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At OAS, Experts Agree on Key Elements for Drug Demand Reduction in the Hemisphere

WASHINGTON, DC – Experts on drug demand reduction in the hemisphere are participating in the XIII Meeting of the Demand Reduction Experts Group, organized by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS) from September 27 to 29 with the objective of discussing how to enhance community participation in substance abuse prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and social integration.

During the opening ceremony, held at OAS headquarters in Washington, DC, CICAD’s Executive Secretary, Paul Simons, recalled that the New Hemispheric Drug Strategy, adopted by Member States in 2010, was the first in recognizing drug dependence as “a chronic, relapsing disease that should be treated as a public health issue.” Ambassador Simons also referred to the high political and social priority that governments attached to the drug issue, specifically to the demand reduction component and explained that this “demonstrates the value of hemispheric cooperation in sharing best practices, forging common approaches and establishing a community of practice.”

The Vice Chair of the Demand Reduction Expert Group and National Secretary on Drug Policy of Brazil, Paulina do Carmo Arruda Vieira Duarte, said her government has set the fight against drugs as a priority, and stressed her country’s initiative to strengthen ties with the scientific community. “Today, we are direct allies, working together with over 16 higher education institutions in data collection and in the design and implementation of new programs in this area,” she said. Duarte noted that demand and supply reduction of drugs “are distinct approaches that complement each other, as both seek the same goal of reducing drug consumption and stop drug trafficking.”

The Chair of the Demand Reduction Expert Group and Deputy Director for Demand Reduction of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, David K. Mineta, said the Hemispheric Plan of Action on Drugs recently adopted by the General Assembly “will make a lasting contribution to the knowledge and capacity to reduce the consequences of illicit drugs in the hemisphere.” Mineta thanked the OAS support offered through the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security and noted that “demand reduction alone cannot succeed in achieving the objectives we seek; we also need to work with law enforcement, strengthened justice systems and citizen security.”

The OAS Secretary for Multidimensional Security, Adam Blackwell, agreed that all threats to security are interrelated and said those need to be faced through a coordinated approach. “The threats and solutions to security are multidimensional in nature, and that should be reflected in the agenda of the event,” said Ambassador Blackwell.

The White House’s United States Director of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, applauded the initiative to adopt a comprehensive approach to the drug problem, and to focus on public health and public education. He also presented some facts on his country’s anti-drug policy and recognized the importance of regional cooperation, affirming that “we can learn from each other, we benefit from each other.” Kerlikowske further highlighted specific issues of the Hemispheric Strategy, including an emphasis on specific populations such as young people and at-risk groups, including children, adolescents and youth, and the implementation of demand reduction strategies in accordance with the situation and magnitude of the drug problem in each country.

During the three-day meeting, delegates from 22 countries and from different regional organizations will debate four specific issues: community participation strategies, information systems as essential elements for the planning of actions and policies on demand reduction, drunk driving, and preventing the abuse of prescription drugs.

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