Launching the debate

The OAS Reports on Hemispheric Drug Policy
30 June 2013
Policy briefing

In April 2012, most of the hemisphere’s presidents gathered at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia and held a closed-door meeting where drug policy was the only topic discussed. Following that meeting, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced that the Organisation of American States (OAS) was being tasked to analyse the results of hemispheric drug policies and to “explore new approaches to strengthen this struggle and become more effective”. Thus began a one year process led by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, with the support of OAS staff from the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security and the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), as well as a range of independent experts.

On May 17, 2013, the OAS presented the final products: an analytical report, The Drug Problem in the Americas, and the result of a scenario planning exercise, Scenarios for the Drug Problem in the Americas, 2013-2025. The analytical report is based upon six studies (now presented as annexes) and is composed of ten chapters, concluding with a chapter on OAS “contributions to the debate” that contains some of the most far-reaching policy alternatives suggested. It is important to note that, according to the OAS, neither of the reports is intended to provide policy recommendations per se, but rather to inform decision-making on drug policies.

The second report includes a set of scenarios about what could happen in the future. The exercise was led by two non-governmental organisations, Reos Partners and the Centro de Lierazgo y Gestión, based in Canada and Colombia respectively. They pulled together a team of experts from a variety of fields which produced a set of four scenarios on the possible evolution of the current situation. Drawing on the analytical report and 75 in-depth interviews with international experts, the scenarios are intended to be relevant, challenging, credible and clear. The four scenarios – entitled Together, Pathways, Resilience and Disruption – have the dual objective of promoting debate and dialogue among government officials and others relevant actors and supporting the design and implementation of alternative policies and strategies. While they represent four different narratives, the scenarios are not mutually exclusive and are intended to be read together.

This advocacy note is not intended to provide a thorough analysis or critique of the content of the two reports presented by the OAS, which together with the annexes referred to above cover hundreds and hundreds of pages. Rather, the purpose here is to highlight some of the key points presented in the two reports that, in the view of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), especially merit further debate and discussion. The challenge for governments, civil society groups and citizens across the hemisphere is to use the report as a tool for debating present drug policies and ultimately crafting alternative approaches that are both more humane and effective.

IDPC Advocacy Note
July 2013