Regional Body Debates Drug Challenges

NASSAU, Bahamas – The need to use the data provided by anti-drug research to drive policy and legislation, dominated discussions over the first two days of discussions as member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) – including The Bahamas – gathered for anti-drug talks in Washington, DC, this week.

Deputy Director of the National Anti-Drug Secretariat (NADS) Terrence Fountain and Supply Reduction Officer Shervin Lloyd represented The Bahamas at the 45th Regular Session of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), held at the OAS from May 6 through May 8.

Mr. Fountain said that during a discussion of new challenges facing CICAD with the OAS Secretary General Dr. José Miguel Insulza, many of the representatives stressed the importance of the scientific approach to anti-drug policy-making, urging governments in the hemisphere to make use of the research that has already been done in the area.

Mr. Fountain said in the case of The Bahamas, the drug research that has been undertaken must lead to concrete programmes and must guide government policymakers as they tackle the thorny problem.

He argued that there was a great need for more research into drug supply and demand questions to be done in The Bahamas.

“Not for academic purposes,” he stressed, “but research to drive policy and action. This is what everyone [at the meeting] is crying for. We have got to have a renewed focus on data collection and data analysis.”

Mr. Lloyd added that CICAD members are increasingly moving away from “criminalizing” drug addiction. The Bahamas and the other CICAD members, he said, are seeing the problem as a sickness.

“It must be dealt with as a health problem, but not ignoring national security concerns,” Mr. Lloyd said.

Anti-Drug Strategy

Over the three days members met, another major area of concentration was the review of the Anti-Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere, Mr. Fountain reported. The talks resulted in a Draft Resolution, in which it is proposed – among other things – that the OAS General Assembly (GA) invite all member states to contribute to and participate in the process of review and update through CICAD.

The draft resolution also proposed to accept the government of Brazil’s offer to be the headquarters for the Working Group meetings and coordinate the review and updating process up to and until the presentation of the results at CICAD’s next regular session.

“We need to realize the interconnectedness of all countries, because the whole drug business looks for weaknesses across borders to exploit,” he said.

Mr. Fountain noted that National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest had asked for a Bahamas National Anti-Drug Policy to be drafted, and that there was a strong desire in The Bahamas and throughout the hemisphere to harmonize national anti-drug strategies with both the United Nations’ Global Anti-Drug Strategy agreed to in Vienna and the OAS’ strategy. He pointed out that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had recently worked on its own sub-regional strategy, and said The Bahamas’ goal is to create a matrix that takes the areas in which these disparate strategies are in harmony and design an effective national strategy based on that matrix.

CICAD members also produced a draft resolution on the body’s Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM).

Mutlilateral Evaluation Mechanism

Mr. Fountain explained that in response to a shared desire for fair and objective evaluation of hemispheric anti-drug measures, the OAS decided ten years ago to adopt the MEM.

Each member state must complete extensive questionnaires in three-year cycles. CICAD – as the accepted competent authority – takes the information and produces both a country report and a set of recommendations. Later, a follow-up evaluation occurs, aimed at determining the extent to which the recommendations have been implemented.

The NADS director urged that the questionnaires not be seen as “just another nuisance questionnaire,” but should be used by Bahamian authorities as indicators to drive policy for specific institutions.

Mr. Fountain noted that the Final Draft Report on The Bahamas from the fourth round of the MEM, which contained CICAD’s evaluation of The Bahamas’ implementation of its recommendations, had just come out. It evaluated The Bahamas’ progress on implementation of 14 recommendations, including ratification of certain multilateral conventions and implementation of recommendations reiterated from earlier cycles.

Political Will

Mr. Lloyd, the Supply Reduction Officer, noted that another major theme was the importance of political will. He said that CICAD members seemed to believe the right political leadership is required for successful anti-drug policies to succeed.

He said that, having been exposed to the scope of the drug problem in other countries, The Bahamas does not face as severe a challenge as some, but that political will is still critical to implement the strategies that would allow The Bahamas to effectively combat the scourge.

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