Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD)

CICAD History


The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), the drug control agency of the Organization of American States (OAS), traces its origins to the "cocaine epidemic" of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  It was against the backdrop of the explosion of smoked (crack) cocaine and the emergence of powerful drug cartels, as well as increasing mutual North/South recriminations over who was "responsible," that the OAS General Assembly convoked the Hemisphere's ministers of justice to meet at the first Inter-American Specialized Conference on Traffic in Narcotic Drugs in Rio de Janeiro in April 1986.

At the Conference, the ministers quickly agreed that the dramatic increase in trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs since the late 1970s not only had become a major threat to the health and wellbeing of individual citizens, but represented a security problem for the hemisphere as a whole.  They also approved the Inter-American Program of Action of Rio de Janeiro Against the Illicit Use and Production of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances and Traffic Therein and recommended that the OAS General Assembly create the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD).

In November of the same year, the OAS General Assembly established CICAD as a technical agency of the OAS, and ratified the framework and guiding principles contained in the Program of Rio, which establishes illicit drug control, not as a stand-alone issue, but firmly in the context of socio-economic development, environmental protection, human rights and respect for the traditions and customs of national and regional groups.

Starting small

Initially, CICAD was composed of 11 member states elected by the General Assembly every three years by secret ballot.  However, over time, as the global illicit drug problem became more acute throughout the hemisphere, other OAS countries asked to join the Commission, and in 1998, all 34 countries became members.  The country representatives to the Commission, who are high-ranking officials appointed by their governments, meet twice a year in regular session, and may meet in special session, if necessary (CICAD's Statute and Regulations). The OAS Secretary General, in consultation with the Commission, designates an Executive Secretary who heads an office of specialized staff, known as the Executive Secretariat of CICAD.

In June 1990, the OAS General Assembly, comprised of the foreign ministers of all OAS member states, adopted the Declaration and Program of Action of Ixtapa, which set CICAD's priorities for the 1990s, and in the following year, endorsed the Inter-American Program of Quito: Comprehensive Education to Prevent Drug Abuse, a long-term hemisphere-wide program of substance abuse prevention.


In June 1997, the General Assembly adopted the Anti-Drug Strategy in the Hemisphere as a platform for greater efforts to control drugs in the twenty-first century.  The Strategy reflected the significant changes that had occurred in the 10 years since the Program of Rio, including increased production and abuse of synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamines and Ecstasy, and the use of the Internet to buy and sell prescription drugs and cigarettes and to transfer illegal drug proceeds electronically anywhere in the world.  Very significantly from a foreign relations perspective, the Strategy showed a clear realization on the part of Western Hemisphere governments that drugs, drug-related crime and violence, and the significant health and social consequences of drug use and abuse are problems that all countries share and to which there must be a shared responsibility and a shared solution.

Responding to a 1998 mandate from the Second Summit of the Americas (Final Declaration and Plan of Action), CICAD embarked on a multilateral process of assessing the performance of each member state and the hemisphere as a whole in addressing the various aspects of the drug problem. The Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM), now in its fifth evaluation round, requires all CICAD member states to answer in detail a set of standardized questions and provide statistics on such matters as arrests and convictions for drug crimes, level of drug use by different population groups, signature and ratification of international treaties related to drug control, and existence of national laws to control arms smuggling and the shipment of chemicals used to process illicit drugs.  The completed questionnaires are reviewed by a group of experts from member states, which then drafts reports and recommendations for each country and for the hemisphere as a whole. Once approved by the member states representatives to the Commission, the reports (MEM Reports) are submitted to the OAS General Assembly and made public.    

CICAD is also studying methods of estimating the economic, social and human cost of drugs to society, at the request of the Third Summit of the Americas, as a means of aiding policy and decision makers determine efficient programs in dealing with drug problem.

In May 2009, OAS General Secretary José Miguel Insulza called on member states to update and strengthen the 1996 strategy in response to the dynamics of the illicit drug trade. After a year-long consultation, the Commission approved the Hemispheric Drug Strategy in May 2010, and immediately started work on the Plan of Action 2011-2015. The Plan of Action was approved in May 2011, just when the Commission was preparing to mark its 25th anniversary.

updated on 7/18/2014 1:15:56 PM