Awareness video on human rights and harm reduction approach

Our member organisation Labyrinth invite to check out awareness video-animation they produced on Human rights and Harm reduction approach for people who use drugs in Kosovo.

The video was a part of the project that Labyrinth implemented “Enhancing drug user’s rights and entitlements” and was supported by the EU Office in Kosovo. The purpose of the “ENDURE” project was to create a more appropriate environment for people from marginalized communities to realize health, social and legal rights and to be involved in all processes of social life.

The project aimed to address the needs of discriminated and stigmatized groups by strengthening their capacities to invoke anti-discrimination law. The “ENDURE” project also aimed to raise awareness against discrimination providing legal and psychological support to drug users and improve access to drug users.

In scope of the ENDURE project, Labyrinth prepared two publications (both in Albanian):

Have a look at this excellent video. Subtitles are available both in English and Serbian language.

Coming Out of Unemployment

Youth workers from five countries: Serbia, North Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina took part in nine days long training hosted by the Association Rainbow in Serbia (Šabac) from 8 to 16 May 2019, for obtaining adequate knowledge about social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship in general. The concept of training was developed out of the study visit in Spain and personal years-long experience of the Association Rainbow as the project leader in this field.

Participants also learned how to transfer their knowledge as trainers from experienced trainers and now they are able to disseminate the acquired knowledge and skills further in their countries. This will lead to the domino effect where youth workers continue to transfer their knowledge and skills to others through their own trainings after this project is completed, whereas in doing so we increase the duration for which the aims of this project will be achieved.

The Erasmus + project “Coming Out of Unemployment” is related to raising capacity of youth workers with the aim of acquiring knowledge and skills and also raising their professional competence in working on the economic empowerment of the LGBT population through the development of social entrepreneurship. Populations which are not economically empowered cannot adequately nor in the long run advocate for the practicing of their human rights.

The project participants encompass six organizations from Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Spain, which want to share experiences and improve the economic position of LGBT persons and in this way secure the fight for their human rights and sustainability of LGBT NGOs in the long run. Members of these organizations will, through active work, acquire knowledge and skills for practical work and further transferring of knowledge in the field of developing social entrepreneurship, raising capacity and empowering young LGBT persons to become entrepreneurs.

One of the results of the project will be “The Manual on the Development of Social Entrepreneurship” which will provide guidelines for future trainers and help them realize their trainings, thus reaching medium-term and long-term aims of this project.

The concluding activity of the project will be a working conference taking place in Serbia. It will gather 100 participants from partner organizations, public institutions, embassies, the donor community, and the media with the aim of presenting the results of the project and influencing the state policy concerning the economic empowerment of the LGBT population.

More about the project is available following this link>>>

International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy

Responding to the harms associated with drug use and the illicit drug trade is one of the greatest social policy challenges of our time. All aspects of this challenge have human rights implications.

Drug control intersects with much of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In line with the 2030 Agenda, the UNDP Strategic Plan 2018 – 2021 and the HIV, Health and Development Strategy 2016 – 2021: Connecting the Dots, the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy provide a comprehensive set of international legal standards for placing human dignity and sustainable development at the centre of UN member states responses to illicit drug economies. The guidelines cover a diverse set of substantive issues ranging from development to criminal justice to public health.

The guidelines were developed by a coalition of UN Member States, WHOUNAIDSUNDP and leading human rights and drug policy experts. The Guidelines are an example of the support provided to practically integrate international human rights commitments into national, regional and global policy and programmes.

The drugs issue cuts across the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and multiple Sustainable Development Goals, including ending poverty, reducing inequalities and, of course, improving health, with its targets on drug use, HIV and other communicable diseases. Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions is particularly important, requiring attention to human rights across the Sustainable Development Goals. Since the late 1990s, UN General Assembly resolutions have acknowledged that ‘countering the world drug problem’ must be carried out ‘in full conformity’ with ‘all human rights and fundamental freedoms’. This has been reaffirmed in every major UN political declaration on drug control since, and in multiple resolutions adopted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.The reality, however, has not always lived up to this important commitment.

