59th Regular Session of CICAD OEA

“Coincidences and Differences of Opinion in the Global Framework of Drug Abuse” by Alberto León


On the 26th and 27th of April was held at Washington D.C. the 59th regular period of sessions of CICAD-OAS (Inter-American Drug Control Abuse Commission-Organization of American States), with an extensive and intense agenda interrelated with the Summit that took place a few days earlier in New York city, by the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS).

The majority of delegates who assisted CICAD came directly from the UN, an issue which allowed maintaining a concordant tone on the subject concerning drug policy, its revision, and future strategies for the Hemisphere.

The agenda of both days tapped into aspects of CICAD’s structure, impressions from the New York Summit, and the action plan for 2016-2020.

Executive Order 16-01:Changes to the Structure of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security:Atomisation for improvement vs. dispersal for weakening

During the morning of the first day working session, Mrs. Paulina Duarte, current Interim Secretary of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security (SMS), to which CICAD is structurally affiliated, performed a detailed and analysed explanation of Executive Order 16-01, signed by the Secretary-General Luis Almagro on 26th January 2016 -which became applicable from that date-, in which it is defined the restructuring of the SMS and its departments (see OAS Executive Order 16-01).

In this new structure, the established organizational structure of the SMS has 4 departments:

  1. The Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD); at the department level.
  2. The Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism; at the department level.
  3. The Department of Public Security.
  4. The Department against Transnational Organized Crime.

By this new structure CICAD remained operational with two sections:

  • The Demand Reduction Section.
  • The Drug Policy Section. Design, implementation, Monitoring, and Evaluation.

According to Mrs. Duarte, this new structure will allow CICAD to improve on the following:

Section I. Demand Reduction, aims at strengthening the issue of Training and Modern Certification of Human Resources, which would allow the implementation of more effective programmes according to new consumer tendencies and new synthetic drugs; and also aims at strengthening the technical assistance of each Member State to certify its aid workforce and establish Quality Standards Protocols.

Section II. Drug Policy, aims at exploring in depth the integration of the Hemisphere, for currently we ignore what each Member State is doing specifically with respect to their local policy, there are no common standards or guidelines, which hampers a more effective support.

  • To share information is necessary, in order to obtain improved realistic data.
  • With respect to the issues of Public Security, Justice Implementation, and Fight against Terrorism, CICAD will maintain its collaboration as supporter and information source with the other OAS commissions.
  • On the issue of Public Security, CICAD will be able to receive or transmit more realistic information data concerning arms, human, and drug trafficking by sharing with Public Security, Justice, and Terrorism Commissions.
  • On the area of Justice, CICAD will be closely linked with the Prison and Penitentiary System in order to identify vulnerable populations, alternative measures, and statistics of the Member States.
  • In the Fight against Terrorism, CICAD will provide information to the Commission that will take charge of the issue.

Once the issue was presented, the discussion panel of the Member States was opened.

In general, the Member States disagree with the new structure, for according to the majority, CICAD diminishes its power of action. It is not feasible to separate SUPPLY and DEMAND and expect improvements on the reality of the Hemisphere. Most Southern Cone Countries not only produce, but also consume and are involved in drug trafficking, which obliges addressing the issue in a comprehensive manner (DEMAND, SUPPLY, POLICY, SECURITY, AND JUSTICE).

Mexico:Calls strongly for the reintegration of the SUPPLY to CICAD. Except for Canada, all other Countries are in support.

The opinions of the Countries in which the Dianova network exercises its activity is thus summarised:

Chile: Mariano Montenegro. SENDA Director. Chile.

  • The drug phenomenon must be addressed comprehensively and with scientific evidence.
  • The removal of the SUPPLY issue weakens CICAD in what concerns to its impact on the phenomenon.
  • He is concerned that the new structure will reflect neither the necessities nor the opinion of the Member States.
  •  He reclaims, as in UNGASS, parallel alternatives to the imprisonment in cases of drug use or minor offences.

Nicaragua: Jimy Vanegas. CNDCO Commissioner. Nicaragua.

  • He is highly concerned that the decision has already been made without consulting the Member States.
  •  CICAD would be fragmented for programme implementation and information access.
  • Transnational crime is part of the phenomenon and asset laundering is a reason to worry.

Uruguay: María Logomarsino. CNLD Delegate. Uruguay.

  • This decision is shocking, but we must see it as a challenge.
  • We must revise which one would be the best structure for CICAD, form a Commission that may collect the concerns of the Member States and will transmit them to the Mr. Secretary.

