Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD)

A brief summary of CICAD achievements


A brief summary of CICAD achievements over the last decade

[Originally written in 2004]

Background: Over the past decade, the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD/OAS) has been challenged to adapt to a rapidly changing drug enforcement and prevention environment. CICAD has significantly expanded its efforts to promote regional cooperation and coordination on drug issues, and undertaken new directions in action programs to strengthen the capacity of individual member states to prevent and treat substance abuse and to combat illegal drug production and trafficking. With broad recognition and a growing partner base, CICAD has matured as a forum for candid discussion of drug issues, objective evaluation of progress, and targeted improvement of the hemispheric response to drug problems in the region.

A Hemispheric Strategy for a Hemispheric Problem

Although the 1990s opened as a new beginning after an era of military and political violence in the region, by the middle of the decade, new patterns of criminal violence were emerging, clearly exacerbated by an increase in transnational drug production, trafficking, and consumption. While the big drug cartels had been largely dismantled, new smaller trafficking organizations sprang up to replace them, developing new smuggling methods and routes to transport their deadly product to market as law enforcement authorities closed down old ones. At the same time, the clear separate lines between consumer, transit, and producer countries began to blur, a phenomenon which was captured in 1996, when the OAS General Assembly adopted the CICAD Commission’s proposed Anti-Drug Strategy of the Hemisphere, which incorporated for the first time the acceptance of the concept of hemispheric shared responsibility for drug control. During this period, the public throughout the hemisphere became more broadly concerned about the dangers of drug trafficking and drug use, and their leaders, at the 1990 Cartagena drug summit, showed renewed determination that something should and could done about it.

Broadening CICAD's Mandate to Adapt to New Challenges

In response to developments since 1994, CICAD has broadened its original anti-drug mandate to include new substances of abuse (such as synthetic, designer, and prescription drugs), money laundering, firearms trafficking, maritime cooperation, port security, community policing, drug-related youth and gang violence, alternative sentencing for minor drug offenses, and, most recently, consideration of transnational organized crime. This expansion reflects CICAD member states' awareness that substance abuse and drug trafficking problems are firmly tied to other serious socio-economic and criminal challenges which cannot be effectively targeted in isolation. The Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM) Indicators and the Inter-American Observatory on Drug's data-gathering instruments have been modified to address new challenges identified by the CICAD Commission. The changing needs of the member states to confront shifting drug issues have called for new thinking and new actions in the past 10 tumultuous years. The future will continue to test CICAD's ability to adapt its diverse efforts to the Hemisphere's evolving needs.

The CICAD Commission

  • Negotiated the Anti-Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere (1996), based on its founding document, the Rio Program of Action (1986); and carried out innovative action programs to give substance to the concept of shared regional responsibility for drug control;
  • Brought together semi-annually senior counter-narcotics officials in the Americas to examine changing drug trends, and to develop new policy and program responses in the region;
  • Responded to new and emerging challenges to drug control, such as organized crime, smuggling of weapons used in drug crimes, new synthetic drugs, terrorism, gang violence, trafficking in persons, and the need for criminal justice and policing alternatives;

Model Regulations

  • Developed model regulations to help member states control:
    • chemical precursor substances (1990)
    • money laundering offenses connected to illicit drug trafficking (1992)
    • international firearms trade and proliferation (1997)
  • Followed up by multiple revision processes to update regulations to remain consistent with evolving international standards and new control methods;

Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM)

  • Executed a 1998 Summit of the Americas mandate to establish a standardized system to measure periodically the evolution of anti-drug efforts by the 34 CICAD member states, and of the region as a whole, the only such peer-based drug evaluation system in the world. The Multilateral Evaluation System (MEM) , established in 1999, produces periodic public progress reports and recommendations by country and for the region as a whole, and responds to member state requests for targeted assistance;
  • Defined, through 86 evaluation indicators, the components of a comprehensive national drug control program and hemispheric system;


  • Assisted 25 CICAD member states to draft National Drug Plans that cover the full range of law enforcement, demand reduction, supply reduction, and research program areas according to the specific needs of each, facilitating the integration of often complex, multi-agency counter-drug efforts;
  • Strengthened national drug councils’ capacity to become policymaking and executing bodies to coordinate national anti-drug systems;

The Inter-American Observatory on Drugs;

  • Is helping to develop drug information systems or observatories in 21 Latin American and Caribbean drug councils to carry out standardized data collection, analysis and dissemination to provide policy-makers with a sound scientific basis for their decisions;
  • Published an annual compendium of supply-side drug data (CICDAT) that has become the hemisphere’s basic source of such information.
  • Developed and supervised standardized drug use prevalence (SIDUC) studies in 19 member states, training local professionals for continued demand-side data collection;
  • Is well advanced in executing a 2001 Summit of the Americas mandate to develop and pilot test by 2005 a scientific methodology to estimate the cost the drug problem imposes on countries in the hemisphere;

Drug Control, Supply Reduction and Money Laundering Control

  • Intelligence School in Lima, Peru to train counter-drug intelligence officers from throughout the Andean Community in counter-drug analysis skills and common methods for intelligence gathering, and to facilitate a freer exchange of drug-related information within the region;
  • Provided new drug control skills to thousands of customs, police, coast guard, port officials, and maritime officers through counter-drug training seminars;
  • Promoted the expanded implementation of community policing in member states;
  • Trained hundreds of judges and prosecutors to try money laundering cases, and instructed bankers and regulators in techniques to prevent and detect money laundering schemes, including cyber-crime;
  • Assisted the creation and strengthening of Financial Intelligence Units to identify potential money-laundering schemes;
  • Executed hemispheric study on port and maritime narcotrafficking patterns, legislation, agreements, and interdiction;
  • Produced a manual detailing the chemicals used in illicit drug production and how they are employed, as well as officer safety issues in order to help police and customs officers more easily identify them and control their movement;
  • Prepared a guide that defines the key elements of a pharmaceutical control system;

Alternative Development

  • Implemented a new model for alternative development in the Andes and the Caribbean to bring farmers into licit agricultural production through a combination of actions, including modern land titling, the creation of farmers’ organizations, the introduction of high-yielding disease resistant varieties of cacao and banana, and the development of organic crop management, harvesting, and marketing;
  • Developed a satellite-based mapping tool (GLEAM) to permit governments to evaluate land use in areas of illicit cultivation and design alternative development interventions;

Demand Reduction

  • Developed standards of care for treating drug dependence in 15 member states;
  • Developed guidelines for building a comprehensive drug treatment system at the national level;
  • Incorporated content on drug prevention, addiction, treatment, and social reintegration, as well as outreach and research activities, into the nursing curriculum of 15 universities in Latin America, now expanding to public health and public education programs;
  • Created an on-line graduate degree program in drug addiction studies for full-time professionals in the region to knowledgeably respond to drug issues in their places of work;
  • Trained street youth counselors, gang intervention workers, criminal justice and prison officials, family prevention workers and healthcare professionals in skills for confronting substance abuse in their clients.


In these efforts, CICAD has worked closely with many international partners, such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the United Nations, the European Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Science Foundation, the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Governments of Japan, France, Israel, Korea, and Turkey, to name a few, in order to together build a strong and united front against the constantly evolving substance abuse trends and international drug markets that jeopardize all aspects of life in our societies.

James F. Mack, Secretario Ejecutivo
Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission
Organization of American States
1889 F St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20002

updated on 1/24/2011 6:51:04 PM