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The OAS General Secretariat is the central and permanent organ of the OAS, responsible for promoting economic, social, juridical, educational, scientific, and cultural relations among all the member states, with special emphasis on cooperation for the elimination of extreme poverty. Located in Washington, D.C. (USA), the General Secretariat is headed by the Secretary General with support from the Assistant Secretary General. The Assistant Secretary General also acts as the Secretary of the Permanent Council. The Secretary General is elected by the General Assembly and serves 5 years with the possibility of serving one additional term. The work of the General Secretariat is carried out through seven Secretariats:
- Secretariat for Strengthening Democracy
- Executive Secretariat for Integral Development
- Secretariat for Multidimensional Security
- Secretariat for Administration and Finance
- Secretariat for Legal Affairs
- Secretariat for Access to Rights and Equity
- Secretariat for Hemispheric Affairs
The General Secretariat is responsible for (Chapter XVI, OAS Charter):
- Transmitting notice of the convocation of the General Assembly, the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Inter-American Council for Integral Development, and the Specialized Conferences;
- Advising the other organs, when appropriate, in the preparation of agenda and rules of procedure;
- Preparing the proposed program-budget of the Organization on the basis of programs adopted by the Councils, agencies, and entities whose expenses should be included in the program-budget and, after consultation with the Councils or their permanent committees, submit it to the Preparatory Committee of the General Assembly and then to the Assembly itself;
- Providing, on a permanent basis, adequate secretariat services for the General Assembly and the other organs, and carry out their directives and assignments. To the extent of its ability, provide services for the other meetings of the OAS;
- Serving as custodian of the documents and archives of the Inter-American Conferences, the General Assembly, the Meetings of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, the Councils, and the Specialized Conferences;
- Serving as depository of inter-American treaties and agreements, as well as of the instruments of ratification thereof;
- Submitting to the General Assembly at each regular session an annual report on the activities of the OAS and its financial condition; and
- Establishing relations of cooperation, in accordance with decisions reached by the General Assembly or the Councils, with the Specialized Organizations as well as other national and international organizations.
Tackling Violence against Women and Civil Society Engagement: Cooperation Agreements
Cooperation agreements on the development and implementation of activities in all work areas of the OAS can be signed by all departments within the General Secretariat. These agreements are an opportunity for CSOs and other organisations working on women’s human rights and tackling violence against women to increase participation in the OAS’s activities. For example, the OAS and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) entered into a cooperation agreement in 2010 to establish working mechanisms relating to issues including the eradication of VAW.
There are two types of cooperation agreements that CSOs can enter into:
- General cooperation agreement: CSOs wishing to provide advisory services to the OAS organs, agencies and entities, and to disseminate information on its activities and programmes.
- Special cooperation agreement:
- Agreements on the development of technical, administrative or financial programs in order to conduct specific programs in OAS areas of activity
- Agreements relating to the Specialized Organizations
- Agreements established directly by the Secretary General
The General Secretariat serves as the first point of contact for CSOs wishing to establish a cooperation agreement on work involving VAW. After identifying the relevant department within the General Secretariat (see list above) related to the CSOs specialisation and submitting a proposal to that Department, a preliminary agreement is reached by the CSO and General Secretariat. This is then sent to the Secretary General for approval and signature.
Want more? Read about how to enter into a cooperation agreements on the OAS website