Canada and the Organization of American States

The Organization of American States (OAS) is the premier multilateral organization of the Americas. It seeks to achieve among its member states an order of peace and justice, promote their solidarity, strengthen their collaboration and to defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. After 28 years as an observer, Canada became a member of the OAS on January 8, 1990.

Founded in 1948, the Organization of American States is the oldest regional organization in the world. It is built on four pillars: democracy, human rights, security and development.

The Organization of American States is an important multilateral vehicle for advancing Canada's goals of increasing mutual economic opportunity, strengthening security and institutions, and fostering lasting relationships.

The Organization of American States offers opportunities for study and international experience.

Canada is represented at the OAS by the Permanent Mission of Canada to the Organization of American States. The Mission is the primary channel of communication between Canada, the OAS General Secretariat and the other member states.

Jennifer Loten is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization of American States.

The Permanent Mission of Canada to the OAS is located within the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C.

Overview of the Organization of American States

Founded in 1948, the Organization of American States (OAS) is the oldest regional organization in the world. It was built upon the Pan-American Union to promote peaceful relations in the Americas. With 34 active member states, the OAS is the premier political multilateral forum of the hemisphere. The OAS has also granted permanent observer status to 70 states and the European Union. It is the only regional organization that includes North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The OAS is built on four pillars: democracy, human rights, security and development. These core values underlie the organization’s work in safeguarding peace and stability. They are also among the OAS’s areas of greatest expertise. OAS headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., and the organization has national offices in its member states. Member states are represented by their permanent representatives, who meet regularly to analyze hemispheric issues, have dialogues and take collective action as necessary.

General Assembly

The General Assembly is the principal body of the OAS. It gathers ministers of foreign affairs of all member states on an annual basis and also holds special sessions to consider urgent matters. OAS member states generally take decisions by consensus.

The General Assembly provides the forum where major decisions are made concerning OAS policies and actions.

Structure of the OAS

General Secretariat

The OAS General Secretariat is led by a Secretary General and an Assistant Secretary General elected by the membership for up to two five-year terms. On March 18, 2015, Uruguayan Luis Almagro Lemes was elected as the 10th Secretary General.

Permanent Council

The Permanent Council, as a main governing body of the OAS, meets regularly to set broad priorities for the organization and direct its ongoing actions. It is composed of one Permanent Representative per member state, who is accredited with the rank of ambassador.

The Inter-American Council for Integral Development

The Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI) is a body of the OAS directly answerable to the General Assembly. It has decision-making power in matters of partnership for integral development. The purpose of the CIDI is to promote cooperation among its Member States to help eliminate extreme poverty.

Summit of the Americas

The leaders of the hemisphere meet every three years at the Summit of the Americas. It plays a key role in setting the priorities of the inter-American system and, more broadly, in fostering discussions at the highest level on issues of common interest for the region. The OAS serves as the technical secretariat and institutional memory of the summit process.

Since the first summit in 1994, leaders have met on seven occasions to discuss their shared vision as well as to address the political, economic and social development challenges and opportunities in the hemisphere. Peru hosted the VIII Summit of the Americas on April 13 to 14, 2018, in Lima under the theme “Democratic Governance Against Corruption.” Commitments by leaders at the Summit provide guidance for future action by inter-American institutions, chief among which is the OAS. 

Canada reports on its progress in implementing commitments made at the summits. Please see reports submitted by Canada and other member states.

Summits provide an opportunity for an exchange between leaders and civil society organizations, private sector and youth from across the region. It is a highly valued platform for Canada to engage with countries of the hemisphere and to advance our foreign policy, trade and development priorities in the region.

For more information, see Summits of the Americas Secretariat.

Canada’s priorities

The Organization of American States (OAS) is an important multilateral vehicle for advancing Canada's goals of increasing mutual economic opportunity, strengthening security and institutions, and fostering lasting relationships.

Canada places great value on building and nurturing relationships with partners in the Americas. In this endeavour, inter-American institutions such as the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, Inter-American Commission on Women, Inter-American Development Bank and Pan American Health Organization are also key forums for hemispheric cooperation.

