About Us‎ > ‎

Historical Overview

    The Inter-American Defense Board was created by entities that were the direct predecessors of the political components of the current Organization. The organization was created as a part of a new collective security system that reflected the context of World War II whereby the Board would serve as the organization tasked with preparing for the collective defense. The member states also believed that the Board would be a useful forum for the exchange of opinions and perspectives in military related topics and to foster closer cooperation between the armed forces of nations in the Hemisphere.

    In this context in 1939 the 1st. Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers was held in Panama to address issues related to the defense of the Hemisphere.

    In 1940 events led to the need to call a Second Meeting of Consultation of Foreign Ministers in Havana, in the wake of the German invasion of the Low Countries and France that sparked a concern by the American States that Germany could eventually lay claim to the colonies in the Americas of the countries invaded. This scenario led to the drafting of Declaration XV “Reciprocal Assistance and Defense Cooperation of the American Nations” that reaffirmed the consultation process between the States as well as reiterating the concept that “an attack by a non-American State against the territorial integrity or inviolability, sovereignty or political independence of an American state shall be considered an act of aggression against all “.

    Two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941 ), the government of Chile, in a cable sent by the Minister of Foreign Relations to the President of the Governing Board of the Pan American Union, consulted the other governments regarding “the advisability of urgently calling a Third Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Relations of the American Republics to consider the current situation and adopt the most appropriate measures to promote the solidarity of our peoples and the defense of the Hemisphere”.

    The government of the United States, on December 10, 1941 informed the Pan American Union by way of a memorandum presented to the Foreign Ministers of the American Republics that its sentiments were similar to those expressed by Chile: “In light of this event that constitutes a threat to peace, security, and the future independence of the Western Hemisphere, an urgent call to consult the Ministers of Foreign Relations would be highly advisable¨. The memorandum sent to the Pan American Union also proposed that the meeting should take place in Rio de Janeiro during the first week of January and included a proposed work Agenda.

    A special Commission tasked with the preparations for the Third Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Relations of the American Republics studied the proposals as well as other suggestions submitted by the governments of Chile, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela. On December 16, 1941 a proposal recommended that the Governing Board approve the proposals submitted by the U.S. Government and that the opening session of the meeting should take place on January 13, 1942.

    The Governing Board approved the Commission's recommendations (17-XII-41) whereby the Agenda for the Third Meeting of Consultation would focus on the following topics: I. Protecting the Western Hemisphere and II. Economic Solidarity. At this time a proposal calling for the creation of the Inter-American Defense Board by the U.S. State Department first arose that was then included in this delegation’s Agenda at the Third Meeting of Consultation of the Ministers of Foreign Relations held in Rio de Janeiro in 1942.

    At the end of December, 1941 and the beginning of January of the next year, senior level officials from the State Department and the War and Navy Departments held a series of meetings in order to determine the Agenda.

    On December 27, 1941 the State Department provided the Army with a copy of this proposed agenda. In summary it provided for: one, the invocation of the declaration adopted at the Havana Conference in July, 1940, entitled Cooperation and Reciprocal Assistance in the Defense of the Nations of the Americas; two, the establishment of the Inter-American Defense Board, consisting of representatives of the armed forces of each one of the republics of the Americas meeting in Washington to define and coordinate essential defense and protective measures; and three, the creation of regional Defense Boards, similar to the Joint U.S. - Canada Defense Board and the proposed U. S. - Mexico Joint Defense Commission.¨

    On January 3, 1942, the Army and Navy by way of Gen. Marshall and Admiral Stark informed Mr. Summer Welles, Under Secretary of State and Chief of the U.S. Delegation attending the Rio de Janeiro meeting of their respective Departments' objectives. In this regard the Chief of Staff stated that they included: ¨
        a) A declaration of war by all of the republics of the Americas against all of the members of the Axis.
        b) If this were not possible, then nations should break diplomatic relations with the Axis powers.
        c) Agree to authorize access to the U.S. Air Force to travel across the territory of any of the nations in the Americas with advance notice when possible                 and without it when urgently required.
        d) Obtain the agreement by the American Republics that haven't already done so, to allow access or transit across their territory and the stationing of                 detachments essential for maintaining bases communications, and meteorological operations with their own equipment and local security elements
         deemed vital for providing logistical support to air operations.
        e) Agreement by the American Republics to relinquish to the U.S. forces that enter or transit across their respective territories as stipulated above and                 during defense operations in the Hemisphere, the use of any or all installations that said forces may require. 
    The Navy, in addition to agreeing to the first two items above, also requested the following to address their needs:
        - Clearly defined naval security cooperation arrangements with the Latin American countries to protect their own territorial waters.
        - Unrestricted use of port facilities for U.S. naval operations.

