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OAS Secretary General Presented the Report on the Drug Problem to United States Public and Experts

  June 27, 2013

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today presented to an audience of United States experts and policy makers the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas, prepared by the OAS under his direction, during a debate on drug policy in the Hemisphere organized by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, in which he spoke together with the Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement of the United States, William Brownfield.

Introducing the event entitled "Drug Policy in the Hemisphere: Is it Time for Reform?" the Associate Director of the Latin America program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, Eric L. Olson said that "for the first time nations of the hemisphere have engaged in an unprecedented debate of possible scenarios to reform the drug policy, an OAS-led debate motivated by the sense of some nations that the existing policy is ineffective, and it even exacerbates the problems of crime, corruption, violence and social disintegration."

Olson added that the documents prepared by the OAS (Analytical Report and Scenarios Report) following the request made by the Heads of State and Government of the Hemisphere in the Sixth Summit of the Americas held in 2012 in Colombia, are the basis for the discussion currently taking place in the region.

During the panel, Secretary General Insulza presented the Reports highlighting the reasons that led the Hemisphere's leaders to ask the OAS to carry them out, principally the fact that the drug problem "is very much alive in the Americas" despite several decades of intense policies to combat it.

Explaining the Analytical Report, the leader of the hemispheric Organization asserted that "every country in the region has different problems related to the drug issue, making it difficult to make generalizations, which moved us to take a comprehensive approach that includes the different phases from the production to the consumption of drugs," which take place in a" very significant way "in the region: the cultivation, production and processing, trade, sale and consumption. "We based our study on the general consideration of the impact of drugs on health and which are the most harmful," explained the methodology of the report.

In his presentation, the Secretary General presented the new trends identified in the report, including: changes in drug production; changes in the distribution of marijuana use; variations in the impact on each country as a result of the drug problem, which in turn affects the reaction and importance attached to the subject in every nation; and the increasing use of pharmaceutical and synthetic drugs.

"Most countries tend to accept the idea of ​​implementing some type of prevention program or strategy," said the head of the hemispheric institution, referring to the conclusions of the Report. "Despite not having much agreement on how to treat consumers, there is a broad tendency that they should be treated as people suffering from a disease that requires treatment from a public health perspective," he added.

With regard to drug trafficking, Secretary General Insulza said that "unless there is a reduction in demand, the drug trade will never stop," and that "drug-related violence is usually much higher in countries of traffic than in those of consumption or production." At this point he further emphasized that the strength of the rule of law is key to determining how drugs affect a country.

Referring to the Report on Scenarios, the second part of the Report, the Secretary General explained that it "contains the possible options for the future of the drug problem, scenarios that are relevant, feasible and credible.” The Report presents four alternatives, titled "Together," "Pathways," "Resilience," and "Disruption," and the OAS representative explained that the latter scenario is the one that considers what would happen "if countries are faced with a heavy burden of drug trafficking and are forced to go their own way without paying attention to the consequences."

The Secretary General closed his presentation by stating that "this is a debate that we have just begun," and said that it was the basis of the discussions of the 43rd OAS General Assembly held in Guatemala earlier this month during which the members agreed to move ahead in a process of consultation and dialogue between countries, regions and sectors of society on this issue.

The Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement of the United States, William Brownfield, applauded the OAS report, calling it "detailed and provocative," and recalled that the drug issue is of great concern not only in the region but also in the world. He highlighted some of the key points and principles of consensus on the issue, including: widespread dissatisfaction with current drug policy; the idea that it should not be a problem limited to law enforcement; the need to deal with the issue through international cooperation; the negative impact of transnational organized crime and the sovereignty of nations when deciding their own drug policy.

As for the recommendations, Ambassador Brownfield stressed the importance of making decisions based on data and evidence, to make public health "the driving issue in the formulation of drug policy" and the need to carry out a detailed review of existing policies and strategies before making decisions. "We should try to strengthen what is working, and fix what does not work," he said.

At the same time, the representative of the Government of the United States called for a continued search for solutions that are not extreme, and called for avoiding the search for instant solutions to a problem that "has affected our nations and our peoples for decades."

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-255/13