The Guidelines are based on both ‘hard law’ and ‘soft law’ sources – those that are legally binding and those that are authoritative but not binding per se. With very few exceptions, the general descriptions of rights are drawn from binding treaty provisions.

However, since very few human rights treaty provisions address drug control directly and since the application of general rights to specific groups requires a more in-depth analysis, much of the guidance presented throughout the document is based on UN resolutions and declarations, the general comments and concluding observations of UN human rights treaty bodies and the work of UN human rights Special Procedures. Findings of regional human rights courts and national courts are also cited. Such jurisprudence, which is binding for the relevant countries, is cited in the Guidelines as being persuasive of a particular application of a right.

The Guidelines are not a ‘toolkit’ for a model drug policy. The Guidelines are a reference tool for those working to ensure human rights compliance at local, national, and international levels, be they parliamentarians, diplomats, judges, policy makers, civil society organisations or affected communities.

This longer version of the Guidelines will be available on an interactive website where readers may search by specific rights, drug control themes, and other key words, as well as follow links to source material.

To read and download Guidelines on human right and Drug policy follow this link>>>

62nd CND Session – Day 2

The second day of the 62th CND was full of side events and sharing with participants.

An overviews of the side events we participated in today includes:

Psychoactive substances and the Sustainable Development Goals – Towards a comprehensive approach in the era of the 2030 Agenda

Organized by the Government of Slovenia, Utrip Institute for Research and Development, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and IOGT International. Jože Hren started his presentation reminding that for 20 years already the approach in Slovenia is that drug use is primarily a health problem and that possession of small quantities is a misdemeanour also since 1999. Those who are caught in possession of drugs get a fine of 40 Euro, but there is a process to change it to an oral warning or referral to treatment in more complex situations. Representative of the Pompidou Group spoke about the bi-annual prize the Group awards to innovative prevention programmes created by young people for young people. Another Slovenian representative presented their work emphasizing the need to invest in mental health programmes for adolescents. Cost of mental health disorders in Europe take 3 to 5 percent of GDP. There is a need for a reallocation of resources for more sustainable and impactful outcomes in tackling harmful substances and behaviours. Medical help is not enough – it has to be combined with comprehensive and long lasting prevention. They have a programme called “This is me”, which is in line with the Goal 3 of the SDGs. Kristina Sperkova, president of the IOGT International (international network of Templar organisations) works on prevention of alcohol and other drugs harm world-wide. Sanela from Utrip Institute advocated for a community approach to prevention. Notes from the side event are available at the CND Blog following this address>>>.

Leaving no one behind: People at the centre of a harm reduction, human rights and public health approach to drug use

Organized by the Netherlands and Norway, UNODC, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO, IDPC, AFEW International, Harm Reduction International, INPUD, Open Society Foundations, Aidsfonds and Frontline AIDS. Ann Fordham from IDPC highlighted that the new UNADIS report indicates that 99% of people who use drugs doesn’t have a proper access to health services. WHO representative reminded that half a million people worldwide die of drug related deaths, mainly overdose and blood borne diseases HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. People also suffer because they can’t access the medicines they need. The Netherlands has “put people first” in their approach to harm reduction. The right to health is fundamental to all people irrespective of whether they are using drugs. Drug policies should seek to reduce violence, promote the rule of law, support the most marginalized and vulnerable, lift up human rights. Prohibition and criminalization means a continuation of armed conflict supported by disproportionate spending. Naomi Burke-Shyne from HRI reminded that funding for harm reduction has flat lined from 2007 to 2016, which stands in shocking contrast to the estimated funding need by UNAIDS: existing funding represents only 13% of this estimated need. Judy Chang from INPUD stated that “Existing drug policies threaten security, democracy and the well-being of all, especially those most marginalized and vulnerable. The war on drugs and drug-free agenda undermines the SDG agenda.” Zaved Mahmood from ‎UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that People who use drugs are not just left behind, they are kept out. The right to life includes the obligation to take measures where peoples’ lives might be threatened, including in relation to the use of drugs and HIV and hepatitis.

