WASHINGTON, USA -- The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said on Tuesday at the opening of the fourteenth meeting of the OAS Expert Group on Reduction of Demand for Drugs that "only by working together on a common strategy" can the countries of the hemisphere effectively combat the abuse of these substances.
The secretary general, in his opening remarks, emphasized that illicit consumption of drugs lies at the root of "our common challenges in the fight against drug trafficking." Dependence on drugs, he said, "is a chronic, relapsing illness" that "requires medical treatment,” and linked the social profile of drug addiction to the field of public health.
Insulza recalled that, in April this year, the leaders of the governments of the region charged the OAS, at the Sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena (Colombia), with compiling "a report analyzing the results of current drug policies and exploring new approaches to make them more effective."
It is important to recall, said the secretary general, that "we are not asked to make decisions or one-of-a-kind proposals" but instead "to present a spectrum of options to strengthen policy" that should always have "a foundation based on the evidence."
It has been proven, stressed Insulza, “that drug abuse, beyond whether its trade is legal or illegal, is extremely harmful to health,” and that behind its trafficking are “highly dangerous criminal gangs harmful to the democratic development of our societies.”
Finally, he added, it has been proven "that only by working together on a common strategy can we effectively combat this scourge."
The meeting, which brings together specialists in combating and treating drug abuse, began on Tuesday and will run until Friday, October 5, at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC. It will focus on the topics of: driving under the influence of drugs, prevention of prescription drug abuse; hemispheric guidelines of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the OAS, and the information framework for the policy planning and demand reduction programs of CICAD.
The director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy of the United States, Gil Kerlikowske, applauded the efforts of the expert group meeting and said it would "present an opportunity to not only review progress but also chart the road ahead on drug policy."
Kerlikowske said he was encouraged by the work on “demand reduction" made by the OAS member states: "There’s reason to be optimistic that drug policy reforms that are underway in many places are going to reduce both drug use and its consequences.”
For his part, the executive secretary of CICAD, Ambassador Paul Simons, stressed that "The future is very promising for this group, since more and more countries are focusing on the demand and health-side challenges.”