Walter J. Sedwitz, 54, former executive secretary for economic and social affairs of the Organization of American States here, died of kidney failure monday in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

He had been United Nations resident representative in Central America, based in Guatemala City, since early 1978.

Dr. Sedwitz joined the OAS in Washington in 1961. In addition to his executive secretary position, he was also secretary of the Inter-American Committee for the Alliance for Progress, a program set up by president John F. Kennedy to help Latin American countries develop.

He left OAS in 1975 to become a consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank and was with Robert Nathan Associates, an economic consulting firm here. He also was a visiting professor at the Institute for Latin American affairs at Boston University.

Dr. Sedwitz was born in Vienna, Austria, and moved to New York City in his early teens. He returned to Europe during World War II as an officer with the U.S. Army Air Froces.

After the war, he studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, then finished his undergraduate work at Columbia University in New York, where he also earned a master's degree and a doctorate in economics.

Dr. Sedwitz began his career as an economist with the United Nations' department of economic stability in New York in 1950.

He was an international economist in the division of special studies of the U.S. Department of Commerce in New York, served briefly as a Rockefeller research fellow, and was on the faculty of Queens College in New York.

He became chief of the foreign research division of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was director of the Latin American Study of the Council on Foreign Relations before coming to Washington.

He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, of the home in Guatemala City; two sons, John, of Washington, and Mark, of New York City, and his mother, Anna Sedwitz of New York City.