I have just returned from the OAS Special General Assembly in Guatemala on the “Drug Problem” in the Americas. I therefore thought it important to offer up some of my personal observations having now been the Secretary of Multidimensional Security at the OAS for 4 plus years and seen this debate evolve.
1) The shift in the rhetoric on all sides of this discussion should not be underestimated; as public health and public security approaches become the standard.
2) Some speak of a divide within the Hemisphere, the reality is the drug problem affects countries and often jurisdictions within countries differently; the respectful discussion and understanding of this is a huge step forward.
3) There is a commitment to working within the broad framework of the UN conventions.
4) The UN Special General Assembly better known as UNGAS 2016 will need to be open to discussing new approaches.
5) Sentencing reform and developing alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders for drugs and other offenses is part of the strategy.
6) We need to reinforce the multilateral effort against transnational criminal groups.
7) There is a real concern in all countries that the underlying problem of violence, while not necessarily linked to the drug problem needs to be addressed.
I am sure that I have overlooked some issues and I will be accused of oversimplification of what are complex issues. However, whatever my failing, the real point is that these issues are being addressed in a serious and respectful manner by all countries of the region.
The OAS, through its Secretariat of Multidimensional Security (CICAD, DPS and CICTE) and political and policy bodies like the Committee of Hemispheric Security and the Inter-American Commission against Drug Abuse, is uniquely positioned to play a leadership role in the evolution of this discussion and developing useful solutions.