UNGASS Special Segment Day 1 – Statement by Colombia

It has been five years since we adopted the 2009 Political Declaration and plan of action. Much progress has been done, but many challenges have to be tackled. Our policies are not yielding the expected results and we must modify our efforts and develop new approaches.

The country has made remarkable headway to ensure that cocaine does not go to North America, much remains to be done. There is an alarming surge in NPS, having a significant impact in the local environment. These substances also cause a serious threat to youth’s health. We note a trend in lower age for use of drugs. We cannot continue to rely on a monochromatic approach that focuses on supply reduction beyond our borders. In our country we have consumption of a variety of substances.

We have done countless campaigns against crime, but the illegal economy still has a significant impact despite our efforts. Drugs remain the main sources of income for criminal organisations resorting to violence and corruption, in particular in zones of conflict. Resources of our state have mainly been focused on law enforcement, prevention and demand reduction came second.

The ability to adapt to state measures has proved more flexible than our efforts to tackle them. Possession and consumption are not criminalised, but small-scale trafficking is criminalised – the criminalisation of the weakest links has led many people to be incarcerated.

Colombia’s efforts to combat illicit drugs have led to progress, but there is a need to take forward a frank dialogue based on local realities. The 2016 UNGASS is a unique occasion to give attention to the issue. IN this context, I point to 4 lessons learned to be considered as input;

  1. law enforcement efforts are an imperfect tool, there must be an identification of the weakest elements of crime and social aspects. Criminal sanctions should be a last resort for the weakest links and should focus on the most harmful actors. We must bear in mind that micro-traffickers and mules are involved due to social exclusion, substance dependence, etc. so we we must focus on alternative measures. We must use respect for human rights as the cornerstone of drug policies in Colombia. Criminal sanctions should be the exception, not the rule. Regulations intended to identify the various levels of trafficking must be put in place. We must establish the most clever manner to dismantle criminal network. And this will not be possible taking the low level elements into custody.
  2. Drug consumption should be approach from the public health perspective. In the context of consumption, we must devise measures targeting interventions for different substances used. We must rethink our response, giving priority to a public health perspective in full respect for human rights. Within the UNGASS in 2016 context, other UN agencies and civil society should be involved in the debates to have a broader, more humane and effective response to the drug problem around the world.
  3. Drug policies should focus on territorial considerations, building up on local realities to counter the challenge. The possibility to provide health and well being is tied to the development of opportunities for our citizens. Countries’ decisions should not affect other countries.
  4. Drug policies should not be assessed solely based on their final and sole purpose – adverse impacts that state actions can have and move beyond borders. Success in one country may have a negative effect in another: reduce vulnerable aspects of vulnerable communities, respect human rights, build institutional structures of our society. It is our responsibility to devise new measures to lead to the achievements of our objectives.

We need to involve UN agencies, academics, scientists and civil society. We need new measures to match new realities. The drug control regime must be most flexible, enabling different approaches, indicators should be used (not just seizures, but alternative models of development, vulnerable nature of some areas), more should go to prevention, treatment and harm reduction.

We have engaged in Colombia to a process of deep seated thought on the issue. We must keep openness of mind. Drug markets are regulated, but by criminal organisations. The peace process in Colombia is an opportunity to vanquish criminal networks and bolster the presence of the state.

In 2016, we want a platform to openly discuss drug policy. The thematic debate next May will be an opportunity to come forward with proposals intended to be taken to the UNGASS in 2016. We encourage all member states to participate.

I have come here because I think I can make a contribution in the debate. Latin America and the Caribbean have borne the costs of drug control, and we have learned lessons. We hope this will lead to the adoption of new approaches, and improve multilateral consensus. We must ensure broad and open debate. Young people have suffered from lack of prevention and treatment options because of organised crime. They aspire to more than just a prison term, they need opportunities to reshape their lives. UNGASS 2016 should be an opportunity to make drug policies more humane. Otherwise, we will fail.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.