At the 1826 Congress of Panama, Simon Bolivar proposed that a group of American republics should unite with a common military, a joint parliament, and a mutual defense agreement, to present a united front against domination by any external governments. Bolivar's notion of joining the Americas was considered by representatives from Peru, Mexico, the United Provinces of Central America, and representatives of Gran Columbia―the area that now consists of Columbia, Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela. The idea of regional solidarity didn't take hold quickly because of Gran Columbia's civil war, the disintegration that took place in Central America, and the development of national agendas throughout the independent republics in the Americas.
But in 1890, the pursuit of a united front was again brought to the forefront during the first International Conference of American States. In Washington, D.C., the International Union of American Republics was formed by 18 nations, along with the Commercial Bureau of the American Republics. These two unions were later combined to become the Organization of American States (OAS). Currently, the OAS has 35 member states, and has granted the status of 'permanent observer' to 62 additional states as well as the European Union.
The four main pillars of the OAS are democracy, security, human rights, and development. Each area supports the others, and they intertwine to enable inclusiveness, dialog, cooperation, and other follow-up approaches that give the OAS effective tools for maximizing its work. The OAS is the essential political forum for the Americas, providing a place for the independent countries located in North America, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean to come together to pursue advancement of their common goals, as well as to negotiate their differences and resolve conflicts.
The organization offers critical support to its member states by helping them build institutional and human resources to meet challenges that arise. For example, it has worked to help member states implement technical reforms to their various electoral systems, and has provided training of government officials in diverse areas such as natural disaster mitigation and trade negotiations. OAS scholarships and training assistance programs have provided opportunities for many citizens of member states to develop skills that they can then use to help in their home countries.
Member states are held accountable on a diverse range of issues, and have adopted mechanisms that help evaluate their progress in fighting various social ills such as illegal drugs, corruption in politics and government organizations, and domestic violence. The OAS has participated in several important developments of blueprints for democracy in various regions, encouraging political dialog among member states. Whether the issue at hand is one of territorial disputes, civil rights, or regional educational goals and challenges, the OAS is where many levels of political dialog are encouraged and nurtured to seek permanent solutions.