Thursday, September 20, 2012

How the Organization of American States drug policy review will work

At  the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena earlier this year, a decision was taken to conduct a pan-American review of drug policy in the region.  It is now well underway.

We now know the terms of reference for the review, what it will comprise of, and the timeline for the work of OAS/CICAD.  Click the image below to see more:

The timeline in the document shows that the two elements of the project – an analytical report and a scenario planning process – will be completed by June 2013.  Text below in italics is cut and pasted from the report.

Analytical element

The Technical Unit of the OAS will compile and analyze the information for the analytical report, which will be divided into the following chapters consistent with the different areas of the problem targeted by the study:
  • Relationship between drugs and public health 
  • Relationship between drugs and economic and social development 
  • Security challenges as reflected in the nexus between drugs, violence and organized crime 
  • Production and supply of drugs, pharmaceuticals, and chemical precursors 
  • Legal and regulatory approaches to the drug problem
The comprehensive, transparent report will also highlight the systemic inter-relationships among these areas. 
The report will not provide specific policy recommendations but rather lay out different sets of policy options.

Each of the former chapters will:
  • Provide a baseline analysis of the current state of play in the region with respect to the drug situation
  • Examine best practices and promising new approaches being pursued by different countries, with the point of departure being the Hemispheric Drug Strategy
  • Outline challenges and obstacles to improved results.

For those with some knowledge of the drug policy scene, you will observe that there is a wide range of views included, from the reform-minded to the establishment.

The report will be coordinated through the office of the Secretary of Multidimensional Security (SMS), Ambassador Adam Blackwell.

Ambassador Blackwell will be supported in this effort by the Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), Ambassador Paul Simons, and his team.

The scenario report will be carried out with the contributions of Dr. Adam KahanePartner of Reos Partners and Associate Fellow at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.   Kahane is the organizer, designer and facilitator of processes in which political leaders, businessmen and civil society leaders work together to address their most complex challenges.  He is the author of "How to Solve Complex Problems: a Novel Way of Speaking, Listening and Creating New Realities," “Power and Love: A Theory and Practice for Social Change " and "Transformative Scenario Planning: Working Together to Change the Future."   Kahane organized and managed scenario projects including “Destino Colombia" (1996), and "Visión Guatemala" (1998), and managed scenario programs in Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay, Peru, El Salvador, and Honduras.

We can safely assume that the scenario planning element is likely to provide the most room to explore alternatives as it would appear to be a process less vulnerable to political interference.

One last point is worth making.  Section 3 of the report is headed WHAT THIS PROJECT WILL NOT DO.  This is telling.  Nowhere in the report does it say what the report WILL do.  We can assume that this is a clear attempt, presumably by the US and their allies, or by those wishing to appease them, to denude the process of any usefulness in the real world. It says: This proposal does NOT intend to:
  • Propose recommendations for changes in national drug control policies
  • Promote a debate or a specific proposal on drug legalization
  • Disregard the basis for current policies, including the Hemispheric Drug Strategy and Plan of Action 2011-2015
  • Serve as a platform for a political negotiation
  • Define or promote an ideal or favorite scenario
So, on the face of it a very important piece of work, on the other, one that is being steered very heavily away from having any real political traction, attempting to turn it into an academic exercise.  This is no surprise, given that the US is involved in it.  However, the shifting dynamics in both North and South America make for an interesting process and an even more interesting entry for the report into the geopolitical sphere next June.

Lastly, here is a link to a video of a seminar that took place at the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies - “Current Perspectives on Illicit Drug Policies”, on May 11, 2012.  It demonstrates the key perspectives in the global drug policy debate - including contributions from:

The Honorable Marilyn A. Quagliotti Deputy Director for Supply Reduction, Office of National Drug Control Policy, ONDCP, “U.S. Drug Policy and the Obama Administration’s Efforts to Rebalance the Way the U.S. Addresses This Global Challenge”

 Dr. Craig Deare Interim Dean of Academic Affairs/Dean of Administration, CISA  “Support for Decriminalization and Opinions on the Legalization of Illicit Drugs”

 Mr. Peter Hakim President Emeritus, Inter-American Dialogue “Arguments against Decriminalization and Legalization”

 Mr. Tim Lynch Director of the Project on Criminal Justice,CATO Institute “Support for Decriminalization and Legalization”

 General Barry McCaffrey, U.S.A. (Ret) CEO McCaffrey Associates, LLC “What Must be Done across the Western Hemisphere to Combat the Flow of Illicit Drugs”

Ambassador Adam Blackwell Secretary of Multidimensional Security at the Organization of American States (OAS) “Summit of the Americas 2012 mandate to the OAS regarding policy alternatives”

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