DPNSEE Board discussed situation in the region

The meeting of the DPNSEE Board was held by Zoom on 13 April 2020. The meeting was scheduled to discuss the current situation related to outbreak of the coronavirus in South East Europe and plan future steps.

Based on the information collected at conference calls with member organisations, the Board concluded that it is time to make some conclusions and decisions about what we can do in the forthcoming period to help member organisations and ensure their sustainability after the current crisis caused by the coronavirus.

The Board also concluded that member organisations and the did a good job reacting in time, providing information to the communities, organising the work of our services in accordance with the situation and protecting our staff and, wherever possible, communicating with state officials and inviting them to protect vulnerable populations. Most of our users behave responsibly, even taking initiative and helping our organisations. The drug market is stable. The problems include lack of opportunity to start the treatment during the epidemic and lack of income to buy essential needs, bit also drugs. In most of the countries, we have problem to ensure enough protective material for our staff. In some countries, state institutions, especially drug agencies/offices, should provide more help to users for methadone distribution, protection of their rights, etc.

The Board decided to call an on-line conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe for Thursday 23 April. Besides our members and other civil society organisations from the region and wider, we shall invite to the conference national drug agencies and health institutions, international organisations partners and donors.

 

Consultations on reaction to the coronavirus outbreak

Last two days, the DPNSEE Board had on-line communications, including a few experts from inside the Network, on the threat of coronavirus outbreak in South East Europe following the first cases which appeared in neighbouring Italy. The first case of the virus were also reported in Croatia. Those participating shared information about situation in their countries.

The Board agreed that if the situation in our region escalates in our countries, we need to see if the health system is ready to respond in such a way that the services we provide to key affected populations are not jeopardized. There may be issues with accessing drop-in centres, protection of users and our staff working there, distribution of substitution therapy and access to it, etc. In addition, it may be good to take measures in the drop-in centres already now to advise the users about prevention measures because they may not be informed and be cut from regular information channels through media.

A Letter to member organisations inviting them to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak with brief instructions is being prepared and will be shared as soon as possible.

 

DPNSEE Board meeting

The Drug Policy Network in South East Europe Board held a regular board meeting in Skopje from 28 to 28 September 2019. All 7 Board members and Executive Director participated.

Significant part of the meeting was dedicated to developing DPNSEE strategic plan. Using the results of the Strategic workshop held in May, the Board worked on the text of a stagey document which will be shared with the member organisations for consultations, to be completed at the General Assembly.

The Board discussed activities held in between the two meetings and projects which are being implemented or planned for the future.

The tentative days for the annual General Assembly are 16 to 18 December 2019. The Assembly will be held in Belgrade.

The Board proposes that all member organisations should re-affirm their acceptance of the DPNSEE Mission and Vision and formally sign it.

The Board discussed and adopted the proposed DPNSEE Travel and Expense Policy and Website privacy policy.

The Board was informed about critical situations of harm reduction services in Bulgaria and Bosnia Herzegovina and discussed potential ways to help member organisations.

CND Wrap-up

The 62 Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs ended on Friday 22 March. It was a large event, with 2.400 participants, more than 130 Member States and representatives of over 90 civil society organisations and over 20 intergovernmental organisations. The CND 2019 was chaired by Ambassador Mirghani Abbaker Altayeb Bakhet of Sudan.

The meeting began with a ministerial segment on 14 and 15 March aimed at taking stock of the implementation of the commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem.

The regular segment, which lasted for the full working week, agreed on 8 resolutions on various topics including strengthening forensic detection capability for synthetic drugs, promoting alternative development and measures to prevent transmission of HIV for women who use drugs.

Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, underlined that “We need to enhance our efforts to bridge the gaps in addressing the persistent and emerging trends and challenges through the implementation of balanced, integrated, comprehensive, multidisciplinary and scientific evidence-based responses to the world drug problem.

The civil society was not so happy with the event. Even though it was clear and based on evidence that the target to “eliminate or significantly reduce” drug use and trafficking in 10 years is far from achieving, the declaration adopted at the ministerial segment doesn’t include a significant shift and genuine re-orientation of drug policies which is so much needed. The civil society strongly recommend ending punitive approaches towards vulnerable groups and individuals. Ann Fordham, the Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, speaking in the name of a global network of more than 180 NGOs including DPNSEE and several our member organisations, emphasized that “Ending punitive approaches towards those most vulnerable will require that global drug control going forward puts people and communities at the centre, and seeks to improve their living conditions, address their situations of vulnerability and protect their human rights, in line with the SDG vision of ‘leaving no one behind’.

