Side event: New OAS Hemispheric Drug Strategy and Plan of Action 2021-2025

Organised by the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (ES-CICAD)/Secretariat for Multidimensional Security of the Organization of American States (OAS) with the support of Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, St. Lucia and the United States of America.

Santiago Moreno, CICAD Institutional Strengthening Unit: My name is Santiago Moreno, a member of the Institutional Strengthening Unit of CICAD. It’s a pleasure to join you. Before we begin this side event, I’d like to provide you the following information. This event is outfitted with simultaneous interpretation in four languages, Spanish, English, French and Portuguese, you can set your preferred language by clicking on the interpretation icon at the bottom of your screen. For those who, anyone who may lose a connection we invite you to use the same link that you use to enter originally. I’d like to take advantage to invite you to follow us on our Twitter account can add CICAD underscore OAS. Without further ado, I offer the floor to Mr. Antonio Lomba, Chief of the Institutional Strengthening Unit of the Executive Secretariat of CICAD, who will be moderating this event. Thank you very much Mr Lomba, you have the floor.

Antonio Lomba , CICAD Institutional Strengthening Unit: Thank you very much Santiago, and good morning to each and every one of you. Let’s go right into the dialogue. But before we do some I would like to give the floor to Ambassador Adam Namm, Executive secretary of the Inter American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the OAS to provide remarks.

Adam Namm, Executive secretary, CICAD: Greetings to everyone. I hope wherever you are you, your colleagues, your families are all well. As Antonio said, my name is Adam Namm, and I serve as the Executive Secretary of the Inter American drug abuse Control Commission, as part of the organisation of American States. Many of you know the commission by its Spanish language acronym CICAD. It’s a great pleasure for me to address you at this site event and titled OAS hemispheric drug strategy and plan of action 2021 to 2025. I would like to thank CICAD’s current Chair and Vice Chair, Colombia and Costa Rica respectively. As well as the other OAS member states co sponsoring this side event. Canada, Mexico St Lucia, and the United States. The strategy and its corresponding plan of action, represents the culmination of coordinated and collective efforts by OAS member states over a 12 month drafting period under last year’s United States Seacat chair. The process concluded in December 2020 when the Commission approved by consensus. both documents at its 68th regular session in Bogotá, under the current Colombian chair. The Strategy and Plan of Action will guide the work of OAS member states on drug policy for the coming years, as Secretary General Luis Almagro has referred to the new strategy as one of the most important drug related documents in this decade for member states. He said and I quote, it represents a political commitment by countries to address the drug problem and defends the principles and basic rights of individuals and families affected by drugs, unquote. The strategies relevance in the Western Hemisphere is fundamental to the work carried out by the CICAD Executive Secretariat and supporting OAS member states to effectively address the global drug problem and related crimes, both strategy and plan of action reflect and advance the spirit and intent of the outcome document of August 2016, calling for a balanced approach to international drug policy, as well as the UN’s 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. The strategy incorporates the key areas of demand reduction and supply reduction underpinned by the importance of the core issues of institutional capacities, research and empirical data and collaboration among our member states, but also the need to forge and maintain relationships with international agencies, civil society participation is also important in the development and implementation of drug policies. These relations go further ensure that in every thematic area, public health, human rights and gender equity are included as cross cutting issues. This strategy outlines key objectives for OAS member states to take into account when designing their national drug policies in alignment with the strategy. The plan of action defines objectives and priority actions organised in five thematic pillars: Institutional Strengthening measures of prevention, treatment and recovery support measures to control and counter the illicit cultivation production trafficking and distribution of drugs and to address their causes and consequences, Research information monitoring and evaluation and international cooperation. Among other things the strategy encourages member states to design and implement national drug policies and/or strategies duly coordinated with other public policies and/or strategies in concert with the government, civil society, and other organisations to address fundamental causes and consequences of the world drug problem, and design adopt and implement alternatives to incarceration for minor or non violent drug related offences, with a gender age and cultural perspective, in accordance with their national constitutional legal and administrative systems and relevant and applicable international instruments as well as respect for human rights. In order to maintain an adequate response to the ever evolving world drug problem the strategy encourages member states to promote periodic independent evaluations of their policies, programmes and interventions through active participation in the multilateral evaluation mechanism to inform and guide the allocation of resources and to ensure sustainable activities appropriate for each national context. The strategy encourages member states to strengthen their capacity to counter the illicit cultivation production trafficking and distribution of plant based and synthetic drugs, with a  human rights and gender perspective and to update their legal and institutional frameworks for the effective control of precursors and essential chemicals frequently used in the illicit manufacturer of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances through their national observatories on drugs or other research institutions. The strategy encourages member states to generate information on the prevalence of drug use, use of services and demand for treatment, incidents of use and trends over time, using sound systematic data collection practices, scientific research and standardised methodologies to monitor use and key populations and or improve information gathering to inform and support the development and implementation of public policies and programmes to counter illicit drugs supply. The strategy encourages member states to conduct, through their early warning systems, studies and research to identify and monitor, new and emerging trends, as well as provide current data on illicit drug supplies to inform decision making. This strategy encourages member states to include as essential elements within demand reduction policies, universal selective and indicated prevention, environmental protection, health promotion, early intervention, treatment, care, rehabilitation, social integration recovery, reducing adverse consequences and related support services. The strategy encourages member states to implement various evidence based prevention programmes, aimed at specific target population groups, local settings and regions with different substance use habits and modalities and risk factors. Together these programmes constitute a comprehensive national prevention system, and the strategy encourages member states to promote the availability and facilitate increased access to care and treatment programmes with informed consent, consistent with national legislation treatment services offer a range of comprehensive evidence based therapeutic intervention models that follow internationally validated quality standards oriented toward treatment completion and sustained recovery units and CICAD’s Executive Secretariat institutional strengthening supply reduction which includes control measures and reduction, and the Inter American observatory on drugs will continue to work with our member states to ensure effective implementation of the plan of action. Additionally, CICAD will continue to promote synergies with our regional sub regional and international partners, particularly to make the best use of resources and avoid duplication of efforts to address and counteract the world drug problem. We look forward to working with you as we align our efforts in these areas, monitoring and evaluation are key components of CICAD programming. Within this framework the multilateral evaluation mechanism, MEM, is the approved OAS mechanism to monitor and evaluate member states application of the strategy and associated plan of action through its results. The MEM will strengthen national policies and actions, as well as identify the main national and regional strengths and challenges to addressing the hemispheric and world drug problem in a more coordinated manner. We are very proud that in the 23 years since its creation, MEM has been a highly recognised and respected tool, both in the Americas, as well as internationally for evaluating drug control efforts. I look forward to presenting the first set, MEM eighth round country evaluation reports, focused on demand reduction, once they are approved by the Commission later this year. As our member states, align their national strategies and plans to the OAS strategy and plan of action, CICAD will support countries with any technical assistance necessary to complete such an important task casts addressing the drug problem requires strong political commitment and increased international cooperation, together with a number of sectors, working in unison, public health, education, Security and Justice, among others, a multi faceted problem requires a powerful multi dimensional approach. I therefore invite our member states, collaborative partners and stakeholders to continue our work in implementing a comprehensive approach stemming from our new strategy and plan of action to respond to the complex phenomenon of the global drug problem, and improve the health security, and well being of those suffering the impact of the drug problem. Thank you.

