Update on the 5th European Harm Reduction Conference

From the Correlation webpage

The unexpectedly prolonged uncertainty in the future of international events and meetings caused by COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down our preparations of the Conference as well. However, the epidemic also made the significant role of our work focus, harm reduction, even more strongly certain.

 The 5th European Harm Reduction Conference now aims to serve as the platform where all the vital exchange of our “pandemic” experiences takes place, as well. Currently, we are busy fine-tuning the Conference, with a couple of adjustments such as ensuring the necessary social distancing and enabling video streaming opportunities just in case.

We have almost finalised the Conference programme and speaker list.

“Objects or subjects? Youth in drug policy and harm reduction services”
“Migrant sex workers right to health, safety and protection”
“New Psychoactive Substances, Drug Injecting and Sex”
 and
“Sustainability and accessibility of OAT Programs in the Context of COVID-19 and Transition” are only a couple of the highlights from the Conference programme.

The complete list of sessions and their details are HERE

 If the Conference cannot take place on the envisaged dates, we plan to organise virtual conference sessions between 4 – 6 November and to postpone the face-to-face Conference to 2021.

Your registration is valid for the postponed event as well, but if you wish, your registration fee could be refunded too.

Please be aware that hotel and flight bookings can be refunded in almost all cases.

You can check out the Conference website for updates HERE or subscribe to our newsletter, so we send them to your inbox.

 

Conference “Social, mental and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic to the vulnerable populations in SEE”

Following the success of the Conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe, held on 23 April 2020, the Drug Policy Network South East Europe organises the Conference “Social, mental and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic to the vulnerable populations in SEE: Do we know them and how to recognise and respond to them?

During the coronavirus outbreak, DPNSEE and its member organisations were primarily engaged on providing support to key populations we usually serve, which is mainly related to harm reduction and treatment services, fighting stigma and discrimination, providing legal and social advices, etc. Besides these, we learned that they have a variety of additional needs and that the consequences of the situation will be wider.

One of the conclusions of the Conference we held was that it is necessary to observe social and economic impacts of coronavirus epidemic to key populations in South East Europe. That would help to better define the emerging needs of the populations and provide them with better services.

The aim of the Conference is to discuss the consequences of the coronavirus epidemic on key populations in South East Europe.

The Conference should contribute to defining the indicators for collecting data and producing regional Assessments of social, mental and economic impact of coronavirus epidemic to key populations in South East Europe. The indicators will be observed by the DPNSEE member organisations and published quarterly and annually.

The external inputs will be provided by

  • European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) on the initial results of the study on Impact of COVID-19 on people who use drugs and drug services in the Western Balkans
  • Roberto Perez Gayo, Project Officer at the Correlation – Harm Reduction Network, who will present results of the harm reduction response to the epidemic in Europe.

In addition, we expect inputs from the experts, authorities and civil society organisations from the region.

The Conference will be held via Zoom at the following link https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81356455423 on Thursday 16 July 2020 starting at 14:00 CET (15:00 EEST). The conference would last for a maximum of 90 minutes.

The Conference will be recorded in audio and visual format. The recording will be available at the DPNSEE website.

We sincerely hope that you shall join us, contribute to understand the situation in the region better and help define reliable indicators.

 

Webinars on the World Drug Report 2020

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) together with the UNODC Civil Society Team are holding a series of webinars to present and discuss the World Drug Report 2020. The series includes webinars in English, French, Russian and Spanish.

Each webinar includes a formal presentation of the World Drug Report 2020 by UNODC, a civil society presentation about how they work with the data of the World Drug Report, and an open question and answer session.

The webinars will be held in English on Monday, 27 July 2020, at 15:00 CET.

To register for the webinar follow this link>>>.

Seizing the moment

Excerpts from the UNAIDS Media release

A new report by UNAIDS shows remarkable, but highly unequal, progress, notably in expanding access to antiretroviral therapy. Because the achievements have not been shared equally within and between countries, the global HIV targets set for 2020 will not be reached. The report, Seizing the moment, warns that even the gains made could be lost and progress further stalled if we fail to act. It highlights just how urgent it is for countries to double down and act with greater urgency to reach the millions still left behind.

