Side event: Leaving no one behind: the rights-based and development-oriented approach of the European Union to drug policies in cooperation initiatives in Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean

Organized by Spain with the support of Germany, Paraguay, and the European Union and the European Union Delegation to Kyrgyzstan

Joan R. Villalbí. Government Delegate for the National Plan on Drugs. Ministry of Health. Spain: Opening remarks.

Merle Kreibaum. Senior Policy Officer. Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Germany: In 2020, under the German Presidency of the EU, member states agreed a new Drugs Strategy. As stated in the Strategy, the EU’s approach is based on shared responsibility, multilateralism, seeking development, human rights, rule of law and the conventions. The AD approach plays an important role. Integrative approach as reflected in the UNGASS 2016 Document. In contrast to traditional substitution programmes, AD seeks strengthening institutions, gender, etc. GIZ has been involved since 2011 in COPOLAD. We bring 40 years of experience to COPOLAD. We are committed to balanced drug policies and development-oriented approaches. COVID-19 pandemic only made the call greater for human rights oriented approaches. Let’s collaborate with all stakeholders, including civil society and academia. 

Eufemia Esposito. Director of the International Relation Service. Ministry of Interior, Dep. of Public Security. Police Coordination and Planning Office. Italy: This moments of discussion enhance the role of our institutions in preventing and combatting trafficking. Over the past 2 years, our security systems had to govern the pandemic and more events. Additional challenges have been added. In terms of safety and security. In this particular context, drug policies should be seen with a focus on four priority areas: new modus operandi of criminal groups, interconnections between health and security and human rights, cooperation between fora, common training. Criminal groups have exploited the social and economic vulnerabilities brought about by the pandemic but ever-increasing trend of profits from drug trafficking, which is why Italy supports the priority of searching, freezing and confiscating drugs; and above all activities to counter laundering of trafficking proceeds. Since the channels used to supply drugs are increasingly high tech, imperative to strengthen specialised cybercrime police units. Postal consignments by drug couriers need to be intercepted with new technologies. Restrictions favoured the development of DIY criminal entrepreneurship – including door-to-door dealers impersonating service providers. Therefore, the focus on trafficking must be kept high. We can do it by promoting joint investigations with transnational perspectives. Through info-gathering and investigation we have concluded major operations with large drug seizures. On individual rights, for our policing systems, cooperation with Latin America is a virtuous development that we want to replicate elsewhere. We are partners in all programmes funded by the Commission. Multipronged action towards sustainable responses. Economic and social development policies involving all stakeholders, including civil society, create conditions for standards of protection of citizens to be freer to express rights. Police forces are guarantors of the exercise of citizens of fundamental freedoms crushed under the weight of crime and corruption. Programmes like EuroFront, El Pacto, COPOLAD III, etc. with the aim of strengthening capacity are important and never neglect priorities like human rights. In the wake of the Montevideo declaration, the lead of COPOLAD has reiterated the need to outline new models to enforce sentences in response to human rights. On the last point, law enforcement training is prerequisite for operational synergies and results in terms of crime prevention and countering. We have continued training even during the pandemic, of colleagues all over the world. This is a commitment of our authorities. With regard to security, Italy’s action has enhanced cooperation with regional and multilateral fora, obtaining positive acknowledgement for innovative methods, based on legal diplomacy and capacity building. Our countries must pursue equality, security and justice in the future.

Federico Jose Bartolozzi. Minister. Mission of Paraguay to the European Union: We highlight the work of COPOLAD, which provides tools to fight in a coordinated manner against drugs. To face the world drug problem we need to develop a holistic approach to strengthen effective public policies through action plans in a joint manner. We highlight the 2030 Agenda as an ambitious approach to guide the drugs problem and highlights multidimensional poverty. In the region we are committed to face the scourge of drugs with drug policy in accordance with the principle of shared responsibility. We highlight the importance of scientific dialogue. We are aiming to foster the best environment for the access to  opportunities among the most vulnerable populations. We updated regulations to develop effective mechanisms for seizures and the management of assets derived from money laundering. We have legislated to implement the obligations of international documents related to the world drug problem in respect of human rights and gender equity. Paragaya has many families led by women, which is why we need to integrate a gender perspective and families. Within this institutional approach, we highlight the importance of international cooperation to strengthen capacity to develop effective policies. Cooperation is priority for us and the region. Beyond knowledge and economic contribution, we are grateful for the support in monitoring. We look forward to continuing discussing avenues to combat drugs. With the implementation of other initiatives supported by the EU. COPOALD has been very important to hold dialogue and exchange information and best practices. For CELAC countries, cooperation is important. We believe cooperation in drugs is the necessary framework to face the world scourge of drugs, a scourge that damages the fabric of societies. This dialogue helps us find common ground in the region.
Cosimo Lamberti – Fossati. Programme Manager. Delegation of the European Union to the Kyrgyz Republic: CADAP is one of our key projects. We’ve been cooperating with Central Asia since their independence. Our cooperation has focused on regional aspects. CADAP is for drug reduction but also there are sister programs on the Northern Route of heroin which starts in Central Asia. The program turns 20 next year and is one of the most successful. We see great changes in the region and interest in developments in Europe. At the beginning, the drug issue here was seen more from the perspective of crime, as in Soviet times, where the idea was to punish. Thanks for the example of countries in Europe, we have a good example in Kyrgyzstan where rehabilitation is becoming highly proficient. Negative things affecting us organised crime because it has been moving in forward as quickly as we are moving. Use of the internet, technologies, so need to catch up. COVID pandemic has hit this region hard. A lot of the centres that were set up to deal with drug issues had to transform into COVID centres, which reduced the capacity to respond to drug addicts. More police have been running these places. Other challenges regionally: the takeover of the Taliban has changed regional dynamics – We’re not expecting trade to reduce without external intervention; which means increased drug trafficking. The region has also grown economically and so new drugs appear in the market, including NPS – so the experience of Europe in addressing this is helpful. Lastly, the events in Ukraine with Russia waging war there will affect the country as many workers are in Russia and remittances are important for the country. With less licit opportunities, we worry about an increase in illicit activities. In parallel, we are starting a number of projects focused on drug trafficking.  Strengthening bordering capacity, for instance. Mixed picture. The fight is not easy. We are pretty happy and have the right instruments and partners to react.

