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Multidimensional Security in the Americas: the OAS Secretariat for Multidimensional Security implements programs to combat and eliminate terrorism and develops policies that strengthen and protect citizen security in the Americas.


This issue of Americas features some of the important work carried out by the OAS Secretariat for Multidimensional Security (SMS) including its efforts to fight drug trafficking, rehabilitate drug users, combat firearms trafficking, and remove land mines, as well as its broader efforts to tackle citizen security as a regional issue. These are just a few glimpses into a wide array of activities that take place under the umbrella of the SMS.

OAS member states have made substantial progress over the years on improving the political and economic conditions in their countries, but crime and violence have increasingly threatened these advances. The Secretariat for Multidimensional Security was created in 2005 in recognition of the urgent need to address security in a more comprehensive fashion. It incorporates previously existing programs and is endowed with a broader mission to coordinate member state responses to both national security threats and threats to the security of individual citizens.

The SMS incorporates three major bodies: the Executive Secretariat of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), which was established more than 25 years ago; the Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) established in 1999, and the Department of Public Security (DPS) which was created in 2006.

CICAD was established to assist the collective efforts of member states to reduce the production, trafficking, and abuse of drugs in the Americas. It facilitates the exchange of information between national governments on money laundering and weapons trafficking; creates and supports educational programs; and produces materials for use in both rural and city schools. CICAD has created a Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM) that gauges the progress of anti-drug activities in the OAS member states. It also works in the areas of demand reduction, supply reduction, alternative development, institutional development, educational development and research, and initiatives to combat money laundering. The inter-American Observatory on Drugs is also part of CICAD.

The Secretariat of the Inter-American Committee against Terrorism (CICTE) was created to promote national, regional, and International cooperation to prevent, combat, and eliminate terrorism in the Americas. Its eight capacity building programs are organized in five areas: border controls, critical infrastructure protection, counter-terrorism legislative assistance and combating terrorist financing, crisis management exercises, and promotion of international cooperation and partnerships.

The mission of the Department of Public Security (DPS) is to promote and strengthen comprehensive, long-term public security policies that fully respect human rights. The Department develops activities to combat organized crime, firearms trafficking, criminal gangs, and human trafficking. It also promotes activities to improve penitentiary systems, humanitarian demining, police training, legislative assistance, and information systems on crime mad violence. DPS also acts as Executive Secretariat of the Meetings of Ministers of Public Security (MISPA) of the hemisphere. MISPA is an important space for cooperation in the fight against crime and violence in each of the OAS member countries.

The systematic collection of information is an important part of the work of all of the dependencies of the SMS. Just this year, the OAS created an Inter-American Observatory of Public Security to be the primary source of information on trends in crime, violence, and judicial systems in the Americas. The Observatory collects information from member states and works to make the information public and comparable. It disseminates reports and data on subjects such as violence against women, human rights conditions, cyber-crime, and a wide range of other topics in order to assist in the creation of better public security policies.

When OAS member states gather in El Salvador for the next General Assembly meeting in June 2011, they will tackle these and other security challenges and consider the adoption of a Declaration and Plan of Action to strengthen and mobilize the capacities of American states to take a firm strand against crime and violence by working in close collaboration with civil society. The adoption of this Plan will strengthen and amplify the mandates of the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security.


CICAD: A Success Story

by Anna Chisman

When the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) was founded in November 1986, very few countries had national drug commissions or national drug strategies. Almost no-one had specialized training or interest in addictions, and there was no scientific understanding of the nature of drug dependence. Only a handful of member states had legislation on drug control, despite having signed and ratified the UN drug conventions. Money laundering techniques used by the drug cartels were barely understood. As head of CICAD's drug demand reduction program (1987-2010), I had no counterpart in most member states.

By contrast, today, almost every member state has a national drug commission and a national drug strategy. Neuroscience has given us a much clearer understanding of drug dependence as a disease of the brain. Many thousands of police and customs officers, statisticians, drug treatment counselors, medical staff, university professors, and prevention experts have received specialized training to address the problem.

The world drug problem has not been solved, but the CICAD Commission has made a significant contribution by promoting cooperation among the countries of the Western Hemisphere on a transnational problem that requires coordinated transnational responses. Over the last quarter century, recriminations about which country or countries were "responsible" for the flood of cocaine have been replaced in the CICAD Commission by a shared understanding of a shared problem.

CICAD's Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM), a peer-to-peer assessment of member states' performance and shortcomings in drug control, has helped countries understand, in great detail, the different challenges they each face in addressing the world drug problem.

