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OAS Drug Commission Opened its Biannual Meeting Highlighting Advances in the Americas

  April 29, 2015

The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS) began today in Washington, DC its 57th Regular Session, in which member states will discuss the status of the problem of drugs in the hemisphere, debate progress made in the reports of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM), and reflect on issues related to alternatives to incarceration, networks for assets forfeiture from drug trafficking, the challenge of new psychoactive substances and policies aimed at the decriminalization of drug use, among others.

The meeting, chaired by the Minister of Interior of Guatemala, Hector Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, who serves as Chair of CICAD, was opened by the Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, who praised the work that is underway in the framework of the CICAD. "The work you do every day to minimize the negative impact of the production, trafficking and consumption of drugs in your countries and populations makes a difference in the lives of many of our citizens," he said.

The OAS Secretary General referred to some of the most important achievements at the hemispheric level in recent years, among which he cited the 2010 Hemispheric Drug Strategy; the development of evidence-based policies, and public health approaches to address drug use; and the consideration of alternatives to incarceration, "with which we are achieving concrete results, both in the hemisphere and in other regions." He also spoke of the impact that the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas prepared by the OAS has had since its introduction two years ago. "The report was a comprehensive and multidisciplinary process, involving more than 300 experts in the field," he said, recalling that in the light of the discussion at the highest level throughout the hemisphere, "we can say that in terms of the debate the Report marked a before and after."

The leader of the hemispheric institution also stressed the importance of the agreements reached during the General Assembly of the OAS in Antigua Guatemala in 2013, "where the issue was discussed thoroughly, and where we had a very intense debate, both in the public and private spheres." The Hemispheric Strategy, the Report on the Drug Problem and the "Declaration of Antigua," which emanated from the 2013 General Assembly, are documents that "show the world the leadership that our Hemisphere is taking on the issue of drugs, centered on the human being, not on the substance, and aimed at reducing the negative consequences of drugs."

Finally, Secretary General Insulza praised the hemispheric leadership on the issue of drugs in recent years, "which has positioned us at the forefront of global policy on the matter," and expressed his belief that under the leadership of the next Secretary General and Assistant Secretary General of the Organization, "the OAS will continue working to strengthen the capacity of the Hemisphere to address the global problem of drugs and ensure the welfare of the people and the community, as well as citizen security, which are ultimately the rights of every human being. "

The Minister of the Interior of Guatemala, Hector Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, recalled that in the region "we have been promoting the international discussion of different ideas, perspectives and approaches to progressively achieve a comprehensive and balanced drug policy supported by scientific evidence and respectful of human rights." He said that this policy seeks to make a change in the paradigm, focusing on the person and not on the substance, "a policy that prioritizes not only supply reduction and narcotics control, but also the prevention of use and the harm associated with it, a policy in which a reasonable balance is struck between the public health approach and the interventions of the penal system." In the framework of the OAS, he said, there are several visible achievements in this direction, and "with openness and democratic dialogue our countries are making adjustments to the respond to the new times that require us to define a new holistic drug policy" he concluded.

For his part, the Director of the Office of the National Drug Control Policy of the United States, Michael Botticelli, stressed that global policy on drugs has changed in recent years and said that today there is "a growing consensus of the importance of having a public health approach to address the challenges related to drugs" and the need to carefully evaluate existing policies, to reduce overreliance on incarceration and ensure that they are protecting human rights and are aligned with the UN conventions.

"This new consensus is in no small part due to the work of the OAS," said Botticelli, who explained that "today when the global community is facing the issue of the drug problem we have become aware of the need for change, and CICAD has contributed positively in this change, ensuring that the centrality of the issue of public health is now conventional wisdom." "We have moved away from approaches that rely solely on law enforcement and the stigmatization and victimization of people with drug abuse disorders, and we are moving towards public health solutions where treatment, scientific evidence, early intervention and recovery are central," he said, noting that these are initiatives that "save lives, they are less costly and more humane."

The first day of the 57th Regular Session of CICAD, which will run until Friday, May 1, also included the presentation of the "Report on Drug Use in the Americas 2015" a comprehensive analysis of drug use in member countries of the Organization that provides a hemispheric and subregional picture on the use of psychoactive substances in recent years.

In the following days the Hemispheric Report of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism 2015 and the Technical Report on Alternatives to Incarceration for Drug-Related Crimes will also be presented. Prior to the meeting, the Fourth Session of the CICAD Side Event with Civil Society took place, a mechanism by which member states learn about the experiences, actions and research of civil society groups, and that encourages feedback and brainstorming.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video news of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-156/15