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May 4, 1998

Top anti-drug officials from around the Americas, meeting today at the Organization of American States (OAS), began talks on creating a multilateral procedure to evaluate national and regional progress in fighting illegal drugs.

Acting on a mandate from the recent Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile, the OAS Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (known by its Spanish acronym, CICAD) will develop a technical mechanism designed to provide feedback in reaching anti-drug goals.

OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria said at the opening session that the effort will "strengthen our hemispheric alliance against drugs." If it is based on solid technical grounds, a multilateral evaluation procedure "will have a lot of legitimacy and credibility, and will be the obligatory reference point for governments, the media and civil society," he said.

Enrique Astete of Peru, who is CICAD's president, said the multilateral effort will be based on well-established principles of national sovereignty and respect for territorial integrity. The nations of the Americas have affirmed their shared responsibility on the drug issue and are commited to increasing their cooperation to combat the problem, he said.

U.S. drug "czar" Barry McCaffrey also stressed the need for international cooperation and partnership, pointing out that changes in the drug market in the last 15 years have blurred the lines between consuming and producing nations around the world. Just as U.S. production of methamphetamines and other drugs has increased, other countries have seen a rise in demand for illegal drugs. "Every nation is now vulnerable to this transnational threat," he said.

Created in 1986, CICAD has 32 member countries. Each delegation is headed by the highest anti-drug official in the nation. CICAD works with member countries to strengthen laws, provide training in prevention, promote alternative development and improve communication among law enforcement agencies. It has also developed model anti-drug regulations that have become the basis for laws in OAS member countries. Following the 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami, it developed a comprehensive "Anti-Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere."

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