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The OAS General Assembly (“General Assembly”) is the highest decision-making body within the OAS and consists of Ministers of Foreign Affairs from member states. The General Assembly meets annually on the first Monday of June, preceded by a meeting of the Permanent Council who prepares the agenda for the meeting. Each member state is given a single vote – no matter the size, wealth or power of the state.

The General Assembly is responsible for (Article 54, Charter of the OAS):

  • Deciding the general action and policy of the Organization, determine the structure and functions of its organs, and consider any matter relating to friendly relations among the American States;
  • Establishing measures for coordinating the activities of the organs, agencies, and entities of the Organization among themselves, and such activities with those of the other institutions of the Inter-American system;
  • Strengthening and coordinate cooperation with the United Nations and its specialised agencies;
  • Promoting collaboration, especially in the economic, social, and cultural fields, with other international organisations whose purposes are similar to those of the Organization of American States;
  • Approving the program-budget of the Organization and determine the quotas of the member states;
  • Considering the reports of the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and the observations and recommendations presented by the Permanent Council with regard to the reports that should be presented by the other organs and entities, in accordance with the provisions of Article 91.f, as well as the reports of any organ which may be required by the General Assembly itself;
  • Adopting general standards to govern the operations of the General Secretariat; and
  • Adopting its own rules of procedure and, by a two-thirds vote, its agenda.

How does it help tackle violence against women?

As the highest decision-making authority, the General Assembly has the ability to raise women’s human rights and violence against women as an area of international and regional concern and adopt measures to address these concerns.

CSOs are allowed to participate in the General Assembly as observers, however there are many opportunities to engage with the General Assembly outside of the annual meeting. The day before the opening of the General Assembly, there is an opportunity for CSOs to engage in an informal meeting with the Secretary General. Following this work, CSOs and the General Secretariat then organise thematic networks to present recommendations and proposals to delegates at the General Assembly and engage in a dialogue on policies being implemented in each state. This is also an important opportunity for CSOs to bring attention to VAW in the region and directly engage with high-level state authorities on their policies designed to tackle VAW. Additionally, CSOs who register with the OAS gain access to draft resolutions and/or resolutions adopted by the GA – as well as authorisation to comment on them.

The Councils of the OAS (i.e. the Permanent Council and the Inter-American Council for Integral Development) also offer multiple opportunities for OAS registered CSOs to distribute information, deliver presentations and offer consultation upon request. Through the work of these Councils, the agenda for the General Assembly is determined. Engaging with the Councils on gender inequality and discrimination through presentations and consultation can be an opportunity to raise awareness about discriminatory factors sustaining VAW.

iconLockWant more? Find out about how to participate in OAS activities

iconStarCivil Society Engagement: Observer Status

There are two primary ways CSOs may participate in the General Assembly’s activities:

  1. By registering with the OAS through an application to the Secretary General and with approval of the Permanent Council
  2. Requesting to attend the General Assembly as a special guest

There are application deadlines to participate in the General Assembly and CSOs are advised to check the OAS website for more information on upcoming meetings for more information on how to apply.

iconLockWant more? Learn about how to gain observer status at the General Assembly annual meeting

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