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>>>

Job vacancy at IDPC

The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) are looking to appoint a Research and Advocacy Officer (fixed-term contract to cover maternity leave) to contribute to the smooth delivery of IDPC’s publications work plan and to support the network’s advocacy efforts. The selected candidate would join their small but dynamic and busy team in London.

The successful candidate will have proven expertise in undertaking policy analysis, experience in engaging in drug policy advocacy, and knowledge of operational structures of the UN and other multilateral structures. They will have excellent written and verbal communications skills in English as well as Spanish, French and/or Russian, and a commitment to work with a range of partners and networks. Although not essential, experience in research and advocacy work related to women and drug policy is welcome.

Applicants must demonstrate that they have the right to live and work in the UK.

Deadline for applications is Friday 10th January 2020.

The job description, person specification and more information are available following this link>>>

Consultancy needed!

The Harm Reduction Consortium is a global coalition of seven independent organisations which exists to end the global war on drugs and promote services instead that protect the health and human rights of people who use drugs. The Consortium want to upskill their members and selected partners in communicating more effectively and proactively, as well as engaging with the media confidently. In order to achieve that, they are seeking to appoint an experienced individual or organisation to provide training and coaching in communications, crisis management and media engagement.

The Harm Reduction Consortium members have a compelling message and story to tell: the global war on drugs is having disastrous consequences all around the world. But they are not doing this as effectively and proactively as they would like. They are therefore seeking to build confidence and capacity among the Consortium members and selected key partners in the areas of communication best practices, public speaking, media engagement, crisis management and communications, effective social media presence and message framing for different audiences.

They are looking for individuals or organisations that can provide high quality communications, messaging and media coaching to the Consortium members in order to deliver our messages convincingly and impactfully.

For more information about their needs, requirements for applicants and how to apply, please visit their website here>>>. The deadline is Sunday 11th August.

Support. Don’t Punish activities in 2019

Support. Don’t Punish is a global grassroots-centred initiative in support of harm reduction and drug policies that prioritise public health and human rights. The campaign seeks to put harm reduction on the political agenda by strengthening the mobilisation capacity of affected communities and their allies, opening dialogue with policy makers, and raising awareness among the media and the public.

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Action 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The campaign 2019 shall have in South East Europe:

  • 9 countries
  • 11 cities
  • 20+ organisations
  • 40+ activities
  • 200+ volunteers
  • 000+ citizens informed
  • Various social networks

Organisations around the region will organise raising awareness events, lectures and workshops, creating and promoting guidelines on human rights, banner and pictures campaigns, producing videos, photo exhibitions, disseminating promotional materials, meetings with the local authorities, public debates and press conferences, pub quizzes, collecting and distributing personal hygiene items for women, marches on city centres, showing movies and documentaries, taking photos in a selfie cab, and much more.

For the launch of the Global Day of Action, DPNSEE will organise “Kick-off event” to start the campaign in South East Europe. The event will be held in the EU Info Centre in Belgrade, Kralja Milana 7, on 19 June 2019 at 10h.

To find out what is planned in your city or country, follow this link>>>

To see more about the campaign worldwide, follow this link>>>