The Role of the OAS and UNASUR in Mediating Inter-Regional Conflicts
|Written by Nate Singham|
|Monday, 10 March 2014 14:02|
As a result of the recent events that have taken place in Venezuela, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have both called for discussions. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro would like to see the conflicts resolved within the context of UNASUR and has rejected attempts by the OAS to address the situation.
Last week, the OAS held a private meeting to consider the request of Panama to convene a Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs with regard to events in Venezuela, leading to the decision by President Maduro to break diplomatic relations with the Panamanian government.
Although the OAS meeting was held behind closed doors with no media allowed, Secretary General José Miguel Insulza made a lengthy public statement, which was posted on Thursday. Among other things, he stated, “For decades already, no single member has been able to dominate the will of the others.”
However, as was pointed out in the most recent Congressional Research Service report [PDF], historically, the OAS has acted consistently with U.S. foreign policy objectives. It’s also worth noting that the United States was the organizations largest donor, contributing nearly $65.7 million [PDF] in fiscal year 2013, which is equivalent to 41 percent of the total 2013 OAS budget. Considering these sizeable donations it would be safe to assume that the US plays a dominant role in defining the organizations foreign policy.
The Congressional Research Service report states that:
Last Thursday, as the OAS debated Panama’s request to convene a meeting of foreign ministers, the U.S. released the prepared remarks from its permanent representative to the OAS Carmen Lomellin. In it, she expressed the U.S.’ support for Panama’s request, and called for a fact-finding mission from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to travel to Venezuela. Instead, the OAS issued a declaration of “Solidarity and Support for Democratic Institutions, Dialogue, and Peace” in Venezuela. Twenty-nine states approved the declaration and only Canada, Panama and the United States objected. This serves as another example of the U.S.’ growing political isolation within the hemisphere.
Newly-Found Independence in the Region and the Role of UNASUR
As the region experiences its second independence, other regional organizations have taken the lead in diffusing crises in the region. From CELAC to UNASUR, increasingly the region has chosen to address important issues without the presence of the United States.
Last month, Venezuela’s minister of foreign relations, Elías Jaua, visited several Latin American countries to inform state officials about the recent protests. An emergency foreign ministers meeting will be held in Chile following the inauguration of Michele Bachelet (who served as the first president of UNASUR during her first term as president of Chile.)
Previous UNASUR presidential emergency meetings have been reserved for extreme crises and serious threats to regional security.
Here is a brief summary of previous emergency presidential council meetings:[i]
September 15, 2008: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de UNASUR (Santiago de Chile)
October 1, 2010: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
June 27, 2012 [PDF]: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Jefas y Jefes de Estado (Mendoza, Argentina)
April 18, 2013: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Ministras y Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores de UNASUR (Lima, Peru)
July 4, 2013: Reunión Extraordinaria del Consejo de Ministras y Ministros de Relaciones Exteriores de UNASUR (Cochabamba, Bolivia)