Emergency situation concerning the sustainability of harm reduction services in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania

The three regional networks: Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, Eurasian Harm reduction Network and Drug Policy Network South East Europe were informed by our members organisations about the situation with sustainability of  harm reduction services in Bosnia Herzegovina which is characterised by lack of strategy, policy and funding caused by the delay in establishing national Government for more than a year after the elections, withdrawal of international donors and misunderstandings and low level of cooperation between the governmental institutions and civil society, but also inside the civil society sector providing harm reduction services. The national Strategy for prevention and control of HIV and AIDS has ended (2016) and the Transition plan, developed by the Country Coordinating Mechanism during implementation of The Global Fund funded programme has not been implemented. As a result, the harm reduction services are closed in Sarajevo, Mostar, Bihać and Banja Luka and exist only in Zenica and Tuzla relaying on voluntary work of unpaid Staff and with all supplies already on minimum.

The three Networks expressed our deep concern about the situation and willingness to give contribution to finding solution and ensuring both quick response to the urgent needs and building a sustainable solution. We are ready to provide non-partisan support in identification and advocacy for the best possible approaches to urgently start provision of services to the populations of people who use drugs, sex workers and prisoners and other affected populations and to properly advocate for the sustainability of governmental funding.

The urgent action we are taking is to explore opportunities for emergency bridging funding to ensure survival of existing harm reduction services in the country. The situation is alarming and requires direct action and mobilisation of the international community. The three network have limited resources, so we are now contacting some of our partners and donors, explaining the situation and calling for immediate and urgent support. This could include short-term funding and technical support to ensure a minimum of harm reduction services. So far, we have a promise from the Open Society Foundations for a small grant which would cover basic need for the month of November.

We plan to develop and implement a comprehensive process to achieve sustainable long-term solutions. The activities for long-term solutions target local governments and policy-makers with the aim to ensure sustainable funding for harm reduction services. We already offered our expertise and support in this process, In addition, we would like to engage and involve other relevant stakeholders, such as donors and funders.

As the first concrete long term action we decide to send an appeal to the Global Fund to review their eligibility model of supporting middle income countries, besides Bosnia Herzegovina also Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.

In advance of the upcoming 42nd meeting of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) as well as the Global Fund Regional Meeting for Eastern Europe and Central Asia to take place in Istanbul on 26-27 November, 2019, we – civil society and community organisations and networks working in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region for the benefit of key affected populations, including people who use drugs – would like to express our profound concern as to the current lack of sustainable harm reduction services in the South East European countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania, respectively. Taking into consideration the successful results of the recent Sixth Replenishment Conference, we would like to invite the Global Fund to safeguard a part of the catalytic investment funds available for the 2020-2022, including multi-country grants, matching funds and strategic initiatives, in order to sustain life-saving services for people who inject drugs and other vulnerable groups and to incentivise domestic investment in harm reduction in each of these post-transition countries.

41 civil society organisations from Easter Europe and Central Asia supported the letter. We hope that the Global Fund shall understand the situation and support our proposal.

The letter to the Global Fund is available following this link>>>

 

Results of the budget advocacy presented

A workshop on Budget advocacy and monitoring in South East Europe was held in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina from 23 to 25 September 2019. Aim of the workshop was to present and discuss the results of the budget analysis implemented by mr sci Faruk Hadžić dipl ecc with support of the Association Margina team, the coordinating organisation of the regional project Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe for the country.

Even though the organisers made a huge effort to invite representatives of various institutions, not many of them participated in the workshop. But, the quality of presentation and facilitation provoked a very fruitful discussion and motivating atmosphere.

The conclusions of the workshop are summarised in one sentence: There is enough money in the system, but planning, analysis and strategic thinking are weak and they hit back as a boomerang.

The contacts established and agreements made are optimistic with hope that in the forthcoming period an open process of designing the system of social contracting of civil society services in Bosnia Herzegovina.

