Co-operation between South American countries in the struggle against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking
Technical advisory committees
Promoting the use of regional resources
Supporting the international drug control initiatives
Eradication of narcotic crops
Author: C. N. CAGLIOTTI
Pages: 61 to 67
Creation Date: 1987/01/01
Co-operation between South American countries in the struggle against drug abuse and illicit drug traffickingC. N. CAGLIOTTI Executive Secretary, Permanent Secretariat of the South American Agreement on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The South American Agreement on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (ASEP), which entered into force on 26 March 1976, has enhanced co-operation between South American countries in the struggle against drug problems. This co-operation has promoted the regional responsibility and the use of regional resources in coping with the drug problem in South America and has helped to increase the regional support for international drug control initiatives. The established machinery and instruments within ASEP, which are designed to suit best the circumstances in South America, include the annual conference of States parties, the Permanent Secretariat, the regional centres, the technical advisory committees and other co-ordinated programmes and activities intended to reduce drug problems. Each of the five regional centres that have been or are being established focuses on one of the following subject areas: treatment and rehabilitation, preventive education, suppression of illicit drug trafficking, documentation, and customs techniques. With regard to the eradication of narcotic crops, ASEP considers the idea of integrated community development to be an appropriate approach to eradicating coca plantations in those areas where the growing of coca bush is part of the cultural tradition.
International co-operation in combating the drug problem implies recourse to all possible avenues of action compatible with the striving for human dignity, social integration and freedom. It is in this context that the South American Agreement on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (ASEP) has been established as a tool for co-operation between South American countries in combating drug problems and in promoting the welfare of people. The agreement entered into force on 26 March 1976. It is commonly thought of as a technical and scientific undertaking. It arose not in response to any recommendations of the international political organizations but as a spontaneous initiative of people concerned, having been recommended at a meeting of South American experts in 1972 and, a year later, approved at a meeting of plenipotentiaries from Governments of South American countries. It is now recognized as the leading agency involved in activities pertaining to drug control and the reduction of illicit demand for drugs in South America.
Because of the continuous increase in the problems related to drug abuse and drug trafficking in the world, the organizations of the United Nations system have repeatedly emphasized the important role to be played by the regional organizations and regional initiatives in the efforts of the international community to cope with such problems. This emphasis lies not only in encouraging more States to adhere to the international treaties and to implement their provisions, but also in promoting international co-operation, which has been included as an objective in the Charter of the United Nations in its reference to an area as vastly and profoundly affected by drug trafficking as that of human rights.
To achieve and maintain peace and security in the world, Governments are required to be free of any influence or subversion in order that their behaviour in the international arena may genuinely reflect the collective will of the people they are representing and that they can contribute, without interference, to the improvement of concord and understanding between nations. It is necessary to take into account these considerations in order to comprehend the responsibilities that have been assumed by ASEP in recent years, such as the establishment of the organization and the conclusion of agreements between States; the follow-up of the accords that are reflected in the documents of the seven annual conferences held thus far; the establishment of supporting infrastructure for seminars and training courses on the basis of the regional centres at Caracas, Lima and Buenos Aires, and another to follow at Brasilia, which have been organized within the framework of the ASEP and with the assistance of the Governments; the preparation of working aids and the achievement of other ASEP objectives established to combat drug problems in South American countries.
The regional centres have been designed to facilitate the transmission of specialized knowledge and to function as multilateral forums where instructors and course participants from South American countries can share ideas and broaden their experience.
The Regional Centre for Training in the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Drug Dependent Persons was established at Buenos Aires four years ago. The centre has developed a new and advanced programme for work. The Regional Centre for Training in Preventive Education, established at Caracas, is proceeding with its third course. The Regional Centre for Training in the Suppression of Illicit Drug Trafficking, established at Lima, is preparing its second training programme.
The South American Documentation Centre on Drug Dependence at Buenos Aires has successfully completed its first phase of development and is preparing for its second phase, in which it will establish a joint bibliographical data base to be fed by the national documentation centres designated as co-operating institutions in each State party to ASEP. A meeting of the heads of these institutions has been planned for 1987 to define the kind of data base to be established and to select the necessary technical instruments.
