The EU Western Balkans and Turkey Civil Society Forum 2022

The EU TACSO 3 project organised the EU Western Balkans and Turkey Civil Society Forum on 8 – 9 June 2022, in Skopje, North Macedonia. Senior officials from the European Commission, EU Delegations, governments and diverse representatives from civil society organisations attended the Forum, a total of 120 participants in person, and an additional 100 online. In light of recent dramatic developments in Europe, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the Forum provided an opportunity to better understand challenges and opportunities in the region, and the role of civil society in helping to respond.

The main objective of the Forum was to launch the revised EU Guidelines for Support to Civil Society in the Enlargement region (2021-2027). These Guidelines set out objectives for EU assistance to civil society, provide a tool for governments to improve cooperation with civil society, and help to measure progress towards meeting conditions for EU integration. Over the period 2014 to 2020, through the Civil Society Facility and Media Programme, the EU has provided around EUR 330 million in support for civil society, whereas the amount planned for the period 2021-2023 is EUR 218 million. The Guidelines will assist the EU to assess the impact of this support.

Commenting on the discussion which followed, DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević emphasized two important point: that the most of the support goes to a selected number of large civil society organisations and that support whould also be shared to small and medium-size organisations, and that besides indicator proposed for implementation of the Guidelines, the impact achieved should be the main source of measuring their success.

The forum also discussed the current state of affairs for CSOs in the region, as well as joint actions on the part of the EU, public authorities and civil society that would address the identified challenges. The four priority areas: the Green Agenda; Rule of law, good governance and anti-corruption; Human rights, anti-discrimination and poverty reduction; and CSO cooperation with the media were discussed in separate breakout sessions.

 

Prison healthcare

More than 11.5 million people are estimated to be in prison globally – the highest ever, and a 24% increase since 2000 (a rate slightly less than the estimated growth in the world’s general population). Prison overcrowding remains at critical levels in some countries, with prisons operating above official capacity in 121 countries.

The Global Prison Trends 2022 is Penal Reform International’s annual flagship report, published with the Thailand Institute of Justice, identifying the key trends and challenges in prison systems worldwide.

National drug policies that result in imprisonment of people who use drugs and those involved in illegal drug markets continue to be a major contributing factor to prison overcrowding globally (see Imprisonment and prison overcrowding).  For decades, punitive drug laws that impose disproportionate criminal sanctions have led to the imprisonment of millions of people worldwide for drug offences. Today, it is estimated that 2.2 million people worldwide are in prison for drug offences, of which 22% (470,000 people) have been imprisoned for drug possession for personal use. Additionally, across seven East and Southeast Asian countries between 440,000 and 500,000 people who use drugs (and unknown numbers elsewhere) are subject to civil or administrative detention because of their personal drug use.

To access the report, please follow this link>>>.

 

The Global Fund Board approved transition funding for Kosovo

During the 47th Global Fund Board meeting held from 10 –12 May 2022 in Geneva, the Board discussed and approved changes to the Global Fund’s Eligibility Policy and approved the allocation methodology for the 2023-2025 allocation period. The Global Fund’s Eligibility Policy spells out three main criteria the organization uses to determine countries’ eligibility to receive an allocation for one or more disease components – HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria. The three determinants are:

  • Countries with the highest disease burden.
  • Those with the least economic capacity.
  • Where key and vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by the three diseases.

The Board approved changes to the Eligibility Policy on the first two of the main determinants: disease burden and income category.

Based on the changes to the Eligibility Policy, upper-middle-income countries are eligible for Global Fund malaria investments if there is documentation of artemisinin resistance and/or partner resistance to malaria drugs. Also, regardless of the disease burden UMI countries are eligible if they are small states but are not islands that qualify for International Development Association support.

The Board also approved the Strategy Committee and the Secretariat’s proposal to extend the eligibility of six components (grants) for the additional allocation of Transition Funding for the 2023-2025 allocation period.  The six components are Armenia HIV, Guatemala TB and malaria, Guyana malaria, and Kosovo HIV and TB. The extension will allow the financing of important transition activities that are essential to support the countries’ move away from a reliance on Global Fund financing.

More information on the approved changes to the Eligibility Policy and 2023-2025 allocation methodology you may find following this link>>>.

 

The civil society monitoring report 2021

From the Correlation webpage

The Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN) published their 2021 civil society monitoring report on 11 May 2022.

