Fight Against Corruption: The Western Balkans in Focus

The Southeast Europe Leadership for Development and Integrity (SELDI) organised the regional policy forum Fight Against Corruption: The Western Balkans in Focus on 7 April 2022 in Skopje. The Forum focused on the challenges that Western Balkan societies face in closing the institutional gaps that allow the flourishment of corruption.

The forum included a presentation of SELDI’s Corruption Monitoring System (CMS) for the period 2014-2021. Dr. Aleksandar Gerganov, Senior Analyst at the Center for Study of Democracy underlined that the anti-corruption progress achieved in the Western Balkans between the early 2000s and mid-2010s has been halted or even reversed. Self-reported involvement in corruption in the Western Balkans remains very high – 20-40% of the citizens admit to having paid some kind of a bribe. Tolerance of corruption by the general public, although declining, still ranges between 25% and 40%. The most concerning fact, revealed by the CMS however, was that the overwhelming majority of the citizens has lost hope in the feasibility of anti-corruption policy responses. This points to a deep-seated crisis in the trust in governments.

In conclusion, the representatives of the CSOs agreed that the lack of political will in implementing systemic reforms remains as a core democracy challenge. The participants called for more decisive actions, including stricter monitoring of budget spending, harsher sanctions for rule of law violations, and increased support and EU funding for those who implement successful reforms. The adoption of new laws on lobbying and on the seizure of assets, the opening of registers, the cross-border exchange of information allowing checks of asset declarations, as well as the media portrayal of victims of corruption were also among the policy recommendations voiced at the forum.

More about the Forum, including presentation and recording, is available following this link>>>.


RYCO’s Regional Strategy Forum

The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) has organised the Regional Strategy Forum aimed at gathering inputs from the region for its new three-year strategic plan. The three-day event was held in Fruška Gora, Serbia, 8-10 November, and gathered more than 70 representatives of civil society, governments, international and regional organizations, and youth. The final RYCO Strategic Plan 2022-2024 is planned to be adopted by the end of the year.

During the forum, RYCO has presented the results of the local consultations which gathered over 370 people in the previous months as well as its recently published Shared Futures study which it aims to use as the evidence-based tool for the strategy development. On the other side, the participants discussed RYCO vision and values, youth exchanges and intercultural learning, peace building education, peace outreach, peace supportive environment, support and building capacities of peace building multipliers, and cross-cutting issues such as gender, inclusion, participation, etc. Furthermore, they also discussed partnership building and outreach and visibility of RYCO.

Nenad Maletin from the DPNSEE Office participated in the Forum.

RYCO thanked all dedicated participants for their invaluable inputs and support. The event we showed that the Western Balkans has a bright future only if we join our forces and work towards a common goal – a prosperous Western Balkans, a region closer to the European Union where young people want to stay and build their future. The Regional Strategy Forum is an example of such a region.


Regional Forum on Drug Addiction and Recovery

With over 240 member organisations World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) organises a World Forum Against Drugs every two years and hosts regional conferences together with members throughout the year. The regional Forums against Drugs are hosted in strategic location throughout the world. This year, Belgrade, Serbia has been selected to host the First Regional Forum on Drug Addiction and Recovery for the Balkan region, to be held in Belgrade, Serbia, 19 – 20 of November 2019. The Forum is being organised as part of the ongoing regional project which is a joint cooperation between World Federation Against Drugs and three leading Civil Society organisations in the Balkan region: Izlazak, Celebrate Recovery and Preporod. The three organisation are working within the recovery field and providing support services to active users, individuals in recovery and members of their families, and they are actively involved in shaping drug policies in their countries.

The Forum will focus on Drug Addiction and Recovery within the Balkan region, bringing together representatives of civil society and local authorities. During a two-day Forum, participants are welcomed to a mixture of speeches, testimonies and workshops highlighting the main theme which are addiction and recovery, but will, among other, cover areas such as prevention, the legal status and decriminalization of cannabis and many other. The Forum will further present the results of joint project entitled “Choose Recovery” in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.

With knowledge of your excellent work, organisers extend a formal invitation for participation in the Regional Forum. The hosts will cover accommodations.

More information and updates are available on the following link (only in local languages).

