Organization of American States: Background and Issues for Congress [July 31, 2012] [open pdf - 398KB]
"The Organization of American States (OAS) is the oldest multilateral regional organization in the world. It was founded in 1948 by the United States and 20 Latin American nations to serve as a forum for addressing issues of mutual concern. Over time, the organization expanded to include all 35 independent countries of the Western Hemisphere (though Cuba currently is excluded from participation). The organization's areas of focus have also shifted over time, evolving in accordance with the priorities of its member states. Today, the OAS concentrates on four broad objectives: democracy promotion, human rights protection, economic and social development, and regional security cooperation. It carries out a wide variety of activities to advance these goals, often providing policy guidance and technical assistance to member states. […] The debate over the OAS and its utility for advancing U.S. interests has continued to unfold in the 112th Congress. In addition to raising issues of concern in congressional hearings and other forums, Members have introduced several legislative initiatives that include provisions related to the OAS."
CRS Report for Congress, R42639