Governments – NGO dialogue

In scope of the project Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South Eastern Europe, Diogenis – Drug Policy Dialogue, in co-operation with the Drug policy Network in SEE (DPNSEE) and the Office for Combating Drugs of Serbia, organised a meeting between representatives from the countries in the region of South East Europe and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The meeting was held on 10 May in Belgrade, at the representative governmental building Klub poslanika.

The aim of the meeting was to bring together representatives responsible for the coordination of drug policy in the countries of South East Europe and representatives from NGOs working in the field of drugs to discuss about the cooperation between authorities and NGOs at the national level. The meeting was an opportunity to exchange information and experiences of good practices and to reflect on possibilities of future cooperation on the national and regional level. Exchange of information, experiences and good practices leads to ideas of setting up co-operation structures, which can be profitable for both national authorities and NGOs.

At the first part of the meeting, participants discussed the current situation of cooperation, existing models and conditions that need to be fulfilled for good cooperation. The second part of the programme focused on areas of cooperation between National Authorities and NGOs in the field of drugs related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the recommendations of the UNGASS 2016.

The meeting showed that the relation between governmental and civil society sectors in the area of drug policy is improving. Ideas produced can bring better cooperation for a mutual benefit and, first of all, for the benefit of key affected populations and the societies as whole.

Cooperation with Portugal – the leading country in drug policy

During several events which happened in October, DPNSEE have deepened existing and established new relations with Portugal.

APDES outreach team in action

Our staff member Irena Molnar had an unofficial visit to APDES (Agência Piaget para o Desenvolvimento), a non-governmental which promotes integrated development in their headquarters in Vila de nova Gaia, near Porto. APDES main goal is to intervene with vulnerable communities and people, in order to improve their access to healthcare services, employment and education, working for the empowerment of institutions and individuals, as well as for the reinforcement of social cohesion. They developed several activities in this municipality and cities like Porto, Barcelos, Guarda, Viseu, Setúbal and Lisbon. The services they deliver are related to health, harm reduction and human rights, among others. Irena had a special opportunity to spend a day with the outreach team of GIRUGaia project, inter-disciplinary outreach team that works with drug users. Guided by principles related to harm reduction, it promotes the use of aseptic material and the adoption of lower risk use practices. It also provides services that promote citizenship, health and social inclusion. During several days, with good help of Joana Francisca Canedo, Advocacy and Policy officer in APDES, Irena got introduced to the Portuguese policies and functioning of the system itself, but most important also situation on the ground.

As a part of the TWIST project at Lisbon Addiction 2017 conference, several days later, member organisations representatives and Staff members had an opportunity to meet with various officials and activists from Portugal and learn about their policy and activities. We got an opportunity to informally meet with executive director of APDES, Jose Queiros, with whom we discussed future cooperation of APDES and DPNSEE. We presenting the DPNSEE work and discussed various issues and potential future cooperation. That included support which APDES could offer to DPNSEE member organisations through study visits, know-how exchange and other activities. Lisbon Addictions 2017 and the TWIST project haven’t served only as a great opportunity for learning from academia, but also to reconnect with old and make new connections with wider European specialist in areas related to substance use.

Irena and Milutin with Jose Queiros, executive director of APDES

Just after returning to Serbia, DPNSEE staff members had a meeting with the Ambassador of Portugal His Excellency Augusto Saravia Peixoto and the Deputy Head of Mission Ms Graça Vosta Macedo. The meeting was scheduled on the DPNSEE initiative for cooperation.

We had an interesting exchange about the Portuguese drug policy, which is usually seen as one of the most effective in the European Union, agreeing easily that a comprehensive approach involving all stakeholders is necessary for obtaining good results. DPNSEE representatives presented their recent cooperation with their peers in Portugal, especially APDES. The Ambassador and his colleagues offered support in ensuring a wide array of contacts for the visit to Portugal, where a delegation consisting of governmental and NGO representatives from Serbia would have the opportunity to get a full insight into the policy and field activities. Following that visit and on the basis of the priorities established by the new Action Plan Against drugs in Serbia 2018 – 2020, the Embassy will assist with finding most suitable experts that would come to Serbia and bring their experiences to local stakeholders.

His Excellency is also interested to extend cooperation to other countries of the region where he represents Portugal: Bosnia Herzegovina, FYRO Macedonia and Montenegro.