On the day our plenipotentiaries exchange their full powers, an immortal date will be inscribed in American diplomatic history. When, a hundred centuries hence, posterity explores the origin of our public law and recalls the pacts that consolidated its destiny, it will record with respect the Isthmian protocols. In them, it will find the plan for the first alliances which project the course of our relations with the rest of the world. -- Simón Bolívar, 1824.

BOLÍVAR wrote these prophetic words more than a century ago, when he invited the American Governments to take part in the Congress of Panama. The Liberator, like all geniuses, was ahead of his time. The nations of the New World were not ready to put Bolívar's noble vision into practice. The farsighted provisions of the Treaty of Perpetual Union, League and Confederation signed at Panama in 1826 remained only phrases on paper.

The tradition of inter-American consultation was renewed in 1889, and was subsequently buttressed by the decision to hold conferences periodically. The first timid endeavors of those conferences fell far short of the provisions of the Treaty of Panama, which had been designed to strengthen continental solidarity and to assure the total defense of America. Little by little, however, the republics of the hemisphere began to march firmly along the path pointed out by Bolívar and by President Monroe, who, in his time, had traced it clearly, even though from the start his ideas were marred by being expressed in terms of unilateralism and later on were distorted.

Nevertheless, it was not until last February, when the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace met in Mexico City, that continental instruments were devised to carry Bolivar's program into effect. When they have been fully developed, they will convert the inter-American system into a real association of nations, surpassing in many respects the most ambitious dreams of the Liberator. This association should constitute an effective guarantee of peace and cordiality among the nations in the western hemisphere and make possible their cooperation with the other nations of the world for the maintenance of world security. It would be impossible to analyze in a short article all the instruments adopted by the Chapultepec Conference. I shall therefore limit myself to examining briefly two of them which seem to me of the greatest importance for the completion of our regional organization: the one dealing with the Reorganization, Consolidation and Strengthening of the Inter-American System, and the one relating to Reciprocal Assistance and American Solidarity.

The statute of the Union of American Republics which was in effect at the time of the Chapultepec Conference (and which will continue in force until the new arrangement has been put into operation) was set forth in two resolutions dealing with the Pan American Union, approved by the Fifth and Sixth Inter-American Conferences. That statute represented only a relatively limited advance beyond the original instrument adopted in 1890 by the first conference, which decided to set up an International Union of American Republics with the modest objective of carrying out "the prompt collection and distribution of commercial information." In actual fact, however, inter-American relations have progressed enormously since then, thanks to the community of democratic ideals and the mutual respect for the personality of each state which have characterized the international policy of the American republics. Their splendid solidarity when confronted with the Second World War is proof of this development and consolidation of interests.

We must recognize, however, that the Pan American Union as constituted still bore marks of the conception that the American states were not really equal and of the tendency toward North American hegemony which long marred the relations of the United States with the Latin American republics. It is therefore proper that the form of the Pan American Union be modified and improved in order to bring it into harmony with the basic maxims of the Good Neighbor Policy. Such a reorganization is particularly needed in view of the development of inter-American jurisprudence. This movement, initiated at Montevideo and strengthened at Buenos Aires, Lima and the three subsequent consultative gatherings, reached its culmination at Chapultepec and took shape in the solidly-rooted principle of absolute juridical equality. From this principle flow the other important principles of non-intervention, continental solidarity and coöperation for economic and social progress.

The resolution for the Reorganization, Consolidation and Strengthening of the Inter-American System was devised to turn these ideals into practice. The following actions which the resolution authorized deserve particular emphasis:

(1) The establishment of a Governing Board of the Pan American Union, composed of delegates ad hoc with the rank of ambassador, who are to enjoy the privileges and immunities inherent in their office, but who "shall not be part of the diplomatic mission accredited to the government of the country in which the Pan American Union has its seat."

(2) The increase in the powers of that Board, which, in addition to its present functions, will take cognizance of "every matter that affects the effective functioning of the inter-American system and the solidarity and general welfare of the American Republics." The Board will summon the ordinary consultative meetings, as well as extraordinary meetings, and will be entrusted with the supervision of the inter-American agencies connected with the Pan American Union.

(3) The establishment of a system for electing the Chairman of the Governing Board and the Director General of the Pan American Union. The former will be chosen annually and shall not be eligible for reëlection for the term immediately following. The latter will serve a ten-year term and shall not be eligible for reëlection. An outgoing Director must always be followed by a Director of a different nationality.

(4) The reduction to four years of the interval between Inter-American Conferences. The ordinary consultative meetings shall be held annually.

(5) The creation of an Inter-American Economic and Social Council to take the place of the Inter-American Financial and Economic Advisory Committee -- the emergency body which has been functioning during the war.

(6) The intensification of cultural relations among the American nations, through the Division of Intellectual Coöperation.

