the American States[1] to achieve an order of peace and justice; promote their solidarity; and defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and their independence. The OAS has established the following as its essential purposes: democracy, human rights, security, and development. The OAS uses five main tools to advance these purposes: political dialogue, inclusiveness, cooperation, and the use of legal and follow up instruments.

The purposes, obligations and instruments of the OAS are set forth in its Charter, approved in 1948, and subsequently amended by various Protocols. In addition to its member states, the Organization has granted permanent observer status to 62 states, as well as to the European Union. The OAS accomplishes its purposes through two kinds of organs: political and human rights bodies.

The OAS Political Bodies

The General Assembly, the supreme political organ, decides the general action and policy of the Organization. The General Assembly holds a regular session once a year and may meet in special session. All member States have the right to be represented and to one vote in the General Assembly.

The OAS has other political organs such as the Permanent Council, which accomplishes assignments entrusted by the General Assembly; observes the maintenance of friendly relations among the member states; supervises the standards governing General Secretariat operations; and acts provisionally as Organ of Consultation under the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Treaty) on peace and security issues.

The OAS also has a number of committees, including: the General Secretariat; the Secretariat on Juridical and Political Affairs; the Executive Secretariat for Integral Development; the Secretariat on Hemispheric Security; and the Secretariat on Inter-American Summits Management. The latter provides coordination and support for the Summits of the Americas, as established in Executive Order Number 02-03 and Executive Order No. 05-13 Rev, in particular providing a forum for civil society contributions and operating the “Summits of the Americas Information Network”.

The main political bodies carry out the law-making process within the OAS. Over the years the American States have adopted numerous international instruments that have become the building blocks of a regional system for the promotion and protection of human rights.

The Inter-American system understands that the promotion and strengthening of democracy requires the full and effective exercise of freedom of association. The OAS Charter recognizes the importance of the contribution of organizations such as labor unions, cooperatives, and cultural, professional, business, neighborhood, and community associations to the life of the society and to the development process (Art. 45). The Charter also recognizes the right of employers and workers to associate themselves freely for the defense and promotion of their interests, and recognition of the juridical personality of associations and the protection of their freedom and independence (Art. 45). Similar language can be found in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted in 2001 (Preamble and Art. 10).

The Human Rights Bodies

The OAS has a highly elaborated human rights system that recognizes and defines those rights, establishes binding rules of conduct to promote and protect them, and creates organs to monitor their observance.

Freedom of association is spelled out in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man as the right of every person to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect the legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature (Art. XXII).

Article 16 of the American Convention on Human Rights governs Freedom of Association.  It provides:

  1. Everyone has the right to associate freely for ideological, religious, political, economic, labor, social, cultural, sports, or other purposes.
  2. The exercise of this right shall be subject only to such restrictions established by law as may be necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others.
  3. The provisions of this article do not bar the imposition of legal restrictions, including even deprivation of the exercise of the right of association, on members of the armed forces and the police.
    The American Convention recognizes the right to associate freely and, at the same time, establishes that the exercise of this right may be subject to such restrictions established by law that have a legitimate purpose and that, ultimately, may be necessary in a democratic society. In this regard, the system established by the Convention seeks to balance and harmonize the right to associate with the need to prevent and investigate possible conduct that domestic law characterizes as criminal (Art. 16).

The agencies of the inter-American human rights system provide a venue for the denunciation and resolution of human rights violations in individual cases. They also monitor and report on the general human rights situation in the member states. Two organs have been charged with promoting and protecting human rights: The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The IACHR is an autonomous organ of the OAS. Its mandate is found in the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The IACHR represents all of the member States of the OAS, but has seven members who act independently, without representing any particular country. The members of the IACHR are elected by the General Assembly of the OAS. Its headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., United States.  The IACHR receives and analyzes individual petitions alleging that one of the member States of the OAS is responsible for a human rights violation. The Commission applies the Convention to process cases brought against those States which are parties to that instrument. For those States which are not parties, the Commission applies the American Declaration. The petitions presented to the IACHR must show that the victim has exhausted all means of remedying the situation domestically.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is an autonomous judicial body of the OAS whose purpose is to apply and interpret the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court, headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica, has both contentious and advisory jurisdiction. The Court consists of seven judges from the Organization’s Member States elected in an individual capacity from among jurists of the highest moral authority and of recognized competence in the field of human rights, who possess the qualifications required for the exercise of the highest judicial functions under the law of the State of which they are nationals or of the State that proposes them as candidates.

