The Organization of American States (OAS) today hosted a special session of the Committee on Inter-American Summits Management and Civil Society Participation in OAS Activities (CISC) to receive the recommendations agreed to on Thursday by the participants in the 10th Hemispheric Forum with Civil Society and Social Actors on the central theme of the General Assembly of the hemispheric institution, "Toward a Comprehensive Anti-Drug Policy in the Americas."
The Secretary for External Relations of the OAS, Alfonso Quiñonez, on behalf of Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, opened the session by stating that "in the OAS, civil society is an invaluable partner to ensuring the success and sustainability of the policies and programs adopted by Member States." Ambassador Quiñonez thanked the civil society organizations for their participation, and assured them that "your proposals enrich our work and ensure that the policies adopted by the OAS respond to the concerns we all have to achieve greater well-being, with stronger democratic institutions and more inclusive and safer societies."
For his part, the Chair of the CISC, Permanent Representative of Panama to the OAS and current Chair of the Permanent Council, Ambassador Arturo Ulises Vallarino said that "the challenges we face require a multisectoral approach and the response to these challenges is a shared responsibility." The participation of civil society organizations together with the Member States and the OAS, "provides evidence of the commitment that we all have to actively contribute to this process." He also asked the General Secretariat of the OAS to ensure that the Forum's recommendations "are sent as soon as possible to the Commission that is working on the Declaration of Antigua, Guatemala."
The recommendations that emerged from the forum were grouped into three areas: challenges to public health and the development of a comprehensive anti-drug policy in the Americas; challenges to public security; and challenges to democracy and access to justice.
Luiz Roberto Alves de Lima, of the organization "United Rede Internacional de Dereitos Humanos," from Brazil, presented the recommendations of civil society in terms of public health. Among them, the group proposed the separation of "drug use from criminal and security fields;" "formalizing social participation mechanisms in the design of prevention, attention, treatment, and risk and harm reduction policies and programs;" prioritizing “outpatient treatments and alternative mechanisms for inpatient treaments;" and that "unrestricted access to health services should be facilitated for persons deprived of liberty due to problematic drug consumption."
As for the public safety challenges, the presentation of the recommendations was made by Carmen Rosa de Leon of the Instituto de Enseñanza para el Desarrollo Sostenible in Guatemala. "The application of policy enacted to date to address the problem of drugs in the Hemisphere has exacerbated violence, weakened the rule of law, and violated human rights and democratic institutions," said de León. Therefore, the group recommended strengthening " the exchange of information between States that share common borders to detect illegal trafficking and reduce vulnerability;" reestablishing “the presence of the state in border and socioeconomically deprived zones with a focus on inclusion and development as opposed to national security;" and recognizing “that the problems inherent to and derived from the production, trafficking and sale of drugs are the domain of citizen security and not national defense."
Eduardo Vergara, of Asuntos del Sur and the Observatorio Latinoamericano de Políticas de Drogas y Opinión Pública, based in Chile, presented the recommendations of the group discussing the challenges to democracy and access to justice. Among them, it recommended that governments "ensure the just proportionality of penalties that distinguish between drug trafficking and other types of offenses;" “the establishment of and increase in alternatives to imprisonment for those accused of minor, non-violent drug offenses;” and that "consumption should be separated from the criminal field."
As part of the meeting, the Director of International Affairs of the OAS, Jorge Sanin, summarized the activities of the Hemispheric Forum with Civil Society and Social Actors, which took place yesterday, Thursday, May 9. The Forum consisted of three plenary sessions, in which participants shared their views with experts from the Secretariats of Multidimensional Security, Legal Affairs, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), and the Secretariat of External Relations, as well as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The Forum's recommendations will be delivered to the OAS Member States, who are currently debating the Declaration of the next General Assembly, which will take place between June 4 and 6 June in Antigua, Guatemala, with the central theme "Toward a Comprehensive Anti-Drug Policy in the Americas."
During the meeting, the representatives of Costa Rica, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Dominica, on behalf of CARICOM, Canada, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic all took the floor.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.