The Western Hemisphere's new drug strategy, approved in 2010, represents a major policy shift for governments. It begins with a strong statement about respect for human rights in all aspects of drug control. The strategy goes on to say that drug addiction is a public health problem, and that alternatives to incarceration for drug-dependent offenders are a promising solution to the revolving door of prison. And it clearly says that all drug control programs must be based on science and evidence and should no longer rely on the hit-or-miss approaches that characterized many efforts in the past.

CICAD has been fortunate over the last 25 years to have worked with OAS member governments, non-governmental organizations, and other international organizations to develop a common agenda. The challenges ahead will require two major efforts on the part of governments: first, significantly greater outreach to the general public to help parents, teachers, health care workers, and community leaders understand how the world drug problem affects them, their children, and their communities; and second, increased use by national drug commissions of existing social services, such as HIV/AIDS programs, housing, job training, literacy programs, and human rights campaigns, to broaden the reach of drug abuse prevention and treatment programs.



The Western Hemisphere's New Drug Strategy

Drug dependence is a chronic, relapsing disease that must be treated through the health care system, just like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension. This is the finding of years of research on changes in the brain caused by drug abuse. Accepting drug addiction as a disease, as the 0AS member states did last year in their new hemispheric drug strategy, has far-reaching implications for the treatment of drug addiction and for drug control policy in general.

As a consequence of the new hemispheric drug strategy, governments will need to shift resources and policies.

In practical terms, national health care systems will need significantly greater funding to cope with a large influx of drug-dependent individuals. Drug treatment counselors will need much more intensive training to enable them to provide quality service. Physicians will need to learn how to screen all of their patients for drug abuse and addiction and refer them to specialized treatment centers. In addition, health insurance schemes will need to cover drug dependency treatment in the same way that they cover other physical and mental disorders.

The new strategy will also have an impact on drug policy. Criminalizing the use of illicit drugs by people who are addicted to them will make less and less sense as policy makers understand the disease of addiction. Drug-dependent prisoners Hill be offered treatment while serving their sentence, and treatment alternatives to incarceration for offenders will become more and more common as lawmakers come to realize that court-supervised drug treatment lowers recidivism and reduces relapse into drug use. Some countries of the western hemisphere have already embraced the drug court concept, both as a means of reducing prison costs and prison overcrowding, and as a shift to a rehabilitative approach to justice and corrections policy.

Substance abuse prevention takes on much greater urgency in this new policy context. Parents, teachers, and health care professionals know that they must help children and adolescents to take care of their health and prevent illness. Schools, youth programs, community centers, parents groups, and religious organizations will need to adopt an aggressive approach to substance abuse prevention, folding it into other types of health education such as non-smoking and seat-belt campaigns and violence and accident prevention programs.

The factors that put a child or adolescent at risk for drug use and abuse are the same as those that contribute to violent behavior, criminal involvement, and adolescent pregnancy. Prevention programs, delivered on a sustained basis from early childhood through young adulthood, are essential to preventing and containing the disease of addiction to drugs and related social pathologies.

Better Treatment for Those Who Need It

by Alexandra Hill

The prevention and treatment of drug addiction and violence is only as good as the human beings who administer that care. In many countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, effective treatment of these problems is limited by a lack of trained and certified personnel on the front lines.

Drug addiction treatment programs and violence prevention programs in the region have not bad a system to standardize the technical elements of each level of intervention. This has limited the ability to comply with minimum quality standards and has therefore limited the effectiveness of the system as a whole.

One solution to the problem is being provided by a project called Certification of Personnel Specialized in the Treatment of Drug Dependence, which is being carried out in coordination with CICAD. The program is an innovative model of systematic training in evidence-based practices that leads to the certification of service providers who are working in treatment programs for problems related to drug consumption and violence.

This program is aimed at ensuring the minimum standards of quality and therapeutic effectiveness that are necessary for this type of activity. Providing this assurance is a duty that the state is obligated to fulfill as a minimum requirement to protect the individual rights of patients, their families, and society as a whole.

The program has already begun to change lives. Governmental institutions in charge of drug treatment are realizing the importance of those who provide services in this field. Without neglecting their responsibilities as regulating agencies, the institutions are now accepting the importance of training. Drug treatment counselors have moved from being seen as a "necessary evil," to being seen as allies in fulfilling the state's obligation--as established in most of the hemisphere's constitutions--to ensure that its citizens can enjoy freedom, health, and social justice.

In the institutions that have received training, service providers have a better understanding of the great responsibility they have when someone whose life has been torn apart by drugs steps forward and asks them for help. They now understand that in addition to their great desire to help people, they also need specific knowledge and scientific techniques to confront the disease of addiction. They have learned to learn and to put this learning at the service of their patients.