Andrés Orlando Peña Andrade, Director of Drug policies and related activities, Ministry of Justice and Law Colombia: Thank you, Mr Lomba for giving me the floor right now especially a warm greetings from Colombia in Colombia where we’re convinced about the that to be effective against to counter the world drug problem. We have to come together with. We have to synchronise our policies as been mentioned by Ambassador Nam and it’s precisely this vision, that corresponds to the plan of action and the drugs strategy in order to stregnthen in and make coordination and cooperation, consistent, we must respond to the needs and challenges in other states, with regard to this problem. These documents show the progress we’ve achieved in this regard, as well as the need to have solid science based public policy, have early warning systems in place, and periodical evaluations, independent ones, concepts of proportionality and alternatives to incarceration have to be in place as well. The involvement of local communities and civil society in implementing this strategy, and of course, inclusion of the environmental protection among the most important things our policy must counter the drug problem, and think in the future. We started in 2018 with a broad instrument, and there were 19 months of discussion, the 21 national agencies were involved in creating our policy, and there was an interagency strategic approach was adopted. And we’ve been leading 43 national level agencies in implementing it. There’s an intersectoral nature of it, and we complement each other with other related public policies such as security and public health, and criminal policy among other policies. Likewise, our plan of action and policy involves all financial and policy efforts of all agencies, to be able to achieve the objectives of the different pillars, and we’re trying to reduce the availability of drugs. We have a fourth pillar to tackle criminal groups as well. And, as well as international cooperation for these purposes. I’d like to conclude that the greatest challenge we face with our strategy is having, quote, evidence based cooperation geared towards completeness of the approach we are moving forward and are convinced that with the support of the rest of the region, it will be possible to make informed decisions to to deal better with this issue and and to deal with the needs and challenges. Thank you very much.

