The Union of South American Nations, the OAS, and Suramérica

ILS Journal of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2010

15 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2010 Last revised: 29 Nov 2010

Date Written: September 14, 2010


Since the mid-20th century, the Organization of American States (OAS) has been the premier supranational organization governing the affairs of South America. In 2008, however, the sway of the OAS in South America was checked by the creation of a new regional organization – the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

The creation of UNASUR was in reaction to many perceived failures of the OAS. Although the OAS has worked to provide opportunities for South Americans and a point of justice apart from the continent’s various nations – some of whom which have visited great suffering on their own people – the OAS’s detractors feel, inter alia, that the OAS has not properly mitigated gargantuan income gaps among the citizenry, is too weak to manage South American affairs without intervention by external international organizations, and is too complacent with the over-reach of U.S. influence.

The signing of the 2008 Constitutive Treaty which established UNASUR and created a uniform South American government, presidency, and financial system may usher in a new era of South American development and regional patriotism. But UNASUR is far from perfect, and ultimately it is under-equipped to manage a conflict should one arise between it and the OAS - the reigning matriarch in a land of mothers.

For the sake of understanding how UNASUR might have to interact with the OAS and how states will have to balance their domestic responsibilities with these new regional priorities, this article will conduct a comparative analysis of the two organizations. It will analyze each bodies’ respective histories, purposes, political jurisdictions, policies on interactions with third-parties, and conflict resolution mechanisms while analyzing possible consequences for legal friction and overlap. The article will conclude by stating its position on whether or not, because of the pre-existence of a similarly-situated institution, UNASUR can really benefit the South American people.

Keywords: South America, UNASUR, OAS, Organization of American States, Union of South American Nations, Suramerica, International Law, International organizations, International Organization

JEL Classification: F00, K00, K33, N16, N46, O19

Suggested Citation

Allen, David, The Union of South American Nations, the OAS, and Suramérica (September 14, 2010). ILS Journal of International Law, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2010, Available at SSRN: or

David Allen (Contact Author)

David Nicholas Allen ( email )

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