Innovation and resilience in times of crisis

From the IDPC website

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, prompting governments around the globe to declare a state of emergency and/or implement a wide variety of policies and programmes in order to curb outbreaks, minimise mortality rates, and maintain public safety and order. These include, but are not limited to, different forms of travel and/or movement restrictions (such as lockdowns and quarantine), closure of premises deemed non-essential, and restrictions on gatherings and/or events. Such measures have caused significant changes in public life, public services, governance, democracy and policymaking processes around the world – as well as having serious short- and long-term economic implications.

One additional impact of these measures is the disruption of various channels and dynamics of advocacy conducted by civil society organisations. Prior to the global pandemic, civil society organisations were already facing increasing constraints and shrinking space for advocacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated this downward trend of intensifying repression, in some cases combined with various forms of disinformation, abuse of power and violence. Meanwhile, some civil society actors have been pushed to adapt their ways of working while remaining resilient as they face impacts such as increased workload and/or pressure (amid having less in-person interactions, working from home, and growing demand for services), uncertainty around financial and organisational sustainability, and health concerns, among others.

Aiming to better understand and support the network to respond to these emerging challenges, especially with regard to advocacy for drug policy reform centred on human rights and public health, the IDPC Secretariat initiated a process of documenting and analysing the experiences of civil society and governmental actors working in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result of this process is report “Innovation and resilience in times of crisis – Civil society advocacy for drug policy reform under the COVID-19 pandemic” available following this link>>>.

 

Taking stock of half a decade of drug policy

From the IDPC press release

Today, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) released a new report Taking stock of half a decade of drug policy – An evaluation of UNGASS implementation revealing the widening chasm between UN commitments on health and human rights, and the devastation brought about by punitive drug policies on the ground.

As the annual meeting of the UN CND opens with a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the legal foundation of the international drug control regime, IDPC’s report shows that there is little cause for celebration. Using wide-ranging data from UN, academic and civil society sources, the report illustrates the horrific human toll of the ‘war on drugs’ over the past five years, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • 585,000 preventable drug use related deaths were recorded in 2017, the highest figure on record.
  • A staggering 2.5 million people worldwide are in prison for a drug offence, of which at least 475,000 are incarcerated for personal drug use only. Hundreds of thousands more are detained against their will in forced ‘treatment’.
  • From ‘stop and search’ and mass incarceration to the death penalty, drug law enforcement disproportionately targets women, racial and ethnic minorities, and other marginalised communities, fuelling poverty and inequality.
  • Globally, only 1 in 8 people living with drug dependence have access to treatment, while the availability of life-saving harm reduction services is severely restricted.
  • Subsistence farmers of crops like cannabis or coca leaf continue to be subject to violent forced eradication campaigns that deprive them and their families of their livelihoods.
  • 5 billion people worldwide live with limited or no access to pain relief and palliative care due to repressive drug laws.

 

April 2021 also marks the 5th anniversary of the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, where all countries in the world committed to adopt a public health, rights-based, and development-oriented approach to drug policy. By comparing these commitments with evidence from the ground, the new IDPC report reveals a widening gap between rhetoric and reality.

The 60th anniversary of the global drug regime gives us little cause for celebration’ said Ann Fordham, Executive Director at IDPC. ‘In the past five years, some progress has been made, as countries moved to adopt welcome initiatives on the decriminalisation of people who use drugs, and the legal regulation of cannabis. However, in most parts of the world, governments remain wedded to draconian policies that have had a catastrophic impact on communities, and have resoundingly failed in their stated purpose of eradicating drug markets, or reducing illegal drug use.

Marie Nougier, Head of Research and Communications at IDPC, said: ‘With this report, we wanted to give a voice to those most affected by punitive drug policies. What communities tell us through our research is that they continue to face criminalisation, extrajudicial killings, the death penalty, acts of torture and ill-treatment, stigma and discrimination, and are systematically denied access to life-saving health services. We cannot wait for another 60 years to align drug policies with health, human rights and development.

