Representatives from 26 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) started negotiating on Tuesday to finalize the most significant overhaul of the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM), the OAS's instrument for assessing the efforts of member states in dealing with the global drug problem, since its inception in 1999.
The meeting of the MEM's Inter-governmental Working Group (IWG) aims to recast the evaluation process within the framework of the Hemispheric Drug Strategy, approved by the OAS General Assembly in June 2010, and its Plan of Action, 2011-2015, adopted a year later. The two documents represent the hemispheric political consensus on drug control policy.
Juan Gabriel Morales of Mexico, the deputy IWG Chair coordinating the weeklong session, said, "The objective of this process is to enhance the Mechanism, guaranteeing its effectiveness and relevance. In this regard, we are working towards a conceptual agreement on an updated and more dynamic evaluation process."
The IWG meeting culminates two years of discussion and collaboration that was mandated by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) in mid-2010 to adapt the MEM process to the Strategy, and to improve and strengthen the Mechanism to make it more streamlined and relevant to policy making and evaluation in each country.
In addition to detailed guidance given by the Commission, there were three prior in-person meetings, as well as ongoing collaboration through a secure online platform that allows participants to fine-tune documents.
CICAD executive secretary Paul Simons said, "The MEM has been taken as a model for other collective assessment efforts in the OAS, and our member states are continuing their efforts to innovate with this tool for mutual assistance."
A pre-IWG meeting in Costa Rica in June selected 27 recommendations from the Action Plan to narrow down the evaluation focus and prioritize policy guidelines: three in the area of institutional strengthening, seven in demand reduction, five in supply reduction, eleven in control measures, and one in international cooperation.
These 27 recommendations form part of a questionnaire or survey that contains additional questions and criteria related to each recommendation so that each government can demonstrate how they have moved forward on these policy targets in concrete, measureable ways. The IWG meeting will also approve a Handbook on Evaluation Criteria and an evaluation scale, as well as additional supporting documents.
"The resulting Sixth Round country reports should provide useful feedback to countries as to where they stand and which actions are pending for complete fulfillment of the 27 recommendations," said Angela Crowdy, chief of CICAD's MEM Unit, which provides technical support to the evaluation process.
The IWG's final set of MEM documents will be forwarded for final approval to the full Commission at its fifty-second regular session in San José, Costa Rica, November 28-30.
As a mandate from the Second Summit of the Americas (1998), the Mechanism is an instrument designed to measure the progress of actions taken by OAS member states to deal with drug control. This evaluation is carried out through the elaboration and publication of national and hemispheric reports. There have been previous five evaluation rounds. The Governmental Expert Group, whose members are designated by member states to form part of a multidisciplinary team, prepares the reports. Experts do not participate in the evaluation of their own country.
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