The Analysis of the budgets in Bosnia and Herzegovina is available following this link>>>

 

Alarming situation in Bosnia Herzegovina

With delay in establishing political structures in the country and reduced international donor support, the situation with harm reduction services in Bosnia Herzegovina became alarming. Here is what we heard from Denis Dedajić, Chairman of the Association Margina and DPNSEE Board member:

The current situation is as follows: the Margin Association is the only survivor with the services and we provide them now and on a larger scale because no other service provided by other NGOs is active, so all clients have turned to us. We are taking over users and equipment from Sarajevo and we shall organise distribution with support of few gatekeepers who used to work for us recently.

I estimate that we will endure until the end of October and after that we shall have no more materials for distribution. The salaries of our staff need not be talked about, as of May we are all volunteers and the funds we had are already spent on transportation and rents of the space we use.

The situation is further complicated by a few things. What concerns us most are the indolence of the authorities and the large waves of migrants coming to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Yesterday, I was in contact with asylum officers and they informed me that about 1.000 immigrants a day enter northern Bosnia and in different ways move west to the border with Croatia and the EU respectively. They aim at Western Europe, but their psycho-physical condition is very poor. There is an increasing number of fatalities, both as a result of illness (quite a large number of TB and Hepatitis C), which is due to conflicts between groups from different countries (Afghanistan Pakistan, Algeria Morocco, Syria, Bangladesh). These conflicts generally end with very serious injuries by knives or other cold weapons. We have had about 100 contacts so far and have been using sterile injection supplies. According to asylum officers, many drug users have been around for several years.

NO one is doing anything on this issue, and we are simply waiting for when a major incident will occur so that everything will surface.

We sincerely hope that a solution will be found soon to revitalize the harm reduction services and ensure health support needed.

Advocacy for a cantonal institution for drug diseases

For this year Association Margina once again organised street action disseminating promotional materials, meeting people and spreading information about the campaign and work of the association.

By sharing an educational brochure (What to do when someone overdoes you, etc.) to several locations in the city by volunteers, Margina wanted to raise people’s awareness of a problem that doesn’t affect only individuals, but whole community. Passers-by had the opportunity to get acquainted with the organization’s work and campaign goals, and also to take pictures with campaign Logo in order to support those who need it the most. Organisers are very pleased with the community response to the messages that the campaign provides, as more and more people are aware that changes must be introduced to the entire system.

A special feature this year is the public debateDo We Need The Office of Addiction Diseases” with 40 representatives from institutions and civil society present, as well as active users of “suboxone” therapy and active users of harm reduction services provided by our organization.

The opposite views are expressed about how to fund a part of the health system, and insufficient systemic support for people using drugs. Also, for the first time data from the regional project “Budget advocacy and monitoring” were presented and representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Health Insurance Fund had mild panic outbursts, with the information provided and recommendations.

The conclusion of all the attendees is that this Department of Addiction Diseases, as urgently needed, will be one of our goals in the advocacy campaign that will follow in early September.

A conference on addiction prevention

Challenges and perspectives in the field of addiction prevention – the first expert conference about contemporary approaches and models of work with children and youth in Bosnia Herzegovina was held on 26 and 27 of June 2019 in Sarajevo. Association for addiction prevention NARKO-NE within the RIPPO network organised the conference with the support of the Ministry of civil affairs, Ministry of human rights and refugees and Ministry of security.

The conference aimed to focus on the importance of an inter-sectorial approach, to sensitize the general public to problems of addictive and risky behaviours and to contribute to the professionalization and multidisciplinary development of the respective field in Bosnia Herzegovina.

The main conclusion of the Conference is that a joint work, as the society, is needed to create a safe environment, but that there are too much organisations and institutions that work on the issues of prevention and that they are not equally distributed.

Besides plenary inputs and discussions, 18 workshops were offered to participants. Among them, the DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević run one on Models of addiction prevention on environmental (structural) level. During the workshop, DPNSEE and its member organisations activities on strategies and action plans development and improving legislation on drug policy in countries of South East Europe were presented.

More information about the Conference are available on the website konferencija.prevencija.ba – including all the presentations which will be posted by the end of July.

Milutin with Aleksandra and Milena from “Čovekoljublje”

Hotspots of organized crime in the Western Balkans

A new report by Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime has identified locations in these countries that are hotspots for organised crime.

