Porto welcomes the 26th Harm Reduction International Conference

The 26th Harm Reduction International Conference (HR19) will be held in Porto, Portugal from 28 April to 1 May 2019. The Conference is organised by the Harm Reduction International and Agência Piaget para o Desenvolvimento (APDES) – a Portuguese non-profit association promoting sustainable development.

 

 

 

 

 

Held once every two years in a different country around the world, the Harm Reduction International Conference is the only global meeting for knowledge-sharing, networking, and discussion of best practices in the field of harm reduction. The last conference in Montreal in 2017 was attended by more than 1000 delegates from over 70 countries, including medical and policy experts, harm reduction practitioners, campaigners, and people who use drugs.

On Tuesday 30 April, at the Concurrent 16: Lost in Transition: Harm Reduction in Central and Eastern Europe, our Yuliya Georgieva from the Center for Humane Policy will speak about, Lost in Transition-Bulgaria struggling to ensure harm reduction activities after Global Fund withdraw while Nebojša Đurasović will present The only one harm reduction program that survived in Serbia – Experience of the Association Prevent.

Those who shall participate in the Conference are very much welcome to join this session.

The programme of the Conference is available following this link>>>

Improving partnership with Čovekoljublje

DPNSEE Vice-President Nebojša Đurasović and Executive Director Milutin Milošević visited “Čovekoljublje” (Philanthropy), the charitable foundation of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The Foundation performs emergency (humanitarian) and development programmes. Philanthropy’s basic principle is respect of human rights, reflected in providing assistance to all those in need, regardless of their race, gender, nationality or religious affiliation. It cooperates and is supported by number of institutions: ministries, province and municipal authorities, health care and social welfare institutions, institutes for protection of children and youth deprived of parental care, and series of civil society organisations.

In scope of it’s the Health care and social welfare programmes, Philanthropy initiated a programme providing expertise and voluntary psycho-social support for people living with HIV/AIDS – PLHIV in 2003 with the blessing of Patriarch Pavle. This programme’s main purpose is suppression of social isolation and discrimination of PLHIV, as well as development of voluntary work and public awareness on presence of HIV/AIDS within various social groups.

For some time already, DPNSEE and its member organisations from Serbia actively cooperate with Philanthropy. The visit was an opportunity to exchange about activities and plans with project coordinator Aleksandra Božinović Knežević and generate ides for future cooperation.

Reducing the problems of the dependency

The annual Press Conference “Activities on the field of reducing the problems of the dependency” was held on 20 December 2018 in the EU info Centre in Belgrade. Speakers at the Conference were Nebojša Đurasović, President of the Association Prevent, Milan Pekić, Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and Milutin Milošević, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe. Representatives of the institutions and organisations with whom Prevent and DPNSEE cooperate participated in the Conference.

Nebojša Đurasović presented activities which Association Prevent conducted in scope of the project “At Risk Youth Social Empowerment” and other projects realised in 2018. For a good work, Prevent deserved the award “Responsible attitude and work with vulnerable young people” offered by the city of Novi Sad. Đurasović also spoke about extending the programme of needle exchange to Belgrade and draw attention to the issues of drugs in Serbia including raising number of overdose deaths in young population.

Milan Pekić presented the co-operation between the Office for Combating Drugs and civil society organisations in Serbia as an example of good practice, especially in the process of designing the new Action Plan for implementation of the Strategy for drug prevention.

Milutin Milošević presented a situation in the region of South East Europe, activities in 2018 and plans of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe for the future. His comments on new psychoactive substances and change of culture of drug use raised a special attention.

Representatives of institutions and organisations that co-operate with Prevent and Drug Policy Network SEE were attended the Conference and took discussion on several topics, especially about discrimination.

The open discussion that followed was mainly focused on the issue of discrimination of drug users.

Two news publications were presented at the Conference: Prevent published the one on “Empowering against the discrimination of youth at risk“, while DPNSEE prepared the Serbian version of their Glossary of terms used in drug policy with the support of the Office for combating drugs.

Videos from the Conference are available in following this link >>>

New DPNSEE Board elected at the General Assembly

The new DPNSEE Board was elected at the General Assembly, held on 10th December 2018, in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Chairman reminded the representatives of the member organisations that there is no clear procedure for this election in the Statute and proposed the following procedure:

  • Select three persons for the commission (persons who are neither nominated nor a member of organisations whose members are nominated)
  • Nominate candidates for the Board
  • Vote anonymously for seven Board members
  • Commission to count votes and declare the results

The proposed procedure was adopted by a unanimous decision.