Finally, people who have developed drug dependencies can now receive better treatment and rehabilitation services--services that support them and their family members.

There is much left to do, of course, but those who choose to turn their lives around can now be accompanied by people with more training and skills, people who have always understood that, in the end, human beings are what matter.

A collective responsibility

by Adam Blackwell

Secretary for Multidimensional Security


All over the Americas, men and women are looking for peace, economic stability, secure and dignified employment, decent housing, education for their children, and reliable healthcare. Their efforts to achieve these things, however, are being threatened by crime and violence.

During the last few years, crime and violence levels in the region have been increasing constantly. The lack of security is a threat to stability, democratic strengthening, the rule of law, and development in every country of the Americas. This threat is what our citizens now list as their greatest concern.

Criminal organizations are acting in and outside of our borders; they are involved in drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, assets laundering, human trafficking, corruption, and kidnappings. Last year, nearly 200 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean were victims of crime. More than two-thirds of the world's kidnappings take place in the Americas, and more than 130,000 people were murdered in our region in 2010--a rate that approaches one homicide every three minutes. Though it has only eight percent of the population of the planet, the region is plagued by 50 percent of all homicides committed with firearms.

This violence affects certain populations disproportionately. Most victims are children and teenagers. The probability that a Latin American young person will die the victim of a homicide is 30 times greater than it is for a European youth. Women are also disproportionately affected by violence, as the growing statistics on femicide all over the region show. Ethnic minorities are also especially hard-hit by crime and violence. In the United States, 70 percent of the incarcerated population is non-white; and in Canada where indigenous people make up two percent of the population, they were eighteen percent of the prison population in 2000. Being both young and a member of an ethnic minority is doubly dangerous in our region. The murder rate among Afro-Brazilian youth reached 400 deaths per every 100,000 inhabitants in 2006--fifty times the world homicide rate.


In recent years, we have made progress on reducing poverty and improving living conditions in the hemisphere. These gains are threatened, however, by the lack of public security. Inter-American Development Bank studies indicate that crime-related violence is reducing the Latin American GDP by twelve percent. Private security expenditures, which are close to seven billion dollars in Latin America, far outweigh public expenditures on security and justice in most of the countries of our region. In the Americas, two million people are employed as private police officers and five million as private security guards. The tragic implications of these statistics are even more poignant when we realize that it actually costs more to keep a person locked up for homicide than it does to pay a young person's education expenses from preschool to the university. In the Americas, it costs much more to jail a young person than to educate him.

All of this must change, and it is our collective responsibility to make sure it does. The American states are willing to work with urgency and energy on initiatives aimed at combating organized crime and increasing citizen security. One example of this commitment is the proposal of the government of El Salvador that Citizen Security be the central theme for the upcoming meeting of the OAS General Assembly, which will take place in that country in June.

The government of El Salvador has also presented for approval in the General Assembly a Declaration and Plan of Action to strengthen and mobilize the capacities of American states to take a firm stand against crime and violence by working in close collaboration with civil society. This initiative will complement a series of OAS-sponsored events and joint activities, such as ministerial meetings in the area of security, which are aimed at addressing this urgent problem. The road is long and the solution will not be an immediate one, but we have already begun the journey.

Security is not an Impossible Dream

by Luiz Coimbra

For many years, the Organization of American States saw security as a matter that was internal to each country. It organized regional meetings with ministers of transportation, education, and health, but did not sponsor any coordination on matters of public security. Three years ago, the OAS decided that it was time to treat crime as a hemispheric issue. At that time, the Secretary General proposed periodic meetings of the Ministers of Public Security of the Americas (MISPA) to reinforce cooperation in the fight against crime, violence, and insecurity. The MISPA process is our region's response to an undeniable fact: the lack of public security is today one of the greatest threats to stability, democratic strengthening, and development in the Americas. According to the 2010 Report of the Latinobarometro Corporation, 90 percent of the citizens of our continent believe that they could become a crime victim at any time and, since 2004, the number of Latin Americans who believe that crime is the most serious problem they face has tripled. This is no longer a phenomenon of any one particular country; it is a transnational plague whose magnitude is increasing all over the continent. Citizens of the Americas live in constant fear of crime.