Rather than focusing on illicit markets, flows of commodities or particular criminal groups, this report looks at places of interest: hotspots of organized crime in the Western Balkans. It looks at the characteristics of these hotspots, then provides a granular analysis of particular border crossings, intersections or regions of vulnerability. What makes these places particularly vulnerable? Why are they attractive to criminals? After discussing these questions, the report connects the dots between these locations to identify possible links and patterns that tell us more about the geography of crime in the region.

Regional illicit flows

To contextualize these organized-crime hotspots, the report provides an overview of the current situation in the Western Balkans, as well as some general information on the main illicit flows. It then looks at hotspots close to border or (internal) boundary crossings.

The other main section of the report focuses on major intersections of organized crime in the Western Balkans – mostly bigger cities (particularly capitals), coastal towns and places where major highways intersect. Maps are provided to show the hotspots as well as key traffic arteries. Amid these assessments, the report takes a deeper dive into vulnerable locations, such as Sarajevo, three ports along the Montenegrin coast, northern Kosovo as well as the triangular region where North Macedonia meets south Serbia and Kosovo.

One key observation of this report, which is important to highlight upfront, is that illicit flows through ports, cities and border crossings in the Western Balkans are enabled by a political economy of crime that is deeply entrenched in most countries of the region. The report therefore takes a look at the ecosystem of crime that creates an environment in which illicit activity can flourish. It concludes with a prognosis of potential future hotspots of crime.

The report is available in EnglishAlbanianBosnian and Macedonian

New accreditation for Margina

The Board of the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Accreditation in the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina (AKAZ), at the meeting held on 29 April 2019, accredited the drop-in centres of the Association Margina in Tuzla and Zenica.

AKAZ performs a variety of services including standards for healthcare institutions, indicators for healthcare institutions, certification, accreditation, facilitation, clinical guidelines, education for healthcare professionals and support healthcare institutions in clinical revision. With Margina, they implemented a project Quality improvement for drop-in centres on back in 2014 whose objectives were:

  • Development of tailor-made training
  • Development of specialized standards
  • Development of risk-based indicators
  • Facilitation during accreditation preparation
  • External assessment of the centres
  • Granting accreditation status for 3 drop-in centres – in Tuzla, Zenica and Mostar

Margina benefited from the project gaining accreditation for the three drop-in centres in 2015 and became the first civil society organisation in South East Europe. The accreditation includes 13 standards and 89 criteria and 15 politics and procedures.

External assessment in the Association Margina

This accreditation status for NGO Margina expired on 23 November 2018 and they passed through the process of re-accreditation which was successfully completed. Margina is now accredited, now for the period of 4 years.

Congratulations!

Conference: Challenges and perspectives in the field of addiction prevention

Association for addiction prevention NARKO-NE, within the RIPPO network and in cooperation with the Ministry of civil affairs BiH, Ministry of human rights and refugees BiH and Ministry of security BiH, organises the first expert conference in the field of addiction prevention on 26 and 27 June 2019 in Sarajevo.

The conference wants to focus on the importance of an inter-sectoral approach, to sensitize the general public to problems of addictive and risky behaviours and to contribute to the professionalization and multidisciplinary development of the respective field in Bosnia Herzegovina.

Participants of the conference will have the opportunity to learn about different approaches of addiction prevention in Europe, to exchange good practices, and to learn about mechanisms which ensure the efficiency and quality of interventions themselves.

All information about this event including the process of participant’s registration is available on the website konferencija.prevencija.ba

Registration deadline is 31 May 2019.

Youth Studies South East Europe

The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) published reports on the experiences and aspirations of youth in Southeast Europe. The FES carried out a representative region-wide survey on a sample of more than 10.000 young people aged 14 – 29 from ten countries in Southeast Europe in early 2018.

“FES Youth Studies Southeast Europe 2018/2019” is an international youth research project carried out simultaneously in ten countries in Southeast Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The main objective of the surveys has been to identify, describe and analyse attitudes of young people and patterns of behaviour in contemporary society.