Ernest Robelló. Director. Central Asia Drug Action Programme. CADAP 7: CADAP reflects the continuity of long term engagement of EU with partners to strengthen demand reduction and develop balanced approaches to drug policies. We are in the 7th phase of CADAP, with support of FIIAPP – 32 months. Budget of 6.8 million funded by the EU. The 5 countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan. We count with the support of EU partners in Spain, in Poland, Lithuania, EMCDDA. Expertise from Czechia, Poland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, etc. International partnership with the UNODC, WHO; supporting international standards on prevention and treatment of SUDs. The objective is reducing drug use and associated risks and harms. Support to governments on quality programmes that are evidence-based, including gender- and human rights-based approach. Five areas of action: 1) On drug policy – integrate evidence based policies and Agenda 203; 2) Data collection to produce reliable standardised information, including disaggregated by gender; 3) Prevention – evidence based in formulation and implementation, with focus on youth, women, vulnerable groups; 4) INcrease healthcare and social responses to tackled drug use; 5) Increasing coordination. Emerging trends in the regions, like the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic, presents unique challenges for people with SUDs and in recovery; NPS – which is a global threat but also emerging in Central Asia; rise of the Taliban – which may create new risks in the region, including in relationship to methamphetamines; and the challenge of being in the Northern Route of heroin smuggling.   

Javier Sagredo. Director. Cooperation Programme between Latin America, the Caribbean and the EU on Drugs Policies. COPOLAD III: COPOLAD is a cooperation programme between EU and ALC. We’re friends with governments in the region. Third phase after 10 years of intense work. Special phase because it has additional partners. COPOLAD in the region is a consortium composed of IILA, GIZ, AECID and EMCDDA. New post-covid complex reality in the region. Worrisome because it combines with preceding crises which adds socio economic and political vulnerabilities. Institutional weaknesses combined with pandemic consequences create risks and drug-related problems are even more severe. Economic crises lead to populations entering in contact with illicit trade. Appeal to governments to offer help and support for the urgency of policy reforms to improve results and avoid additional harms. All of this within the framework of active listening based on dialogue on the challenges of the countries in the region in this context. Our bets focus on: working in strengthening political debate and technical cooperation between EU-CELAC; addressing policies to focus more on support and less on punishment; also highlight important aspects of drug policies regionally: human rights, sustainable development, gender equity. The scope is quite broad, from strengthening knowledge about the drugs phenomenon and policy, to dealing with consumption, to considering the complexity of tools and work areas to achieve sustainable development, investigation with regard to drugs, strengthening financial intelligence and handling of seized goods, chemical precursors, etc. In terms of implementation, we’re capitalising on COPOLAD’s heritage (I & II) to strengthen drug policy – we are trying to go from blueprints to solid transformation, in a bilateral manner, taking into account the needs and speeds of different countries; designing public policies that consider specific stakeholders; and supporting sustainable resources. In the implementation, we’re opening spaces for bi-regional approaches, discussing with all regional stakeholders to develop accompanying processes at the national level, creating a multi-level architecture in which the region has a key role. In terms of highlighted actions: Increasing access to care and reentry services for women and vulnerable populations, strengthening drug related scientific research networks, and drug-policy evaluation based on sustainable development results, improving environmental results of fintegral sustainable alternative development, improving cooperation on drug trafficking investigations, improving capacities to carry out financial asset investigations, improving management of seized assets and promotion of tis social destination, reducing the environmental impact of precursors management and disposal.

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