    The War and Navy Departments objected to the creation of the Inter-American Defense Board; the respective Secretaries (Stimson and Knox) believed that they had successfully persuaded President Roosevelt to eliminate this item on the Agenda. The objections raised by the Army were numerous. The organization would be too large and unwieldy to successfully coordinate effective actions; Latin American military affairs demanded immediate action and the creation of a Board would take up too much time; it would be impossible to discuss secret plans in such a large organization; the members of the Board wouldn't have the authority required to execute the measures adopted; the Board would take too much time away from high caliber figures who were urgently needed to attend to more pressing matters. Perhaps the War Department feared most of all that the Latin Americans would try to use the Board as a means to impose their demands for acquiring munitions from the U.S.

    The War Department also opposed the creation of the Regional Commission. Contrary to this, the Army sought to invoke the 1940 Staff agreements as well as revise and expand them when necessary through bi-lateral negotiations. Bi-lateral agreements, according to Gen. Marshall and his advisors, were the best mechanisms for achieving cooperation in areas not yet addressed. Bi-lateral agreements already established were considered reasonably satisfactory provided the necessary steps to implement them were carried out without delay when the need should arise.¨

    Despite the objections and the belief held by Stimson and Knox that they had persuaded President Roosevelt, Sumner Welles, shortly before departing reiterated to the President, about the advisability of creating the IADB and received his approval. As a result, the item was included on the Agenda calling for the creation of the organization. 
    Welles, also had to provide assurances to the War and Navy Departments before and after the Rio de Janeiro meeting that the proposed Board would not be carry out any executive decisions or have responsibilities in the defense of the Hemisphere and that its work would not interfere in the ongoing implementation of military-related bi-lateral agreements between the U.S. and its neighbors to the south. The State Department considered it important from a political perspective to provide a channel through which all of the nations of the Americas both large and small could provide their views and recommendations. 

    The Governing Board of the Pan American Union, immediate predecessor of the Permanent Council Organization of American States, created a Special Commission consisting of the ambassadors of Brazil, Panama and Venezuela to study issues related to the creation of the Inter-American Defense Board. On the basis of the report drafted by the Special Commission, the Governing Board adopted a report in which it determined in its final paragraph that "the "The Inter-American Defense Board will be a permanent organization and shall continue to carry out its responsibilities during the current emergency ”. 

    The Third Meeting of Consultation of Ministers Foreign Relations of the American Republics officially created the Inter-American Defense Board, in Resolution No XXXIX, in Rio de Janeiro from January 15 - 28, 1942. 

    The Inter-American Defense Board was formally established on March 30, 1942 and its role would consist ¨of "gradually preparing the American Republics for the defense of the Hemisphere by developing studies and recommending measures required for its execution”. At the Conference on Inter-American Problems of War and Peace, Resolution IV was adopted entitled the creation of a permanent military organization and whose resolutions paragraphs stipulated that; the Republics in the Hemisphere have declared solidarity to the extent that an attack against any of them shall constitute an attack or threat against all of them; That a permanent military organization is indispensable to study and address the challenges that affect the Western Hemisphere; That the Inter-American Defense Board has proven to be a forum for the exchange of different perspectives, addressing problems and formulating recommendations related to Hemispheric defense and to foster close cooperation between the military, naval and air forces of the American Republics. 

    In light of these considerations, the Inter-American Conference recommended the following: \

        - That the governments consider creating as soon as possible a permanent organization comprised of representatives from each of the American                         Republics that would serve to propose to their governments measures aimed at improving military cooperation between the governments and the                    defense of the Western Hemisphere.  

        - That the Inter-American Defense Board continue to serve as an inter-American defense entity until the establishment of an organization stipulated in                 these recommendations. 