Drug prevention approaches that make a difference

Organized by the Governments of Iceland and Serbia, and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe. Serbian representative to the OSC made an introduction speech. The same like the Minister of Health on Thursday 14 at the Ministerial Segment, he said that the Drug Strategy has 5 chapters instead of 7, avoiding to say that Harm Reduction is one of them. Jelena Janković from the Ministry of Health presented the latest developments, including information about overdose deaths in 2018 and creation of the Ministerial Commission (for fighting narcomania in schools). She also presented the project the Ministry did with experiences and support from Israel. Iceland presented their project with are seen as the flagship project on prevention. Almost 2% of the alcohol and tobacco taxes go to prevention programmes! They see as the main risks and protective factors family factors, peer group effect, general well-being and extra-curricular activities and sports. Their learning is that the multidisciplinary collaboration is the key to success. The change thy achieved is different attitude of parents and society – don’t buy alcohol for children. It is not OK for adolescents to be drunk in public. It is not the amount of time that parents spend with their children – it is the quality of time. There are no unsupervised parties. Pompidou Group emphasised the role of police in prevention. Interventions from the floor were on offering more than just sports and having campaigns that cover illicit but also legal substances.

Other side events held today that may be of interest are:

Other events

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) held regular Annual General Assembly. The Committee welcomed new members, reviewed and approved the VNGOC annual report and reflected on activities for 2018/19 including those of the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF), got information about the annual accounts for 2018, the latest financial status and audited accounts for 2018, Strategic Plan 2019-21 and Budget for 2019 and Voluntary Code of Conduct for NGOs at the CND and received an update on developments within UNODC. The Committee discussed the future organisation of the VNGOC, based on the background paper presented by the Board.

Following a governance review process undertaken in 2017, VNGOC agreed to stagger the elections for the VNGOC Board to ensure greater stability and continuity. In order to do this, three of the positions elected last year were given one-year terms, the other three positions were given the standard two-year terms. This year, the following three positions were up for re-election: Chairperson, Deputy Treasurer, Deputy Secretary. Our friend fro International Drug Policy Consortium Jamie Bridge was re-elected for the Chairperson. Congratulations!

A calls for global drug policies that promote & protects the humanrights of women

Οn the occasion of International Women’s Day (ΙWD), celebrated on March 8 every year, the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD)  has published recommendations on the importance of promoting gender equality to achieve a balanced approach to the drug phenomenon and calls for global drug policies that promote & protects the humanrights of women. CSFD hopes that these recommendations “can be of use in informing the positions of the European Union at the Ministerial Segment and at the 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs”.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) takes this opportunity to emphasize the need for global drug policies to pay special attention to women and the promotion and defence of their rights.

Civil sociaty forum on Drugs

They note that the theme for IWD in 2019 is ‘Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change’, focusing on: ‘innovative ways in which we can advance gender equality and the empowerment of women, particularly in the areas of social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure’.

Also they note that the provisional agenda for the Ministerial Segment includes a roundtable on ‘Taking stock of the implementation of all commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem…’. These commitments include the Outcome Document of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs – which includes a strong gender component as it relates to drug policy.

The UNGASS Outcome Document also highlights the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, noting that ‘efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to effectively address the world drug problem are complementary and mutually reinforcing’.

The achievement of SDG 5 on gender equality will necessitate that drug policies and programmes adopt a strong gender component to ensure that women are not left behind in efforts to control the illicit drug market.

Using the UNGASS Outcome Document structure, the CSFD wishes to offer specific recommendations which CSFD hope can be of use in informing the positions of the European Union at the Ministerial Segment and at the 62nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

To download this Recommendation follow this link>>>>

A new on-line course on drugs, health and human rights

The University of Geneva launched an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web (a massive open online course – MOOC) on drugs, health & human rights, on the occasion of 26 June, The International Day Against Drug Abuse And Illicit Trafficking. This course is primarily aimed at students and professionals from different backgrounds interested in the fields of psychoactive substances, health, human rights and drug policy.