Commission members that fulfill the criteria were selected:

  1. Olga Pateraki from Diogenis, Greece,
  2. Nataša Boškova from Coalition ‘Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities’, Macedonia and
  3. Marjana Krsmanović from Juventas Montenegro.

There were 9 candidates proposed for for the Board. Elected members of the DPNSEE Board are:

  1. Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation
  2. Denis Dedajić from Margina
  3. Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice
  4. Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent
  5. Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth
  6. Sanja Šišović from Cazas
  7. Vlatko Dekov from HOPS

The proposal to choose Vlatko Dekov as the President and Nebojša Đurasović as the Vice-President of the Board was adopted by a unanimous decision of all 16 member organisations representatives.

During the discussion about the elections, the proposals were made to change the Statute so that all functions other than president and vice-president become just „member“ and to extend the duration of the mandate of the Board members from two years to three. The Assembly at this meeting had 2/3 majority needed for the change of Statute. The proposed changes of the Statute were adopted by a unanimous decision.

Nebojša Đurasović proposed the new co-opting procedure – if somebody resigns from the Board during their mandate to be replaced with the first person below the line from the list of nominated but not elected persons if that person agrees. This proposal brought about a short discussion of possible issues in proposed case. On this proposed change of the Statute 14 member organisations representatives voted for and 2 against which was not sufficient majority for the Statute change, so it was not adopted.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe General Assembly 2018

With the support from the Central European Initiative (CEI) and funded through the European Union project, The Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised regular annual General Assembly on 10 December 2018 in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The participants at the Assembly were welcomed by Milan Pekić, Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. In their short opening speeches, Mr Pekić and the President of the Board of the Network Vlatko Dekov emphasized the importance of partnership in achieving the aim of effective drug policies.

The participants held voting rights from 16 out of 22 ordinary member organisations. That provided the Assembly with the right to make qualified decisions, even those related to the amendments to the Statute.

The Assembly was chaired by Anna Lyubenova, representative of the member organisation Initiative for Health Foundation from Bulgaria.

During the agenda point on membership issues, candidatures for membership from two organisations were discussed. The Assembly unanimously recognised as ordinary members Timok Youth Center from Zaječar, Serbia and Center for Human Policy from Sofia, Bulgaria. The Network now has 24 ordinary and 2 associate member organisations.

The General Assembly discussed the Operational and financial report for 2018 and elements for the Action plan and the Financial plan for 2019. The General Assembly welcomed the reports. They will be completed with the activities in December and then be adopted. The Assembly analysed the donor and funding trends and issues and concluded that, based on donor research, negotiation and exchange, no funding from EU for the Network can be expected for 2019 and some amounts can be obtained for year 2020, more project based. Funding plans and activities and possible issues that might be funded in 2019 include budget advocacy, the Network being the leader on the issue of quality of services in the region, redefining harm reduction and human rights element of the approach in work. The need for greater participation in relevant international events and DPNSEE taking role in organizing regional events were emphasized.

Nine candidates applied for elections to the DPNSEE Board. The new Board includes Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation, Denis Dedajić from Margina, Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice, Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent, Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth, Sanja Šišović from Cazas and Vlatko Dekov from HOPS.

The Assembly decided to keep at the current positions Vlatko Dekov as the President, and Nebojša Đurasović as Vice-President.

More information about the elections are available following this link >>>

An external consultant Jarmila Bujak Stanko facilitated the strategic workshop through which participants analysed achievement of aims and objectives of the strategic plan adopted in 2016 and indicated in which way and by which activities the priorities will be followed in the next two years.

The General Assembly ended in a positive and friendly atmosphere with an improved sense of belonging to the Network.

Situation in Romania full of challenges

Delegation of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe with Nebojša Đurasović, Vice-President, Denis Dedajić, Secretary of the Board, and Milutin Milošević, Executive Director, visited Romania on 19 November 2018. It was one of the two remaining in the serial of visits aimed to present DPNSEE to the society, build strong relationships with the authorities, institutions and services and explore opportunities for partnerships.

