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Updated 06/23/2006

Organization of American States

Although it has been called many names, the Organization of American States (OAS) is the oldest of all regional bodies, and its Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man predates the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights by nearly seven months. 


In 1890, the International Conference of American States formed the International Union of American Republics. In 1910, this organization became the Pan American Union. The OAS of today was created at the Ninth International Conference of American States in 1948 and entered into force in 1951.

There are currently 35 member states, including Honduras and the United States. Cuba is an OAS member, although the current government under Fidel Castro has been banned from participation since 1962. Fifty-eight additional states and the European Union have permanent observer status.   

The OAS oversees the Inter-American Human Rights system, which is characterized by two human rights instruments—the Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights—and two supervisory and regulatory bodies—the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The mandate of the OAS, as stated in its charter, includes strengthening peace and security on the continent and promoting representative democracy with respect for the principle of nonintervention. Today the stated priorities of the OAS include strengthening democracy, working for peace, defending human rights, fostering free trade, fighting the drugs trade, and promoting sustainable development.  

For more information 

Web site of the Organization of American States