The report is available following this link>>>.

 

Open letter to UNODC Executive Director

In an open letter, with the support from more than 100 civil society organisations, the International Drug Policy Network Consortium (IDPC) invited Ms Ghada Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to mark International Human Rights Day by calling on Member States to change drug policies and practices that violate human rights, and entrench exclusion and discrimination.

My Waly was invited to issue a strong statement that underlines UNODC’s commitment to rights-based drug policies, and calls for change in the laws and practices that threaten health and human rights. The 2020 International Human Rights Day, which will be held under the title ‘Recover better: Stand Up for Human Rights’, includes a thematic focus on the need ‘to apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination’. As such, it presents a key opportunity for UNODC to highlight its commitment to the promotion of drug policies that respect, protect, and fulfil human rights, in line with the UN System Common Position.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe is one of the civil society organisations which supported the letter.

To read the letter, follow this link>>>.

 

A New EU Drug Strategy is Being Prepared by the German Presidency

The 2021-25 EU Drugs Agenda recently published by the European Commission was criticised by civil society and member states. We have already posted comments from Péter Sárosi, the executive director of the Rights Reporter Foundation and an article about the sign-on letter of the International Drug Policy Consortium’s (IDPC) members, raising our very serious concerns regarding the new 2021-25 EU Agenda and Action Plan on Drugs.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) also criticised the Agenda in its position paper for its stigmatising language and framework, lack of balanced approach, reduced role for harm reduction, decreased relevance of human rights and several other reasons.

Member States did not accept the new EU Drugs Agenda proposed by the EU Commission. The Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG) decided that a new EU strategy will be prepared by the German presidency.

To read more about the positions of the CSFD, follow this link>>> to the article on the Rights Reporter Foundation website.

 

Open letter on the proposed EU Drugs Agenda

A sign-on letter of the International Drug Policy Consortium’s (IDPC) members, raising our very serious concerns regarding the new EU Agenda and Action Plan on Drugs, recently published by the European Commission was prepared and sent to the German presidency of the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs.

We have serious concerns regarding both the process for its development as well as with the substance of the document and urge the German Presidency to propose to the EU Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG) that this draft cannot be accepted, and to outline an appropriate and inclusive strategic development process for the next EU drugs strategy.

The new EU Agenda proposes a drastic and negative change in EU drug policies that could also end up impacting funding priorities and national policies.

  • It puts a disproportionate focus on supply control,
  • It deprioritises public health and harm reduction,
  • It reduces the role of civil society and people who use drugs
  • And it risks weakening EU support for balanced, evidence-based, and rights-compliant drug policies in global drug debates.

The 2021-25 EU Drugs Agenda appears to be the result of a hasty, opaque and non-participatory policy-making process, and represents a drastic departure from agreed EU policies. It also comes within a deeply troubling stigmatising frame, as it was published in a press release together with EU strategies on child abuse and firearm trafficking.

The key flaws in the draft Agenda we identified include:

  • Losing the balanced approach
  • Deprioritising human rights and public health
  • Dropping support for key international documents
  • Reducing the space for civil society and people who use drugs
  • Weakening the external dimensions of drug policy
  • Deprioritising scientific evidence
  • A stigmatising document

The letter has now been sent to Germany as the Council Presidency, inviting them to take political leadership and encourage the HDG to reject the draft proposed by the European Commission.

An advocacy campaign follows. The first event is the meeting of EU Member States on Wednesday 9 September 2020! We encourage you to share the letter with your government contacts, so that they are aware of our concerns ahead of this important meeting.

The letter is available following this link>>>. Don’t hesitate to distribute it freely.

 

COVID-19 Stories of Substance

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, being connected, joint strategising and sharing stories from the ground is as critical as ever as we collectively work to protect human rights, ensure the health and well-being of the communities most affected by the war on drugs, and end repression and punishment as instruments of drug control.