Fourteen countries have achieved the 90–90–90 HIV treatment targets (90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, of whom 90% are on antiretroviral treatment and of whom 90% are virally supressed.

Millions of lives and new infections have been saved by the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy. However, 690 000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses last year and 12.6 million of the 38 million people living with HIV were not accessing the life-saving treatment.

The world is far behind in preventing new HIV infections. Some 1.7 million people were newly infected with the virus, more than three times the global target. Around 62% of new HIV infections occurred among key populations and their sexual partners, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs and people in prison, despite them constituting a very small proportion of the general population.

Stigma and discrimination, together with other social inequalities and exclusion, are proving to be key barriers. Marginalized populations who fear judgement, violence or arrest struggle to access sexual and reproductive health services, especially those related to contraception and HIV prevention. Stigma against people living with HIV is still commonplace. At least 82 countries criminalize some form of HIV transmission, exposure or non-disclosure, sex work is criminalized in at least 103 countries and at least 108 countries criminalize the consumption or possession of drugs for personal use.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted the AIDS response and could disrupt it more. A six-month complete disruption in HIV treatment could cause more than 500 000 additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year (2020–2021), bringing the region back to 2008 AIDS mortality levels. Even a 20% disruption could cause an additional 110 000 deaths.

In 2019, funding for HIV fell by 7% from 2017, to US$ 18.6 billion. This setback means that funding is 30% short of the US$ 26.2 billion needed to effectively respond to HIV in 2020.

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

Regional Platform COVID Alert System

The Regional Platforms for Communication and Coordination are engaged in assisting the Global Fund to identify COVID-related risks, opportunities, disruptions, and innovations, specific to Global Fund-supported programs.

A systemized and regularized alert tool was developed for this purpose. Recognizing that in-country stakeholders already face many challenges and are overstretched at this time, the tool is designed to be as light as possible with the focus on critical-to-know information.

The key objectives of the monitoring approach are to:

  • Trigger certain actions by the Global Fund’s CRG Department, Global Fund Country Teams, other technical partners, etc. (depending on the issue);
  • Serve as an early warning system for the Global Fund to indicate things may be going off track so that stronger actions can be taken;
  • Identify innovative and successful community-led solutions in a timely manner, sharing these so that other countries may benefit from the ideas;
  • Allow the Global Fund to compare trends over time and across countries and regions;
  • Reduce the need for ad-hoc requests for information from the Global Fund; and
  • Provide communities with a formal communication channel to report the issues/innovations they are facing with HIV, TB and malaria programs amid the COVID pandemic

EECA Regional Platform has already received through this system an information from civil society representatives on a situation in a number of EECA countries and has provided the Global Fund with it.

If you are aware about any COVID-related issues which have impacted the work of the Global Fund supported HIV and TB programs in your country, please access the tool and report, following this link>>>.

 

Expanding the mandate of EMCDDA

The European Union has published a proposal for regulation, concerning an extended mandate of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The Agency was established in 1993 with the mission to provide the EU and its Member States with factual, objective, reliable and comparable information at European level on drugs and drug addiction and their consequences. The Commission undertook an evaluation of the Agency in 2018/19 which showed that EMCDDA is recognised as a hub of excellence in Europe and internationally. Although the evaluation showed that the functioning of the Agency in relation to the five evaluation criteria (coherence, relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, EU added-value) is positive, it also pointed out that further improvements would be beneficial in several areas.

The general objective of a revision of the EMCDDA Regulation would be to have an Agency, which is appropriately equipped to deal with the current and future challenges posed by drugs in the EU. The specific objectives of a potential proposal are to:

  • Increase the Agency’s capacity to react faster and in a more targeted way to new challenges in the field of drugs and addictions and related threats;
  • Deepen the monitoring and analysis of the drug phenomenon in Europe, both on the supply and demand side;
  • Better clarify the mandate of the Agency as regards what substances should be covered; and
  • Provide support to Member States in shaping and evaluating their drugs policies.

DG HOME launched an impact assessment analysis in the first quarter of 2020 to support the preparation of this initiative and to inform the Commission’s decision. The feedback period is from 4 June to 30 July 2020.