At the seventh conference of States parties to ASEP, held in November 1985 in Chile, the establishment of the Regional Centre for Training in Customs Techniques for Drug Control at Brasilia was approved. This centre is expected to make yet another important contribution to the fight against drug trafficking in South America.
The Permanent Secretariat of ASEP collaborates closely with the directors of the aforementioned regional centres to extend the range of their activities beyond the mere holding of their regular courses. The purely pedagogical function of the centre has been expanded to include specialized seminars and the pursuit of scientific research in each centre's particular field of activity. An effort is being made to have the regional centres become meeting-places for national officials at the decision-making level, particularly those in charge of programme planning and operation.
The Permanent Secretariat plans to hold a meeting of the directors of the regional centres for the purpose of forming an advisory training council for the fight against drug abuse and drug trafficking in the region.
The work of the regional centres is expected to contribute to more effective implementation of the functions entrusted to the technical advisory committees that have been established under the statute of the ASEP enabling it to prepare studies and recommendations for joint activities. Technical advisory committees have been established in the following five subject areas: legislation, suppression of illicit traffic, control of licit trade of drugs, preventive education, and treatment and rehabilitation.
In the near future, the Permanent Secretariat plans to stimulate the work of the technical advisory committees by giving them the operational status of groups of experts selected from South American countries. An effort will be made to facilitate their work by allocating to them, to the greatest extent possible, budgetary resources so that they can best respond to the needs in the region.
It is the general intention of the Permanent Secretariat to promote the regionalization of efforts and the more effective use of existing services. Certain regional organizations are to provide assistance to other regional institutions in certain areas of drug control. The funds for these efforts are to be met through sponsorship arrangements or international assistance when the ASEP budget is unable to provide them.
The use of regional resources is to be promoted by developing specific drug control programmes desired by South American countries. These programmes are to be carried out in certain geographical areas within the region. This approach may help to develop short-term strategies that can best suit circumstances in the geographical areas and that can yield positive results at low costs.
The political situation of most countries in the region is one in which new national administrations have taken office at a time when the magnitude of the drug problem is increasing. ASEP is in a position to provide technical advice to the States parties requesting such advice in order to cope with the problem, as well as to provide technical co-operation and assistance, provided the resources are available in the region. This co-operation requires close study of national drug control efforts in order to help the development of future programmes that can effectively meet the needs of a given country in controlling drugs.
To define the scope of future co-operation, contacts have been established between the authorities of the national co-ordinating drug control bodies, such as the Federal Council on Narcotic Drugs (CONFEN) in Brazil, the Committee Against Drug Abuse (CONACUID) in Venezuela and their counterpart in Argentina.
The Permanent Secretariat continues to draw the attention of the international community to the experience in drug control gained in the South American region, and will do so in the upcoming period by co-operating with United Nations bodies preparing a new convention against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.
At the February 1986 session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a number of elements were proposed for inclusion in the draft convention, such as tracing, freezing and forfeiture of the proceeds of drug trafficking, extradition for drug trafficking offences, monitoring of specific chemicals and precursors of drugs liable to abuse, illicit traffic via commercial carriers, co-operation across frontiers, investigative and judicial assistance, controlled delivery, training and technical assistance and adequacy of sanctions. If adopted in a new convention, these elements will require considerable analysis and elaboration to be harmonized with and made a part of the national legislative systems, as well as to ensure their effective application.
All of this will require assistance in the area of judicial investigation and procedure, new forms of training and technical aid, and the collection and distribution of information among countries. There is no doubt that the ASEP Permanent Secretariat will prove to be a useful instrument in support of efforts of these kinds within the South American region.
The same is true of the Inter-American Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs, which was prepared by the Organization of American States and held in April 1986 at Rio de Janeiro. It represents a new step forward in the struggle against drug trafficking. The Permanent Secretariat, which has been co-operating with the Organization of American States to promote concerted inter-American action against drug trafficking, is willing to continue such co-operation in future.
In the same way, the Permanent Secretariat is prepared to co-operate in the preparatory activities in South American countries and in the follow-up in these countries of the International Conference on Drug Abuse and Drug Trafficking, to be held at the ministerial level in June 1987 at Vienna.