The IDPC Secretariat have been continuing to seek ways to better support information sharing and lessons learned from across the network as we face the challenges brought by COVID-19 and the responses governments are taking. In April, they launched a survey for their members (in English, Spanish, French and Thai) to capture this information. The survey remains open indefinitely for responses and previous entries can also be added to with new information. IDPC are now ready to begin sharing some of the rich information that has been provided by their members and others in the form of a new short fortnightly newsletter.

Each COVID-19 Stories of Substance newsletter will feature a couple of relevant stories and lessons shared by people who have responded to IDPC dedicated survey on COVID-19. It will also include a curated list of news and updates every two weeks, with a specific focus on the COVID19 pandemic and its various impacts on the drug market, drug policy and related advocacy, harm reduction services, community-led mobilisation/movement, funding opportunities, and many more. IDPC will also flag upcoming online events of interest, and provide links to access recordings of recent ones.

To receive this newsletter please sign up here>>>.

 

2020 Global Day of Action – Getting ready!

Last year, thousands of activists in 261 cities of 92 countries joined arms to promote policies and practices that centre solidarity, reduce harm and protect human rights. The 2020 Global Day of Action is all about accelerating momentum for reform. And, to do so, we need each other.

The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) have launched the 2020 Support. Don’t Punish Global Day of Action’s “Call for Expressions of Interest”. If you’re thinking about joining the 2020 Global Day of Action, fill the form available online or in Word format and apply.

As DPNSEE will coordinate activities of the campaign in South East Serbia, it would be great if you would also send us the information about your plans.

Should you need inspiration or guidance, check out the repository with hundreds of activities organised in previous years.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, 17 April 2020.

An important information:

At the moment of drafting, over 150,000 cases of COVID-19 have been detected across the globe. It is impossible to accurately estimate how the pandemic will evolve in the coming weeks and months, but we know it will disproportionately affect many of the populations at the heart of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign. We believe we have a responsibility to do our best to keep ourselves and others healthy. When completing the form, we invite you to consider alternative plans in case the pandemic impedes the realisation of your initially-planned activities.

More information is available from the Support. Don’t Punish webpage following this link>>>.

 

The departure day

This page will be updated during the day, as the events happen

Side events

Human rights tools: Incorporating international justice and targeted sanctions into drug policy

Organized by DRCNet Foundation and Forum Droghe Associazione Movimento per il Contenimento dei Danni

The event was about the situation in The Philippines where rights of drug users are violated. There were more than 30.000 acknowledged and 20.000 unofficial killings recently and extended attack on political opposition and media.

Also, situation in Bangladesh, where people are killed for both sex and drug crimes.

Good practices in cross-sectoral cooperation: Civil society involvement in policymaking in Europe

Organized by Finland and Spain, and Civil Society Forum on Drugs in Europe, Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, European Union, Foreningen for Human Narkotikapolitikk, International Drug Policy Consortium, Rights Reporter Foundation and Youth Organisations for Drug Action

Civil Society Forum on Drugs members are selected by the European Commission. CSFD representative presented a variety of activities they had.

Elina Kotovirta, Finish representative talked about cooperation with CSFD in 2019, when they held the EU presidency – in preparations for the Ministerial segment last year. Both sides evaluated cooperation as a very good one.

The representative of Norway Carl-Erik Grimstad, member of the Parliament, started his presentation raising the shirt with message “Nothing about us without us”. The civil society representatives gave a significant contribution in defining a new drug policy. He underlined that the key change needed is de-stigmatisation. Decriminalisation that is about to be adopted is a step in that direction. He encourages community organisations to take the lead in this process.

Arild Knutsen, leader of the Norwegian Association for Humane Drug Policy, drug user almost all his life. He was recently seen as a garbage of the society, but now he finds himself a source of the society. He spoke about the process of changes and spoke so positive about cooperation they have with politicians, parliamentarians and ministries. “Our drug policy is just humane!”

Milutin asked two questions:

  • Is it OK that EU institution decides about who will be civil society representatives in the CSFD?
  • Do you work with candidate countries? Acquis have only a narrow view on the issue of drugs – almost exclusively drug supply.