Canada’s strongest engagement at the OAS is in the areas of democracy, human rights and security. Our specific priorities at the OAS are to:

  1. contribute to building a stable foundation for the Inter-American Human Rights System in support of diversity and pluralism;
  2. promote democracy, governance, public safety and security through collaboration with inter-American bodies and agencies; and
  3. Support multilateral action in the Americas to advance global sustainability goals, including fostering economic growth and opportunity.

A number of Canada’s efforts touch all three of these priorities. Canada’s cross-cutting thematic areas are institutional strengthening, human rights, gender issues and indigenous populations, security and public safety, and alignment with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Canada’s contribution

Since joining the OAS in 1990, Canada has made significant contributions to the OAS’s collective achievements, including through the establishment of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, the adoption of the Social Charter of the Americas, and the elaboration of a Declaration on Security in the Americas. To ensure that the OAS plays an effective role in the hemisphere, Canada has promoted institutional reform. Canada is also working with the OAS to foster both sustainable development and growth with equity.

Through its diplomatic engagement and financial support, Canada has contributed to policy development and the implementation of projects in areas of key Canadian interest that complement and leverage the impact of Canada’s bilateral interventions in the region.

Youth opportunities

The Organization of American States (OAS) offers opportunities for study and international experience.

OAS scholarships

The OAS Academic Scholarship Program (Regular Program) grants scholarships every year for the pursuit of master’s degrees, doctoral degrees and graduate research leading to a university degree. For more information, see Scholarships for Academic Studies.

Internships at the OAS

The OAS offers youth a unique opportunity to acquire experience in different areas of expertise in an international and multicultural environment enhancing their networking possibilities. In addition, they will have the chance to acquire significant knowledge of the OAS and its mission, pillars, structure and projects in the hemisphere. For more information, see the OAS internship program.

Model OAS

The Model OAS for students of the hemisphere is a program of the OAS designed to promote democratic values among the youth by familiarizing students, faculty and academic institutions of the Americas with the work of the OAS and its Member States, as well as with the organization’s role as the premier political forum in the hemisphere. For more information, see the Model OAS General Assembly.

About the Permanent Mission of Canada

Canada is represented at the OAS by the Permanent Mission of Canada to the Organization of American States. The Mission is the primary channel of communication between Canada, the OAS General Secretariat and the other member states. The role of the Mission is to advance the Canadian government’s objectives and interests through the OAS and to work with hemispheric partners through the organization.

The Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization of American States is supported by a team of diplomats and delegates who represent Canada across a range of OAS bodies, including the Permanent Council, the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, committees, agencies and institutions including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission of Women.

The Mission also represents the Canadian government at the Pan American Health Organization.

Message from the Ambassador

Canada is a country of the Americas. Through active engagement at the OAS, we collaborate to build a hemisphere that offers security, opportunity and justice to the peoples of the Americas.

The OAS has important convening power that allows our delegation to put strong Canadian values, such as respect for human rights, democratic institutions, diversity and equity, at the centre of interactions between member states.

At its best, the OAS mobilizes the countries of the Americas to speak together as a strong voice for democratic values and to fight for rights and equality by implementing the values and principles enshrined in its foundational agreements, including the OAS Charter, the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Declaration on Hemispheric Security. OAS core institutions have sought to expand access to the benefits, privileges and responsibilities of citizenship in the Americas for the most vulnerable populations and to constantly increase our expectations of the democratically elected governments of the Americas.

It is a great privilege to represent Canada among our Americas friends, knowing that over the 25+ years of membership at the OAS, we have made significant contributions to some of the OAS’s greatest collective achievements for the Americas. Canada has much more to do!

Jennifer Loten
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Canada to the Organization of American States

Contact information

The Permanent Mission of Canada to the OAS is located within the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C.

Address

501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Telephone: (202) 448-6556

Email: PRMOASG@international.gc.ca

Hours of operation

Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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