New DPNSEE Board elected at the General Assembly

The new DPNSEE Board was elected at the General Assembly, held on 10th December 2018, in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Chairman reminded the representatives of the member organisations that there is no clear procedure for this election in the Statute and proposed the following procedure:

  • Select three persons for the commission (persons who are neither nominated nor a member of organisations whose members are nominated)
  • Nominate candidates for the Board
  • Vote anonymously for seven Board members
  • Commission to count votes and declare the results

The proposed procedure was adopted by a unanimous decision.

Commission members that fulfill the criteria were selected:

  1. Olga Pateraki from Diogenis, Greece,
  2. Nataša Boškova from Coalition ‘Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities’, Macedonia and
  3. Marjana Krsmanović from Juventas Montenegro.

There were 9 candidates proposed for for the Board. Elected members of the DPNSEE Board are:

  1. Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation
  2. Denis Dedajić from Margina
  3. Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice
  4. Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent
  5. Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth
  6. Sanja Šišović from Cazas
  7. Vlatko Dekov from HOPS

The proposal to choose Vlatko Dekov as the President and Nebojša Đurasović as the Vice-President of the Board was adopted by a unanimous decision of all 16 member organisations representatives.

During the discussion about the elections, the proposals were made to change the Statute so that all functions other than president and vice-president become just „member“ and to extend the duration of the mandate of the Board members from two years to three. The Assembly at this meeting had 2/3 majority needed for the change of Statute. The proposed changes of the Statute were adopted by a unanimous decision.

Nebojša Đurasović proposed the new co-opting procedure – if somebody resigns from the Board during their mandate to be replaced with the first person below the line from the list of nominated but not elected persons if that person agrees. This proposal brought about a short discussion of possible issues in proposed case. On this proposed change of the Statute 14 member organisations representatives voted for and 2 against which was not sufficient majority for the Statute change, so it was not adopted.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe General Assembly 2018

With the support from the Central European Initiative (CEI) and funded through the European Union project, The Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised regular annual General Assembly on 10 December 2018 in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The participants at the Assembly were welcomed by Milan Pekić, Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. In their short opening speeches, Mr Pekić and the President of the Board of the Network Vlatko Dekov emphasized the importance of partnership in achieving the aim of effective drug policies.

The participants held voting rights from 16 out of 22 ordinary member organisations. That provided the Assembly with the right to make qualified decisions, even those related to the amendments to the Statute.

The Assembly was chaired by Anna Lyubenova, representative of the member organisation Initiative for Health Foundation from Bulgaria.

During the agenda point on membership issues, candidatures for membership from two organisations were discussed. The Assembly unanimously recognised as ordinary members Timok Youth Center from Zaječar, Serbia and Center for Human Policy from Sofia, Bulgaria. The Network now has 24 ordinary and 2 associate member organisations.

The General Assembly discussed the Operational and financial report for 2018 and elements for the Action plan and the Financial plan for 2019. The General Assembly welcomed the reports. They will be completed with the activities in December and then be adopted. The Assembly analysed the donor and funding trends and issues and concluded that, based on donor research, negotiation and exchange, no funding from EU for the Network can be expected for 2019 and some amounts can be obtained for year 2020, more project based. Funding plans and activities and possible issues that might be funded in 2019 include budget advocacy, the Network being the leader on the issue of quality of services in the region, redefining harm reduction and human rights element of the approach in work. The need for greater participation in relevant international events and DPNSEE taking role in organizing regional events were emphasized.

Nine candidates applied for elections to the DPNSEE Board. The new Board includes Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation, Denis Dedajić from Margina, Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice, Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent, Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth, Sanja Šišović from Cazas and Vlatko Dekov from HOPS.

The Assembly decided to keep at the current positions Vlatko Dekov as the President, and Nebojša Đurasović as Vice-President.

