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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Op Ed on the Narcotics Strategy Report and Certification Decisions for Diario Las Americas, March 1, 1998
Miami, Florida
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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International Counternarcotics Policies

The United States is committed to stopping the flow of illegal drugs and ending the corruption and violence they breed both at home and abroad. Our domestic efforts focus on reducing demand, apprehending drug traffickers, and ending drug abuse. Internationally we actively fight illegal narcotics production, drug trafficking, and drug-related international criminal activity. Because the spread of narcotics respects no borders and honors no boundaries, we depend on the cooperation of other nations to combat illicit drugs. Each year the United States issues an extensive report documenting international counternarcotics efforts. That report plays a central role in implementing another key aspect of our counternarcotics policy--the annual certification process. Our report and certification decisions reflect the standards expected of all governments as established by the global community in the 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

Last Thursday the Department of State released its annual "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report" (INCSR) describing the anti-drug efforts of more than 130 countries around the world. This report indicates the extent of illegal narcotics production and trafficking during the past year and enables the U.S. to identify the major drug producing and drug transit countries. Once identified, those countries are put on the "Majors List" and half of most U.S. foreign assistance granted them is withheld pending examination of their counternarcotics efforts over the coming year. Based on last year's report, the U.S. placed thirty countries on the Majors List. This year's report provides the factual basis on which the President makes his certification decisions for the countries on the Majors List.

The certification process is required by law. The President bears the legal obligation under the Foreign Assistance Act to grant or deny certification to each country identified as a major producer or distributor of illegal narcotics. For each country on the Majors List the President must decide if that country has "cooperated fully" with the U.S. on counternarcotics matters, or has taken action on its own, to meet the goals and objectives of the 1988 UN Convention. The President must base his decision on each country's performance in such areas as stemming cultivation and production of illicit narcotics, extraditing drug traffickers, and implementing law-enforcement measures to prevent drug trafficking and punish drug-related corruption.

When making his decisions, the President has three options for each country on the Majors List: to certify, to deny certification, or to grant a "vital national interests" certification. If a country is certified, it receives all previously withheld U.S. aid. If a country is denied certification, the U.S. withholds most forms of U.S. aid and developmental support. Countries denied certification continue to receive most counternarcotics assistance as well as humanitarian aid. If a country has not fully met the standards for certification, the President can grant a vital national interests certification, allowing that country to receive all forms of assistance, to meet the requirements of vital U.S. national security and foreign-policy objectives.

President Clinton announced his decisions last Thursday on the thirty countries identified as major drug producers and/or drug transit countries. The President granted certification to 22 countries, determining that they had cooperated fully with the United States and met the international counternarcotics performance standards. The countries are Aruba, The Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Laos, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The President granted vital national interest certification to four countries--Cambodia, Colombia, Pakistan, and Paraguay--deciding that certifying these countries advanced U.S. counternarcotics, security, and economic interests. The President denied certification to four countries that failed to meet the statutory standards for certification: Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, and Nigeria.

Certification is an important component of our international battle against illegal narcotics. Undeniably it has yielded results, but it has also become a contentious issue with some of our Latin American and Asian allies in recent years. Even as their counternarcotics efforts continue to improve, many countries believe that the unilateral assessment and public disclosure of their performance make it more difficult to cooperate with the U.S., given the sensitivities of domestic constituencies. Criticism of the process has also been voiced in the United States, where during the past year some within the government have openly questioned the merits of the process. The negative comments have produced a degree of confusion in the U.S. and abroad about the future of the certification process.

The Department of State has reviewed both the certification law and the way it is implemented. Our efforts to improve the certification process have resulted in a more transparent process that focuses more on common goals and objectives. While we have been able to improve the process, we have not completed our analysis of the law. Although the certification law certainly can be refined, it has produced amazing results in the fight against illegal narcotics.

The U.S. Government also recognizes that the growing trend toward greater counternarcotics cooperation in the hemisphere is creating unprecedented opportunities for enhanced multilateral cooperation. The objective is to establish a counterdrug alliance with explicit goals, commitments, and responsibilities for the hemisphere.

Key steps toward a hemispheric alliance have been taken: a hemispheric strategy and standards have been developed around the 1996 Anti-Drug Strategy for the Hemisphere (called for by the 1994 Summit of the Americas) and the 1988 UN Convention. Specific actions have been taken to execute the strategy. Working through the Organization of American States' Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), more than forty recommendations for implementing the principles have been elaborated. We will seek to build on this progress this spring at the Summit of the Americas in Santiago by focusing on the next stages of alliance development: creation of measures of effectiveness and an evaluation process.

Due to the stringent application of the certification law, we have seen significant improvement in counternarcotics cooperation worldwide and a maturing of the process of coordination in our bilateral relationships. We look forward to working with our partners to make the certification process even more effective in our struggle against illegal drugs.

[End of Document]

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