OAS states that the business must rest on four pillars: security, democracy, development and human rights. Through political dialogue and cooperation, they want to achieve their goals.
According to the 1948 charter, collective security is one of OAS ‘main goals. Conflicts between Member States must be resolved by peaceful means. If peace on the continent is threatened, the OAS states must consider collective action. However, no joint military forces have been established.
Collective security cooperation came to the fore when the Cold War broke out in the mid-1950’s. The United States then acted on its own, which was disapproved of by other OAS countries. Most Latin American states have opposed all forms of intervention in another country, without the permission of the rulers, for fear that the United States may exploit it for its own purposes. After the end of the Cold War, however, OAS members have gained a more united view of peace and security.
The terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 put the fight against terrorism high on the OAS agenda. The General Assembly immediately condemned the attacks and expressed total solidarity with the United States. Just over a week later, the OAS Foreign Ministers convened for a Council meeting instructing the Permanent Council to draw up an anti-terrorism treaty for the member states. The US Convention against Terrorism came into force in July 2003. The aim is to prevent financial support for terrorist activities, strengthen border controls and increase police cooperation between different countries.
Terrorism is not a new problem in America. For example, 28 people were killed in a bombing raid on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992. Two years later, 85 people were killed in a bombing raid on a Jewish center in the same city. The Japanese embassy in the Peruvian capital Lima was captured in 1996 by rebels who held 72 people captive for four months. Both guerrillas and paramilitaries in Colombia during the Civil War have been identified as terrorists. A special terrorism conference was held in Lima as early as 1996, and at a follow – up meeting in Argentina’s Mar del Plata in 1998, the framework for the US Committee against Terrorism was established (Cicte, see also Structure).
Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, Cicte has held several high-level meetings, and the OAS countries have been recommended to tighten border controls and financial transfers. In 2003, the OAS held a conference on security in Mexico where the countries decided to increase cooperation on terrorism. Between 2004 and 2006, Cicte arranged several safety drills for employees at ports and airports, among other places. The OAS also works for greater openness between member states on military matters.
Many of the OAS countries face severe social problems such as poverty, corruption and human rights violations, which in turn lead to unrest and political instability. At the same time, security is threatened by cross-border problems such as drug smuggling, human trafficking (so-called trafficking), illegal arms trafficking and environmental degradation. At the Security Conference in Mexico in 2003, Member States adopted a “multidimensional” approach that takes into account both traditional and emerging security threats. Today, for example, security cooperation is more about conflicts within nations’ own borders than it has been in the past.
According to internetsailors, OAS coordinates international work to clear landmines from previous conflict areas. In Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Suriname, OAS has successfully engaged in mine clearance and the countries are today considered to be completely free of mines. However, many areas, not least Colombia, remain to be exposed.
Economic and social development
OAS ‘work for economic and social development has previously consisted mostly of advice and technical support. Instead of gigantic programs controlled from above, OAS has invested in smaller projects to support education, small business and research. For some Latin American countries, especially in the Caribbean, the support has been very important.
In recent years, the ambition has expanded. A new course was set in 1991, when then-US President George Bush launched a proposal to ease Latin America’s debt burden and stimulate investment on the American continent, as well as to establish a common free trade area to stand strong against Europe and Asia. At the Miami Summit in 1994, the OAS states agreed to strive for the FTAA free trade area. Thereafter, the FTAA was a central point in the cooperation and there were plans for the agreement to be signed in 2005. However, several heads of state said no to the agreement, which has since been on ice.
In 1996, the two councils that were previously responsible for OAS’s economic and social work were replaced by the American Council for Integrated Development (Cidi). The Council works for a comprehensive and sustainable development in the OAS area by coordinating various programs. In 1999, a subdivision was formed for Cidi, the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and Development (IACD), which, by supporting technical cooperation and training, will facilitate development in Latin America and the Caribbean. They also try to involve the private sector in the work.
In 2003, the OAS Charter was amended so that an overriding goal was to eradicate poverty. However, widespread poverty and uneven distribution of resources are still difficult problems for the region.