Co-operation of countries within the Organization of American States to combat drug problems
Drug trafficking is a crime affecting all of mankind
Inter-American Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs
Awareness of drug problems
Measures for effective inter-American co-operation
Author: I. G. TRAGEN
Pages: 57 to 60
Creation Date: 1987/01/01
The Organization of American States, an intergovernmental organization of 31 member States, has given the highest priority to the promotion of co-operative inter-American action to combat drug problems. In resolution 699, adopted at its Fourteenth Regular Meeting in November 1984, the General Assembly of the Organization of American States recognized drug trafficking as a crime affecting all of mankind and convoked the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs to take place at Rio de Janeiro in April 1986. The Conference, which analysed drug problems in all their aspects, focused on problems of drug trafficking and on ways and means to resolve them. It also emphasized the need to increase public awareness of the dangers of drug abuse and its associated problems with a view to decreasing illicit demand for drugs in the Americas. The Conference adopted specific measures for promoting effective inter-American co-operation to help member States to reduce the illegal cultivation of narcotic crops, to eliminate clandestine drug laboratories, to interrupt the flow and distribution of illicit drugs, and to find the means of taking the profit out of drug trafficking operations.
The Organization of American States (OAS) is an intergovernmental organization of 31 member States, 25 of which are parties to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol Amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. OAS has placed the highest priority on the promotion of co-operative action to combat drug problems. The attention of member States to drug problems has risen markedly over the past few years, during which the problems have assumed ever more menacing dimensions, which prompted member States to take steps to achieve more co-ordinated regional action to complement and supplement the efforts of the United Nations.
In August 1984, at the inauguration of the President of Ecuador, the heads of State of several OAS member countries expressed their concern about the drug problem. The Secretary-General of OAS, who attended the inauguration,in his statement made on 31 August 1985 at Brasilia on the occasion of the installation of the Brazilian Federal Council on Narcotic Drugs, said that he had been witness to the deep concern about narcotic drugs and their traffic expressed by the Presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, the President-elect of Panama, the Co-ordinator of the Government Junta of Nicaragua and the President of the Senate of Peru. He added that "These Chiefs of State and high officials approved and signed the Declaration of Quito,* in which they established guidelines for inter-American co-operation and called for international legislative action capable of carrying out an effective campaign across national borders and imposing sanctions on drug traffickers wherever they might be".
During its Fourteenth Regular Meeting, held in November 1984 at Brasilia, the OAS General Assembly, unanimously adopted resolution 699 stating that "... drug traffic is a crime that affects all of mankind, with all the legal consequences that this implies...", and by the same resolution convoked the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs for the first quarter of 1986. The resolution clearly recognized that illegal production, illicit traffic and unlawful consumption of drugs was "... one of the most serious problems in the hemisphere and one which directly affects the economies, public health, social welfare and even the political stability and sovereignty of the affected Governments and States ...", and that the drug problem was a transnational problem which "... involves not only the producing countries but also consumer countries as well as those that function as transit and distribution points ...". The resolution further stipulated "... that the co-ordinated action of the member states is required to find immediate solutions to this scourge ...", and called on the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs "... to study, analyze and propose realistic solutions to the problem and to adopt the necessary instruments for solving it...".
The Inter-American Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs, which took place from 22 to 25 April 1986 at Rio de Janeiro, considered five major documents as required by the OAS General Assembly. The documents included the socio-economic effects of illicit cocaine traffic; the problem of drug addiction among children and youth in the Americas; the medical, social, cultural and economic impact of coca use on the indigenous peoples; educational aspects of prevention and control of the unlawful use of drugs; and the juridical considerations relating to the adoption of an instrument upon which inter-American co-operation to combat drug trafficking and drug abuse can be based.
* A declaration against traffic in narcotic drugs signed on 11 August 1984 at Quito by the Presidents of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, by the President-elect and by the Vice-President of Panama, as well as by representatives from Nicaragua and Peru.
