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Report of the Secretary General on Follow-up to the Declaration of Antigua Guatemala

  September 19, 2014

Special Session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States

Guatemala City
September 19, 2014

I am hereby meeting my commitment of informing the General Assembly of the actions and measures decided on and carried out by the General Secretariat, by the Secretary General, and by the Organization’s member states pursuant to the Declaration of Antigua Guatemala, “For a Comprehensive Policy against the World Drug Problem in the Americas,” which was agreed on at the forty-third regular session.

1. Actions undertaken by the General Secretariat

1.1 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala underscores the fact that drug abuse is a public health problem and consequently requires the strengthening of public health systems, particularly in the areas of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. Similarly, it states the need to develop national evidence-based monitoring mechanisms for those systems, to identify current trends in drug use, the demand for and access to public health services, and the institutional capacity for responding to this phenomenon.

Under the joint regional program of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD-OAS) and the Pan American Health Organization, subregional initiatives are being developed and priority areas for joint action are being established through collaboration between health ministries and drug commissions. In that same context, a reference framework has been created for the countries to develop public health policies for drugs and to foster improved quality in the care given to people with drug-use problems through the application of quality criteria in the provision of services. Work is also underway on the design of curriculums and materials to train health practitioners in dealing with problems related to drug use. The CICAD-OAS/PAHO work plan involves key activities, including the organization of subregional meetings of health ministers and national drugs commissioners in Central America and the Caribbean, before the end of 2014, in order to develop subregional initiatives and to establish priority areas for joint action.

In addition, CICAD-OAS, particularly in the case of Central America, is building and strengthening Integrated Comprehensive Health Networks (ICHNs), as multidisciplinary and intersectoral agencies to facilitate the implementation of a coordinated network of services for people with drug-use problems, under the leadership of national public health systems.

1.2 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala encourages the consideration of new approaches to the world drug problem, based on scientific knowledge and evidence.

The Inter-American Observatory on Drugs (OID) section of the CICAD Executive Secretariat is promoting a hemispheric network for drug information and research, with and for the OAS member states. The counterparts from around the Hemisphere include national drugs observatories, drug information networks, universities, and international agencies. Thus, the OID works to generate scientific knowledge and evidence on drugs, to provide support for the drug observatories of Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, it supports the training of researchers in the Hemisphere, through educational development, and it promotes international collaboration efforts with key partners such as UNODC, EMCDDA, NIDA, and universities and other research institutes in several member states.

The Inter-American Observatory on Drugs supports the generation of drug-related information through the Inter-American Uniform Drug Use Data System (SIDUC), which comprises a series of the most widely used protocols to measure the consumption levels of drugs and related substances. During 2013, Colombia, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Suriname, and Uruguay received the OID’s technical assistance in preparing, administering, and analyzing drug use surveys. The Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama received technical assistance from the OID for launching drug information networks. The Dominican Republic received the OID’s technical assistance for developing a study into the heroin problem in the country. Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda developed surveys for their prison populations in order to examine the relationship between drugs and crime. Ten countries in the Caribbean made a great effort to jointly develop drug use surveys for secondary-school students, with technical and financial support from the OID. In order to facilitate exchanges of information, the OID organizes biannual meetings of the national drugs observatories of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Fifth Biannual Meeting of Caribbean Drugs Observatories was held in November 2013 in Castries, Saint Lucia.

1.3 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala underscores the importance of promoting hemispheric cooperation to coordinate and consolidate a comprehensive, balanced, and multidisciplinary approach, recognizing different impacts and manifestations, in order to meet the challenges, threats, and vulnerabilities created by the global drugs problem, including mechanisms for the countries to exchange information and experiences.

Through the CICAD Executive Secretariat, encouragement has been given to horizontal cooperation and to the implementation of south-south cooperation initiatives at the subregional and bilateral levels. That cooperation pursues capacity-building based on exchanges of knowledge and experiences among the countries of the Hemisphere, under the aegis of the Hemispheric Drug Strategy and its Plan of Action.

1.4 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala acknowledges the importance of the Evaluation Mechanism as the sole valid hemispheric instrument for assessing drug control policies in the countries that make up the inter-American system, and it also recalls that the evaluation of drug control policies must be a multilateral exercise.

The Sixth Evaluation Round of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM-OAS) began in 2013 with a new instrument based on the 2010 Hemispheric Drug Strategy. Through the MEM, all the member states have been issued with 27 recommendations in accordance with the 2011-2015 Plan of Action. The Group of Government Experts (GEG), which comprises specialists from all the member states, has met twice since November 2013 to draft the preliminary evaluations, and it will conclude its assessments in September 2014. The national evaluation reports, which are to be published in late 2014, will assess the level of implementation of each recommendation. They will also identify the areas in which the countries should focus their efforts to improve their drug control policies and strengthen multilateral cooperation.