Ann Fordham addressing the Ministerial segment of the 62 CND

The World Health Organisation proposal to reschedule cannabis from schedule IV (same class as heroin, with high abuse potential and no recognised medical value) to schedule I was not discussed with the explanation that it would “allow more time for Member States’ delegations to consider such a potentially radical decision”. But, it is clear that there is no consensus to adopt it and most probably it won’t be reached in a near future.

At the regular meeting, countries mainly glorify their results in fighting drug problem, and civil society organisations mainly appear only on side events so we started discussing if our presence there has a significant effect. As Péter Sárosi, Editor in Chief of the Drugreporter, well noted “Several member states still consider NGOs hostile forces who disturb the business-as-usual operation of the UN“. So, “Tons of expertise and knowledge is channelled to the sometimes rather dull conversations.

Two DPNSEE Board members, the Executive Director and a few representatives of member organisations participated in both segments the CND. It was a good opportunity to exchange with our partners, make new and build new contacts, present our work and learn about new developments. Most of the benefit was achieved at the side events and in informal contacts.

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The side events held on 21 March you may be interested to hear about:

Our recent news on 62 CND:

 

Regular DPNSEE Board meeting

The meeting of the Board of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe was held from 25 to 27 February 2019 in DPNSEE Office in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Board adopted minutes from the General Assembly held in December 2018 and Board meeting held by Skype recently this month. The DPNSEE Narrative and Financial report for 2018 were also adopted.

The Board discussed various elements of the DPNSEE Plan for 2019. An important decision is that the Strategic planning workshop will be held from 14 – 17 May. More details about the programme and venue will follow.

To increase visibility of our work and present our experiences and expertise, the Board decided to support participation of DPNSEE representatives in various international events: Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Harm Reduction International Conference and Lisbon Addictions 2019 Conference.

The Board also discussed contacts with member organisations, producing an operational manual, process and criteria for appointing DPNSEE representatives to various events, production of web pages for Glossary and Resource Centre, human rights and discrimination of people who use drugs, opportunities for engaging volunteers, overview of personal expertise, tools for on-line communication, problems with immigrants in Slovenia, accreditation and licencing of HIV prevention services, Regional EECA multi country grant and other issues.

Planning the year ahead

The DPNSEE Board held the first meeting in 2019 on 4 February by Skype. Most of the meeting was dedicated to finalising the DPNSEE operational plan and budget for the year.

The plan was structured under seven headlines:

  • Improving management capacity
  • Advocacy
  • Contacts with the member organizations
  • Human rights
  • Regular (recurring) activities
  • Resource Centre
  • Office and Staff issues

Work of the Network in this year will be supported by an institutional grant from the Open Society Foundations.

The Board also decided to hold an in situ meeting in Belgrade on 25 – 27 February. Following the work at the General Assembly, a strategic workshop to define priorities for the future is planned for 10 – 14 April in Montenegro.

DPNSEE working visit to Greece

Members of the DPNSEE board, Ana Lybenova and Vlatko Dekov visited Athens from 28 to 30 November 2018. Aim of the visit was to meet with major stakeholders in the field of drug policy and obtain information about the situation, problems and viewpoints of civil society and government actors. It was the final visit to the countries of the region in the process that started in July 2016.

Lybenova and Dekov visited DPNSEE member organizations from Greece Positive voiceDiogenis and Centre for Life. The host of this working visit were: Marios Atzemis, the DPNSEE board member and member of Positive voice and Nikos Stergiou from Diogenis.

During the three – day delegation visit, DPNSEE board members visited CheckPoint Athens, Kethea Needle exchange service, Red Umbrella Athens, National EMCDDA Focal Point, NGO STEPS, NGO Praksis and activists at the mobile unit for HIV & HCV rapid tests.

Based on the general information that were collected on this visit, the main problems were identified for the possible areas for advocacy of DPNSEE network.

To see the full report from this visit follow this link >>>

New DPNSEE Board elected at the General Assembly

The new DPNSEE Board was elected at the General Assembly, held on 10th December 2018, in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Chairman reminded the representatives of the member organisations that there is no clear procedure for this election in the Statute and proposed the following procedure:

  • Select three persons for the commission (persons who are neither nominated nor a member of organisations whose members are nominated)
  • Nominate candidates for the Board
  • Vote anonymously for seven Board members
  • Commission to count votes and declare the results

The proposed procedure was adopted by a unanimous decision.

Commission members that fulfill the criteria were selected:

  1. Olga Pateraki from Diogenis, Greece,
  2. Nataša Boškova from Coalition ‘Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities’, Macedonia and
  3. Marjana Krsmanović from Juventas Montenegro.

