The Acting Secretary of State to President Truman

The President: The undersigned, the Acting Secretary of State, has the honor to lay before the President, with a view to its transmission to the Senate to receive the advice and consent of that body to ratification, if his judgment approve thereof, a certified copy of the Charter of the Organization of American States, formulated at the Ninth International Conference of American States and signed at Bogotá in the English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish languages on April 30, 1948 by the plenipotentiaries of the United States of America and by the plenipotentiaries of the other American republics.1

The basic purpose of the Charter is to coordinate and strengthen the inter-American system in the interest of greater efficiency and to meet the demands of changing conditions. Consideration of the remodeling and extension of the cooperative relationships and activities of the [Page 70] American republics was given special impetus by developments during World War II and by the recognition that adjustment of inter-American instruments and agencies should go hand in hand with general international organization for the maintenance of peace and security. Informal conversations, initiated in Washington in the autumn of 1944 between diplomatic representatives of other American republics and officials of this Government with respect to the proposals formulated at Dumbarton Oaks on the establishment of a general international organization, indicated the desirability of steps to develop further the inter-American system. Subsequently, the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, held at Mexico City February 21 to March 8, 1945, adopted resolution IX establishing certain broad outlines for reorganizing and strengthening the inter-American system and preparing it for whatever new responsibilities it might assume with the establishment of the world organization, the United Nations. Resolution IX not only provided for certain fundamental changes in the system but also stipulated, among other things, that “The Governing Board of the Pan American Union, availing itself of all Pan American agencies that it deems appropriate, is charged with preparing, beginning May 1, 1945, a draft charter for the improvement and strengthening of the Pan American System.” The resulting comprehensive draft “Organic Pact of the Inter-American System” served as the basis of discussions at the conference at Bogotá in the formulation of the Charter.

While the Charter modifies and strengthens the organization of the existing inter-American system, it is basically a continuation of the progressive development of the cooperation initiated by the First International Conference of American States convened in Washington in November 1889 at the invitation of the Secretary of State of the United States.

At the First Conference (1889–1890) the countries represented therein formed an association under the title “The International Union of American Republics.” In accordance with recommendations made by that Conference the Secretary of State of the United States organized and established in Washington in 1890 “The Commercial Bureau of the American Republics” which, pursuant to those recommendations, was maintained under the supervision of the Secretary of State and was charged with “the care of all translations and publications and with all correspondence pertaining to the International Union.”

Resolutions of subsequent conferences expanded the scope of the cooperation undertaken by the association, and modified the organization of the Bureau and increased its functions. The Second Conference (1901–1902) changed the name of the Bureau to “The International [Page 71] Bureau of the American Republics” and placed it under the management of a Governing Board, consisting of the Secretary of State of the United States as its Chairman and the diplomatic representatives of all the governments represented in the Bureau and accredited to the Government of the United States of America. The Fourth Conference (1910) changed the name of the association to “Union of the American Republics” and designated the institution serving as its agent in Washington as the “Pan American Union.” A convention relating to the organization of the Pan American Union and to other organs of the Union of the American States (Senate Executive II, 70th Congress, 2d Session) was adopted at the Sixth Conference (1928). While ratifications of that convention were deposited by the United States and fifteen other American republics, it did not enter into force because it was not ratified or adhered to on behalf of all twenty-one American republics as required by Article XIV thereof. As the result of the failure of that convention to enter into force, the organization of the inter-American system has continued to function on the basis of resolutions adopted by the various inter-American conferences.

The inter-American cooperative system has come a long way since the convening of the First Conference in 1889. The Organization of American States established by the present Charter provides a framework, on a treaty basis, for cooperation among the American states in practically all their relations with each other, and in their relationship as a group with the United Nations. The provisions of the Charter appear to be clear and self-explanatory when considered in the light of the history of the inter-American system. Attention is invited, however, to Chapter Two of the United States Delegation’s report on the Bogotá Conference, a copy of which is enclosed herewith, for detailed information with respect to the Organization established by the Charter.

It may be pointed out that one of the more important aspects of the reorganization effected by the Charter is that the directive to the Council, previously known as the Governing Board of the Pan American Union, to submit proposals for the combination, adaptation or elimination of existing specialized organizations will result in a reduction in their number and more efficient use of those which are retained. One of the important tasks of the Council, therefore, is the making of the necessary surveys of the status and activities of existing specialized organizations with a view to the discontinuance of those whose maintenance serves no useful purpose.

The Charter will enter into force among the ratifying states when two-thirds of the signatory states have deposited their instruments of ratification, and with respect to the remaining states in the order [Page 72] in which they deposit their instruments of ratification. The customary right of denunciation is preserved. In order that the Organization may begin to function so far as possible during the interim between signature and entry into force of the Charter, the Bogotá Conference adopted resolution XL providing that:

  • “1. The agencies that have hitherto functioned as Organs of the System of the Union of American Republics shall immediately adopt the nomenclature and provisions established in the Charter of the Organization of American States.
  • “2. The new Organs provided for in the Charter shall be established on a provisional basis, in accordance with the Charter.”

This Charter is entirely consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations and will facilitate and supplement the larger efforts of that body by promoting the solidarity of the American states, strengthening their collaboration and independence, and, in general, contributing to increased international cooperation. It is specifically provided (Chapter XVI) that “None of the provisions of this Charter shall be construed as impairing the rights and obligations of the Member States under the Charter of the United Nations.” Other provisions point to specific relations between the organs and agencies of the two systems. It is noteworthy that, on special invitation of the Governing Board of the Pan American Union to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the latter organization was represented at the Bogotá Conference by an Assistant Secretary-General who attended as observer in the name of the United Nations and on behalf of all the countries not directly represented. Moreover, the Bogotá Conference resolved (resolution XXXIX) that the United Nations should be invited to be represented at each Inter-American Conference and each Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert A. Lovett
  1. For text of the Charter, which entered into force for the United States on December 13, 1951, see Department of State Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 2361, 2 UST 2394, or 119 UNTS 3. For statements by President Truman, June 16, and Ambassador John C. Dreier, United States Representative on the OAS Council, June 19, 1951, concerning ratification of the Charter, see Department of State Bulletin, July 2, 1951, p. 34.