The topics will be presented by over 40 speakers from scientific, academic and institutional backgrounds, spokespersons of civil society as well as people who use drugs presenting their views.

The course lasts for 6 weeks. It is run in English, with subtitles in French, Spanish and Russian. Expected commitment is about 3 to 4 hours of work per week.

Participation is free and widely open to all interested. Enrolment is open for a few more days – so hurry to apply following this link>>>>

Support. Don’t Punish Kick-off event

On the occasion of 26 June, the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the Global Day of Action of the Support Don’t Punish Campaign is organised in more than 150 cities in the world. The Drug Policy Network South East Europe for the second year coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe, where 10 of our member organizations are pushing actions in 9 countries and 11 cities. Activities that vary from the film screenings and street actions to public debates and dialogues with the different government bodies.

DPNSEE organised the “Kick-off event” to mark the start of the campaign in South East Europe. The event was held in the European Union Info Centre in Belgrade on 21 June. Executive director of the Network Milutin Milošević opened the event presenting the aims of the #SupportDontPunish campaign. He also briefly presented the current situation in the countries of South East Europe in the context of human rights and public health approach to drug policy.

Danilo Ćurčić, lawyer from the A11 – Economic and Social Rights Initiative addressed the need for actual space for civil society organizations and the lack of dialogue between the state and organizations addressing the issue. He specially emphasized adoption of laws through urgent procedures and without public hearings and poor implementation of laws that have been passed.

Dr Hajrija Mujović, vice president of the Association of Lawyers for Medical and Health Law of Serbia SUPRAM, presented the international and domestic laws and documents which are basis for fighting discrimination and safeguarding human right, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Joint United Nations statement on ending discrimination in health care settings issued in 2017.

Milutin Milošević presented the baseline research on “Documenting Drug Related Cases of Discrimination”, an activity within the project “Strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations in South-East Europe and promote drug policy based on respect for human rights and public health”. The most frequent cases of discrimination in SEE are related to stigmatization in various respects, the relationship between the police and the judicial system (including the right to information in criminal proceedings), the protection of personal data, basic and specific health care, social protection, the right to education, employment and many other areas of life which should be available to every person.

Irena Molnar, in front of Youth Action Organization for Drug Action – YODA, presented the document, result of the 7 day workshop in Belgrade “Protecting the rights of young people in areas related to drug policy”. She also stressed that it is recognizable that there is a lot of policy action taken in “our name” (in the name of ‘protecting the youth’) but without input of young people or regard for our safety. Most policies which are related to young people and drugs are regressive and damaging and causing more harm, however, they continue to be enforced.

A short discussion followed highlighting the need to decriminalise drug use and possession.

CND opening day

NGO briefing by the Vienna NGO Committee

The briefing was a useful orientation, especially for the newcomers, to what will happen and the annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the role and involvement of civil society organisations.

Opening of the sixty-first CND Session

The opening session was held in plenary, with all national delegations and civil society representatives present and transmitted to other rooms. It included welcome messages of the CND 61 Chairperson Alicia Buenrostro Massieu, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, International Narcotics Control Board President Dr Viroj Sumyai, UNODC Executive Director Yuri Fedotov, WHO Director – General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and introductory speeches of country groupings: Group of 77 and China, Africa Group, Asia Pacific Group, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC) and European Union Group (including accession countries). The Session then continues with general debate.

It should me mentioned that Deputy Minister of Health of Bulgaria Svetlana Yordanova spoke on behalf of the European Union (Bulgaria holds presidency of the EU). She underlined that current UN Drugs Policy has been an utter failure and that EU expresses deepest regret that the UNGASS Outcome Document does not mention a moratorium on the death penalty. She said that “In 2009, we set 2019 as a target date for ourselves to eliminate cultivation of opium, coca and cannabis plants and social risks, trafficking and money laundering related to illicit drugs. We have not achieved this target: today we have an equally severe and diversified situation. The problems are evolving. We have never seen such a complex set of challenges in the drug area: NPS, the internet, trafficking, new players and increased production. EU supports bringing public health and human rights to the core of the drug policy by balancing law enforcement with equally firm health and social services and evidenced based actions.

