"There is no single solution to the problem of drugs. Our organizations recognize that, in order to make real progress, we need to balance policies to reduce both supply and demand, consistent with national needs and conditions and protecting and promoting public health," said PAHO Director Mirta Roses Periago, after signing the document during the opening of the 51st regular session of the OAS’s Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), on May 9. "Health is a basic right that should be at the center of all public policies, including public policies on illegal drugs."
The new agreement commits PAHO and the OAS to "work together in the area of health, key for reducing drug demand," said OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza.
Under the agreement, PAHO and the OAS will establish a Joint Regional Cooperation Program for Drug Demand Reduction, which will carry out activities for institution building, training and technical assistance in the countries of the
Success in these joint efforts "is not guaranteed at the outset," noted Dr. Roses. "The interest shown by governments, cooperating partners, and representatives of different sectors of society involved in these issues must translate into strong political and financial support for the Joint Regional Program so that it can achieve its goals.” She also remarked that current drug policies "are being reviewed" in the Region and that both, PAHO and the OAS, have a mandate to provide up-to-date scientific information to help governments make decisions on "a more solid basis." "Only through an open and informed debate can we generate ideas that are innovative and that can be evaluated," she said.
PAHO’s work in the areas of tobacco control and harmful use of alcohol provides a basis for addressing the issue of illicit drugs from a public health perspective. “They are all interrelated, with common risk factors, and the same public health principles apply in addressing them,” said Dr. Roses. “No doubt, by working more closely, our organizations can facilitate an integrated approach to these issues, as it is already being done in a number of countries."
She added that the agreement with CICAD/OAS reaffirms “PAHO’s commitment to protecting the right to health and other rights of people affected by substance use disorders, and we are ready to provide support for countries’ efforts in this area."
CICAD’s President, Rafael Bielsa, called for a more effective approach and a more "reflective and open spirit” in addressing the problem of illegal drugs.
In 2010, PAHO’s 50th Directing Council approved a regional public health strategy to respond to health problems associated with the use of psychoactive substances in the