The main aim and purpose of C-EHRN monitoring activities is to improve knowledge and information and complement existing data and monitoring efforts in Europe in specific areas of harm reduction based on the perspective of civil society organisations (CSOs). The data collected helps to assess the implementation of certain drug and health policies at the national and local levels and supports our advocacy efforts at the European and EU Member State levels.

The adapted 2021 civil society monitoring incorporated the experiences from the past years. During evaluation meetings with expert groups, it was decided to keep most of the questionnaires in 2020 intact for 2021. That was done both because the questionnaire of 2020 has worked reasonably well and also to allow for comparisons between 2021 and the previous year.

C-EHRN kept our focus on the situation at the city level which allowed for more accurate and precise information. Consequently, the information provided in this report sometimes represents the situation in a particular city or region. Although this information is not representative of a country, it reflects the fact that the situation in a country is diverse and most often dependent upon the approach at the city level. Small modifications were made for clarity in the sections on essential harm reduction services, overdose prevention, Hepatitis C, civil society involvement and new drug trends. More modifications were made in the COVID-19 section to cover a new phase of the pandemic.

In addition to the survey, and on an experimental basis, the expert groups decided to try new forms of data collection. In 2 countries – Finland and the UK – online Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) will be performed to gather data on new drug trends. That was decided due to the low response rate in the online survey and also due to feedback from our Focal Points that this remains the most difficult section of the survey to complete.

More than one hundred organisations and individuals from 34 European countries have contributed to this Monitoring Report. Thanks go to our Focal Points and associated experts at the national and local levels who have filled in the online questionnaire and provided all information and data on time. Without their dedication and commitment, we would not have been able to produce this report.

To read the report, please follow this link>>>.

 

Drugs and mental health

Youth Rise published an educational resource which offers accurate, scientific and detailed information about drugs and mental health, providing people with key targetted harm reduction information in regards to mental health and how drugs interact with our brain.

Youth RISE (Resources, Information, Support and Education) mobilizes youth to be engaged in full spectrum harm reduction and drug policy reform to promote health and human rights.

The document is available following this link>>>.

 

How countries can legalise their domestic non-medical cannabis market?

Augur Associates published the white paper “Obligations and flexibilities under European and International law: a path towards domestic cannabis adult-use regulation“. It is centered on how countries can legalise their domestic non-medical cannabis market while remaining compliant with international conventions and EU regulations. This work may be useful in dealings with national authorities and even help willing countries to move forward with legalisation.

You can download the report here: https://en.augur.associates/rapports

 

Germany plans a cannabis legalization bill by the second half of the year

As part of a large project on improvement of the national health system, the German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach announced that it would start the legal process for cannabis legalization.

The process for the planned cannabis release is to start with several technical discussions between the Federal Drug Commissioner Burkhard Blienert and national and international experts. A draft law is to follow in the second half of the year, explained the minister. The traffic light coalition wants to introduce a “controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes in licensed shops,” as stated in the coalition agreement.

I’ve changed my mind on that over the past two years,” Lauterbach said. “I’ve always been opposed to cannabis legalization, but I revised my position about a year ago.” He now believes the dangers of non-legalization are greater.

 

Sexism Free Night Seminar

The Sexism Free Night project stands for a future where nightlife embraces a gender perspective in the promotion of safety, diversity and valuable experiences for all. And now, after extensive two years of work, published Research, European and national Trainings and Campaign which targets all participants in nightlife environments and invited them to be an active baystandards, in front of a consortium of the Sexism free night project, we happily invited you to join us at the final Sexism Free Night Seminar.

Sexism Free Night Seminar will take place on 20th of May in Barcelona, Spain, from 15:00 to 20:00h at Subdirecció General de Drogodependències Carrer de Roc Boronat, 81-95 (Edifici Salvany).

This one-day seminar is imagined to be a combination of activities, mix of presentations and side events around it, all aiming to present a full spectrum of topics around Sexism in Nightlife – from project results and outputs, through presentations of good practice examples around prevention of sexism and sexualised violence in nightlife, finishing by presenting our hopes and actions for the future and the Sexism Free Night Network Launch.

After the seminar opening and presentation of project outputs and results, there will be a roundtable discussion “What do we need to promote egalitarian nightlife environments?” during which we’ll explore this from the position of good practice examples within different collectives, what can be taken from their experience and how that could be implicated into Sexism Free Night Network and transferred across Europe and beyond.

