What Is the Future of the Oas????????

Americas Quarterly, Winter 2015 | Go to article overview

What Is the Future of the Oas????????


Growing regional divisions between-but not limited to-the north and the rest of the hemisphere and the emergence of new regional organizations have focused attention on the role and purpose of the 66-year-old Organization of American States (oas). This discussion comes as the 10-year term of the much-criticized Secretary General José Miguel Insulza draws to an end. Under his watch, the oas leadership has failed to raise its voice against a number of assaults on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (iachr), and played a decreasing role in election observation. Similarly, the organization now has a diminished presence in matters concerning the defense of democracy, leading some to argue that the oas Inter-American Democratic Charter (iadc), which committed member states to the protection and defense of the checks and balances of representative democracy, has become a dead letter. At the same time, a number of criticisms of the organization's management under Insulza have surfaced.

So, does the old-timer on the block have a role in a changing hemisphere? And can a new secretary general wrestle the 35-member behemoth into a new era?

All of the commentators here agree that the oas has played an important role in defending human rights and democracy-and most agree with the common complaint that the oas has strayed recently in this responsibility. They also concur on the need for the oas to embrace the region's ideological diversity. Nevertheless, what is leftunanswered is if these two are incompatible. Does the need to balance ideological diversity weaken the commitment to defend clear standards and institutions that preserve democracy and protect human rights?

One cannot look at the recent efforts to undermine the iachr, as well as Venezuela's decision to pull out of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Dominican Republic's stated desire to do so, and not wonder if ideological diversity and renewed pledges of non-intervention have diluted the hemispheric community's commitment to key long-standing norms.

A delicate, balanced consensus on these elements has undergirded the inter-American system. But the failure of the oas to seriously address the implications of the consolidation of executive power in countries like Venezuela, Ecuador-and Colombia under former President Álvaro Uribe-raises the question of whether the once-vaunted oas commitment to defend democracy under the iadc has eroded.

We posed these questions bluntly to our essayists.

PÍA RIGGIROZZI

Pía Riggirozzi is an associate professor in global politics at the University of Southampton in the U.K.

The OAS is navigating in a conceptual, diplomatic and policy fog. Normative and geopolitical conditions that for decades buttressed the organization's influential position in inter-American affairs have changed, and with it, the (hegemonic) influence of U.S. and U.S.- sponsored institutions. Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (ALBA), Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR) and Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (CELAC) are reclaiming the region and rebuilding inter-American relations, forcing the OAS to redefine its position. The challenge is not merely one of symbolic politics led by left-leaning presidents railing against U.S. domination. The OAS faces profound changes in the coordinates of regional power, diplomacy and cooperation.

The pressure is high. The OAS is losing ground on signature issues. UNASUR has effectively displaced the OAS as the preferred institution for conflict resolution in the region (for instance, institutional crises in Bolivia in 2008; Honduras in 2009; Ecuador in 2010; Paraguay in 2012; and political instability in Venezuela in 2014) and is engaged in innovative forms of collective diplomacy representing South America as a whole within the World Health Organization and vis-à-vis international pharmaceutical corporations. CELAC, for its part, has entangled the U. …

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