More information about the elections are available following this link >>>

An external consultant Jarmila Bujak Stanko facilitated the strategic workshop through which participants analysed achievement of aims and objectives of the strategic plan adopted in 2016 and indicated in which way and by which activities the priorities will be followed in the next two years.

The General Assembly ended in a positive and friendly atmosphere with an improved sense of belonging to the Network.

EU drugs agency publishes its first report on the medical use of cannabis

What is the evidence base for the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids? What is the difference between cannabis preparations and medicinal products and why is this important? How is this issue regulated in the EU? These and other questions are explored in a new report published today by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA): Medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids: questions and answers for policymaking. The report responds to growing interest in this topic as more European countries develop policies and practice in this area.

ʻMany EU countries now allow, or are considering allowing, the medical use of cannabis or cannabinoids in some formʼ, states the report. But approaches vary widely between countries, both in terms of the products permitted and the regulatory frameworks governing their provision. Understanding this variety of national approaches is important for an informed policy debate in this area in the EU.

The report aims to explore current practice in the EU regarding the provision of these substances for medical purposes and clarify some of the complex issues in this area in order to support science, policy and practice. The report notes that the terms ʻmedical use of cannabis and cannabinoidsʼ can refer to a wide variety of products and preparations that may contain different active ingredients and use different routes of administration.

The publication provides a state-of-the-art overview of evidence for the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids. It concludes that more research and clinical studies are needed to fill ʻimportant gaps in the evidenceʼ.

The report highlights the challenges of decision-making in this area and summarises the multiple issues that governments may consider when deciding whether to make cannabis or cannabinoids available for medical use. These include: the types of product that patients will be allowed to use; the medical conditions for which such products can be used; and the type of medical and regulatory supervision under which patients are allowed to use them.

EMCDDA Director Alexis Goosdeel says: ‘In most countries, the provision of cannabis and cannabinoid products and preparations for medical purposes has evolved over time, often in response to patient demand or product development. This report seeks to provide an objective look at current evidence, practice and experience in this very fast-moving field and describe the complex patchwork of approaches adopted in the EU and beyond. Lastly, it points to the importance of developing a common language on this issue to help build a base for evaluation and assessmentʼ.

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

We are all POSITIVE!

On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2018, the Greek Association of People Living with HIV Positive Voice and the Onassis Foundation organized a series of interpersonal activities “I am Positive” promoting human stories related to HIV/AIDS on 21 and 22 November 2018 at The Onassis Stegi Cultural Centre in Athens.

Children and adolescents had the opportunity to chat with representatives of the seropositive community on sexual health, but also about the challenges and prejudices they face and the stigma that accompanies these groups through their stories, hopes and fears, the reality that HIV-positive people in Greece face and the medical and social dimension of the disease. A serodifferent couple, a mother whose son lives with HIV and a gay claiming his right to prophylactic treatment PrEP shared with the public their thoughts and experiences.

The debate was co-ordinated by journalist Elena Akrita.

To view the original article, including video recordings of personal testimonies, follow this link>>>>

Regional cooperation for the development of civil societies and open dialogue

Drug Policy Network South East Europe organizes the conference Regional cooperation for the development of civil societies and open dialogue on Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 December 2018, in The  Palace of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia. The Conference is supported by the Central European Initiative, from their CEI Cooperation Activities programme and the Office of combating drugs of the Government of Serbia.

The first day of the Conference will be dedicated to the DPNSEE General Assembly. The member organisations will discuss operational and financial report for 2018 and plans for the next year, candidatures for new members and elect the Board. A strategic workshop will help establishing priorities, aims, objectives and activities to achieve them in the next three years.

The thematic RECODOD Conference will be also held in The Palace of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia, on the second working day. The aim of the conference is to bring together member organisations and other civil society organisations, policy makers and researchers active in the drugs field in South East Europe, in order to discuss drug policy developments and trends, exchange experiences and best practices in the region.

