PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC) — A two-day conference of the Caribbean Outreach Working Meet on Drug Problems began here yesterday with a senior Organisation of American States (OAS) official warning that the crime situation, which is being fuelled by the drugs trade, has got worse.
Secretary for the Multidimensional Security of the OAS, Ambassador Adam Blackwell told delegates that there is no easy solution to the drugs trade and disagreed with suggestions that legalising the consumption and supply of drugs could eliminate the problem.
"We also have to acknowledge honestly what we have done wrong and what is not working. We have to identify where mistakes have been made, where we need to make a compass check, and most importantly, about exploring openly what options we have to move forward.
"It is not about playing the blame game that is simple. The traditional definition of consuming, transit and production countries no longer applies. Drug issues have changed. Likewise, there is no simple fix and anybody [if] thinks there is something we can do overnight I beg to differ".
Blackwell said hemispheric leaders have recognised "that we have reached this catalectic moment", adding that "problems we are facing with drugs and violence -- much of it fuelled by the drugs trade -- are far from being resolved; if anything, in some areas, they are worse".
He said the task now will be to offer leaders as well as citizens "complete realistic and vision of possible consequences, positive and negative of certain decisions.
"Here I am talking about the overly simplistic solution of let's just legalise the consumption and supply of drugs (and) we are going to eliminate the problem. I don't think so folks. I think we need to have a much more in-depth, much more realistic discussion of the various options, and this is what I hope will happen," he said.
Earlier, a senior Trinidad and Tobago public servant, deputing for National Security Minister, Austin "Jack" Warner, said that a recent study has found that a high number of schoolchildren throughout region are abusing drugs.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Jennifer Bocoud-Blake said the issue is of great concern to all stakeholders.
She said the report "reveals expression of hopelessness and marginalisation by a wide cross section of our young people", adding that this is compounded by the information contained in successive school surveys that show a high level of substance abuse by school age children.
"This is concerning since these young people ultimately have the responsibility to carry the mantle of social, economic and political leadership of the region into the future. The situation must be addressed comprehensively."
The senior public servant said that the world continues to view this hemisphere as a region "of substantial production, transshipment and consumption of drugs" noting that the development of the report "has the potential to have a major impact on how we are viewed by the international community".
She said the recent hosting of the third high level dialogue of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative here provides an "excellent example of a balanced approach that seeks to address issues relating to illicit trafficking, public safety and security, promotion of social justice and capacity building for existing institutional arrangements.
"The potential for this positive impact is critical as I have a grave concern that our future development has the potential to be severely hampered because sufficient attention has not been dedicated to the concerns of our young people," she added.