A broad range of issues were addressed, including young peoples’ experiences and aspirations in different realms of life, such as education, employment, political participation, family relationships, leisure and use of information and communications technology, but also their values, attitudes and beliefs.

Findings are presented in ten national and one regional study and its accompanying policy papers, which have been published in both English and the respective national languages.

The most important results are grouped under headlines:

  • A wish to belong to Europe
  • Migration and mobility do not have to be zero-sum
  • Fighting corruption as a crime, not as a concept
  • Employment discourse shifting towards the quality of work
  • A different kind of ‘political’…
  • …which has to do with ‘the social’
  • Give youth a say in Europeanisation

To download the regional study and its accompanying policy papers following this link>>>

You can read the national studies at this webpage.

A moderate improvement in on the international drug trade in South East Europe

The 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) is an annual report by the Department of State to Congress prepared in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act. It describes the efforts of key countries to attack all aspects of the international drug trade in Calendar Year 2018.

Volume I covers drug and chemical control activities. Volume II covers money laundering and financial crimes.

For the third year in row, the report classifies four countries of South East Europe as “major money laundering countries” – those whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking.

The report notes improvement, but these countries remained on this non-popular list. Here are the resumes of the situation.

The Government of Albania made no significant progress toward thwarting money laundering and financial crimes in 2018. Albania remains vulnerable to money laundering due to corruption, growing organized crime networks, and weak legal and government institutions. The country has a large cash economy and informal sector, with significant money inflows from abroad in the form of remittances. Major proceeds-generating crimes in Albania include drug trafficking, tax evasion, and smuggling. Other significant predicates include counterfeiting, arms smuggling, and human trafficking. Smuggling is facilitated by weak border controls and customs enforcement. Albania serves as a base of operations for organized crime organizations operating in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and South America. Recent justice reforms, vetting of judges and prosecutors for corruption and ties to organized crime, and the creation of a police task force targeting organized crime activities have created a positive trajectory for Albania to address money laundering and financial crimes. These efforts, however, are still challenged by pervasive corruption.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has a primarily cash-based economy and is not an international or regional financial center. BiH is in the middle of the Balkans and has open borders with Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro. A Visa Liberalization Agreement with the EU enables easy transit from Eastern Europe and the Balkans region to countries in Western Europe. BiH is a market and transit point for smuggled commodities, including cigarettes, firearms, counterfeit goods, lumber, and fuel oil.

BiH recently has made substantial progress, not only strengthening its AML regime, but harmonizing its laws across its numerous legal systems, including laws related to money laundering and asset forfeiture. BiH has a complex legal and regulatory framework with criminal codes and financial sector laws at the state and entity levels (Federation of BiH (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS)), and in the Brčko District (BD).

BiH completed its National Risk Assessment of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in the Period 2018-2022 (NRA) in September 2018, which identifies notaries and real estate agencies as the highest-risk sectors.

In 2018, Serbia made a high-level political commitment to address noted deficiencies and has subsequently made significant progress in bringing its AML regime in line with international standards, resulting in an increased number of related investigations and convictions. With assistance from donors, Serbia updated its national risk assessment (NRA) to better identify current threats or crimes associated with money laundering and methods used to launder money and finance terrorism.

Turkey is an important regional financial center, particularly for Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Turkey’s rapid economic growth over the past 15 years combined with its commercial relationships and geographical proximity to areas experiencing political turbulence, such as Iraq, Syria, and Crimea, make Turkey vulnerable to money laundering risks. It continues to be a major transit route for Southwest Asian opiates moving to Europe. In addition to narcotics trafficking, other significant sources of laundered funds include smuggling, invoice fraud, tax evasion, and to a lesser extent, counterfeit goods, forgery, highway robbery, and kidnapping. Recent conflicts on the southern border of Turkey have, to a small extent, increased the risks for additional sources of money laundering. In 2018, Turkey implemented new regulations on the registration and supervision of foreign exchange houses, passed a tax amnesty law, and the government underwent a restructuring, resulting in new ministries.

To read the 2019 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report follow this link>>>>