The Law of International Institutions

By D. W. Bowett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
THE AMERICAS, THE MIDDLE-EAST, ASIA AND THE FAR EAST, EASTERN EUROPE AND AFRICA

I. THE AMERICAS

1. The Organisation of American States (OAS)

(A) Origins

THE historical development of the OAS is in itself a sufficiently good illustration of varying kinds of co-operation between States to be worth a brief outline. The International Union of American Republics, formed in 1890, was not an organisation in the modern sense of the term at all, but simply a series of conferences designed to promote commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes; it was assisted by a Commercial Bureau which came to be called the "Pan-American Union".

By 1906 wider aims were accepted, and policies were determined by a plenary Governing Board, but these aims still remained non-military and largely non-political. Even after the First World War, whilst the series of Inter-American Conferences continued, the unilateral character of the Monroe Doctrine, by which the U.S.A. had established a hegemony over the Western Hemisphere, prevented any real political co-operation from developing. With the change to a "Good Neighbour Policy", the U.S.A. at the Montevideo Conference of 1933 accepted the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other American States and a Buenos Aires in 19361 accepted the principle of consultation between the American States as an alternative to unilateral United States action on matters affecting the peace of the continent.2 Thus the principle of equality, and consequently prospects for co-operation, began to emerge. In 1938, at the Lima Conference, a Meeting of Foreign Ministers was established as a procedure for such consultation, and use was made of this organ to make various affirmations of common policy during the early stages of the Second World War.

____________________
1
"Convention on Rights and Duties of States", Art. 8; ( 1934) 28 A.J.I.L., Suppl. 75.
2
"Convention for the Maintenance, Preservation and Re-establishment of Peace"; 1937 31 A.J.I.L., Suppl. 5 3

-183-

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