Frequently Asked Questions
 
  1. What are civil society organizations (CSOs)?

  2. How can civil society organizations participate in the Organization of American States (OAS)?

  3. What benefits do civil society organizations receive from registration to the OAS?

  4. Are there any costs or risks to registration?

  5. How do civil society organizations register to the OAS?

  6. What must be included in the application letter?

  7. How is this letter handled?

  8. Are there any selection criteria?

  9. What are the responsibilities of civil society organizations after registering in the OAS?

  10. How many organizations have registered?

  11. How do civil society organizations participate in the General Assembly?

  12. Do civil society organizations get to meet with the foreign ministers at the General Assembly?

  13. How do civil society organizations participate in the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI)?

  14. How is this letter handled?

  15. How do civil society organizations participate in the CIDI committees?

  16. What are cooperation agreements?

  17. How do civil society organizations enter into cooperation agreements?

  18. How do civil society organization participate in the Summit of the Americas?

  19. Are there any upcoming events for civil society organizations?

  20. Where can further questions be directed?


What are civil society organizations (CSOs)?

Article 2 of CP/RES. 759, "Guidelines for the Participation of Civil Society Organizations in OAS Activities," defines a civil society organization (CSO) as "any national or international institution, organization, or entity made up of natural or juridical persons of a non-governmental nature."  This includes, among other organizations, non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and universities, think-tanks, the private sector, religious groups, and professional associations. 

How can civil society organizations participate in the Organization of American States (OAS)?

There are three ways of participating in the activities of the OAS. First, a civil society organization can register to the Organization of American States (OAS).  If for any reason a civil society organization would like to participate without registering, they can attend meetings of the General Assembly, the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI), and other specific Conferences of the OAS by soliciting to become a Special Guest. The third and last way of participating in OAS activities is through cooperation agreements with the General Secretariat or other OAS organs.

What benefits do civil society organizations receive from registration to the OAS?

  • Obtain access to virtual consultations on issues and initiatives promoted by the OAS.
  • Contribute to the elaboration of the agenda of a meeting, once a year, within the Permanent Council, on a matter of special interest to registered civil society organizations for a broad and substantive dialogue.
  • Receive the calendar of OAS meetings and when possible, the themes to be discussed in the meetings.
  • Registered civil society organizations may designate representatives to attend, as observers, public meetings of the Permanent Council, CIDI, and their subsidiary bodies.
  • Whether registered civil society organizations may attend closed meetings shall be determined by the chair of the meeting in question, in consultation with the participating member state delegations.
  • In the case of meetings of committees of the Permanent Council or of CIDI, registered civil society organizations may distribute written documents in advance.
  • Present written documents, not exceeding 2,000 words, on questions that fall within its particular sphere of competence and appear on the agenda or order of business for the meeting. These documents shall be distributed by the General Secretariat to member states.
  • Receive the OAS the resolutions adopted at each session of the General Assembly.
  • Comment and assist in effectively implementing the OAS the resolutions adopted at each session of the General Assembly, as appropriate.

Are there any costs or risks to registration? 

There are no direct costs; however, some fear that the system of civil society registration forces civil society to become less critical of the Organization of American States.  On the contrary, the OAS welcomes such criticism, but also feels that greater benefits can be achieved through organized participation and discussion. In the Guidelines for the participation of CSOs, the Permanent Council expressed that "civil society participation must be oriented by a clear and yet flexible regulatory framework". Therefore, civil society organizations can contribute knowledge and additional information to decision-making processes, raise new issues and concerns that will subsequently be addressed by the OAS, lend expert advice in their areas of expertise, and contribute to consensus-building in many spheres.  The Organization of American States has become a better, stronger, and more flexible institution thanks to the increase in participation by civil society. 

How do civil society organizations register to the OAS?

Civil society organizations (CSOs) seeking to be registered to the OAS must follow the "Guidelines for the Participation of Civil Society Organizations in OAS Activities" approved by the Permanent Council in Resolution CP/RES. 759.  Each civil society organization must send a letter to the OAS General Secretariat indicating their interest in being considered for such status.  The letter should be sent to:

Secretary General
Organization of American States
MNB-20
17th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20006, 
U.S.A.