    The Conference on Inter-American Problems of War and Peace, in addition, adopted Resolution IX calling for the “Reorganization, Consolidation and Reinforcing the Inter-American System”, that provided for a continuation of the functions undertaken by the following organizations created by the meetings of consultation: The Inter-American Juridical Committee, the Emergency Advisory Committee for Political Defense and the Inter-American Defense Board (resolutions paragraph 6). This situation would continue until the Ninth International Conference of American States in Bogota that created and reaffirmed the organizations of the inter-American system. The Governing Board of the Pan American Union, in conformity with this Resolution, would oversee the related inter-American organizations by receiving and approving its annual reports (resolutions paragraph 4.c.).

    On June 13, 1945, the Inter-American Defense Board developed a proposal for the creation of a permanent organization mentioned in Resolution IV of the Conference on Inter-American Problems of War and Peace that referred to the entity as the "Inter-American Military Defense Council." The Governing Board of the Pan American Union, also drafted a &Proposed Organizational Charter for the Inter-American System" that would serve as a basis for the Organizational Founding Charter that included as one of the entities of the OAS Council, the "Inter-American Defense Council."

    This paved the way to the Ninth International Conference of American States, held in Bogota in 1948, that created the current legal and institutional structure of the Organization of American States. During the Conference opposition arose to creating the Inter-American Defense Board as a permanent entity of the organization.

    It was stated that the creation of a Council of this nature in the Charter took into account the need for a permanent military organization within the inter-American system and this would introduce a note of discord in relation to its peaceful fundamentals and would also make it difficult to change or put an end to its activities in the future. It was argued that the specific nature of the activities and the historic background of the entity were not consistent with those of the Council of the Organization. As a result of this opposition, the Board was not incorporated into the Bogota Charter.

    The Ninth Conference addressed the topic of hemispheric cooperation in military affairs incorporating to the Charter the Consultative Committee on Defense in relation to the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Relations, in order to provide advice in this area to the Consultative Organ (Article 66); stipulated that this Committee would consist of "the most senior level military authorities of the American States that participate at the Meeting of Consultation" (Article 67); its calls to meet would take place under the same terms as those stipulated with the Consultative Organ specifically when "issues related to defense against acts of aggression should arise" (Article 68) and could also meet when the General Assembly, the Consultative Organ or the governments "through a two-thirds majority vote of the Member states, task it with providing technical advice or reports on specific matters"(Article 69). It should be noted that the Committee has never been called upon.

    The Ninth Conference, additionally, adopted decisions with respect to the Inter-American Defense Board. In Resolution XXXIV, the Conference considered it "advisable that the American States have the ability to request information from the Inter-American Defense Board regarding measures for ensuring the collective security of the American Continent"and thus resolved that "it would continue to serve as an entity to plan for the collective defense against acts of aggression until the governments of the Americas through a two-thirds majority resolve to put an end to its efforts."

    Resolution VII of the Ninth Conference, having determined that the Inter-American Defense Board "would continue its functions," resolved that the budget referred to by the Organization Charter should include "the expenditures required by the Secretariat of the Inter-American Defense Board."

    The Fourth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Relations (Washington, 1951) adopted Resolution III labeled "Inter-American Military Cooperation". The Meeting of Consultation asserted that that "the military defense of the Continent is essential for the stability of its democratic institutions and the welfare of its peoples"and recalled the obligations assumed by the American republics within the framework of the OAS Charter and the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance to "serve jointly for the common defense and maintaining the peace and security of the Continent."

    This Resolution also expressly refers to "the expansionist activities of international communism that requires the immediate adoption of measures aimed at safeguarding the peace and security of the Hemisphere, "and indicated that the current serious situation imposed on the American Republics the need to develop its military capacity so as to be consistent with the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance: and 1) ensure the individual and collective defense against attacks; 2) contribute to the effective actions by the Organization of American States against all acts of aggression to anyone; and, 3) provide in as timely a manner as possible, for the collective defense of the Hemisphere; and
that the Ninth International Conference of American States, in Resolution XXXIV, tasked the preparation of collective defense against acts of aggression to the Inter-American Defense Board, that as the only technical-military entity in operation is the ideal organization for militarily planning to defend against acts of aggression.

    On the basis of these considerations, the IV Meeting of Consultation resolved to: Recommend to the American Republics that they focus their military preparations on the basis of their individual efforts and mutual assistance, consistent with their potential and constitutional norms, and in conformity with the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), that regardless of individual self-defense and internal security priorities could: a) increase its resources and reinforce those of its armed forces in order to better adapt to collective defense and maintain their armed forces in such a condition consistent with the proper state of readiness for the Defense of the Hemisphere and b) cooperate mutually in military-related areas, to develop the collective potential of the Hemisphere to combat acts of aggression against any one of them. Task the Inter-American Defense Board to prepare as proactively as possible and maintain up-to-date in close cooperation with the governments through their respective delegations the military planning process for the common defense.

