Organization of American States: Background and Issues for Congress [April 8, 2013] [open pdf - 416KB]
"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. Since the organization's foundation, the United States has sought to utilize the OAS to advance critical economic, political, and security objectives in the Western Hemisphere. Although OAS actions frequently reflected U.S. policy during the 20th Century, this has changed to a certain extent over the past decade as Latin American and Caribbean governments have adopted more independent foreign policies. While the organization's goals and day-to-day activities are still generally consistent with U.S. policy toward the region, the United States' ability to advance its policy initiatives within the OAS has declined. Nevertheless, the United States has remained the organization's largest donor, contributing an estimated $67.5 million in FY2012--equivalent to nearly 43% of the total 2012 OAS budget."
CRS Report for Congress, R42639