What must be included in the application letter?

The General Secretariat requires that the application contains the following information: 

  1. Official name, address, telephones, and date of establishment of the organization and the name(s) of its director(s) and legal representative(s).
  2. Primary areas of activity and their relationship to the activities of the OAS organs, agencies, and entities in which it wishes to participate.
  3. Reasons why the organization believes its proposed contributions to OAS activities would be of interest to the OAS.
  4. Identification of the OAS work areas in which your organization proposes to support ongoing activities or to make recommendations on the best way to achieve OAS objectives.

Applications should include the following documentation: 

  • A duly notarized copy of the articles of incorporation, charter, or constitution;
  • A duly notarized copy of the certificate of incorporation, if any;
  • A duly notarized copy of the bylaws;
  • A copy of the most recent annual report;
  • An institutional mission statement signed by a director or the legal representative; and
  • A copy of the financial statements for the previous fiscal year, including reference to public and private sources of financing, signed by the financial officer or the public accountant of the applicant organization.

 

How is this letter handled?

 

First, after the Secretary General receives the request, the application is submitted to the Department of International Affairs to make sure that all the requirements and supporting documents mentioned above have been included in the application. 

 

Second, if the application is complete, the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities (CISC) of the Permanent Council will examine the application, ensure compliance with the Guidelines, and then make a recommendation on the organizationís eligibility for registration.  An organization may be required to provide additional information and clarification before the Committee can complete its review.  If this were the case, the organization will be duly advised. 

 

Third, the recommendations of the CISC will be submitted to the Permanent Council for a decision.  Please be aware that the request and supporting documentation may be discussed and distributed in a public forum during the registration process and cannot be given the protection of confidential, private, or otherwise privileged information.  If the Permanent Council decides to accept the request, the civil society organization will be notified and the name of the organization and its application will be added to the Registry of civil society organizations.

 

Are there any selection criteria?

The Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities (CISC) of the Permanent Council looks for the following attributes in civil society organizations seeking registration:

  1. Recognized standing within its particular field of competence.
  2. Representative nature.
  3. Institutional structure that includes appropriate mechanisms for holding its officers accountable and subject to its members.  
  4. Legal representative and an executive officer, as well as established headquarters.
  5. Resources obtained primarily from its affiliates or individual members.
  6. Institutional and financial structure is transparent.
  7. Institutional and financial structure affords a certain degree of independence. 
  8. Headquarters or principal activities not located in any territory over which there exists a sovereignty dispute between an OAS member state and a state outside the Hemisphere.
  9. Geographic origin-- The Committee seeks to ensure the registration of civil society organizations from all member states, in order to facilitate just, balanced, effective, and genuine participation by all regions of the Hemisphere.

What are the responsibilities of civil society organizations after registering in the OAS?

  1. Answer inquiries from the organs, agencies, and entities of the OAS and provide advisory services to them upon request.
  2. Disseminate information on OAS activities to its members.
  3. Present to the General Secretariat, before December 31 of each year, a report, containing an executive summary, on its participation in OAS activities during that year, its financial situation and sources of funding, and the activities planned for the coming year. 
  4. Keep the information on its executive officers up to date.

How many organizations have registered?

As of December 3, 2009, 308 organizations have been accredited within the Organization of American States.  To see the list of registered civil society organizations, please click here.

How do civil society organizations participate in the General Assembly?

Any civil society organization (CSO) wishing to attend the annual OAS General Assembly must send a letter to the Secretary General, with  a copy to the Department of International Affairs of the OAS at least forty-five (45) days in advance of the opening session, indicating their interest to observe the proceedings under the category of "Special Guests". Letters directed to the Secretary General from organizations not registered to the OAS must be accompanied by the following documents: charter or constitution, statutes, most recent annual report, and institutional mission statement.

 
The indicated time period is necessary because the Secretary General must submit a final list of organizations to the Permanent Council for approval at least thirty (30) days prior to the General Assembly. Additionally, the organizations on the list must be authorized by the host country.
 
