Special issue on the state of harm reduction in Europe

In collaboration with Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), the Harm Reduction Journal is planning a special thematic series on the state of harm reduction in Europe, to be launched at the 5th European Harm Reduction Conference in Prague, 4-6 November 2020.

Partners are seeking submission especially of articles reporting on contemporary research findings, but also commentaries on aspects of harm reduction policy and programming – anywhere regionally or locally in broader Europe, and on any issue to which the harm reduction approach is relevant.

Please see the Call for Papers in this link: https://www.biomedcentral.com/collections/HR-Europe2020 and please pass this Call on to your colleagues and networks who may be interested in submitting an article for consideration for publication.

Regional workshop on gathering data on human rights violations

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) will conduct a 2-day regional workshop for activists and professionals from South East Europe countries “Gathering data on human rights violations and reaction mechanisms” on 18-19 March 2020, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The workshop is conducted as part of the three-year multi-country project “Sustainability of Services for Key Populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” (#SoS project).

Goal of the workshop is to equip activists and professionals in South East Europe countries with knowledge on principles and mechanisms of data collection on human rights violations against key populations and follow-up reaction.

Objectives

  • To discuss the most common human rights violations and gender barriers to access HIV prevention and care services.
  • To examine methodologies of data collection on human rights violations (cases).
  • To provide in-depth information on UN treaty bodies and processes of shadow reports submissions.
  • To understand the follow-up system for its systematic and effective use.

Facilitators of the workshop – Mikhail Golichenko, International Legal Consultant, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, and Maria Plotko, Program Officer, Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA).

The workshop will gather over 25 activists and professionals from NGOs, human rights and community organizations from 5 South East Europe countries – implementors of the SoS project – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, The Republic of North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia) who are either engaged into the human rights protection work or eager to start working over cases on human rights violations and follow-up reaction on them.

Harm Reduction @Work

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network announced that the Fifth European Harm Reduction Conference will be held from 4 to 6 November 2020 in Prague, Czechia.

The Conference Motto is

Harm Reduction @Work

innovation, community & political leadership

The Conference will be organised by the Correlation European Harm Reduction Network in close cooperation with the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Czech organization Sananim. DPNSEE supports and endorses the Conference.

The 5th European Harm Reduction Conference targets professionals from the community working in the broader area of harm reduction, policy-makers and politicians, researchers, and media representatives. Registrations are already open.

The conference will present the latest harm reduction developments and good innovative practices. It will discuss drug policy and its implications on people who use drugs and other groups, including not only sex workers but also people living with HIV.

The meeting intends to broaden the view on harm reduction while addressing related issues such as social inclusion and homelessness. Finally, the conference provides an appropriate platform to create links and synergies between national and European stakeholders.

The conference programme is currently under development. The European Network of People Who Use Drugs, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, the European Monitoring Centre Drugs and Drug Addiction and other vital stakeholders from Europe are joining us in this effort.

Follow all developments about the Conference following this link>>>

Chase the virus – Call for national partners

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is looking for national partners (country consortia, NGOs, community organizations and initiative groups) to develop and implement 4 national campaigns under the branding of “Chase the virus, not people!” in countries of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region.

Aim of the campaign is to strengthen the voice and influence of national activists at the national level in articulating their advocacy priorities and drawing the attention of target audiences to the problems of key populations in relation to the catastrophic HIV/AIDS epidemic in the EECA region, in particular the impact of stigma, discrimination and criminalization on effective response measures to HIV/AIDS epidemic and mortality reduction.

EHRA is issuing 4 grants to the winners in the open competition (NGO, community organization or initiative groups, which are officially registered or have financial agents).

To get full information on this call, follow this link>>>

Terms of reference for technical consultant to support field data collection on NPS in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Serbia

EHRAIn the framework of project “New Psychoactive Substance Use in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and SerbiaEurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is seeking to engage technical consultants, one consultant per country, for conducting research on new psychoactive substances (hereinafter – NPS) use in the four countries. This research project is a collaboration between EHRA and the the School of Law, Swansea University, UK.

The assessment is aimed to analyze existing evidence and documents to overview the

  1. existing statistics/data on NPS use from various sources,
  2. researches of patterns of use and procurement of NPS (via clubs, darknet, etc),
  3. existing algorithms of ambulance and police actions, and
  4. availability of harm reduction services for NPS users, and how existing services needs to adapt to meet the needs created by NPS in four countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Serbia. This research will be conducted using the same methodology as one, done already in Moldova and Belarus.