The agenda of the Conference will focus on drug policy developments and trends and exchanging experiences and best practices in the region on:

  • Drugs and immigrants
  • Legislation and procedures in cases of arrest and judiciary process for drug users
  • Accreditation of services by national health institutions

Participation of other peer organisations, governments, experts and keynote speakers from countries of South East Europe and wider is expected.

 

Sustainable Services for PLHIV and HIV Prevention Conference

The Union of Organizations of Persons Living with HIV/AIDS in Serbia (USOP) hosted the international conference on Sustainable Services for PLHIV and HIV Prevention in Belgrade on November 28, 2018. This one-day conference supported by UNDP Programme in Serbia gathered 110 relevant stakeholders from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Montenegro in an attempt to move the PLHIV service agenda forward through co-thinking and cross-sectorial experience exchange.

The Conference Sustainable Services for PLHIV and HIV Prevention contributed an important piece to the puzzle of PLHIV’s health, social, economic, and overall well-being in Serbia and the region by opening up a dialogue on the cost of services for PLHIV. Through active interactions between practitioners in key sectors, public officials, service providers and service users, the conference shed a new light on prevention of HIV infection and, specifically the role of PLHIV organizations in community resilience building.

Participants agreed that investments in development of standards and services, training of service providers, piloting and testing should be respected, recognized and more readily considered by the welfare systems through urgent development of formal standards that will lead to effective service mainstreaming and access to regular service funding. In the meantime, project funding remains an interim solution but one that clearly threatens sustainability and quality of services.

Several DPNSEE member organisations representatives participated in the Conference

The South East Europe pre-Conference Meeting held in Bucharest

With the support from the Open Society Foundations, the Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised the South East Europe Meeting on 20 November in Bucharest, Romania, prior to the 4th European Harm Reduction Conference. The event aimed to get together activists working on harm reduction services, exchange experiences and promising ideas for the future, meet with international partners and discuss future opportunities for collaboration. 36 representatives of harm reduction organisations and institutions from countries of the region and from various international organisations attended this meeting: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia.

Nebojša Đurasović, Vice-President of the DPNSEE Board opened the Meeting with welcome note and agenda review and announced first session Where is South East Europe now? Sofia Galinaki from Diogenis, the member of the IDPC Members’ Advisory Council, moderated this session. She presented the results of the Harm Reduction Survey. Dragoş Roşca, Romanian Harm Reduction Network, continued this session and spoke about current situation in Romania, Denis Dadajić, from Margina, explained situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Silvana Naumova from HOPS, presented current situation in Macedonia.

Facilitating the second session What do we actually do?, DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević, reminded on some dilemmas, including those of quality in the times of transition and integrated services for all vs. those specific for key sub-populations. Ivica Cekovski from HOPS spoke about the concept of quality in Macedonia. The session continued with Dr Vera Kerleta-Tuzović, Agency for Healthcare Quality and Accreditation in FBiH who presented accreditation of drop-in centres Bosnia and Herzegovina and session was closed with Tomaž Koren, from Alliance of NGOs for Drugs and Addictions, from Slovenia, who talked about quality of services in Slovenia, with special view on harm reduction in nightlife and festival settings.

The pre-conference meeting continued with third session that was moderated by Jelena Čolaković, from the DPNSEE member organisation Juventas, Montenegro. The speakers crossed over specific topic Where do we go from here? and was centred around opportunities for collaboration, including a regional program on sustainability supported by the Global Fund. Vladan Golubovic, from Chairman sent a presentation about the Regional Coordinating Mechanism. Tetyana Deshko, from Alliance for Public Health presented upcoming Global Fund supported regional project “Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia region”. Then, Mišo Pejković from Cazas spoke about experiences in cooperation in the region. The session was closed by Amarildo Fecanji, from ERA, who talked about potential cooperation between the networks and organisations.

At the last session What else we need to talk about? Ganna Dovbakh from Eurasian Harm Reduction Association emphasized potentials for advocacy in the process of EU Enlargement on national level.