    That the plans formulated by the Inter-American Defense Board shall be submitted to the governments for their consideration and decision making and to that effect, the delegations of the American Republics shall conduct permanent consultation with their governments regarding the proposals, plans and recommendations of the IADB.

    Recommend to the American Republics: a) that they maintain an adequate and permanent representation of their armed forces in the Council of Delegates, the Inter-American Defense Board Staff and another other entity of the organization that could potentially be established in the future; b) that they actively support the work of the Board and consider proposals, plans and recommendations by this entity in a timely manner ; and c) that they cooperate in organizing within the Board, an appropriate and well coordinated system for exchanging information. 

    The aforementioned events serve to show that the Inter-American Defense Board arose in an international context characterized by the confrontation by nations in the Hemisphere against extra regional powers against the backdrop of World War II. The role tasked to the Board is one related to fostering military cooperation among the American states. This confrontation scenario continued after the creation of the Organization of American States, when other threats outside the Hemisphere were considered that could lead to acts of aggression against the member states of the Organization. This concept and functions are reflected in the organization structure and activities undertaken by the Inter-American Defense Board. 

    A significant event in the life of the IADB as an organization was the creation of the Inter-American Defense College (IADC). This was created in a resolution by the Council of Delegates in 1962 that established it as a part of its structure and organization.

    The Inter-American Defense College (IADC), located at Fort Lesley J. McNair, officially opened its doors on October 9, 1962 when U.S. Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, presented them with the facility and interior furnishings on behalf of the U.S. Federal Government. Doctor José A. Mora, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), at the time, was the keynote speaker at the official opening ceremony.

    The first class consisting of 29 students representing 15 countries of the Americas, received their diplomas on March 20, 1963 when U.S. Vice-President, Lyndon B. Jhonson, gave the graduation speech and handed out the diplomas.

    With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that signaled the end of the so called “Cold War”, the entire global scenario underwent a sudden change that required focusing efforts to address a new situation.

    In 1993 the OAS issued Resolution 1240, which stipulated that the General Assembly as well as the Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Relations and the Permanent Council possess the authority to use the advisory and consultation services of the IADB of a technical-military nature. This Resolution encompasses the needs and demands of a changing world and opens the door for the IADB to successfully respond to new hemispheric defense and security demands.

    The new hemispheric scenario requirements, in many cases, encompass a military-related component and in this regard the Inter-American Defense Board is in a position to provide cooperation. Such is the case with regard to the removal of antipersonnel landmines.

    As a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, also known as 9/11, new demands became prominent in the global scenario that required multilateral responses to common threats. This reinvigorated the concepts of collective responses, defense solidarity and cooperation among the nations in the Hemisphere. 

    In document AG/RES. 1848 (XXXII-0/02), the OAS continues its reorganization and modernization efforts, tasking the Permanent Council, on the basis of “the significant amounts in the Regular Fund annually allocated to the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB), to examine the relationship between the OAS and the IADB and submit recommendations to the General Assembly in order to modify the basic structure and instruments of the Board and to the extent necessary clarify and achieve consensus in terms of its status vis-à-vis the OAS, to include the principle of civilian oversight and the democratic make-up of its authorities. This would constitute a multidimensional exercise that would likely require specialized inputs from various permanent commissions of the Permanent Council including inter alia the Hemispheric Security Commission, the Commission on Juridical and Political Affairs and Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Affairs, in an attempt to present the topic for discussion at the Special Conference on Hemispheric Security ”.

    On October 28, 2003 in Mexico City, the Special Security Conference was held, that defined traditional threats, new threats, challenges and other concerns through the Declaration of Security in the Americas, (OAS/Ser.K/XXXVIII).

    During 2004 and 2005 concrete steps were taken to define a legal link between the IADB and the OAS with efforts focused on reaching a consensus on the matter and developing new statutes for the IADB.

    On March 15, 2006, during the 64th anniversary of the Inter-American Defense Board, it was ultimately decided through Resolution 1 (XXXII-E/06) of the General Assembly to establish the IADB as an entity of the OAS on the basis of art.53 of the organization’s Charter and approved during the first plenary session the statutes that would govern the new entity.