SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- The Organization of American States (OAS), through its Secretariats for Multidimensional Security and Political Affairs, on Wednesday hosted the international seminar "Legislative Activity and New Alternatives to Combat Drugs" in San Jose, Costa Rica, in which participants debated the issue and heard a presentation of the Report on the Problem of Drugs in the Americas (Analytical Report
, Scenarios Report
), produced by the Organization, following a mandate from the Sixth Summit of the Americas, under the supervision of the Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza.
The regional meeting took place in coordination with the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica, the Forum of Presidents of Central America and the Caribbean Basin (FOPREL), and the Parliamentary Forum ParlAmericas.
The OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security, Adam Blackwell, recalled that in recent decades, "the solution to the drug problem has been sought through get-tough-on-crime measures," and urged a change in approach. "We understand that solutions must be more comprehensive and focused on human beings," he said, adding that "the rule of law goes beyond just complying with laws or regulations; it includes social justice and respect for human rights."
Referring to the main conclusions of the Report, Blackwell said the drug problem is a "hemispheric problem because it affects all the countries of the Americas," adding that it is important to "change our indicators" to create more decent jobs, opportunities, and access to health care, and not necessarily more police and prisons.
"If you invest in the first, the second won’t be as necessary," said Blackwell.
The senior OAS official emphasized in his presentation the need to find "new options" for dealing with offenders, and to understand that the addict "should not be punished for his addiction but properly treated.”
The OAS secretary for political affairs, Kevin Casas-Zamora, also took part in the seminar, noting that in recent decades there has been a significant increase in the fear of insecurity among the inhabitants of the region.
"While in 1996 only 7 percent of people in Latin America cited crime and insecurity as their most important concern, in 2010, 28 percent pointed to insecurity as their number one concern," he said.
Casas-Zamora said that tackling the problem of insecurity requires "improvement in the governance of criminal policy, modernization of security institutions, investment in information, and improvement in the relationship between oversight institutions and the community." The OAS official cited the need "to increase the presence of the state in problem areas, regulate the purchase and possession of firearms, prevent teenage pregnancy, rethink anti-narcotics policies and invest in opportunities for youth.”
During the event, participants also addressed issues relating to criminality, democracy and the legislative agenda, the strengthening of political parties and parliaments in citizen security policies and agendas, and collaborative dialogue between government authorities to build policies and laws that allow for the effective combating of security problems and in particular the problem of drugs.
The symposium is part of the project for capacity building among legislators in Central America, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, which seeks to help build a more rigorous legislative administration and strengthen the work and interaction of parliamentary groups in order to achieve a better political and technical balance in their representation.