(7) Lastly, the drawing up within a specified period of time of a draft constitution for the new Inter-American Organization which is to contain, in the first place, a "Declaration of the Rights and Duties of States," and a "Declaration of the International Rights and Duties of Man." In the constitution, provision will also be made for the strengthening of the inter-American system on the bases outlined above, as well as "by the creation of new agencies or the elimination or adaptation of existing agencies, specifying and coördinating their functions as among themselves and with the World Organization."

The second and equally important instrument referred to above is embodied in Resolution VIII of the Final Act of the Mexico City Conference, entitled "Reciprocal Assistance and American Solidarity." This is officially known as the Act of Chapultepec. It was definitely not an improvisation. The principle of inter-American solidarity in the face of any outside threat to the territorial integrity or political independence of an American state has roots which go back to the time of Bolivar.

It was given formal expression for the first time, however, at the Buenos Aires Conference of 1936. A convention signed there provided that in case the peace of the American republics was threatened, their governments should consult among themselves for the purpose of coördinating their efforts for the common defense; and it was explicitly stated in the Declaration of Principles that "every act susceptible of disturbing the peace of America affects each and every one" of the American republics.

The Eighth Inter-American Conference repeated and added to the previous declarations, emphasizing, in the Declaration of Lima, the common interest of the republics of the hemisphere and their determination to make their solidarity effective in the face of any external threat. This principle attained final juridical stature in Declaration XV approved by the Second Consultative Conference at Havana in 1940, which stated emphatically: "That any attempt on the part of a non-American State against the integrity or inviolability of the territory, the sovereignty or the political independence of an American State shall be considered as an act of aggression against the States which sign this declaration."

Nevertheless, there still remained two serious lacunae in the American system of reciprocal aid. First, the agreements applied solely to threats from states outside the hemisphere; they passed over in silence the possibility that threats to peace might come from within this hemisphere. Secondly, there was no mention of specific means to be employed to carry out the agreements.

The Act of Chapultepec satisfactorily filled those two gaps. As far as the first was concerned, the Conference asserted that "the security and solidarity of the Continent are affected to the same extent by an act of aggression against any of the American States by a non-American State, as by an act of aggression of an American State against one or more American States." In short, the Conference extended the provisions of Declaration XV of Havana to all international attempts at aggression, whether by a non-American or an American state.

With respect to the second weakness in the earlier agreements, the republics of the hemisphere which took part in the Mexico City Conference (and the Argentine Republic also, when it subsequently adhered to the Final Act) undertook, during the war now just ended, to adopt such measures as they deemed necessary in support of the principles embodied in the Act of Chapultepec. Those enforcement measures were specified, on an ascending scale, as the withdrawal of the chiefs of mission and rupture of diplomatic relations, the imposition of economic sanctions, and the use of military force. Considering a provisional agreement insufficient, moreover, the Conference recommended that the governments of the American republics later conclude a treaty making the wartime obligations assumed in the Final Act permanent.

The need of concluding this treaty at the earliest possible moment has been intensified by the decisions regarding regional agreements taken at the San Francisco Conference. I should like now to touch upon this question of the relationship of the inter-American system and the Organization of the United Nations.


America has never attempted to constitute a unit separate from the rest of the world. Bolivar himself, although the most decided champion of continental solidarity, had no such intention. The states which in 1826 signed the Treaty of Panama -- drafted for the purpose of setting up an American Confederation -- took care to append an article to that instrument containing the following declaration:

Whereas the contracting parties ardently desire to live at peace with all the nations of the universe and avoid any cause for displeasure which might grow out of the exercise of their legitimate rights in peace and war, have further agreed that as soon as the ratification of this treaty is obtained, they shall proceed to fix by common agreement all those points, rules, and principles that are to govern their conduct in both cases, to which end they shall again invite all friendly and neutral powers to take an active part in such negotiation, should they deem it advisable, and meet through their plenipotentiaries to adjust, conclude, and sign the treaty or treaties that may be made regarding so important an object.

If the American republics eschewed any tendency toward isolation even in that period, when the ocean barriers were so formidable, still less could they be isolationist in our time, when the airplane, the radio and the other discoveries of modern science have annihilated distance and convinced even the most skeptical that the nations of the world are truly interdependent.

No sooner were the Dumbarton Oaks proposals made public a year ago than the nations of this hemisphere began to offer amendments and suggestions designed to forestall any impairment of the inter-American system erected so painfully during the last 50 years. This did not in the least mean that they desired to form an entity apart from the world concert of nations. On the contrary, they were moved by a proper desire to promote better coöperation with the projected World Organization.

To be sure, the Dumbarton Oaks proposals clearly asserted that the general World Organization was compatible with regional organizations having purposes and principles which -- as in the case of the inter-American system -- were similar to its own. They likewise suggested that the Security Council "should encourage settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies, either on the initiative of the states concerned or by reference from the Security Council." Nevertheless, the Dumbarton Oaks plan proposed that, when compulsory action had to be taken, the Security Council should utilize regional agreements "where this practice might be desirable." This, in reality, left this most important matter to the discretion of the Council.