The Finish representative explained process of electing CSFD members and promised to propose finding a model of involving the civil society itself in that process. She also mentioned some ways of cooperation with accession countries (cooperation with EMCDDA, twinning projects) and agreed that most of the relation is on supply demand.

 

Meetings

Civil society organisations had informal dialogues with CND Chair, Director of UNODC and INCB Chairman.

Informal meeting of the European Citizens’ Initiative to change regulation on cannabis was held at the CND. The text of the initiative is in the final stage. The main challenge is how to collect million signatures in EU.

IDPC invited organisations active in the “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign for a meeting to discuss developments and the upcoming 2020 Global Day of Action. The International day of action will be celebrated for the eight time. The call for expression of interest will be issued on 16 March and opened for a month. The process will be the same as recent year(s). There was a call for projects in October 2019 where 84 projects were submitted but IDPC had resources to support only 6 of them.

Full speed CND

Side events

The media, a key actor in the field of drugs

Organized by Canada, and Association Proyecto Hombre, Canadian Centre on Substance use and Addiction, Dianova International, The Interest Organisation for Substance Misusers and Turkish Green Crescent Society.

Role of social networks to take action is to:

  • Reach bigger audiences
  • Promote initiatives
  • Mobilize support
  • Organize campaigns to end stigma
  • Fund more research
  • Authorities should monitor for dangerous content
  • Encourage influencers to promote a healthy life style

An interesting source is Addictionary, produced by The Recovery Research Institute.

Kristina Stankova presented “The role of social networks and alternative media in the field of drugs”. The threats identified include misleading information and fake news, peer pressure, the influence of advertisement in social networks, famous people and influencers promoting unhealthy lifestyle as fun and cool, etc. Tips on how to use social networks and alternative media in a positive way include use of social networks as a tool to access information for research, use them as a tool to raise awareness and promote a healthy lifestyle, reach hidden populations, to end stigma, to spread accurate and understandable information, etc. Studies have found that as many as 75% of teens felt pressured to drink alcohol and use drugs after seeing their friends post these activities online.

Communities at the centre: Barriers and opportunities for community led interventions

Organized by International Drug Policy Consortium, International Network of People who use Drugs, Joint United Nations Programme in HIV/ AIDS, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNODC HIV/AIDS Section.

Since 2018, only one new country started needle exchange programme, while no new country started OST – despite all evidence base that these are important services for people who use drugs.

Mick Matthews from INPUD: We are not the enemy, work with us.

11 million people in the world inject drugs. Every eight has HIV, every second Hep C. 84% of those who have HIV also have Hep C. UNAIDS is clearly ready to work with and for people who use drugs (and they introduced this denomination to UN documents).

Harm reduction and rehabilitation program for inmates in prisons with mental and behavioral disorders due to use of psychoactive substances
Organized by Spain and Ukraine and European Union

Spain and Ukraine presented a cooperation project implemented in the context of EU cooperation program. Both countries used it to implement measures planned by their drug strategies.

Spain performs a survey on health services in prisons every 5 years. 75% inmates used illegal substances in their life. “Incarceration is an opportunity to improve health of inmates”.

Drugs are present in prisons in Spain and make serious problems resulting in fights between internal gangs.

Relapse after treatments in Spain is at 31,5%, while at those who go through treatments in prisons it is around 16%.

In Ukraine, with the support from the Global Fund, condoms are shared free of charge in prisons. There was a programme to evaluate syringe exchange programme. Results of the programme are discussed now, but the measures shall wait for the reform on the prison system. Civil society organisations are involved in the programme and discussion.

Unfortunately, a few Ukrainian CSOs were very critical and presented completely different view.