The ChemSex challenge – The 2nd European ChemSex Forum

The 2nd European ChemSex Forum, organised by International HIV Partnerships, held in Berlin from 22nd to 24th of March, called for concrete actions at the local level to provide strategic resources to chemsex responders. The aim of the Forum was to develop a platform to engage in international, cross-sector, multi-disciplinary dialogue around ChemSex-defined by the use of specific drugs (“Chems”) in a sexual context – and facilitate coordinated responses to chemsex issues in locales where chemsex related harm is a problem, regardless of its size and impact.

The ChemSex definition, Training day

Clear guiding principles for the 2nd Forum were that focus was on problematic chemsex, not drug use and sex per se. Problematic chemsex is defined, as such, by the individual in interaction with his peers and care providers. Conference planners recognized that various harms related to chemsex are occurring, including HIV, hepatitis and co-infections, STIs, drug overdoses, depressions, rapes and deaths and that our work should be to address those harms forthrightly, not make generalisations about drug use or sexual behavior.  Forum programme focused on 3 key work areas: therapeutic responses, team building and information gathering.

The Forum offered a platform where different stakeholders, professional and individuals could have exchanged experiences and practices in order to better address the issues coming with this new emerging phenomenon. It took place over three days. The first day was the training day on drugs and sexual experiences, risk assessment, models of behavioral change and introduction to motivational counseling, emphasizing the importance of multi-sectoral approach, community engagement and cultural competency. The following days were data and evidence day and community mobilization day that featured the latest data on ChemSex and workshops on multidisciplinary team building and information gathering.

Poster presentation, “Self Reported snapshot Survey” by GWIELINGA@COC.NL

For South East Europe, ChemSex is quite a new phenomenon in comparison to other European regions. Drug Policy Network South East Europe was represented by Irena Molnar and two member organizations HOPS and Positive voice also had their representatives. It created a space for our dialogue to widen up with this interesting and challenging topic, where not only drugs use but also sexuality and gender are important.

Antonios Poulios, PhD(c) MSc Clinical Psychologist and psychoanalyst, also the Scientific coordinator of Red Umbrella Athens and Chemsex Project of Positive Voice Greece, for DPNSEE website said that “The 2nd European ChemSex Forum was a great opportunity to get informed, discuss and meet people from all over Europe concerning ChemSex, get to know current data as well as current interventions. The training was also very helpful giving the opportunity to exchange experiences and learn from others’ expertise”. He also stated that one of the most important conclusions was the emphasis on the affective aspects of the services as well as the balance between the professional and activist point of view.

“In Greece, Chemsex is becoming gradually more common. It is already an issue in the MSMgbtq community as far as problematic use is concerned. However, there are yet quite sparse data. Positive Voice and Athens Checkpoint, in collaboration with the National Kapodistrian University of Athens (2 pathology clinics of university hospitals and the department of psychology), is conducting a project which includes research (both quantitative and qualitative) in order to assess the epidemiology of the phenomenon and the needs of the population. Additionally, focus groups are run and T-groups, self-help groups as well as personal counseling sessions are programmed to be held,” he continued.

His observations regarding ChemSex in the region of South East Europe are in favor of starting the discussion as he claims“it is a not so rare practice however not talked about, and discourse can always ameliorate the problems of action, as psychoanalysis taught us. Given the fact that most countries of SEE face a severe socio-economic crisis, which differentiates the social bond and thus the way subject is related to pleasure and enjoyment, the practice of chemsex is quite representative of this differentiation of the way the contemporary subject is placed within the social bond.”


Ivica Cekovski, advocacy associate from our member organization Healthy Options Project Skopje mentions that “The 2nd European ChemSex Forum, was a tremendous learning opportunity about the successes and challenges of the response to problematic chemsex. It was, in my experience, one of the most interesting and resourceful events that offered crucial information about information gaps, as well as the health, social and legal dimensions around this rising phenomenon.”

For the situation in Macedonia and SEE, Ivica says that is apparent that the region is lacking behind in their response to chemsex. “We have very few, if any, information about the frequency of drug use in sexual context, let alone proper interventions to support people in need. This is despite the fact that anecdotal evidence suggests that the situation might not differ a lot from other European countries.It is, therefore, urgent that we start talking about chemsex in SEE and commence with an assessment of the needs which will help us design and conduct suitable and well-targeted programmes for the wellbeing of key populations.” Ivica said.