Closing the Meeting, Nebojša Đurasović thanked all for contributing to the Meeting which he found successful. He noted a very friendly and open atmosphere and hoped that the experiences and ideas presented will be a good basis for future cooperation and partnerships.

Photos: Snežana Šundić – Vardić and Sanja Đurasović

Situation in Romania full of challenges

Delegation of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe with Nebojša Đurasović, Vice-President, Denis Dedajić, Secretary of the Board, and Milutin Milošević, Executive Director, visited Romania on 19 November 2018. It was one of the two remaining in the serial of visits aimed to present DPNSEE to the society, build strong relationships with the authorities, institutions and services and explore opportunities for partnerships.

The situation in the country is far from good with no harm reduction services available outside Bucharest, no support for MSM services and no HIV strategy and strategic plan (a proposed document is in the Ministry of Health for one year but not approved). Opioid Substitution Therapy funding is a nightmare (procedurally), therefore hospitals do not want to engage in that, and Harm Reduction is in a survival mode. State institutions and civil society organisations have different data on key populations, with number of drug users ranging from 9.000 to 19.000.

At the meeting with Sorin Oprea, Director of the Agency for Combating Drugs, in a friendly atmosphere created through recent contacts, we discussed about the potential to raise drug policy higher on political agenda during the Romanian presidency over EU starting in January. We were informed about forthcoming purchase of 900.000 syringes for harm reduction services, the data collecting system that operates well in Romania and will be offered to Turkey, a 3 Million Euro programme that is planned for civil society organisations and plans to develop a system of alternative sanctions. Our interest in protection of personal data of drug users was replied with assurance that the problem was solved and that anonymity is guaranteed. The optimistic situation presented by the Agency was questioned by our civil society colleagues during the next meetings.

Discussion with our colleague Dragoş Roşca, director of the Romanian Harm Reduction Network, presented a bit different and challenging situation in the country. Among others, Dragoş gave us a good insight in functioning of country coordinating mechanism after departure of Global Fund. RHRN mainly functions as a watchdog for state institutions. He informed us that out of 15.500 people living with HIV, 14.000 are on treatment.

Dan Popescu from our member organisation ARAS took us to two methadone centres where they serve almost 500 people. The most vulnerable 100 of them get the service for free, while other can choose to pay 3 Euro for a daily service or 120 Euro for monthly package. We instantly commented that the country should provide the services for free – otherwise people’s basic right for health is not respected! In the centre situated in a large hospital, 11 committed activists work from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM, supported by a doctor, nurse and social worker. This service operates for 12 years already.

We also had an opportunity to see one of two their outreach team and their van which cruises the streets of Bucharest and provides service on the spot.

The visit was really good opportunity to learn about a variety of issues related to drug policy in this complex and segmented country.

A tool presenting the situation in South East Europe

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe published the document  Addressing the acute funding crisis facing harm reduction services in South-East Europe with the aim to emphasize the acute funding crisis facing harm reduction services in Balkan states and South-East Europe, to influence the policies and actions of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria  and other donors. It is a complementary part of a larger body of work being done by a wide range of partners – including the Open Society Foundation and the International Drug Policy Consortium – to document the consequences of changes in donor eligibility policies, and to urgently try and influence donor policy away from a withdrawal from middle-income countries in South East Europe.

DPNSEE worked with their partners and members across the region to gather case studies of Opioid Substitution Therapy stock-outs or shortages, service closures or reductions in coverage, and other critical issues experienced by civil society partners in South East Europe related to transitions away from Global Fund support. Through interviews with key stakeholders and desk-based research, DPNSEE gathered information, experiences, feedback and recommendations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia.

The material was collected in November – December 2017. Since then, it was used only internally. The document was published and shared with the participants of the South East Europe pre-Conference meeting, held in November 2018 in Bucharest, Romania.

Click here to download the document >>>