The limitation was probably due to the fact that when the Big Four were drawing up the Dumbarton Oaks proposals, the international union of American republics did not yet have at its disposal any juridical instrument able to provide for the application of preventive measures or sanctions. That hiatus, however, was filled by the Act of Chapultepec. This having been accomplished, the delegates of all the Latin American republics left for San Francisco prepared to fight determinedly to preserve the inter-American system within the world organization which was about to be born.

Their efforts were rewarded by the stipulations relating to regional agreements included in the Charter of the United Nations. Article 52 explicitly asserts the compatibility of regional agreements and organs with the World Organization; and it obligates the members of the United Nations and the Security Council to make use of them in the pacific settlement of disputes. This is clear from a reading of the first three paragraphs of Article 52:

1. Nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action, provided that such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.

2. The Members of the United Nations entering into such arrangements or constituting such agencies shall make every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies before referring them to the Security Council.

3. The Security Council shall encourage the development of pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies either on the initiative of the states concerned or by reference from the Security Council.

The phraseology of Article 53 is similar to that of the Dumbarton Oaks plan in regard to preventive measures and sanctions. It states that "the Security Council shall, where appropriate, utilize such regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority." Taken literally and separately, this might be interpreted as carrying the same meaning as the corresponding provision in the Dumbarton Oaks plan, that is, that the Council may decide whether or not it will have recourse to the regional arrangements for enforcement action. However, the basis for any such interpretation disappears if the text is related, as it should be, to Article 51, immediately preceding, and reading as follows:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.

If we refer to the stenographic minutes of the committee and subcommittee of the Third Commission which were entrusted with the study of this subject, further evidence is found that the organization and operation of the inter-American system were intended to be fully safeguarded in the Charter of the United Nations. This does not mean that the Charter does not place supreme responsibility for the maintenance of peace upon the United Nations Organization. None of the states of this hemisphere ever sought to place it elsewhere. To have done so would not merely have been absurd in itself, but would have been at\\ variance with the high traditions of world coöperation always nurtured by the American republics.

On May 27, Secretary of State Stettinius, after consulting President Truman, drew up a balance sheet of the results achieved by the San Francisco Conference. He said, among other things, that the United States shares the desire of the other American republics for the maintenance of the inter-American system intact and that this system had been brought, through the Charter, within the larger framework of the World Organization. He continued: "The United States intends to negotiate in the near future a treaty with its American neighbors which will put the Act of Chapultepec on a permanent basis, in harmony with the World Charter."

The treaty, it has since been announced, will be negotiated in the Brazilian capital toward the end of this year. What are the essential points which it should cover?

Fundamentally, it seems to me, the Treaty of Rio de Janeiro should provide for two things. First, it should reaffirm the principles incorporated in the first three paragraphs of Part I of the Act of Chapultepec, stressing especially those of juridical equality, of the individuality and independence of each state, and of collective security. Secondly, it should establish, with all precision and detail, either in the body of the Treaty itself or in special technical annexes, a fully efficacious mechanism, paralleling that of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, clearly stipulating the form in which application shall be made of the diplomatic, economic, commercial, financial and military measures foreseen in the Act of Chapultepec; how and in what degree each of the American republics shall contribute to such application; what shall be the special inter-American organ to direct the military measures, etc. This mechanism, paying strict regard to the basic principles mentioned above, should enable the inter-American system to resist any possible act of aggression from outside the hemisphere as well as to reëstablish the peace (in the unlikely hypothesis that it should be disturbed) among the American republics.

Such action will signify that decisions in this connection will be taken almost always in this hemisphere, by an organ of the inter-American system in which all interested states participate equally, and not outside this hemisphere, by an organ -- the Security Council of the United Nations -- from which, as it is to be constituted, the great majority of the American Republics will always be absent.

One must not forget that in conferring "primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security" upon a Security Council composed of only 11 members, five of whom enjoy special powers, the United Nations Charter establishes a system which from a democratic point of view is much inferior to that of the absolute juridical equality of the inter-American organization. Decisions of the inter-American system, whether reached in a conference, a consultative meeting or the Governing Council of the Pan American Union, are always taken with strict regard to the equal rights of all the states of the hemisphere and with their direct participation. To point this out is not, of course, to reproach the United Nations Organization, which must function under the complex and difficult circumstances of an abnormal transitional period following a great war. I cannot stress often enough that the desire of the American republics for a complete and efficient system of continental organization does not originate in any selfish isolationism but in the determination to be in a position to collaborate more effectively with the World Organization.

This far-flung hemisphere, privileged as it is in so many ways, lives with its windows open to the future, free from the historic virus which has brought so many evils to Europe. All its peoples cherish the conviction that they have a sacred debt to discharge toward humanity. Part of their duty is to bring to the Organization of the United Nations the experience of a functioning regional system. That system can and will help in the creation of a peaceful world based upon justice, economic development, respect for the fundamental freedoms and the progressive evolution of the rights of man.

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  • EZEQUIEL PADILLA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, 1940-1945; President of the Inter-American Conference on Problems of War and Peace, Mexico City, 1945
  • More By Ezequiel Padilla