For one more year, the global campaign “Support. Don’t Punish” has been successfully implemented in Greece, with the valuable support of Drug Policy Network South East Europe, that effectively coordinated the implementation of the activities among the different countries in the SEE region, and International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) – responsible for the overall coordination of the campaign around the world.
This year in Greece, 7 different civil society organizations – that constitute the Greek NGO Platform for Psychoactive Substances*, an unofficial initiative for joint action among organizations working in the area of drug policy and psychoactive substances – joined forces and cooperated in order to effectively spread the message of the campaign, sensitize the public, raise awareness regarding the harms being caused by the criminalization of people who use drugs and promote the need for human rights and public health oriented drug policy and drug law reform.
These organizations co-organized a joint event, an open dialogue meeting entitled: “Support. Don’t Punish” – Discussing for matters that matter to us. The event took place on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, at 7 pm, at the Athens Municipal Cellular Market (42, Fokionos Negris str). The aim of the dialogue was to discuss regarding: current public health and drug policies applied in addressing the issue of psychoactive substances, the way users are being treated by the state and society, the issue of combating crime that accompanies drug use by law enforcement and finally the removal of unjustified social stereotypes at the expense of PWUD, the importance for the provision of substantial support, as well as the need for equal, meaningful and substantial participation of users community in procedures totally concerning them.
The open dialogue meeting started with the presentation of the SDP campaign, important issues on the current national drug policy and the priorities set out by the community of PWUD by Mr. Anastasiou Christos (representative of PeNUPS) who also coordinated the discussion. Mrs. Katerina Konidari, psychologist, social researcher and writer, talked about the representation of addiction treatment on art; Mr. Michalis Lolis, Police Lieutenant of the A’ (First) Police Department for Combating Racist Violence, communicated his experience on human rights’ issues and the protection of people with different identities and Mr. Yannis Kissas, representative of PeNUPS specifically referred to the Network’s proposals for supportive policies rather than the punishment of drug users.
This year the participation at the event exceeded our expectations. More than 80 people from different backgrounds (e.g. scientists, professionals working in the field of drugs, representative from the Ministry of Health, people from the community of PWUD, volunteers from different organizations, activists, representatives from residents’ initiative, people with no prior involvement from the general population, etc.) were present at our event, who actively participated in the discussion by sharing their reflections, raising questions and contributing from their point of view. At the end of the event, following an online vote among members of the Network a symbolic prize (an office compass) was awarded at the OKANA Substitution Unit which according to Peers’ view provides the most friendly and integrated services to PWUD.
The press release for the event was published by many different online media sites. Moreover, ERT – Greek public state television – expressed the interest to present our event. Mr Christos Anastasiou, Μr Thanos Papagianopoulos and Mr. Marios Atzemis – all representatives of the community of PWUD – were hosted by the journalist Mr. Arvanitis Kostas at his broadcast entitled “Different Dimension” and talked about the campaign, promoted the message that PWUD need support instead of punishment, underlined the need for active involvement of PWUD in the decision making processes and the need to address stigma and marginalization.
*The NGO Platform for psychoactive substances consists of the following organizations:
PeNUPS – Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances
CENTRE FOR LIFE for the support of people living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
DIOGENIS – Drug Policy Dialogue [IDPC partner member & DPNSEE partner member]
POSITIVE VOICE – Association of People living with HIV/AIDS [DPNSEE member]
PROMETHEUS – Hellenic Liver Patient Association [DPNSEE member]
PRAKSIS [IDPC network member]