Through their case-law, the Commission and the Court have raised the inter-American standards for the protection of the right to freedom of association. The Commission has indicated that the right to freedom of association has been widely recognized as a substantive civil right that offers protection from the arbitrary interference of the state when persons decide to associate with others, and it is fundamental for the existence and functioning of a democratic society.  In that regard, the protection of this right entails not only the obligation of the state not to interfere with the exercise of the right of assembly or association, but also requires, in certain circumstances, positive measures by the state to ensure the effective exercise of the liberty.

For its part, the Inter-American Court has established that the right to associate enshrined in Article 16 of the American Convention protects two dimensions. The first dimension encompasses the right and freedom of each individual to associate freely with other persons, without the intervention of the public authorities limiting or encumbering the exercise of this right. The second dimension recognizes and protects the right and the freedom to seek the common attainment of a lawful purpose, without pressures or meddling that could alter or thwart such a collective aim.  Note the Court’s specific language:

those who are protected by the Convention not only have the right and freedom to associate freely with other persons, without the interference of the public authorities limiting or obstructing the exercise of the respective right, which thus represents a right of each individual; but they also enjoy the right and freedom to seek the common achievement of a licit goal, without pressure or interference that could alter or change their purpose. (Case of Huilca-Tecse v. Peru, p. 23).

The OAS has established a Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.  Although this Special Rapporteur does not focus on CSOs or Freedom of Association explicitly, some of the issues the Rapporteur covers are relevant to civil society.  See Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

The General Assembly is the supreme organ of the Organization of American States. It is comprised of delegations of the member states, usually headed by the 34 ministers of foreign affairs of the nations of the Americas. The General Assembly convenes once a year in regular session, and in special sessions which are convoked by the Permanent Council of the Organization. The General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) adopted a Resolution on the “Promotion to the Rights to Freedom of Assembly and of Association in the Americas” in 2011 which reaffirms inter-American and universal standards on the rights of association and assembly.

Civil Society Participation in the OAS

According to the OAS, Civil society organizations (CSOs) are key participants in reaching the OAS goals.  In fact, the participation of CSOs in the design of public policies reflects the new dynamic of consensus in the Americas that, following the Inter-American Democratic Charter, defines CSOs as agents of democracy.

CSOs have participated in dialogue and decision-making on a growing number of issues, from fighting corruption and terrorism to promoting democratic development and indigenous rights.  Civil society has played an active role in contributing ideas and recommendations to the Summits of the Americas process, to hemisphere-wide ministerial meetings, and to the OAS General Assembly.

The OAS has also stated that in order to achieve participation, civil society must be given the opportunities to: have knowledge of and access to activities on the hemispheric agenda in the subject areas defined by the Member States; develop and execute projects with the OAS General Secretariat to formulate public policy promoting society’s economic, social, and cultural development in the Americas; form strategic alliances between civil society, the OAS, and private-sector enterprises for implementation of the various activities in the subject areas entrusted to the General Secretariat and its technical bodies, so as to provide technical assistance, training, and reciprocal services for better practices; devise proposals for the design and execution of public policy to benefit the community in the Americas; and participate in virtual consultations, through the Internet, with government agencies and CSOs, to identify challenges and initiatives in the various areas of endeavor of the OAS (CP/RES. 840 [1361/03]).

In this sense, the various OAS organs and conferences, especially the Summit Process, have created spaces for civil society to respond to critical issues in the inter-American agenda and contribute to the initiatives set forth by the OAS General Assembly and by the Heads of State and Government, Ministerial and other high-level meetings.