The situation in the country is far from good with no harm reduction services available outside Bucharest, no support for MSM services and no HIV strategy and strategic plan (a proposed document is in the Ministry of Health for one year but not approved). Opioid Substitution Therapy funding is a nightmare (procedurally), therefore hospitals do not want to engage in that, and Harm Reduction is in a survival mode. State institutions and civil society organisations have different data on key populations, with number of drug users ranging from 9.000 to 19.000.

At the meeting with Sorin Oprea, Director of the Agency for Combating Drugs, in a friendly atmosphere created through recent contacts, we discussed about the potential to raise drug policy higher on political agenda during the Romanian presidency over EU starting in January. We were informed about forthcoming purchase of 900.000 syringes for harm reduction services, the data collecting system that operates well in Romania and will be offered to Turkey, a 3 Million Euro programme that is planned for civil society organisations and plans to develop a system of alternative sanctions. Our interest in protection of personal data of drug users was replied with assurance that the problem was solved and that anonymity is guaranteed. The optimistic situation presented by the Agency was questioned by our civil society colleagues during the next meetings.

Discussion with our colleague Dragoş Roşca, director of the Romanian Harm Reduction Network, presented a bit different and challenging situation in the country. Among others, Dragoş gave us a good insight in functioning of country coordinating mechanism after departure of Global Fund. RHRN mainly functions as a watchdog for state institutions. He informed us that out of 15.500 people living with HIV, 14.000 are on treatment.

Dan Popescu from our member organisation ARAS took us to two methadone centres where they serve almost 500 people. The most vulnerable 100 of them get the service for free, while other can choose to pay 3 Euro for a daily service or 120 Euro for monthly package. We instantly commented that the country should provide the services for free – otherwise people’s basic right for health is not respected! In the centre situated in a large hospital, 11 committed activists work from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM, supported by a doctor, nurse and social worker. This service operates for 12 years already.

We also had an opportunity to see one of two their outreach team and their van which cruises the streets of Bucharest and provides service on the spot.

The visit was really good opportunity to learn about a variety of issues related to drug policy in this complex and segmented country.

Meetings with the Open Society Foundations representatives

On the margins of the dialogue between civil society and donors, representatives of the Open Society Foundations visited DPNSEE office on 18 January 2018: Daniel Wolfe, director of International Harm Reduction Development, Julia Greenberg, director of Governance and Financing, and Ekaterina Lukicheva, program officer for the International Harm Reduction Development Program (all three from the OSF Public Health Programme) along with Raminta Štuikyte, consultant. Vice-President Nebojša Đurasović, Secretary of the Board Denis Dedajić and Executive Director Milutin Milošević welcomed the distinguished guests.

DPNSEE hosts presented work and potentials of the Network and answered many questions. Guests were especially interested by the fact that DPNSEE gathers member organisations from all SEE countries and that it has a wide approach to the issue, including various elements of drug policy. They underlined that their full withdrawal from the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia is not good so they decided to assign funds to it. In 2017, they already supported two CSO projects in Montenegro with and they still have funds for support to Bosnia Herzegovina, Romania and Serbia which were not distributed, while for 2018 they have planned additional support to the region. Agreement was reached, in principle, that DPNSEE will implement a project on budget advocacy and implementation in Serbia, on local and national level. DPNSEE also proposed such an initiative on the regional level. Discussions about potential cooperation extended throughout the next two days of meetings.

Before the meetings in Belgrade, OSF and GF representatives visited Montenegro to discuss implementation of the two project they finance since 2017 and preparations for the national project application to the Global Fund. Our member organisations Cazas and Juventas were involved in the meetings.

Representatives of Margina and Viktorija had working meetings with both OSF and GF representatives. Result of the meetings is that the same support as the one for Montenegro is proposed for Bosnia Herzegovina, for a similar project adjusted to the structure of the country. Two projects are foreseen: one on accreditation of the harm reduction services in the Republic of Srpska and other on social contracting in the Federation of BH. The trigger for this decision was presentation which Denis had as panellist.

The OSF visit ended with visit to the Drop-in for drug users and Shelter for sex workers in Novi Sad managed by Prevent. The visit was very effective, with excellent presentation of Prevent’s work and very emotional discussion with three sex workers in the Shelter. At the end the guests (including representatives of SWAN and Mama Cash foundation) haven’t made any concrete promise for support but they expressed their willingness to help finding donors. The visit should be used as a model for welcoming donors and convincing them to finance services.