Dario Rodriguez Fernandez, Director General of the Costa Rican Institute on Drugs: This important annual allows countries to learn about the tactics and policies to counter drug. We are grateful for CICAD and the OAS for its leadership in helping the member countries to guide and the policies of the countries for Costa Rica. It’s important to have this is strategy and plan of action to help and complement our own plans of action and strategy. The multilateral evaluation mechanism has been helpful for us to review and assess our policies in our countries in the region to deal with this worldwide and hemispheric problem of drugs, which is a reality throughout the world not only from the point of view of crime, but also in terms of the pandemic and how it’s further exacerbated the situation.

Director of the International Crime and Terrorism Policy Division, Global Affairs Canada: (The simultaneous English and French tracks make it really difficult to transcribe this statement.)

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, US Department of State:  Good morning and good afternoon to everyone. I’d like to start by thanking the OAS CICAD for sponsoring today’s event and for inviting me to speak. While the CND brings us together annually at a global level, the OAS plays a vital role in advancing key regional coordination and collaboration to drive us forward in our collective fight to address and counter the world drug problem. Our partnership is essential, as we confront new challenges in drug production and trafficking. The United States’ greatest drug challenges continue to centre on the threat of synthetic drugs; actually opioids. From September 2019 to August 2020, an estimated 88,295 drug deaths took place in the United States, which represents a 26.8% year over year increase. This is great, a rate of increase than any other type of injury or death. And it is the highest number ever recorded in a 12 month period. Nearly 60% of those involved in overdose deaths involved since synthetic opioids. Fentanyl and its analogues continued to drive the increase in overdose deaths. Simultaneously overdose deaths involving cocaine, and other psychostimulants, such as methamphetamine, are also on the rise, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl is increasingly contaminating other drugs. We are facing a opioid epidemic on top of the COVID 19 pandemic, and the result is too many lives needlessly cut short. In the United States, we also continue to see the high availability of fentanyl, amphetamine, cocaine and heroin. Transnational criminal organisations, maintain a significant number of transportation routes throughout the United States, and their illicit trafficking is driving these staggering overdose numbers in my country. We’re also increasingly alarmed by the diversion of precursor chemicals that fuel the manufacturer of drugs, such as methamphetamine and synthetic opioids. But the United States is not alone in confronting many of these issues. We have worked with all of you, our CICAD partners to revise the hemispheric strategy on drugs and its plan of action, and we see these as essential instruments in our region’s toolbox to counter these threats. The United States is committed to the various principles and actions contained in the strategy and the plan of action. President Biden has affirmed his commitment to addressing the US overdose epidemic. And last month, signed the American rescue plan. This plan provides nearly $4 billion to expand access to essential behavioural and mental health services, and it will support five new policy priorities that the administration is advancing (…) in line with evidence based, public safety, public health and, more specifically, these policies will expand access to evidence based treatment, advance racial equity issues in our approach to drug policy, enhance evidence based harm reduction efforts, support, evidence based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use, reduce the supply of illicit substances, advance recovery and expand the addiction workforce; and, finally, expand (…) and has also committed to renewing the US role in international organisations and has called our allies, our greatest assets. In turn, we commend the ongoing efforts of our CICAD colleagues to confront these issues, and we look forward to doing our work together to enhance the region’s response to drug threats. Given the complexity of these issues, I would like to highlight the US side event this Thursday, on confronting emerging synthetic drug challenges, which will offer a more expansive analysis of the threats that we are facing, and the opportunities to address them. Thank you.