The OAS has drafted a “Manual for Civil Society Participation in the OAS and in the Summits of the Americas”. This manual comprises relevant information on the OAS system and its structure, the means for CSOs participation in the OAS, relevant legal materials, and a guide of registration procedures.

The Summits of the Americas Department coordinates periodic meetings of the heads of OAS member states.  It also coordinates CSO participation in the OAS.  Through the Summits of the Americas process, CSOs can provide recommendations or participate in forums and seminars organized by the Summits of the Americas Secretariat. (See generally

The Permanent Council has set forth guidelines for the Participation of CSO in OAS Activities. The Guidelines comprise: a standard procedure by which CSOs can apply to participate in OAS activities; procedures and criteria for CSO registration with the OAS; and responsibilities of CSOs once they are registered in the Organization’s system (CP/RES. 759).

Moreover, the OAS has established a Specific Fund to Support the Participation of Civil Society Organizations in OAS Activities and in the Summits of the Americas Process that aims to provide financial support to facilitate participation by registered civil society organizations in the activities of the Organization’s policymaking bodies, such as the General Assembly and the Permanent Council, the special meetings of the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities (CISC), the Summit Implementation Review Group (SIRG), appropriate ministerial meetings, and other OAS activities.

Additionally, CSOs may participate in the OAS General Assembly and other meetings through three processes, detailed here:

Registered CSOs

May participate in any OAS conference after notifying the General Secretariat of the name(s) of the representative(s) who will attend the conference.  Attendance at closed meetings is determined by the chair of the meeting in question.

Unregistered CSOs

May participate in the following classes of meetings by following specified procedures:

Cooperation Agreements

CSOs may participate by entering into Cooperation Agreements.

Notably, CSO participation is subject to political, in addition to procedural, limitations.  At the 2009 OAS General Assembly, controversy emerged regarding decisions carried out by the Permanent Council not to invite certain Venezuelan and Nicaraguan CSOs to the Assembly. CSO access to the General Assembly depends on an ad hoc accreditation procedure which confers observer status as a “special guest” without the right to participate in debates. The Governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua did not extent the invitation to a number of CSOs from their respective countries, denying those CSOs access to fully participate in official activities of the Assembly.

At the 44th Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly from June 3-5, 2014 in Asunción, Paraguay, a Strategy for Strengthening Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities was adopted. It details specific steps for ensuring greater participation of civil society organizations in the work of the OAS. The General Assembly also decided to enhance OAS efforts to exchange regional experiences, viewpoints, and good practices on the protection of human rights defenders in the Americas. Four months later, in September 2014, the 47th Special General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS ) adopted a draft resolution entitled “Guidelines and Objectives of the Strategic Vision” that seeks to reorganize the priorities and mandates of the Organization with a view to bringing it up to the challenges of the 21st Century. The Strategy says that the OAS will “strive for harmonious interdependence among the pillars of democracy, human rights, integral development, and multidimensional security, whose crosscutting themes are justice, equity, and social inclusion, gender equality and equity, international and regional cooperation, strengthening dialogue, and participation of civil society and other social actors.” It also says there will be “greater coordination and linkage with other entities and mechanisms of the inter-American system, for establishing and strengthening strategic alliances with development institutions, international financial bodies, the private sector (public-private alliances), and civil society organizations and other social actors.”

General News

OAS warns Nicaragua it will keep watching even as the country exits (November 2023)
The OAS said that it will continue closely monitoring Nicaragua’s democracy and human rights record even after the country’s imminent exit from the regional body later this month. OAS members made clear that Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega’s withdrawal from the organization his country has belonged to since 1950 would not mean losing a persistent critic of his administration.

OAS Demands Respect for Rights of Nicaraguans (June 2023)
Foreign ministers gathered at the 53rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved a resolution condemning the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo in Nicaragua, urging them to “cease all human rights violations and respect the civil, political and religious rights of Nicaraguans.”