The foregoing note clearly indicates that the increased involvement of the Permanent Secretariat in the regional drug control efforts and its participation in the interregional activities are indispensable for co-ordinating the improvement of drug control systems.
In the legislative field, the Permanent Secretariat intends to continue its work in:
Updating the data bank on legislation of the States parties relating to the criminal, civil, administrative and health aspects;
Keeping the States parties abreast of legislative reforms that have been enacted; a revised document regarding legal texts will be issued annually;
Preparing a computerized programme containing the relevant laws in force in the States parties; this programme is being implemented by the South American Documentation Centre on Drug Dependence;
Setting up a specialized library to deal with legal aspects of drug control;
Convening ad hoc expert working groups to deal with drug control related issues in the region, such as confiscation of illegally acquired assets and extradition for drug trafficking offences.
Integrated community development provides an effective approach to combating the illicit cultivation of narcotic plants, particularly in those areas where the growing of coca bush is part of the cultural tradition. In such areas, the illicit cultivation should be replaced by legal crops. Farmers cultivating legal crops should be assisted in selling their products on the national and international markets.
Crop replacement programmes require close and large-scale international co-operation, as well as financial resources that are well beyond the real possibilities of the affected countries. The Governments of the affected countries could support the development of educational and health services to promote life-style changes at the production sites that can, in turn, facilitate the development and success of crop replacement programmes. It is quite clear that a commitment on the part of Governments to back crop replacement programmes is an indispensable prerequisite for the success of such programmes.
Experience has shown that the eradication of coca plantations in areas of great poverty must be accompanied by alternative employment possibilities for farmers cultivating coca bush in order to avoid any counter-productive effect, such as criminal activities that may result from legal coercion.
To combat illicit cultivation of narcotic plants, drug trafficking and drug abuse, ASEP intends to examine the possibilities of initiating programmes to be carried out in co-operation with the existing regional organizations. By taking advantage of the experience gained in areas where there has been public participation, it is believed that effective innovative programmes can be formulated to discourage people from resorting to illegal patterns of drug related behaviour.
Here, too, experience indicates that deterrence of illegal cultivation of narcotic crops by mere coercive law enforcement action may achieve immediate but often transitory effects; but when the same goals are pursued through programmes directed at changing existing conditions conducive to the illegal cultivation of narcotic plants and drug abuse, the effects achieved are more lasting. This represents a major challenge to human inventiveness and initiative, and the Permanent Secretariat believes that South American countries may find such programmes to be worth while.
Regarding international efforts to combat drug problems, the question that must always be considered is how best to carry out concerted action so that enlightened national interests can stimulate international co-operative measures to deal with such problems. The progress made so far clearly indicates that the objectives of ASEP are in keeping with the needs of the situation prevailing in South America and that the implementation of certain measures has already given a boost to the concerted action to reduce the drug problem in the region. The achievement of the objectives of ASEP is important not only to South America but also to the international community, particularly in regard to its efforts to reduce the illicit supply of, traffic in and demand for drugs.
The co-operation within ASEP is an example of how effectively the participating countries, which are at similar levels of development, can assist each other in pursuing their common objective of combating the drug problem.
The enhancement of the value of the natural resources to be utilized through co-ordinated efforts made by the member States of ASEP to achieve their common objectives should confirm the validity of the approach of ASEP, the results of which, though difficult to estimate, have been clearly positive. This approach has created incentive and has demonstrated the position of South American Governments in the struggle against drug problems.
Because of considerations of sovereignty, there are certain activities in the fight against drug problems that can only be carried out by individual member States through their own organizations and channels. The Permanent Secretariat, the body charged with monitoring compliance with ASEP, depends on the political will, dedication and support of the member States.
It is quite clear that ASEP has established its machinery and instruments, which are designed to suit best the circumstances in South American countries. These include: the annual conference of the States parties, the Permanent Secretariat, the regional centres, the technical advisory committees and the various co-ordinated programmes and activities intended to reduce drug problems. Future progress of ASEP will depend on integrated and co-ordinated activities aimed at identifying requirements, setting priorities and allocating resources for appropriate and necessary measures to be taken at the national, regional and international levels. In this context, ASEP is striving to promote its activities, the use of resources and the political support to ensure more effective implementation of drug control initiatives in South American countries.