The second roundtable discussion “Queering nights beyond the binarism” will focus on how nightlife environments can be transformed when they are liberated from the gender binary, and when they are more diverse and inclusive, focusing on meaningful participation, and to which extent we can and should use the knowledge and good practice examples from Germany, Spain, Portugal or Netherlands to shape up queer care practices around European nightlife environments?

At the end of the Seminar, we will officially launch the Sexism Free Night Network!

This is a European project co-funded by the Rights Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme and is driven by a consortium involving nightlife promoters, non-governmental organisations and a university from fifth countries working in the field of gender and drug use, with the aim of creating an interdisciplinary dialogue able to promote safer and more egalitarian nightlife environments.

If you share our vision of a future where nightlife embraces a gender perspective in the promotion of safety, diversity & valuable experiences for all – go ahead and apply to participate here>>>.

To find out more about the visit https://sexismfreenight.eu/seminar/

 

Youth and organised crime in the Balkans

Photo © Klub MASA Mostar

Across the Western Balkans, young people are engaged in or vulnerable to a variety of organized criminal activities, including the cultivation and trafficking of drugs, sex work, trafficking in human beings, extortion and car theft or as foot soldiers for criminal groups. Others decide to leave the country irregularly, are smuggled abroad and get involved in criminal activity, particularly in the EU.

What is the role of Western Balkan youth in organized crime? What factors make them vulnerable? What can be done to get them off the escalator of crime and prevent recidivism?

Although youth in the Western Balkans are exposed to and engaged in organized crime, civil society organizations (CSOs) either run by or working with them can be key sources of community resilience. Youth, generally accepted as people between the ages of 15 and 29, should be considered as an asset rather than a problem: a source of energy, innovation and courage, as well as fresh ideas and approaches to strengthen integrity and reduce the risk posed by organized crime.

The Strengthening resilience of youth to organized crime brief is part of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) ‘Resilient Balkans’ series, which looks at topics of common interest to civil society organizations (CSOs) in the Western Balkans dealing with issues related to organized crime. This brief focuses on what makes youth vulnerable to organized crime in the region and looks at how CSOs are working with youth to strengthen resilience.

This report is an output of the GI-TOC’s Observatory of Illicit Economies in South Eastern Europe and the GI-TOC’s Resilience Fund. The report is based on data, information and analyses collected and shared by civil society actors based in the Western Balkan region

To read the Report, follow this link>>>.

 

Civil society statement on ensuring continuity of essential life-saving treatments for Ukrainians in European countries

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) initiated the Civil society statement on ensuring continuity of essential life-saving treatments for Ukrainians in European countries. The statement signed by 29 civil society organizations and networks, including DPNSEE.

The undersigned organisations, working with and representing the interests of communities of people living with and affected by HIV, tuberculosis, viral hepatitis and drug dependence in Central and Eastern European countries, call for the following urgent measures:

  • Organise medical data exchange with a particular focus on HIV and opioid dependence to ensure continuity of services between Ukraine and EU member states and among the EU member states;
  • As good clinical practice, ensure that previous diagnosis are accepted, people are prescribed the same regimens and take-home dosages of OAT as in Ukraine as much as possible;
  • To promote and follow the recommendations being set in the Standardized Protocol for clinical management and Medical Data-Sharing for people living with HIV among refugees from Ukraine[1] and to collaborate with WHO on the development of a similar protocol for the refugees from the Ukraine who are OAT patients
  • Support EU member states with emergency procurement and exchange of medications, as needed, to ensure methadone (tables), buprenorphine, dolutegravir-based antiretroviral therapy, pediatric antiretroviral medications and similar Ukraine-prevalent treatments are made available for continuation in all border and other neighbouring countries;
  • Establish a pool of translation support for clinicians and Ukrainian refugees and utilise automated translation services to overcome barriers in refugee services and clinical settings;
  • Support outreach and contacts by HIV and drug treatment experts and NGOs in refugee centres, including the sensitisation of staff and to urgently identify people in need of uninterrupted daily treatment;
  • Introduce simplified initiation of essential treatment to all Ukrainians with or without refugee status based on their passport data; and,
  • Ensure that monitoring systems and hotlines are available to clinicians and other service providers to immediately solve the health issues affecting Ukrainian refugees.

The Statement was sent to high level EU officials and authorities of France (currently holding EU Presidency), Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

To read full Statement, follow this link>>>.