At the Drop-in for drug users

DPNSEE General Assembly

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe held its 2nd regular annual General Assembly in Belgrade, Serbia from 3rd to 5th December 2017. It was the opportunity to meet, analyse the work looking back on the year that almost ended and decide about the future work.

Thanks to the generous support from the Office for combating drugs of the Republic of Serbia, the Assembly was held in the Palace Serbia, the governmental representative building. Representatives of 15 out of 22 member organisations participated, including 2 newly recognised members.

Our distinguished guests at the Assembly were His Excellency Ambassador of Portugal Augusto Saraiva Peixoto and Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Serbia Milan Pekić.

The Assembly adopted the report about the work in 2017 and financial report presenting the Network’s main activities. The plans for 2018 were also adopted, based on the strategic priorities proposed by the Board and ideas for possible projects and partnership building.

Changes in the Board were introduced to ensure that this governing body is active in implementing the action plan. Vlatko Dekov (HOPS, FYRO Macedonia) is elected new Chairperson and Nebojša Đurasović (Prevent, Serbia) new Vice-Chair. While Denis Dedajić (Margina, Bosnia Herzegovina), Marios Atzemis (Positive Voice, Greece) and Saša Mijović (4 Life, Montenegro) remain members of the Board as Secretary, Treasurer and Member, newly elected Board member Anna Lyubenova (Initiative for Health Foundation,IHF, Bulgaria) will serve as Deputy Secretary, and Erlind Plaku (Aksion Plus, Albania) as Deputy Treasurer.

In order to establish common positions, small group work was organised on key issues for which DPNSEE will issue statements in the future. Cannabis and Drug checking were specific topics for sharing and generating ideas.

Learning about the good experiences and challenges in Croatia

Representatives of the Drug Policy Network in South East Europe (DPNSEE) visited Croatia from 22 to 24 March 2017. This activity is part of a series of country visits within the framework of the project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public Health and human rights oriented Drug Policy in South East Europe” as described within the work plan for 2017 and it was undertaken by NGO “Diogenis Drug Policy Dialogue” – the lead organization of the project – in close cooperation with DPNSEE. The delegation – consisting of Nebojša Đurasović, Deputy Treasurer and DPNSEE Board member, Milutin Milošević, DPNSEE Executive director and Sofia Galinaki, Diogenis Advocacy Officer – visited local authorities, institutions and NGOs working in the field of drugs based in the capital Zagreb and the cities of Split and Rijeka.

With Nena from the NGO Help

The visit was part of the efforts for the enlargement of the Network as an essential prerequisite for making it a strong and reliable partner. The main aims of the visit were to: (a) present DPNSEE to the Croatian society, (b) build strong relationships, enhance contacts and improve drug policy dialogue with the relevant authorities, state institutions, policy makers and NGOs, (c) explore opportunities for partnerships and collaboration and (d) discuss possible applications of local civil society organizations for membership in DPNSEE. More specifically, the delegation came in contact, discussed and exchange important information and experiences with: representatives from the Office for Combating Drugs Abuse of the Republic of Croatia,  Mr. Ranko Ostojić  – recent vice Prime minister and Minister of Interior, currently Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Domestic Policy and National Security,  representatives from the NGOs ‘LET’ – based in Zagreb, ‘HELP’ – based in Split, ‘TERRA’, ‘VIDA’, and ‘OASA’ – based in Rijeka and representatives from the Educational Institute for Public Health of the Split – Dalmatia county.

Ilinka and Dejan hosted us in Terra

The most important observation the delegation gained was that the governmental institutions operate in a very effective way, using an interdisciplinary approach. There is a well-organized and structured system in place, which covers the entire range of needs related to drug use. The system is decentralised, so that each of the 21 counties (županije) has its own tasks and responsibilities. Further on, local authorities and institutions take their own part and that is usually very well coordinated at county level. Moreover, the strong and ongoing cooperation between the competent state agencies and local Civil Society organizations significantly contributes in the overall implementation of the Croatian drug policy in a consistent way.

More detailed information regarding the: programme and preparation of the visit, structure of the Croatian drug policy system, important projects implemented within the 10-year Croatian Drug Strategy (2007-2017), harm reduction field, drug law reform, role of civil society in the implementation of drug policy, areas of improvement and the potential of future cooperation can be found in the full report available on request from the DPNSEE Office.

A warm welcome in NGO Vida