Violence against Honduran Human Rights Defenders is ‘Alarming,’ (April 2023)
Honduras is one of the deadliest countries in the world for human rights defenders, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said after a visit to the Central American country. Eight human rights figures were killed in the year’s first four months. Land disputes in Honduras have pitted peasant activists and other residents against large-scale agriculture, mining and hydroelectric developers.

Strengthening OAS’ Role in Protecting Freedom of Assembly and Association (August 2022)
This leads us to several pressing questions, which must inform this committee’s preparatory work for the upcoming OAS General Assembly in Lima – in essence, how can we seek social justice and peace amidst shrinking civic space, corruption, the challenges of COVID-19 both as it pertains to public health but also the threats the pandemic has posed to people’s exercise of their human rights, and the fundamental need to promote and protect human rights? The United States firmly believes that a robust civil society independent of state control or government involvement is necessary for democracy to thrive.

Democracy in Latin America is Under Threat (December 2021)
From authoritarian entrenchment and persistent corruption to widespread human-rights abuses, the democratic ecosystem throughout Latin America is fragile. That’s why two upcoming international summits offer a rare opportunity to agree on a reinvigorated democratic governance agenda for the region. US President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy will focus on three broad challenges—countering authoritarianism, fighting corruption, and advancing human rights—that are particularly acute in Latin America. Several months later, the United States will also host the Ninth Summit of the Americas, during which democratically elected leaders from across the region will gather with a focus on the need for strong, inclusive democracies to deliver for citizens after almost two years of the pandemic.

OAS to Deploy Electoral Mission for Bahamas Election (September 2021)
The Organization of American States (OAS) says it will deploy an Electoral Observation Mission (EOM) to observe the general elections in the Bahamas scheduled for September 16. The OAS said Secretary General Luis Almagro has appointed Denis Godwin Antoine as chief of mission. “The mission will focus its work on the examination of issues related to electoral organization, electoral technology, electoral boundaries, electoral registries, political-electoral financing and the political participation of women,” the OAS added.

OAS human rights delegation barred from entering Venezuela (February 2020)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said its officials were blocked from boarding a plane from Panama to Venezuela, where the government had already closed the door to the visit last week. The delegation will travel to Cúcuta, a city on the Colombian side of the border with Venezuela, to “gather and document testimonies from victims and family members about the serious human rights violations” in the OPEC nation.

Nicaraguan Opposition Asks OAS to Shorten Deadlines for Ortega (June 2019)
In the proposed resolution of the Working Group for Nicaragua, which will be discussed by the foreign ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS) during the General Assembly taking place in Medellin, Colombia, there is a point of disagreement with the Nicaraguan opposition. This is the deadline of three months stipulated for a proposed commission to present a report to the OAS Permanent Council on the compliance with the agreements signed by the government at the negotiating table, the same accords that Daniel Ortega has disregarded to this day. This period is considered disproportionate by members of the Civic Alliance and the Blue and White National Unity movement, who interpret that it would grant more time and political oxygen to the regime.

OAS condemns Nicaragua’s government over wave of violence (July 2018)
The Organization of American States (OAS) adopted a resolution calling for early elections in Nicaragua and urging for an end to the wave of political violence that has gripped the Central American nation for three months. The regional bloc expressed its “energetic condemnation and serious concern over all the acts of violence, repression, human rights violations and abuse, including those committed by police, para-police groups.” Of the 34 members of the OAS Permanent Council, 21 voted in favor of the resolution, while three rejected it, seven countries abstained and three were absent from the meeting in Washington, DC.

OAS member states must not turn their back on the victims of repression (June 2018)
In a response to the “Draft Declaration of Support for the People of Nicaragua” presented by the permanent missions of the United States and Nicaragua, to be discussed and voted at the 48th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International, said the following: “The OAS member states must not turn their backs on the Nicaraguan people in their hour of need. President Ortega’s government has not shown the slightest inclination of ending its systematic policy of violent repression that has already claimed more than 100 lives in under two months, with the toll rising every day. If the countries of the region ignore the government’s responsibility for these atrocities, they will be complicit in the continued slaughter of protesters and civilians.

