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>>>>

#SoS_project launched

Alliance for Public Health, leading a regional consortium uniting Network of People living with HIV/AIDS 100% Life, Central-Asian PLH Association and Eurasian Key Populations Health Network (EKHN), manages the multi-country project ‘Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia region’, funded by the Global Fund in amount up to USD 13 million. The project will be implemented throughout 2019-2021 and aims to reduce the HIV epidemic in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia and South East Europe regions through accelerating progress on Fast-Track by 2020 and to ensure the sustainability of HIV services for key populations in 14 countries of the regions: Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

The project launch meeting was held on 26 March 2019 in Kyiv, Ukraine. It gathered all implementing partners, regional and global stakeholders, donors active in the region to discuss the program approaches and plans, get strategies advise and coordinate with other regional initiatives to maximize impact of investment.

At the project coordination meeting on 27 March all regional consortium members, project sub-recipients, implementing and technical partners in the region to discuss and coordinate the concrete plans and timelines for project activities among the implementers.

To achieve the expected savings, the project will develop strategies for optimizing the cost of ART regimens, which will lead to a decrease in the average cost of first-line ART. Advocacy activities will also be carried out aimed at reducing prices for ARVs and using savings to finance the needs of prevention and care services for the Key Groups and PLHIV. In addition, work to optimize clinical guidelines for ART, a list of drugs in accordance with WHO guidelines is planned, as well as advocacy to include countries in voluntary licensing and registration of generic manufacturers.

Andriy Klepikov, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Public Health, said that almost half of these funds ($ 5.6 million) will go to the advocacy of the reduction of prices for ARV drugs and optimization of procurement mechanisms.  Another quarter of the project budget ($ 3.2 million) is planned for budget advocacy. $ 1.6 million is provided for the removal of legal barriers, the same amount for project management. Another $ 1 million will go to operational research.

“The idea is not only to throw in some initiatives, but simultaneously with such interventions to launch operational research, which will help identify and prove their effectiveness,” explained Klepikov. – “It worked, in particular, in Ukraine. But we would not want other countries to take it on faith. In each country for advocacy, before the Ministry of Health will start funding, it is important to get a serious evidence base, which is collected through operational research”.

DPNSEE member organisations Cazas and Timok Youth Centre will be sub-recipients of the project in Montenegro and Serbia, while HOPS is involved in project implementation in North Macedonia.

The first national training held for organisations in Bosnia Herzegovina

Just after the Training for national consultancy teams, Grand hotel in Sarajevo hosted the Training for civil society organisations in Bosnia Herzegovina from 5 to 7 September 2018. This was the first of three national trainings for civil society organisations as part of the Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe project.

The training included general information and practical steps in the advocacy process: identifying the issue and causes of the problem, research and budget analysis, stakeholders and advocacy targets, influencing budgets at national and municipal levels, mapping budget information and documents, planning, taking actions, monitoring, anti-corruption, reviewing, evaluation and learning.

Participants came from organisations working in both entities of the country – The Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina and Republic of Srpska: Margina from Tuzla and Zenica, Viktorija from Banja Luka, Proi, Partnership for Health and Asocijacija XY from Sarajevo.

The training was delivered by Darko Antikj from ESE and Vlatko Dekov from HOPS who have developed the model and successfully implemented it in Macedonia.

The training resulted in producing a national plan of action to be implemented by the end of 2019. It includes creating a platform of NGOs for sustainability of harm reduction services, ensuring political support, creation of a budget line in the health budget of the entities of the country, establishing a social contracting mechanism and agreeing on criteria and standards for the services.