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April 29, 1998

Consultations continue on a multilateral system to evaluate and shore up the hemispheric war on drugs, as top-notch experts from Organization of American States (OAS) member countries gather in Washington next week to set the process in motion.

The experts meet on May 4, two weeks after the nations' leaders at their second Summit in Santiago, Chile decided to have the OAS set up a multilateral mechanism to evaluate the countries' individual and collective efforts to combat one of the worst scourges of recent years.

General Enrique Astete, chairman of the OAS Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), will address the opening session of the drug agency's Third Consultative Meeting taking place at OAS headquarters at 9:30 a.m. on Monday. OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria will also address the opening, followed by presentations from the member state representatives.

Consultations to establish the multilateral mechanism began at the Second Consultative Meeting of CICAD last March 2 when a number of delegations reported that "any system that is devised should not only take into consideration the outcome but also the efforts and sacrifices by all the countries."

According to one document to be circulated at Monday's meeting, the process of cooperation, follow-up and evaluation of the mechanism should be fully consistent with international agreements already in place, particularly the 1988 Vienna Convention and the principles enshrined in the Hemispheric Anti-Drug Strategy that CICAD adopted in Buenos Aires and signed in Montevideo in December 1996.

The principles of the multilateral evaluation, as outlined in the document, would involve among other things respecting each country's jurisdiction, sovereignty and legal structure while ensuring that the process is based on shared responsibility, reciprocity, balance and consensus among the states.

David Beall, the executive director of CICAD, explains that "the mechanism would not be a supranational court nor would it involve sanctions" but, instead, dialogue, support and promotion of mutual confidence "should be the cornerstone of the process for setting up and implementing the mechanism."

At the recently-concluded Summit of the Americas, the leaders said they were pleased at the expected launch of formal negotiations next Monday by CICAD, to establish an objective process for multilateral evaluation of activities and cooperation or an all-round assault on the drug problem and related crimes.

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