Media Center



March 17, 2004 - Washington, DC


• Good afternoon. I would like to discuss with you today my vision of the CICAD Commission – what challenges confront it, what it has done and what it is doing to address the drug problem, and how it is adapting itself to meet those challenges for our countries and our citizens.

• As both a national official with significant experience on the drug file, and as the current Chair of the CICAD Commission, I am firmly of the view that CICAD offers a model of an effective, forward-looking and flexible entity, one that can serve as an example for the entire OAS.


• Over the last few years, CICAD has responded to an ever-changing threat environment. The impact of September 11 has not diminished the importance to the countries of the Americas of addressing illicit drugs and organized crime. These longstanding problems continue to threaten the overall well-being of the hemisphere, undermining the capacity of countries to ensure political stability, economic development, public safety and respect for good governance and the rule-of-law.

• The hemispheric drug problem is both transnational and multi-dimensional in nature. In order to tackle the problem, we must also consider its linkages with other related criminal activities, such as money laundering, arms trafficking, and chemical precursor diversion. We must reflect on how best, and where, should these complex linkages be addressed.

• We have also learned that the hemispheric drug problem is not static. The increase in the abuse of illicit drugs, and in the trafficking and consumption of synthetic drugs, are two notable and worrisome trends within our hemisphere.

• At the same time, there is recognition that the OAS and its member states have increasingly limited financial, technical, and human resources. Some countries are currently undergoing such political turmoil that their capacity to address these public safety issues is severely curtailed.

• Therefore CICAD’s role and contribution is of increasing importance to the countries of the Americas, given the critical impact of these drug-related issues, the inherently international nature of the problem, and the cross-cutting nature of the Commission’s workplan.


• CICAD has responded to these emerging threats over the last few years through a variety of means. First, CICAD has proven itself as a demonstrated leader in public safety issues for the region and for the world.

• The most widely recognized example of this leadership is the development of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism, or MEM. At the Second Summit of the Americas in 1998, the member states committed to developing an objective process of multilateral governmental evaluation, in order to evaluate anti-drug efforts in the hemisphere.

• The MEM has been a great success. It has encouraged countries to implement the necessary legislation and regulations, ratify international conventions, develop national drug strategies, and encourage cooperation and collaboration among member states. The MEM has been a catalyst for action – its moral suasion has had concrete results in terms of modifying the behaviour of countries.

• CICAD has also embraced a culture of enhanced transparency and accountability. The MEM itself is a prime example of this. Member states have agreed to improve the MEM by including external sources of information, such as from the United Nations, and to allow country visits for those states where there is a concern that they are having difficulty meeting their drug control commitments. This clearly demonstrates a new maturity and openness on the part of CICAD member states.

• Another example of accountability I will bring to your attention is the RETCOD project. The Commission recently discontinued RETCOD, which consisted of support for a communication system among law enforcement officials monitoring riverine traffic. The project was not demonstrating measurable results, and the Commission made the tough decision to terminate it.

• In addition, the Commission has worked to develop flexible responses to the ever-evolving drug issue. As an example of this, over the last year CICAD has focussed more on drug-related organized crime. There is a new recognition that drug-related crime should be addressed primarily through the lens of organized crime, and that there is a need to disrupt transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.

• Throughout this process, CICAD has encouraged an increasingly transparent dialogue among countries on the drug issues that affect all of us, one more open to constructive criticism. This means that over the last year we have had informative and at times heated discussions on critical issues such as alternative development and crop development, and, at the latest CICAD session in Montreal in November, on alternative measures for cannabis possession.


• But we need to go even further. We need to be smarter in how we approach the problem, more strategic in our investments, and more accountable and transparent in our actions. Under the Canadian Chairmanship, the Commission is working to identify the public safety issues of critical importance to member states, in order to focus CICAD’s workplan in an informed and strategic manner

• To this end, we are encouraging efforts at improving co-ordination at borders among CICAD member states, so that drug cartels are less able to exploit the differences between jurisdictions. Air, land and sea borders between CICAD members are critical points in the drug control regimes of the member states of the OAS. The upcoming Smart Border Symposium in May in Vancouver will focus on these issues.

• We are also working to renew the Commission’s commitment to the MEM, and underscore the need to use the MEM to improve drug control regimes. We are using the MEM to make decisions on the allocation of resources dedicated to the drug problem, and we are doing so in a more strategic, coordinated and effective fashion.

• To that end, the major donors to CICAD are now meeting on the margins of CICAD sessions, in order to communicate more effectively among themselves and better coordinate their CICAD activities. At the same time, countries under the leadership of Antigua and Barbuda and Suriname have constituted a new group to develop outreach strategies to new and potential donors.

• Coordination of activities among OAS entities, and beyond with other international organizations, is of paramount importance. With this in mind, we are identifying mechanisms to integrate the efforts CICAD is undertaking with those of other OAS entities (e.g. CICTE, Committee on Hemispheric Security, Secretariat for Legal Affairs). We have taken concrete steps in this regard and have undertaken joint projects, for example, with CICTE in the areas of terrorist financing and money laundering.

• We are focussing on intelligence-led law enforcement, in order to leverage our scarce public safety resources. Recently CICAD has developed workshops on undercover training for police, source witness protection, and developing joint threat assessments used to tackle organized crime groups in a strategic manner.

• Most importantly, we will undertake a priority-setting exercise at the upcoming session in May 2004, to rationalize CICAD’s work with a view to addressing both the core mandate of CICAD and emerging threats more effectively. While there are numerous avenues that CICAD could follow, and activities it could undertake, it is essential that we discipline ourselves and focus CICAD’s action on those areas where it can make a real difference, commensurate with the means at its disposal. To fail to do this would put CICAD, its relevance and effectiveness at risk in the longer term.


• Over the long-term, we will need to continue to work to improve co-ordination and communication among officials in the hemisphere working in public safety and security, and those active in other areas of economic and social development, as well as governance issues. Only through concerted efforts are we able to develop comprehensive, innovative, and integrated approaches to the drug problem and to drug-related transnational crime.

• At the same time, we cannot forget the necessity of addressing the demand-reduction side of the equation. The demand for illicit drugs is the cause, whether directly or indirectly, for much of the crime and violence in the hemisphere. Education, awareness building, harm reduction and treatment must all be part of the solution. Therefore it is critical that our response to the drug issue must become truly balanced and integrated.

• Many of our countries must also learn to become more effective and proactive in sharing research on health and demand reduction issues, so that we can leverage our resources to avoid duplication. We must help countries develop local solutions tailored to local problems, because we recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach does not produce effective results.

• By steering our efforts with these long-term objectives in mind, we are confident that CICAD will continue to play a critical role in the hemisphere. Our efforts are leading to better coordination within a more accountable and effective CICAD Commission. This in turn should enable the Permanent Council to identify certain measures that OAS entities can use to strengthen fiscal restraint, develop strategic planning, and ensure overall accountability.

• In closing, I would like to underline that the drug issue in the Americas is ultimately one of shared responsibility. In the end, we are accountable for our neighbours – we are our brother’s keeper. Therefore we have an obligation to reach across the hemisphere to address complex drug issues.

• I invite your comments and questions. Thank you.