The Inter-American Specialized Conference reflected the spirit of resolution 699 and was action-oriented. It approved the inter-American programme of action of Rio de Janeiro against the illicit use, production of and traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. It recommended to member States the adoption of measures to prevent the improper demand for and abuse of drugs and to combat unlawful production, supply and profits. It further proposed specific activities to promote inter-American co-operation in order to resolve the problems caused by drug abuse and drug trafficking to the people, the societies and the Governments of the Americas. It recommended the creation of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission to develop, co-ordinate, evaluate and monitor the programme.
The OAS General Assembly, at its Sixteenth Regular Meeting, held in Guatemala from 10 to 16 November 1986, authorized the implementation of the programme beginning in 1987 and established the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission.
The member States have stressed the need to increase public awareness of the dangers posed by drug problems. As demand increases, the incentive to produce more illicit narcotic drugs accordingly expands. In an effort to reverse this demand cycle, the OAS General Assembly at its Fifteenth Regular Meeting requested the Secretary-General of OAS to include in the preparations for the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs scheduled for April 1986 plans for the development of sophisticated programmes for the promotion of drug awareness, including films and printed materials suitable for children and youth of different age groups, and to co-ordinate with other member States and international organizations the development of a detailed programme to ensure participating countries that the material so prepared would reach every primary and secondary school and university. The Inter-American Specialized Conference adopted measures for sustained, long-term co-operative action by all member States to discourage drug use and to work towards a drug-free society.
The emphasis on drug awareness highlights the need for effective new initiatives to deal with all aspects of the drug dilemma. Drug awareness programmes can awaken the consciousness of people and Governments to the threat which drug abuse and associated problems, with all their multifaceted social implications, pose not merely to the present generation, but also, because drug abuse affects the physical and mental development of young people, to future generations.
The Inter-American Specialized Conference adopted specific measures for promoting effective inter-American co-operation to help member countries to reduce the illegal cultivation of narcotic crops, to eliminate the clandestine laboratories in which illicit narcotic drugs are processed, to interrupt the inter-country flow and distribution of illicit drugs, and to find the means of taking the profit out of drug trafficking operations. This emphasis reflects OAS General Assembly resolution 699, which recognized that the traffic in illicit narcotic drugs was an illicit transnational business which could only be effectively eradicated through intergovernmental co-operation. Illegally produced narcotic crops in one member State are processed clandestinely in another, then transported illicitly through various countries for unlawful sale in still other countries, with the profits laundered by the drug entrepreneurs wherever a safe haven may exist. In the Americas, almost every country is affected by one or more aspects of this chain of drug trafficking.
This situation has already led to a network of bilateral agreements among OAS member States for co-operative or joint operations to combat drug trafficking and interrupt the flow of illicit narcotic drugs. In addition, multilateral co-operation by 10 South American countries under the aegis of the South American Accord on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances has built a solid base for intergovernmental understanding and collaboration in confronting the drug menace. The Inter-American Specialized Conference made note of such existing efforts and sought to focus on those additional inter-American actions that could reinforce and support them.
In designing the framework for an effective inter-American co-operation, the Inter-American Specialized Conference assessed the instruments and mechanisms available to them under the OAS Charter to establish the norms and programmes which would enable them to bring under control the illicit transnational drug enterprises and drug traffickers, as well as to extirpate the corruption wherever it might exist at either the national or regional level, which had all too often been the sad consequence of the huge profits available to those new merchants of death. The Inter-American Specialized Conference clearly focused on drug trafficking and the drug traffickers as primary targets for co-operative intergovernmental efforts.
In planning for the Inter-American Specialized Conference, the political bodies of OAS and the general secretariat had given full recognition to the work of the United Nations in combating drug trafficking in the world and to the impact of the South American Accord on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances in South America. The Chairmen of the Working Group on Narcotic Drugs have stressed that the objective of OAS should be to promote a mutually reinforcing dynamic multilateral effort in the Americas, in which the United Nations, the South American Accord on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and OAS can work together in eliminating the threat posed to societies by drug abuse and drug trafficking.
The April 1986 Inter-American Specialized Conference, which shaped the instruments and programmes for inter-American co-operation, made it clear that in the inter-American system there was widespread support for a comprehensive, multifaceted effort to combat traffic in illicit narcotic drugs in all its dimensions and to raise awareness throughout the Americas of the threat posed by narcotic drugs and of the need to discourage drug abuse.