OAS - Department of Public Information

Evaluating Progress Against Illegal Drugs

"We welcome the development of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism and reiterate our commitment to make this mechanism, unique in the world, one of the central pillars in effective hemispheric cooperation in the struggle against all the factors that constitute the global drug problem."
- Declaration of Quebec City, April 22, 2001  (Third Summit of the Americas)

The nations of the Americas have undertaken a concerted, continuous effort to address the complex problems caused by illegal drugs. One important tool they are using is the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM), which measures drug-control  progress in 34 countries and the hemisphere as a whole. It was created to increase coordination and cooperation among the OAS member states, which recognize a shared responsibility for the drug problem and have a common commitment to confront and overcome this scourge.


The MEM acts on that understanding. All countries evaluate and all are evaluated. The process does not impose sanctions; it is based on cooperation. By sharing knowledge on accomplishments, obstacles and strategies, the countries develop a clearer picture of needs and weaknesses and identify areas that warrant closer cooperation, better legislation, more research or additional resources.


Three evaluation rounds of the MEM have now been completed. Each evaluation covers two years; the first was for 1999-2000, the second for 2001-2002. The national and hemispheric reports of the third round, which covers 2003-2004, were presented to the foreign ministers at the 2005 General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale.


The OAS Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) developed this monitoring mechanism in 1998, acting on a mandate from the Second Summit of the Americas. Under the MEM process, full evaluations are undertaken every two years, with reports in alternate years focusing on how countries are carrying out the recommendations.


The third-round national reports include a total of 506 recommendations specific steps the countries and the region can take to improve anti-drug efforts. Since the MEM process began, 89% of the first-round and 64% of the second-round recommendations have been implemented. CICAD has approved requests from 16 member states for technical and financial assistance to help comply with recommendations from the second round of the MEM.  Recommendations are assigned to countries to assist them in strengthening their policies to combat drugs and related activities, and to increase multilateral cooperation.



How the MEM process works


Each government first completes a uniform questionnaire divided into four main areas: institutional building and national plans, demand reduction, reduction of drug production and control measures. Countries provide data on a series of indicators, such as area under cultivation for illicit crops, drug-trafficking arrests, pharmaceutical and chemical substance control, and prevention programs for at-risk populations. All aspects of supply and demand are covered in the analyses. Governments also provide information about what conventions they have ratified and what domestic laws they have in place not only on illegal drugs, but on related issues such as money laundering, trafficking in firearms, transnational organized crime and corruption. The first evaluations were based on 61 indicators. After each of the first two rounds, CICAD revised, eliminated and added indicators to reflect the evaluation experience and new realities in the drug problem. The third evaluation round is based on 86 indicators.


The MEM Government Expert Group each country appoints one expert studies the data submitted, analyzes national progress on each indicator, and drafts an evaluation report based on this and subsequent information provided by the country during the evaluation stage. Each expert is specialized in one or more aspects of the drug issue, such as law enforcement, prevention or health care. Experts do not participate in the evaluation of their own country. The process is designed to maximize participation and transparency; the governments have the opportunity to review and comment on preliminary drafts.


Under the MEM process, each country covers the expenses of its appointed expert as well as data gathering and research costs. In addition, a number of countries have made donations to cover the cost of administering the evaluation process. A special Solidarity Fund helps to defray expenses in countries that require assistance to meet their MEM obligations.


The MEM responds to the idea of shared responsibility for the problem of drugs - affirmed in the 1996 Anti-Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere - with a practical program that gives this basic principle form in national actions.


Last updated: June 2005