1.5 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala fostered a broad and open debate on the drugs problem so that all sectors of society can participate and continue to offer their experience and knowledge of the phenomenon as a basic element in the effectiveness of public policies.

The OAS General Secretariat has constantly favored the participation of all sectors of society and, in particular, of civil society in its discussions. The Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas, prepared by the Secretary General, was backed by the active participation of academics, representatives of organizations engaged with the drugs problem, and state officials acting in a personal capacity, who contributed to the diagnostic assessment of the problem and the preparation of the possible scenarios it sets out. In the dissemination of this report and in the consultation process carried out by the Secretary General, which will be described below, an active role was also played by the representatives of different segments of society.

In the field of practical prevention, the General Secretariat, through the CICAD Executive Secretariat, has established a strategic relationship with the Ibero-American network of nongovernmental organizations working in the field – known as the RIOD – which dedicated its most recent annual meeting to discussing the report published by the OAS. And through the project for the training of counselors who provide drug treatment services, interactions take place with numerous organizations that provide a wide variety of treatment services, including therapeutic communities, throughout the Hemisphere.

1.6 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala underscores the commitment to strengthening the capacity of states and institutions by fostering professionalization and improving policies and mechanisms for coordination, oversight, and transparency, in order to deal with the threats associated with the world drug problem, as well as its causes and consequences.

The General Secretariat, through all its component secretariats, undertakes activities for institutional strengthening in the Organization’s member states. With particular reference to the problems arising from the consumption and trafficking of controlled drugs, special mention should be made of the efforts of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security in the fields of police training, the evaluation of national citizen security systems, and the training and certification of human resources in the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of drug-related problems and associated violence. Similarly, the Secretariat for Legal Affairs continues to serve as the technical and administrative secretariat for the Mechanism for Follow-up on Implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, a task in which on-site inspection visits play a major part.

1.7 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala highlights the member states’ commitment to strengthening their efforts to reduce the illicit supply of drugs.

The General Secretariat, through the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security, carries out technical assistance and capacity building programs to support the member states’ efforts in this area. These programs include activities related to police training, antidrug intelligence, customs controls, border controls (land, sea, and air), ocean-borne drug trafficking, and the control of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and synthetic drugs, including new psychoactive substances (NPSs). Through the Executive Secretariat of CICAD, active support is given to the Regional School for Antidrug Intelligence of the American Community (ERCAIAD) for Spanish-speaking member states, which has been in operation for approximately 14 years and is located in Bogotá, Colombia.

1.8 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala sets out the member states’ commitment to step up their efforts to prevent, detect, and punish the laundering of money earned through criminal activities, particularly illegal drug trafficking, and to strengthen international cooperation in this area.

Through the Anti-Money-Laundering Section of the CICAD Executive Secretariat, the General Secretariat provides technical support and training to OAS member states on financial and legal matters and on law enforcement. It also serves as the technical secretariat of CICAD’s Group of Experts to Control Money Laundering.

1.9 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala urges those countries that produce, export, import, or serve as transshipment points for chemical substances and precursors used in the illicit manufacture of narcotics and psychotropics to strengthen their measures for controlling the production, distribution, and sale of those substances.

Through the Program for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines, the General Secretariat has actively contributed to the safekeeping and destruction of chemicals and precursors used in the manufacture of narcotics and psychotropics in the nations of Central America. It is also contributing to the development of border security, through the training activities carried out by the technical secretariat of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism. The Executive Secretariat of CICAD, in turn, provides technical assistance on regulatory and administrative oversight and on capacity building regarding the use of chemicals and the diversion of substances into illicit drug production.

2. Actions undertaken by the Secretary General

2.1 The Declaration of Antigua Guatemala orders the commencement of a consultation process on the matters raised by the Declaration, the open debate within the plenary, the resolutions and mandates adopted by that regular session, and the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas.

The consultations ordered by the Declaration of Antigua Guatemala were carried out directly by the Secretary General or, under his instructions, by the specialized agencies of the General Secretariat.

The Secretary General was able to present the report at the Central American Summit under the aegis of the Central American Integration System (SICA), and at the CARICOM Summit for the countries of the Caribbean.