The potential candidates should:

  • collect national data sources (such as website links, documents (in word, pdf formats), presentations and other materials) on NPS (documents and research data on drug use, behavior and harm reduction services, existing laws on health and drug policy). If documents are in national language – to make summary of the document with main quotes and translate it into English or Russian;
    to organize the field data collection:
  • recruit respondents from community of people who use drugs for focus-groups;
  • arrange interviews with officials from law enforcement and health services, harm reduction services (list of needed interviewees will be agreed with EHRA);
  • according the collected national sources on NPS use, together with EHRA staff member to adjust questionnaire for interviews/ focus groups;
  • organize logistics for the interviews/ focus-groups (place, time, coffee breaks for focus-group participants);
  • make notes during interviews and focus-groups;
  • make transcripts of the focus group discussion and interviews (in Russian or English);
  • help EHRA staff member to validate data of the report prepared by EHRA with respondents.

Soft copies of all collected data and minutes of interviews should be shared with EHRA via DropBox or GoogleDrive. In case of using quotes from individuals, the consultant must have a signed informed consent from each interviewee.

The candidates are invited to submit their CV and letter of interest with suggested respondents list, and state the daily rate in EUR (should be provided in EHRA’s template) by e-mail referenced under title “Technical Consultant” to Eliza Kurcevic at eliza@harmreductioneurasia.org by 5th January 2020, 24:00 EET. Results will be announced by January 10th, 2020. Each candidate will be contacted individually.

For more information about the Association and specifics of the work follow this link.

 

New case study on HIV prevention in Albania

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) just published the case study “The Challenges of Global Fund Transition in Albania: HIV Prevention Services for Key Populations on the Brink of Collapse” which looks at the challenges which could be faced by country in sustaining HIV prevention programmes among KAPs, implemented primarily by civil society organisations (CSO’s), as a result of the withdrawal of the Global Fund through the transition period.

The purpose of this report is to identify gaps and challenges faced by CSO’s in the transition from Global Fund assistance to government support of services for key populations (KP) under the 2017-2019 grant. Whilst the funding commitment by government institutions is to absorb all costs, the methodology to prepare for this transition, and also the strategy to transfer costs, is unclear.

We hope that the information and arguments presented in this case study as well as the recommendations could be used by the civil society and communities representatives to support their sustainability and transition related advocacy activities as well as to establish the communication with other potential donors to persuade them to establish a ‘safety net‘ through which bridging funds can be made available to address the sustainability related challenges faced by KPs services in country.

HIV Prevention Services for Key Populations on the Brink of Collapse

This case study is available at EHRA’s webpage following this link>>>

 

Our initiative presented at the Global Fund Board meeting

The Developing Country NGO Delegation at the Global Fund published a statement with the 42nd Board Meeting highlights, including 8 important matters they pushed for at the meeting, with ways that civil society can move them forward. The statement is available following this link>>>

The initiative of the three regional networks: Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, Eurasian Harm reduction Network and Drug Policy Network South East Europe to respond to the critical situation concerning the sustainability of harm reduction services in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania was among the issues that the Delegation raised at the Global Fund Board meeting. It is mentioned in the point 4 of the statement:

Addressing civil society concerns: The Developing Country NGO brought to the Board and bilateral meetings concerns raised by civil society organisations including those by nearly 100 NGOs about the ending of multi-country grants in West Africa; cases of the failed transitions and interruption of services for key populations, including the lack of funding for harm reduction programs in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Romania and Bulgaria; and exploring next steps to ensure access to health services, treatment and care in Venezuela.

We hope that the Global Fund will make some concrete steps in helping us find a quick response to the urgent needs and building a sustainable solution in these countries.

 

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 Eastern 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>>>

 

Transition from Global Fund support to national funding: role, opportunities and priorities for civil society in Albania

Source:

The workshop “Transition from Global Fund support of HIV and TB programs to national funding: role, opportunities and priorities for civil society in Albania” took place in Tirana, the capital city of Albania, on 23 – 24 of October and gathered 29 participants including civil society representatives, CCM members, representatives of the Global Fund CRG Team and CCM Hub (online), experts from neighbouring countries and representatives of the governmental structures.

Albanian HIV and TB components became ineligible for regular funding after the 2014–2016 allocations were announced and therefore Albania became eligible to receive transition funding. It will receive a three-year transition grant within the 2017-2019 allocation period. This transition grant is expected to start in January 2020 and will be a significantly lower level of investment—about one third the value of current Global Fund grants. The implementation of the current Global Fund HIV and TB grant is ending in December 2019.