This process is independent of other CSO participation processes in the OAS, and CSOs registered with the OAS must still request the category of "Special Guests" for each General Assembly they wish to attend.
The letter should be sent to:

Secretary General
Organization of American States
MNB-20
17th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20006, 
U.S.A.

Do civil society organizations get to meet with the foreign ministers at the General Assembly?

Directly preceding the General Assembly there is a Dialogue among civil society organizations, foreign ministers of member states, and the Secretary General of the OAS. Heads of Delegation agreed at the XXXIII General Assembly in 2003 that this Dialogue will henceforth become an institutionalized meeting of the General Assembly.

How do civil society organizations participate in the Inter-American Council for Integral Development (CIDI)?  

CSOs wishing to attend the meetings of CIDI must send a letter to the Secretary General of the Organization at least fifteen (15) days prior to the opening meeting of CIDI.  The letter should specifically request permission to attend that CIDI meeting as a Special Guest.

The letter should be sent to:

Secretary General
Organization of American States
MNB-20
17th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington D.C. 20006, 
U.S.A.

 

How is this letter handled?

 

The Secretary General will submit this letter to the Permanent Executive Committee of CIDI (CEPCIDI) for its review. If the request is approved by CEPCIDI and the host country of the meeting, the Secretary General will issue the corresponding invitation.

 

How do civil society organizations participate in the CIDI committees?

 

Most Inter-American Committees of the CIDI have provisions in their rules similar to those in CIDIís rules for the participation in their meetings of Special Guests that are not accredited as observers under Resolution CP/RES. 759 Guidelines.  In most cases, those provisions stipulate that the letter of request be sent fifteen (15) days prior to the commencement of the meeting to the Chair of the Committee or its Executive Board.  CSOs that wish to participate as Special Guests in those meetings are urged to consult with the Secretariats of those Committees for more detailed information as required. 

What are cooperation agreements?

CSOs wishing to participate in carrying out joint projects with the General Secretariat, to contribute technical, administrative or financial resources to the General Secretariat, or to otherwise design, finance, or execute cooperation programs for the Secretariat may do so by entering into a cooperation agreement with the General Secretariat.  The Agreement may establish a framework to govern subsequent projects and activities to be agreed upon at a future date, or may simply cover a specific project or activity of the General Secretariat.

How do civil society organizations enter into cooperation agreements?

Those CSOs interested in reaching such agreements should consult with the specific administrative area (unit, department, or office) of the Secretariat responsible for the types of projects in which they are interested in supporting.  They must also provide that area, if so requested, with copies of their articles of incorporation (or charter), bylaws, annual reports and financial statements for the past three years, the names of their officers and directors for the past three years, and the names of their major contributors (provided those names can be released without violating confidentiality agreements).  If after such consultations, the CSO and corresponding administrative dependency of the General Secretariat reach preliminary agreement on suitable terms of cooperation, they shall prepare, in conjunction with the Department of Legal Services, the final agreement for the approval and signature of the Secretary General.

How do civil society organizations participate in the Summit of the Americas?

The Summit of the Americas is an intergovernmental process in which the Heads of State and Government of the 34 democratic governments of the Hemisphere join to define and discuss the Inter-American agenda.  This process is currently chaired by the Government of Colombia, the host of the next Summit of the Americas, which will take place in 2012.  The Summits of the Americas Secretariat serves as the technical secretariat and the institutional memory of the Summit process.  If you would like to get involved in the Summits of the Americas process, please visit the website (www.summit-americas.org) or send an email with your name, organization, address, telephone and areas of interest to the Summits of the Americas Secretariat.

Are there any upcoming events for civil society organizations?

The Department of International Affairs is pleased to share information about upcoming opportunities for civil society participation in OAS activities on the OAS Civil Society Website.

Where can further questions be directed?

The Department of International Affairs has been designated to coordinate the participation of civil society in the Organization of American States.  For more information, please feel free to contact:  

Irene Klinger                                   

Director

or

 

Jorge Sanin
Head, Relation with Permanent Observers and Civil Society

 

Department of International Affairs

Organization of American States

17th Street & Constitution Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20006

 

Telephone: 202-458-6072
Fax: 202-458-
6319
civilsociety@oas.org