In the United States, the Secretary General had the opportunity to present the report to various civil society bodies. In Uruguay, he presented the report directly to President José Mujica and his closest advisors. In Mexico, the Secretary General attended, in June 2013, a debate on future drug policy options with representatives of the federal government, the federal congress, the government of the Federal District, and civil society organizations. In Chile, the Secretary General was able to present the report to academics, members of the legislature, and government ministers.

In Brazil, the report was presented to a group of more than 500 representatives of the federal and state health sectors, and to representatives of civil society.

The nations of Europe have also studied the report and the conclusions of the General Assembly session held in Antigua Guatemala. The Secretary General gave presentations at various forums in London, Madrid, Lisbon, and Paris, as well as at a hearing with the European Commission in Brussels and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom in London.

These same topics, together with the next steps to be taken, were discussed at three meetings of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD). A unique opportunity to establish a dialogue with the Hemisphere’s health ministers arose at the Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization, held in Washington in September 2013, where the ties between the two institutions were further strengthened, in order to bolster the public health approach through a joint work program with that important organization.

A similar occasion arose at the Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security in the Americas, gathered together at MISPA IV in Medellín in November 2013. At that meeting, the Secretary General set out the main contents of the report and of the declaration “For a Comprehensive Policy against the World Drug Problem in the Americas”; he was then able to gather, from the participants and their discussions, important points of view on the impact that such instruments have on the design of future hemispheric cooperation initiatives.

The Secretary General held bilateral meetings on these topics, with various heads of state and heads of delegation, during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in September 2013. The report, the Declaration of Antigua Guatemala, and the forthcoming special session of the United Nations General Assembly on drugs were the main topics at those meetings.

As for forums led by the civil society, the Secretary General was able to hold a direct dialogue on the topic with evangelical churches and social leaders in Chile and Uruguay, as well as with European academics at Chatham House in London and, in the United States, at the Inter-American Dialogue, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

3. Actions undertaken by the member states

Among the SICA countries, Guatemala has established a national drugs commission, which will examine the current situation of domestic drugs policy in the country and is to submit an official report in the coming months. The countries of the Caribbean, in turn, have set up a commission to study issues related to the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use.

Uruguay has enacted a law that creates a regulated market for cannabis. The design of that regulated market acknowledges the public health approach championed in the OAS report and also the need for a preventive approach toward violence and illicit trafficking.

The new “National Program for the Social Prevention of Violence and Crime,” launched by the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, states the need to adopt broad, multisectoral programs for prevention, which are consistent with our report.

Colombia has created a national multidisciplinary commission and has already reached agreements on the way to tackle the topic of drugs and drug trafficking in the peace negotiations underway between the government and the FARC.

In the United States the problem is the subject of a vigorous debate, which has intensified as a result of the establishment of a legal marijuana industry in the states of Colorado and Washington, while the medical use of marijuana has already been authorized in numerous other states. At the initiative of the Department of Justice and using an approach that upholds, inter alia, the principle of proportionality and human rights safeguards, the United States has also embarked on a process to review and reduce sentences for various types of drug-related crime, notably including – on account of their relevance to the rest of the Hemisphere – simple possession and small-scale dealing.

Regarding this last point and as indicated in the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas, the enforcement of harsh antidrug legislation has caused incarceration rates in our countries to skyrocket, which contributes to serious prison overcrowding and an increase in substance abuse within correctional facilities. In response to this situation, several countries have decided to examine the need to take steps to counter this phenomenon, so that human rights and basic prisoners’ guarantees are upheld, while at the same time maintaining and ensuring public security.

In December 2013, within the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, Colombia proposed the creation of a working group to analyze incarceration policies and offer alternative proposals at every stage in the chain of the global drugs problem, with gender awareness and including both producers and consumers. That group was established and it began its work and its discussions in June 2014. It has analyzed options for situations that arise prior to the involvement of the criminal justice system; for situations in pretrial stages within the judicial system; for people who have already been convicted by the courts; and alternatives for prison inmates. A second technical and political meeting, to which the vice ministers of justice of the countries that expressed an interest in this working group have been invited, is slated to take place from October 20 to 22 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

At the same time, within the OAS, efforts have been made to promote a constant dialogue with the Hemisphere’s judicial systems (including chief justices, public defenders, and public prosecution services), executive branches, health systems, and civil society stakeholders, in order to identify specific judicially supervised alternatives to incarceration for drug-dependent lawbreakers. As a result, over the past four years we have gone from four member states to a total of 17 that, using the drug treatment tribunal mechanism, are exploring, implementing, or consolidating alternative models.

Reference: D-007/14