According to the estimated annual needs to sustain HIV and TB responses prior to submitting the transition grant request, Albania’s needs approximately US $3 million to address its two epidemics effectively. Hence US $9 million is required over 2020-2022, the three-year period of the transition grant. With an allocation of just under US $6 million within the current HIV and TB grants, roughly 60% of the funding need is currently being met. Without significant increases in domestic funding, the funding gap is expected to grow in the coming years. Moreover, the services for key affected populations (KAPs) are largely implemented by civil society. Their scale, quality and delivery models are to be improved under the new transition grant. So far, these services have not been funded from domestic resources, though there is an office for civil society and general funding for civil society groups in the country. The national strategies on HIV and TB are expiring in 2019. The Global Fund, under its pilot ‘CCM Evolution Project,’ supports Albania’s HIV and TB governance reforms although with no clear outcome so far.

Community and civil society advocacy is critical at this conjunction of processes to ensure sustainability of the response. But at the same time the transition Funding Request 2020- 2022 poses a direct challenge to the services provided by NGOs being sub-recipients of the Global Fund grant. It is expected that starting from 2020 the number of NGOs supported by Global Fund will become twice lower, decreasing from 12 to 5. It is not clear what happens with the activities implemented by those 7 NGOs left behind and which exactly NGOs this will be.

Taking this context into account, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) in coordination with the Global Fund Secretariat, decided to organize a workshop for civil society and community representatives in Albania. The workshop aimed to help improve the understanding of local civil society representatives involved in the country’s HIV and TB responses, of the Global Fund transition-related processes currently taking place in country and also to stimulate ideas, plans and opportunities for their meaningful engagement into such processes to ensure the sustainability of HIV and TB response among key affected populations in Albania.

The participants first heard the information about the steps being taken by the government to prepare for transition of HIV/TB prevention interventions from the Global Fund’s support and also about the transition-related risks for HIV response and civil society services. Representatives of the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health updated the participants on the work being done to secure funding and social contracting from national and local authorities including on the public budget cycles, possibilities to advocate and influence the budget at central and local level. Guest activists from North Macedonia and Montenegro shared their lessons learnt from the transition experiences of their countries with regard to budget advocacy efforts being taken by civil society in these countries to sustain HIV response among KAPs. The representative of the Agency for Support of Civil Society informed the participants about the opportunities of funding available for NGOs, including those related to public health. On the second day of the event the participants also had the opportunity to discuss and plan the advocacy steps need to be taken by civil society in nearest future to ensure the sustainability of services for KAPs as well as to discuss their Global Fund related TA needs and plan the possible content of the potential requests for the support within the Global Fund CRG TA Program.

DPNSEE President Vlatko Dekov presenting lessons learnt from North Macedonia

Genci Muçollari, Executive Director at DPNSEE member organisation Aksion Plus who participated in the workshop, thinks that “It was an interesting workshop though we were expecting high level presentation from the GF and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection (MHSP). World Health Organisation representatives were attending, other NGOs as well. Above all discussions among partners, the role of the MHSP and the Albanian government is very important to ensure a gradual transition from Global Fund to state funds through social contracting and other ways of contribution both in money and in kind to programs and activities covered before by GF. The workshop organizers presented some of the funding opportunities from other regional donors and call for proposals in order to support activities after the GF.

The event was organized by the Regional Platform for Communication and Coordination for the EECA Region, hosted by Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA).

A publication about our project

In the last decade, an increasing number of donors are withdrawing their support for healthcare. This has been especially true for middle-income countries, where the growth of domestic resources was one of the triggers for donor funding reduction. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) has termed this process as “transition”.

In 2018 the Open Society Foundations, through the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), initiated the project Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe. It provided funding to three transitioning countries in the Balkan region – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia – through the sub-regional network organization, Drug Policy Network South East Europe (DPNSEE), to support budget advocacy for harm reduction services. The local coordinating organisations are Margina, Juventas and Prevent.

The case study looks at the implementation of this project as one of the demonstrations of the SBF mechanism, with the objectives to:

  • Document the pilot in 3 Balkan countries and to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of this approach and to develop suggestions for improvement; and,
  • Document the results, successes, and challenges of the budget advocacy projects supported through this approach.

Our project serves as a pilot for the Sustainability Bridge Funding (SBF), an idea that has been discussed among donors and civil society organizations as a way of mitigating the negative effects of transition and in providing support for key essential services for communities and key populations. As a safety net mechanism, it should respond to gaps in funding and mitigate adverse effects of donor funding withdrawal.

Please find the document following this link>>>