Isaac Morales Tenorio, Coordinator of Multi-Dimensional Security, General Directorate for United Nations Affairs, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mexico: Good morning from Mexico City. Quite honestly speaking after the substantive interventions by my colleagues what I’d like to do is emphasise three aspects at the outset because I consider them to be crucial for the adoption and consolidation of the recent drug strategy and plan of action for our hemisphere. The first point I want to underscore is that the adoption and consolidation of these documents are a show of confidence, reiterate that we choose multilateralism to tackle the drug problem. It’s also showing common and shared confidence and responsibility that we have seen in our countries and in our hemisphere when implementing different drug policies. This confidence in multilateralism, in my view can also be noted, through the fact that the consolidation, negotiation, and adoption process for these documents took place amidst the pandemic, and this truly posed an additional challenge that required from each one of our countries, flexibility, and trust in our partners. I do believe these are lessons learned, not only for the reasons imposed by the pandemic, but also because of this trust in the multilateral policy path and shared responsibility. I recognise the leadership of the different chairs at the time, Colombia, and United States, and talking about the CICAD chairmanship, in order to be able to revisit develop these documents, recognition also to the Secretariat for having tabled key aspects that reflected the tone character and priorities of all state interventions. This is a document, truly belonging to the entire hemisphere. The second aspect that I want to underscore it has already been mentioned actually, but I believe it’s important to reiterate it, and that is integrality. The hemispheric strategy as well as the plan of action, clearly reflect international progress in drug policies. They also reflect recognition of the new challenges in the illicit drug market. This integrality is extremely important. Let us remember that we started with a plan of action, it was already a good one, it already focused on integrality incorporating all the lessons learned from UNGASS 2016, as well as recognition how drug policies were being incorporated to support the movement of the 2020 Sustainable Development Agenda. Today we are in the framework of the drug commission celebrating this side event, which once again as I said, renews the fact that in putting forward, international policies provides an opportunity to also implement them in the hemisphere. Furthermore, in the development of our hemispheric policy we have an opportunity to move towards the international agenda to the United Nations to the Commission on drugs these elements that are priority for our countries, very specifically. I do believe also that this integrality was noted when recognising and inserting specific point for the so called balance of public policy balance between health, justice, security, development aspects and tackling causes and consequences as Ambassador Nam pointed out at the outset. We also recognise in these documents illicit dynamics that tied to the drug market, that also needed to be tackled through the drug policy. These as the weapons traffic, or money laundering that empowered the criminal organisations that are in drug traffic and have been so for many years. So we need to acknowledge the problems we should not deny them. What we need to do is address them in an environment of respecting differences between countries in the hemisphere. The last point I wanted to make is that of coherence in these documents we can note that although each has its very own nature, because they hemispheric strategy provides a more political direction and the plan of action is a broader document with actions and pillars that have been well described truly focused on action in these two documents what we observe is a design of consistency and we need to underscore this, when talking about the link of these documents with the multilateral evaluation mechanism the MEM. The MEM calls upon us to instrument the documents. It’s not simply celebrating the fact that they have been adopted now they need to be implemented, and it is through the meme that we have the clearest call to maintain that consistency in its implementation. As part of that coherence, I also want to talk about the cross cutting elements, the objectives that are tied to human rights. And there are also innovative events for justice, a very clear gender perspective, and the so called evaluation and gathering data. I do believe that these cross cutting elements and the coherence of the policies have exactly the same relevance as the pillars that only have related to health and justice. This cross cutting impact feeds also into this idea of coherence. Let me conclude by pointing out that for the future work in our hemisphere, and in each one of our countries. Even aspects that we would have liked to see further developed in the documents. Both the strategy and the plan of action, such as guaranteeing access to controlled substances for medical purposes, and care such as using some of these substances for palliative care, or the harm reduction in order to share experiences and improve harm reduction measures. Even those aspects that did not necessarily reach the maturity point we would have liked can still be worked on as we move forward, starting now, but using the basis that we obtained through the drug strategy and plan of action and the three points I raised. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to share with you some thoughts.

Charmaine Emmanuel, Coordinator of the Substance Abuse Advisory Council Secretariat, Saint Lucia: According to Ambassador Namm, a multifaceted problem requires a multi dimensional approach, and it is for this reason that St Lucia welcome the training opportunity to embark on drafting of its anti drug strategy to address the drug problem in St Lucia. In as much as we have been working, we are certainly working with the guidance of a strategy, and we are forever grateful for the support that you have given to us to embark on this project. I am pleased to note though that we have completed the second draft exercise, and of course, it will be covering the period of 2020 2025. The main priorities that we really looked at in our anti drug strategy, though many I’ll just mention a few. On the institutional strengthening our key priority is to develop and coordinate with public and private sector agencies, the formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of evidence based policies on the demand reduction we want to look at the development of prevention programmes, aimed at delaying the onset of first use alcohol and other drugs among girls and adolescents at risk. This is key to us, based on the research that we conducted for our National Drug Report, which indicated that our adolescents, actually commenced usage from between 10 to 11. So we really need to look into that, considering the negative impact that alcohol and other substance has on young people. On the supply reduction and control measures, although we have about five priorities, key to these priorities for us is the implementation revision and update of mechanisms used for the collection of data, and analysis of information as it relates to the reduction of illicit supplies there we intend to work with research groups and universities and other stakeholders to actually look into that.

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