To give a feedback on this initiative, please follow this link>>>

 

Montenegro adopted the same-sex partnership bill

After the Parliament legalized same-sex civil partnerships on Wednesday 1 July 2020, Montenegro is the first country in the region that is not a member of the European Union to recognise gay and lesbian couples in law. It was a very narrow majority of 42 to 5 in the 81-seat chamber of MPs from the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, the Social Democrats, the Liberal Party and the opposition Social Democratic Party.

The new law recognizes same-sex couples as legal unions but does not give them the same rights as married couples. They are still not allowed to adopt or foster children, for example, which human rights organizations say restrict LGBT rights; same-sex couples are also not recognized as families.

LGBT activists praised the decision as a historic step for society. “From today we are one step closer to full freedom and full equality. As never before, we are close to life with dignity and from today we stopped living as second-class citizens,” the advocacy group Queer Montenegro said in a press release.

World Drug Report 2020

Around 269 million people used drugs worldwide in 2018, which is 30 per cent more than in 2009, while over 35 million people suffer from drug use disorders, according to the latest World Drug Report, released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Report also analyses the impact of COVID-19 on the drug markets, and while its effects are not yet fully known, border and other restrictions linked to the pandemic have already caused shortages of drugs on the street, leading to increased prices and reduced purity.

The Report provides a wealth of information and analysis to support the international community in implementing operational recommendations on a number of commitments made by Member States, including the recommendations contained in the outcome document of the special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem, held in 2016.

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

Support. Don’t Punish activities in 2020

Support. Don’t Punish is a global grassroots-centred initiative in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign seeks to put harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of affected communities and their allies, opening dialogue with policy makers, and raising awareness among the media and the public.

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Action 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The campaign 2020 shall have in South East Europe:

  • 9 countries
  • 16 cities
  • 14 organisations
  • 30+ activities
  • 33 accounts on social networks

Organisations around the region will organise raising awareness events, lectures and workshops, creating and promoting guidelines on human rights, banner and pictures campaigns, producing videos, photo exhibitions, disseminating promotional materials, meetings with the local authorities, press conferences, pub quizzes, showing movies, sharing sensitizing messages concerning COVID-19 on how to reduce stigma and other risky behaviours and much more.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic which is still hitting the region and the world, DPNSEE will not organise the traditional kick-off event in 2020.

Instead, this year DPNSEE organises a larger campaign, which will be part of our general efforts to ensure sustainability of services for people who use drugs in South East Europe – those that are under threat of being marginalised and side-lined as consequence of the coronavirus outbreak. The DPNSEE Board decided to hold a regional campaign using social media to spread messages around.

To find out what is planned in your city or country, follow this link>>>.

To see more about the campaign worldwide, follow this link>>>

Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 – May 2020

The Coalition prEUgovor, which consists of seven civil society organizations from Serbia with expertise in various policies under chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations, publishes a semi-annual independent report on the progress of Serbia in chapters 23 and 24. Today, they presented the Report on Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 – May 2020.

PrEUgovor’s monitoring of reforms in chapters 23 and 24 and certain political criteria of EU accession process indicates that, in most fields, the tendency of deterioration has continued during the period from October 2019 to April 2020. This was further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two months, especially after the state of emergency was declared on March 15.

In this prEUgovor Alarm report, special attention was given to the impact of the state of emergency – which President Vučić defined as “war against an invisible enemy” – on democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, rule of law, and security and justice in Serbia. Controversy was raised by the very declaration of the emergency state by circumventing the Parliament, without offering proper reasoning as to why it could not convene. Preparations for the elections were suspended, but public officials continued their promotional campaign in favour of the ruling party. Public procurement rules were marginalised due to the pressuring need to “save citizens’ lives”. There was serious concern about the constitutionality of the imposed restrictive measures; however, the Constitutional Court remained silent on these issues.

Free access to information of public importance and media freedoms were de facto suspended at one point, while personal data protection was put to the test. Restricted movement and slowed-down work of institutions affected especially vulnerable groups such as women and children, victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, migrants and others.

Even political commitment to European integration suffered, from the very beginning of the public health crisis, due to statements of top officials criticising alleged lack of EU solidarity while praising and pleading help from “brotherly” China. The state of emergency ended on 6 May by the decision of the National Assembly.

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