The Office for combating drugs of the Government of Serbia signed on 10 January 2018 Memorandum of Understanding with 11 civil society organisations from Serbia, confirming the importance of civil society organizations and the need for their active involvement in the implementation of drug policy and promoting a new concept of cooperation between state bodies and civil society organizations. Civil society organizations now have the opportunity to join together with state authorities in establishing a broad social platform needed for creating an effective, global standards based and comprehensive drug policy.
The Memorandum was designed in partnership with the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society of Government of Serbia and civil society organisations. Organisations were invited to apply through a public call.
Drug Policy Network South East Europe was one of 11 organisations with whom the Memorandum of Understanding was signed: Nova Plus, Izlazak, Re Generation, Prevent, Duga, Timočki omladinski centar, Jazas Pozarevac, as well as from Novi Sad, Kokoro and Zemlja živih.
The Acting director of the Office for combating drugs of the Government of Serbia Milan Pekić underlined that civil society organisations are significantly contributing to implementation of the Strategy for combating drugs. He also stressed that CSOs have direct access to people using drugs. They have an important role in implementing plans and organising activities, from prevention to treatment and harm reduction.
Civil society representatives emphasized that cooperation with the Office for combating drugs is a huge step forward, significant recognition of their work and an opportunity for working together.
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.
Policy Analysis and Policy Creation Group (GAJP), Center for Public Administration, Local Self-Government and Public Policy of Faculty of Political Sciences with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and PERFORM, organised The Fifth Days of Public Policy at the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Political Sciences.
The topics of the event were: construction policy, public advocacy as a science and art, the role of citizens in changing public policies, privacy on the Internet, circular economy, public administration reform and drug policy of Republic of Serbia. Creators, decision-makers and politicians, academics, private sector, state institutions and civil society organizations spoke about these topics. During Friday and Saturday, workshops were organized to bring participants closer to the process of creating public policies.
Drug Policy Network South East Europe participated in the panel devoted to drug policies, alongside with Director of The Office for combating drugs, Milan Pekić and Miroslav Savković farmacologist, Professor at the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Pharmacy.
Panel discussion included topics like: The current state of affairs when a drug policy is in question and how is the system of drug control in Serbia regulated? What are the possible alternatives when policies in this field are concerned? While Irena Molnar, Communication officer of the Network drove attention to harm reduction programs and culture change of substance use in Serbia, Milutin Milošević, Executive director spoke about process of defining amendments to Laws and work on it at institutional Level included but not limited to process, public debates, working groups, engagement of NGOs. He was also briefly explaining processes of evaluation of Strategy and Action plan and what has been done so far.
Around 100 participants voted the panel on drug policies as the most interesting at the event.
The Drug Policy Network South East Europe announced activities in scope of the “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign at the Kick-off event held on 20 June in the EU Info Centre in Belgrade, Serbia. This global campaign that will in 2017 be held in 178 cities in 85 countries promotes drug policies based on human rights and public health approaches. The campaign is a voice against ruinous War Against Drugs which has in 46 years brought numerous negative consequences including overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C infections among people who use drugs, prison over-crowding, extra-judicial killings, the use of the death penalty, and an exacerbation of stigma, marginalisation, violence and corruption.
The Network coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Actions 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
During the event, the Network representatives emphasized numerous problems organisations that provide services are facing and growing trends in the region and Serbia specifically. Dr Maja Vučković Krčmar, representing the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia presented the European Drug Report 2017, prepared by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions, underlining dilemmas around cannabis decriminalisation, emerging of new psychoactive substances and increased availability of cocaine. Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia Milan Pekić reminded that Serbia is at the main Balkan drug route and called for coordinated work of all governmental structures and civil society organisations in preparing and implementing holistic answer to the problem.
The Drug Policy Network South East Europe presented the Glossary of terms used in drug policy and relevant related matters and the Resource Centre which will be of service to all those who need information and other kinds of support.
The Office for Combating Drugs and the Office for cooperation with the Civil Society of the Republic of Serbia organised the first sectorial meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Interior and the Department for prevention of narcomania and combating drug trafficking of the Directorate of Police on 2 February 2017. More than 40 representatives of various CSOs participated, including DPNSEE, Prevent and Re Generacija. The meeting was intended for sharing information and establishing contacts. The police representatives were more oriented to focusing the discussion on prevention and taking restrictive, repressive position and most of the CSO representatives also came from the prevention sphere. All our representatives took floor and indicated the need for new approach to drug issue.