Addition and Subtraction

On the subtraction side, the main concern of the Member States at CICAD is that this new structure of the SMS may subtract power to the organization, because this fractioning of the drug phenomenon into different sections -whether called Commissions or Departments- could be organized into a Babel tower in what pertains to a frontal attack to the different agents involved, for, on the one hand, CICAD would only interfere upon Demand and Policy, whereas the remaining departments would attack Penalization, Supply Reduction, and Fight against Transnational Crime.

This could create not only a structural void, but also a budgetary one, for CICAD may not be able to obtain enough funds to perform a quality work on the regulation of Public Policy on Health –the treatment and rehabilitation of people affected by drug abuse.

Another difficulty would be the interaction between the different Departments, for instance, the Department of Public Health in Section D, Subparagraph (1) would be responsible for the “modernization of its Penitentiary and Jail Systems, including those oriented towards reinsertion and rehabilitation.” (see OAS Executive Order 16-01, p.9); that is, it would be responsible for alternative measures for drug users who would be under the guardianship of non-experienced prison or judiciary staff, for training, certification, and qualification on the subject of rehabilitation in order to train professionals -as well as the scientific aspect- would remain under the hierarchy of CICAD.

On the other hand, to quote the words of the delegate from Uruguay Mrs. María Logomarsino: “This decision is shocking, but we must see it as a challenge.”; this new structure could provide more insight into each of the issues, combat from different angles the phenomenon of drug abuse, and improve the structures within each Member State.

Currently in Nicaragua -as an illustrative example-, there is a National Council against Felony and Organized Crime. This organization substituted or -in other words- engulfed the old National Anti-Narcotics Council, turning it into a Section, thus diminishing its scope. It weakened the work in the area of training for the professional staff who attended drug users; and meetings with civil society in order to create local policy and strengthen institutions dedicated to rehabilitation were suspended. With the new structure CICAD could retrieve all these activities in each Member State.

The main challenge of the SMS will be to coordinate the activities between its different Sections, and as Mrs. Paula Duarte affirmed, to better articulate the information, the monitoring, and the evaluation of the new structure, so that each commission may strengthen its action in each Member State as well as in the OAS proper.

UNGASS…a week later.

Furthermore, one week before the UNGASS event in New York, the forum highlighted the participation of the Hemisphere in the UN as a step forward towards ratifying the concern and importance of the phenomenon in our continent, for America is where the drug problematic in all its dimensions is mostly suffered, both in the Supply (production of cocaine, Marihuana, methamphetamine, and New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)), organized crime with drug and arms trafficking, formation of cartels, violence and human trafficking, imprisonment, convictions, etc.; as well as in the Demand. It is difficult to find a country from the Hemisphere which does not suffer from these three phenomena. The most relevant issues from the dialogue with the different Member States were:


  • Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia were congratulated for encouraging the advancement of the UNGASS in the UN.
  • In general, CICAD members recognize that UNGASS remained short and shy on some matters such as Death Penalty for offenders related to drug issues, but they do recognize progress in Public Health approaches, in the placing of the human person at the center and not the drugs, and in respecting that each State may apply its policy according to its own reality.

The Delegate from Mexico presented the specific achievements left by UNGASS:


  1. The recognition that the punitive approach is insufficient, although non-disposable, and the need to stay firm against supply.
  2. The initiation of a movement in order to improve an international framework against drugs.
  3. The consolidation of an approach focused on Public Health and Human Rights.
  4. The alignment of policies of drug control with development policies.
  5. The reiteration of the realities in each of the Hemispheres for a better action plan.

Following their dissertation, the debate was opened having as moderators the representatives from Chile and Mexico, and the President of CICAD; the following points were defined as lines of action and intensity, which were to be observed from here to Session 60 (to be held at Bahamas in November)


  1. To share all the experiences of the Hemisphere (good practices, which are being abandoned)
  2. To reflect in the action plan (2016-2020) the advances after UNGASS
  3. To reinforce the dialogue and the mechanisms between sectors (the value of the civil society is recognised)
  4.  To improve the recollection and verification of information (quantitative and qualitative)
  5. Resizing the cooperation between the Member Stares and evaluate its impact

With these objectives in mind Session 59 was closed, remaining the challenges to continue working in order to fight an ever more complex and divergent phenomenon. America is more than aware that the 2016-2020 action plan will be decisive in the fight against drugs.