Shared responsibility in addressing the cocaine threat along the supply chain

Organized by European Union, UNODC CRIMJUST, UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa and UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch

Chloé Carpentier, Chief of the UNODC Drug Research Section in her presentation mentioned that the “new kids on the block” in the cocaine trade chain in Latin America are the Balkan cartel which holds 34% of the transfer of cocaine from Latin America to Europe and almost all street distribution! Production of cocaine is on the historical maximum, there are more organised criminal groups and purity is very high. More regional and international cooperation is needed to fight the problem.

UNODC-WHO Community Management of Opioid Overdose – initial results from the S.O.S. study
Organized by Australia, Kyrgyzstan and the United States of America, and UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs and World Health Organization

Representatives of UNDC and WHO expressed their dissatisfaction that we have to fight for Naloxone, as this is a medication that has no controlled substance. Stigma associated with opioid use disorders is so potent that it extends to naloxone itself. Every day, week, year of inaction means that persons are dying due to opioid overdose when there are medicines that could save their lives. Naloxone is officially registered as a medicine across 51% of all countries, but most countries don’t provide data on the availability of Naloxone.

The research they prepared and showcased by this event also serves as an assessment of the WHO’s own Guidelines on Community Management of Overdose Overdose.

The WHO-UNODC S.O.S. programme (S.O.S. for Stop Overdose Safely) is a peer-distribution programme in which we attempt to provide take home naloxone to likely witnesses of overdoses. The goal at the launch of the SOS Initiative in March 2017 was to have 90% of those likely to witness an overdose are trained to implement Naloxone; 90% of those trained to provide naloxone are provided with a supply; and having 90% of provided with Naloxone are actually carrying it with them.

Meetings

Ms Leigh Toomey, member of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention attends the 63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. For the occasion, she was willing to meet with selected IDPC members and partners to discuss the Working Group’s activities, including its upcoming report on the use of arbitrary detention in drug policy.

Cases presented to Ms Toomey mainly came from countries which have harsh approach to drugs. DPNSEE Executive Director added a couple of issues from the region.

We participated in the Vienna NGO Committee Annual General Meeting. Half of the Board have been elected, all from recovery organisations which have obviously well prepared for the elections.

Drug decriminalisation interactive map

TalkingDrugs, an online platforms dedicated to providing unique news and analysis on drug policy, harm reduction and related issues around the world, published an interactive map which provides an overview of decriminalisation models, offering insights into decriminalisation laws, their implementation and impact.

The criminalisation of people who use drugs compounds drug-related challenges and worsens health and welfare outcomes. The gold standard of decriminalisation is the removal of all punishment for drug use, and the availability and accessibility of evidence- and human rights-based harm reduction, health and social services on a voluntary basis.

Across the world, there is a growing number of jurisdictions where the possession of scheduled drugs for personal use has been decriminalised. Some form of decriminalisation has been adopted in 30 countries – with significant differences and levels of effectiveness. This interactive map provides an overview of these models, offering insights into decriminalisation laws, their implementation and impact. In some countries and federal states, this has been extended to the cultivation of cannabis for personal use or the sharing of substances where there is no financial gain (also known as ‘social sharing’).

The following elements are included in the map:

  • Threshold quantities used to determine whether the activity is decriminalised (if there are no thresholds other considerations used are outlined);
  • The agency responsible for determining the activity is decriminalised;
  • The activities that are decriminalised, and for which substances;
  • The applicable administrative / civil sanctions or whether no sanctions are applied.

In South East Europe, only Croatia adopted decriminalisation of possession a ‘small quantity’ of any drug. The decriminalisation of drug consumption and possession for personal use means that the person no longer has a criminal record, so the stigma associated with people who use and/or are dependent on drugs is reduced. The law also gives more flexible treatment options. Croatia’s model of decriminalisation is codified in the country’s laws through statutory reforms and was introduced in 2013.

This map has been developed in partnership with Release, the International Drug Policy Consortium, and Accountability International, thanks to the financial support of the Robert Carr Fund and Open Society Foundations. This map will be updated regularly. If you do have any comments or feedback please contact Talking Drugs.

To see the map and all data it contains, follow this link>>>