IACHR Calls on States to Recognize and Protect the Work of Women Human Rights Defenders (December 2017)
On the occasion of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recognizes the essential role of women human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights in the region. In this regard, the IACHR urges the States of the region to guarantee and support their right to defend rights, and adopt comprehensive, appropriate, and specialized protection measures that include a gender perspective so that women human rights defenders can freely carry out their work.

OAS says Venezuela vote was illegitimate (October 2017)
The Organization of American States has declared Venezuela’s recent gubernatorial elections to be illegitimate, citing a series of irregularities including the lack of independent poll observers. The opposition Democratic Union Roundtable (MUD) coalition was routed in the October 15 vote by President Nicolas Maduro’s socialists, who won in 18 of Venezuela’s 23 states. The opposition had portrayed the vote as a referendum on the unpopular Maduro after months of deadly street protests earlier this year failed to unseat him.

Roundtable on Civil Society and Cybersecurity in the Americas (October 2017)
Public Knowledge and the Organization of American States (OAS) organized a joint roundtable on “Cybersecurity and Civil Society in the Americas,” which took place at the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C. It hosted conversations on the following crucial topics: Cybersecurity governance Human rights; The role of the OAS and civil society in the development of national cybersecurity strategies; Transnational organized networks; The common challenges for cybersecurity in the western hemisphere; The importance of an inclusive approach to cybersecurity; and The relation between cybersecurity and development

IACHR and Inter-American Court Appreciate General Assembly Decision on Budget Increase (June 2017)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights appreciate the decision made by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) to double the Regular Fund resources allocated to the two bodies of the inter-American human rights system. “This is an historic moment that will allow for a gradual increase of 33 percent per year for each body, which will mean doubling the regular budget provided by the OAS by the end of three years,” the President of the Inter-American Court, Judge Roberto F. Caldas, said. “With this positive response,” he added, “the States of the Americas demonstrate their growing commitment to international human rights law and the assurance of the independence, autonomy, and institutional strength of the Inter-American Court and Commission.”

OAS Secretary General Denounces Military Trials Against Venezuelan Civilians (May 2017)
Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro denounced an increase in military judicial proceedings against civilians in Venezuela. “There are characteristics of a dictatorship that are unmistakable,” he said, “and today I must refer to one more in Venezuela, the passage of civilians to military justice.” Almagro stated in a video that: “The accusations of vilification and instigation of rebellion, as well as other classifications of similar nature, are part of a reactionary discourse lacking legal grounds applied against protestors … this is a new constitutional violation. Article 261 clearly states that the commission of common crimes, human rights violations and crimes against humanity will be tried by ordinary courts. The jurisdiction of the military courts is limited to crimes of a military nature.”

Venezuela may become first country to withdraw from Organization of American States (April 2017)
Venezuela is expected Thursday to formally begin the process of withdrawing from the Organization of American States, the hemispheric cooperation group based in Washington, after the country’s leaders accused the body of interference in domestic affairs. The decision comes amid monthlong marches, clashes and riots that have left at least 29 people dead across Venezuela. Opponents to President Nicolas Maduro are protesting the lack of food, poor security, delays in elections and abortive efforts by his government to strip the opposition-controlled National Assembly of its power.

OAS Member States Call for Recall Referendum in Venezuela (December 2016)
Fifteen members of the OAS released a statement demanding Venezuela “act without delay” to carry out a referendum on whether to recall current President Nicolás Maduro. Additionally, the statement encouraged the Venezuelan government to dialogue with the opposition, a process which the government describes as difficult given the opposition’s extensive list of preconditions.

Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the OAS hears NGO Concerns about Media (November 2015)
International organizations concerned with media concentration in the Americas.The discussion, held during the international conference “Free and independent media in plural and diverse media systems,”was organized by the Special Rapporteur of the IACHR and UNESCO. The talk concentrated on the Special Rapporteur’s draft report on diversity, pluralism and media concentration in the hemisphere. As part of the report, the entity consulted civil society and members states of the OAS. The presence of monopolies or oligopolies in the media has been a concern for the Special Rapporteur since its inception due to the negative impact on democracy, Lanza said during his presentation in Bogota.

Civil organizations condemn ‘ideological dictatorship’ against life and family at Panama summit (April 2015)
Civil society organizations from 18 countries condemned the manipulation of the so-called ‘social forum’ of the Seventh Summit of the Americas that took place in Panama. In a joint statement the groups strongly condemned the efforts to silence those who defend democracy, the right to life, family, and especially religious freedom.

OAS General Assembly Adopts Resolution on Strategic Vision (November 2014)
The 47th Special General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS ) adopted the draft resolution entitled “Guidelines and Objectives of the Strategic Vision” that seeks to reorganize the priorities and mandates of the Organization with a view to bringing it up to the challenges of the 21st Century. The debate on Strategic Vision originally launched by the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, in February 2012, takes off as a necessary process to adapt the Organization’s mandates to the reality of the 21st Century, so as to rationalize and leverage the financial resources of the hemispheric institution and align them with its set objectives.

The next Secretary General of the OAS (July 2014)
The process to replace OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza, the man who helped forestall OAS action on the Venezuelan crisis, kicked off with several countries proposing successors. Whoever assumes Insulza’s office will be challenged by the need to balance increasing demands for OAS action to support regional stability with the emerging voices and ever-more assertive actions of countries in the hemisphere resistant to outside interference.

News Archive

IACHR’s amended Rules of Procedure enter into force (September 2013)

Former US President Jimmy Carter speaks on reform process of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (December 2012)

OAS Permanent Council approves participation of 24 additional NGOs in dialogue on strengthening the Inter-American System of Human Rights (December 2012)

Human rights court visits Colombia for ‘blacklist’ revision (December 2012)

Venezuela writer defends Chavez government (November 2012)

OAS Permanent Council invites CSOs to submit proposals for Application of Recommendations for the Strengthening of the Inter American Human Rights System (October 2012)

IACHR convenes hearings on strengthening of the Inter-American System on Human Rights (October 2012)

IACHR regrets decision of Venezuela to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights (September 2012)

IACHR launches consultation to actors of the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights (September 2012)

OAS General Secretary communicates Venezuela´s decision to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights (September 2012)

IACHR creates procedure for civil society participation in the IAHRS reform process (August 2012)

IACHR makes choice of Emilio Álvarez Icaza for Executive Secretary (August 2012)

OAS rights body slammed by “ALBA bloc” at annual meeting (July 2012)

OAS Human Rights System comes under attack (June 2012)

Resolution on human rights defenders Adopted by OAS (June 2012)

OAS launches a compilation on legal norms in the Americas for Civil Society Participation (May 2012)

Civil society organizations and the Summit of the Americas (April 2012)

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ first regional hearing on legal restrictions on freedom of association in Latin America (March 2012)

IACHR releases new publication on the situation of human rights defenders in the Americas (March 2012)

Resolution on Promotion of the Rights to Freedom of Assembly and of Association in the Americas Adopted by OAS (June 2011)

IACHR Sessions and hearings (October 2010)

IACHR expresses concern over deaths and injuries during demonstrations in Panama (August 2010)

Regular sessions of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights

Fortieth Regular Session of the General Assembly (June 2010)

Inter-American Court publishes the “Rules for the Operation of the Victims’ Legal Assistance Fund of the Inter-American Court Of Human Rights.”

Third Meeting of the Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (April 2010)

Chávez furious as OAS rights watchdog accuses him of endangering democracy (February 2010)

IACHR publishes report on Venezuela (February 2010)

President Obama should press for change at the OAS (February 2010)

OAS expresses concern over closings of TV channels in Venezuela (January 2010)