There were 9 candidates proposed for for the Board. Elected members of the DPNSEE Board are:

  1. Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation
  2. Denis Dedajić from Margina
  3. Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice
  4. Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent
  5. Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth
  6. Sanja Šišović from Cazas
  7. Vlatko Dekov from HOPS

The proposal to choose Vlatko Dekov as the President and Nebojša Đurasović as the Vice-President of the Board was adopted by a unanimous decision of all 16 member organisations representatives.

During the discussion about the elections, the proposals were made to change the Statute so that all functions other than president and vice-president become just „member“ and to extend the duration of the mandate of the Board members from two years to three. The Assembly at this meeting had 2/3 majority needed for the change of Statute. The proposed changes of the Statute were adopted by a unanimous decision.

Nebojša Đurasović proposed the new co-opting procedure – if somebody resigns from the Board during their mandate to be replaced with the first person below the line from the list of nominated but not elected persons if that person agrees. This proposal brought about a short discussion of possible issues in proposed case. On this proposed change of the Statute 14 member organisations representatives voted for and 2 against which was not sufficient majority for the Statute change, so it was not adopted.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe General Assembly 2018

With the support from the Central European Initiative (CEI) and funded through the European Union project, The Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised regular annual General Assembly on 10 December 2018 in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The participants at the Assembly were welcomed by Milan Pekić, Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. In their short opening speeches, Mr Pekić and the President of the Board of the Network Vlatko Dekov emphasized the importance of partnership in achieving the aim of effective drug policies.

The participants held voting rights from 16 out of 22 ordinary member organisations. That provided the Assembly with the right to make qualified decisions, even those related to the amendments to the Statute.

The Assembly was chaired by Anna Lyubenova, representative of the member organisation Initiative for Health Foundation from Bulgaria.

During the agenda point on membership issues, candidatures for membership from two organisations were discussed. The Assembly unanimously recognised as ordinary members Timok Youth Center from Zaječar, Serbia and Center for Human Policy from Sofia, Bulgaria. The Network now has 24 ordinary and 2 associate member organisations.

The General Assembly discussed the Operational and financial report for 2018 and elements for the Action plan and the Financial plan for 2019. The General Assembly welcomed the reports. They will be completed with the activities in December and then be adopted. The Assembly analysed the donor and funding trends and issues and concluded that, based on donor research, negotiation and exchange, no funding from EU for the Network can be expected for 2019 and some amounts can be obtained for year 2020, more project based. Funding plans and activities and possible issues that might be funded in 2019 include budget advocacy, the Network being the leader on the issue of quality of services in the region, redefining harm reduction and human rights element of the approach in work. The need for greater participation in relevant international events and DPNSEE taking role in organizing regional events were emphasized.

Nine candidates applied for elections to the DPNSEE Board. The new Board includes Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation, Denis Dedajić from Margina, Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice, Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent, Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth, Sanja Šišović from Cazas and Vlatko Dekov from HOPS.

The Assembly decided to keep at the current positions Vlatko Dekov as the President, and Nebojša Đurasović as Vice-President.

More information about the elections are available following this link >>>

An external consultant Jarmila Bujak Stanko facilitated the strategic workshop through which participants analysed achievement of aims and objectives of the strategic plan adopted in 2016 and indicated in which way and by which activities the priorities will be followed in the next two years.

The General Assembly ended in a positive and friendly atmosphere with an improved sense of belonging to the Network.

Regional cooperation for the development of civil societies and open dialogue

Drug Policy Network South East Europe organizes the conference Regional cooperation for the development of civil societies and open dialogue on Monday 10 and Tuesday 11 December 2018, in The  Palace of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia. The Conference is supported by the Central European Initiative, from their CEI Cooperation Activities programme and the Office of combating drugs of the Government of Serbia.

The first day of the Conference will be dedicated to the DPNSEE General Assembly. The member organisations will discuss operational and financial report for 2018 and plans for the next year, candidatures for new members and elect the Board. A strategic workshop will help establishing priorities, aims, objectives and activities to achieve them in the next three years.

The thematic RECODOD Conference will be also held in The Palace of Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia, on the second working day. The aim of the conference is to bring together member organisations and other civil society organisations, policy makers and researchers active in the drugs field in South East Europe, in order to discuss drug policy developments and trends, exchange experiences and best practices in the region.

The agenda of the Conference will focus on drug policy developments and trends and exchanging experiences and best practices in the region on:

  • Drugs and immigrants
  • Legislation and procedures in cases of arrest and judiciary process for drug users
  • Accreditation of services by national health institutions

Participation of other peer organisations, governments, experts and keynote speakers from countries of South East Europe and wider is expected.