Side events

Bringing human rights to the forefront of drug policy: Development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation

The event was organised by the governments of Malta (represented by Ambassador Keith Azzopardi), Germany (Ambassador Friedrich Dauble), Norway, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe (Jan Malinowski, Executive Secretary). Speakers were also Damon Barrett, Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy, University of Essex and Zaved Mahmoud, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This event was an attempt to move beyond highlighting human rights problems by examining the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights and exploring the application of human rights standards and tests as a basis for national and local led initiatives to incorporate human rights into drug policy development, monitoring and evaluation.

In the outcome document of the 2016 UNGASS on the world drug problem, UN member states reiterated a “commitment to respecting, protecting and promoting all human rights fundamental freedoms and the inherent dignity of all individuals and the rule of law in the development and implementation of drug policies”. In drug policy – as in all other policy areas – human rights are not a choice, they are an obligation.

Interesting points from the presentations include:

  • Human rights start in small places, close to home – Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Jan Malinowski: There is no discussion about death penalty and extrajudicial killings. CoE is condemning inhuman treatments. There must be mechanisms in place to bring to light rights issues arising from drug policy
  • Damon Barrett: There is no universal prescription due to diversity in country situations, but we have universal standards! The challenge for policy makers is to resolve the tension between human rights and drug policy in favour of human rights. Health services should be available, accessible, acceptable (by different populations) and of sufficient quality. Consider harm reduction in funding decisions.
  • Zaved Mahmood: Wrong policy decisions influence various segments of life. For instance, punishing legislation leads to overcrowded prisons. Until we address the human dimension of drug policies, those policies will fail.

The world drug perception problem

This event was organized by the Governments of Portugal, Switzerland and Uruguay and the Global Commission on Drug Policy to discuss the current perceptions but also progress already made in some countries to fight negative perceptions, stigma, discrimination and criminalization of people who use drugs, as well as possible further steps.

Speakers included Pavel Bém, Commissioner, Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP), Michel Kazatchkine, UN Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, João Goulão, National Drug Coordinator, Portugal, Martín Rodríguez, Executive Director of the Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA), Uruguay, Nora Kronig-Romero, Ambassador for Global Health, Switzerland and Judy Chang, Executive Director, INPUD.

The latest GCDP report on the issue The World Drug Perception Problem: Countering Prejudices About People Who Use Drugs was published in 2017.

Interesting points from the presentations include:

  • Michel Kazatchkine: presented an interesting fact from the report that “UNODC estimates only 11.6% of those who used drugs in 2016 are considered to suffer problematic drug use or addiction. The most common pattern of drug use is episodic and non-problematic.” and that “Legal status of #drugs rarely correspond to potential harms, not based on scientific evidence.”
  • Martín Rodriguez: “There have been no episodes of violence between the people who use or in the surroundings of the sale places” (in Uruguay, who legalised sale of cannabis) and “Before the sale of recreational cannabis in pharmacies started, almost ¾ were against it; 6 months later and due to the positive experiences, this has fallen to 43%”
  • Nora Kronig-Romero: The main factors leading the Swiss population to approve drug policy reform was failure of law enforcement only approach and experiences with small projects of harm reduction. Direct democracy contributed to an informed discussion about drugs, drug perception and drug policy in Switzerland.
  • João Goulão: “Problematic drug use reached all parts of society and that led to a change in the popular view of drug use – changing perceptions about people who use drugs”
  • Judy Chang – We don’t believe in reducing a behaviour to an identity. We prefer the phrase “people who use drugs” to more stigmatising language but emphasise drug dependency is not incompatible with a person living a happy and fulfilled lives

A note from this side event is available at the CND blog.