In the first MISPA meeting held in Mexico in 2008, the OAS adopted the "Commitment to Public Security in the Americas" in which the ministers--inspired by the Declaration on Security in the Americas adopted in Mexico in 2003--defined the central concepts of the commitment and identified public security as a multidimensional issue. The 2008 Commitment contains concrete actions in five main areas: public security management; prevention of crime, violence, and insecurity; police management; citizen and community participation; and international cooperation. In 2009, MISPA II was held in the Dominican Republic and resulted in the adoption of the "Consensus of Santo Domingo" which reiterated the importance of forging ahead on the implementation of the "Commitment to Public Security." In Santo Domingo, the ministers made the decision to hold MISPA meetings every two years in odd-numbered years, alternating with the Meetings of Ministers of Justice of the Americas (REMJA) to become part of an integrated process to combat crime. The government of Trinidad and Tobago offered to host MISPA III in 2011.

With the MISPA process, the OAS has tried to demonstrate that the security of our citizens is not a utopia, or an unreachable dream. It does demand, however, that our governments, civil authorities, and police work increasingly towards a single objective: a region in which crime and violence rates are on par with those of the most developed countries of the world. We are moving in that direction, and as long as the countries of the Americas work together, we can reach that goal.

OAS Strengthens its Commitment to Citizen Security

To have effective public policies, the countries of the region must have the capacity to collect, process, analyze, and disseminate information, especially in the area of security. Over the last five years, the countries of the Americas have experienced increasingly complex threats and challenges to the safety of their citizens. In an effort to collaborate with its member states and keep governments from developing their security policies in an isolated or limited fashion, the Organization of American States recently created the Inter-American Observatory on Citizen Security which, among other things, seeks to increase the base of knowledge about trends in criminal activity and the operation of justice systems in the region.


Currently, much of the information on criminal activity and violence in OAS member states comes from partial data, developed individually by particular state institutions. The police, public prosecutors, prisons, and courts present their reports with some regularity, but they use indicators that make international comparisons difficult. In order to strengthen the effort to create standardized indicators for all countries, the OAS signed an agreement with the United Nations to be the coordinator of the UN Survey on Crime Trends for the Western Hemisphere. As a result of this agreement, the Inter-American Observatory on Citizen Security is already disseminating information collected by the governments of member states. Information from other organizations of the inter-American system--such as reports on drug consumption and trafficking, data on violence against women, data on corruption and cyber-crime, justice system reports, and human rights reports--is also being distributed. In addition, the Observatory is publishing the results of victimization surveys conducted by member state governments and additional data about the socio-economic development of each country and/or sub-region of the Western Hemisphere.

During the first Meeting of Ministers of Public Security (MISPA), OAS member countries adopted the "Commitment to Public Security in the Americas" which encourages member states "to consider developing comparable public security parameters in order to strengthen our cooperative efforts." In the region, it is primarily police institutions that have the function of managing information on criminal activity. Because the information from intelligence services is considered "sensitive," however, these indicators often have a restricted dissemination. In spite of civil society demands for free access to information, the scarce data that does exist on violence and criminality often continues to be the exclusive property of a few state representatives, and that makes public security policies hard to monitor. With the creation of the OAS Inter-American Observatory on Citizen Security, this information will become available to all state institutions and to all social sectors, providing countries with an instrument capable of measuring the effectiveness of their actions in the field of security. As a regional instrument, the Observatory is charged with providing this information in a practical and timely way to governments; national, regional, and international organizations; civil society; academia; and to the public in general.

The crafting of public policies also requires qualified personnel, adequate information, and decision-making capacity. Therefore, the Observatory seeks to stimulate the development of a culture of statistical information, by helping to strengthen the government institutions responsible for data production, avoid duplication, and coordinate activities aimed at collecting quantitative and qualitative data in the various countries and at the sub-regional level. Finally, the Observatory hopes to contribute to greater rationality in the debate on public security by providing an intersectoral and interdisciplinary space that facilitates the development and monitoring of public policies aimed at improving conditions of security and peaceful coexistence for the population. In a very short period of time, the OAS Inter-American Observatory on Citizen Security has been able to collect a large amount of official quantitative and qualitative data on criminality and violence, including information on legal norms, public policies, and lessons learned that are relevant for almost all OAS member states. This information is available on the Web and in a series of Observatory publications on public security matters.


This new initiative is an integral part of OAS efforts to support its member states as they confront a problem that is not only a threat to the security, health, physical integrity, and lives of millions of people in he Americas, undermining individual freedoms and basic rights, but also directly affects fundamental aspects of economic development and threatens the integrity of the state itself and of the democratic institutions of many countries of the world.

Introduction by James Patrick Kiernan
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Title Annotation:Organization of American States
Author:Chisman, Anna; Hill, Alexandra; Blackwell, Adam; Coimbra, Luiz; Kiernan, James Patrick
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Geographic Code:30SOU
Date:May 1, 2011
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