Peruvian Ambassador Harold Forsyth: One step forward, none backward in tackling the world drug problem

The world drug problem is a challenge of global reach that adversely affects the health, safety and welfare of all mankind. It weakens the foundations of sustainable development, legal systems, political and economic stability and democratic institutions - and thus constitutes a threat to security, governance and the rule of law.

Despite the efforts and progress in the fight against drugs, we cannot deny that a worldwide increase in production, manufacturing and trafficking, as well as the distribution and consumption of all drugs classified as illegal, still pose a crucial challenge to the international community. Moreover, rates of criminal and political violence have risen dramatically in some countries, fueling armed groups and weakening democratic institutions that have taken us a lot of effort to build.

There is an urgent need to intensify and strengthen joint efforts at national, regional and international levels to address this global problem in a more comprehensive manner in accordance with the principle of common and shared responsibility.

Peru and the countries involved in the fight against illicit drug trafficking have been making strenuous efforts to discourage the operations carried out by organized crime groups involved in drug trafficking in order to reduce drug demand and supply and generate favorable conditions to develop lawful activities in the areas damaged by coca cultivation. At the same time, Peru has adopted a comprehensive strategy that also involves the prevention of drug use and helping Peruvians suffering from addiction enter treatment.

However, the mere sum of uncoordinated efforts, even those that have been successful, do not affect the problem as a whole at an international level. Political will is necessary in order to try to find solutions with a comprehensive perspective of shared responsibility, and build commitments aimed at implementing concrete actions designed as elements of a multidisciplinary strategy that overcomes the current drugs control scheme.

Thus, President Ollanta Humala’s initiative to convene in Lima, Peru, on June 25 and 26, the “International Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Heads of Specialized National Agencies Against the World Drug Problem,” creates a space for political dialogue in order to agree on concrete and measurable actions to allow our nations to achieve significant results in combating the world drug problem by 2019. Sixty-one countries and nine international organizations have confirmed their participation in the discussions. The U.S. delegation to the Conference is led by Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and includes other high-ranking officials such as Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield and USAID Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mark Feierstein.

The Conference seeks to establish an efficient and effective worldwide mechanism to exchange strategic and operational information and create an alliance of countries to promote alternative development products.

Addressing the first subject will lead to discuss various aspects of illicit drug trafficking in which the data obtained can be used in a more efficient manner to damage the strongest links of the criminal chain and to agree on the creation of a worldwide information exchange mechanism to set up permanent channels of relevant data flow. As a result of this agreement, a more fluid exchange of specific information would be expected, increasing the capacity of national authorities for timely and immediate response to the actions of criminal organizations involved in illicit drug trafficking and illegal trade of precursor chemicals and controlled substances, taking into account that immediacy of actions determines their efficiency.

Regarding this subject, other drug control mechanisms such as the financial information exchange to detect suspects of money laundering or the exchange of human capital for training and updating will also be discussed, taking into account the problems generated by linkages between organized crime groups engaged in drug trafficking and other crimes, as well as the complexity of detecting their operations given the advanced methods and technologies used by these criminal organizations.

Participant nations will be encouraged to implement the necessary reforms in their justice system mechanisms to establish appropriate and suitable sanctions according to the type and seriousness of the offense. All stages of the procedure involved in dismantling a criminal organization and preventing its resurgence should be consistent and integrated.

Regarding the second subject, the aim is to improve international cooperation aimed at strengthening sustainable integrated alternative development including preventive alternative development programs that incorporate the environmental protection factor. Similarly, the Conference will address the issue of access to various existing green funds at multilateral level bearing in mind the fact that illicit crops and drug production damage rivers, land and forests by using chemical substances, fostering indiscriminate deforestation and changing the use of soil, apart from the pernicious effects to biodiversity.

Today, we all have the opportunity to effectively move forward, creating a consensus to adopt concrete and measurable actions to win this war against insanity. Our leaders have the final word.

Harold Forsyth is Peru's ambassador to the United States. He tweets @HaroldForsyth and wrote this column to mark the start of the International Conference of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Heads of Specialized National Agencies Against the World Drug Problem.