Ninth European drugs summer school

The University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL) and the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) will be joining forces once again next summer to hold the ninth European drugs summer school (EDSS) on ‘Illicit drugs in Europe: demand, supply and public policies’. Registration is now open for the two-week course, which will take place in the Portuguese capital from 29 June to 10 July.

Through a multidisciplinary and interactive approach to the drugs problem, EMCDDA scientific experts, leading academics, guest speakers, policymakers and professionals having participated in previous rounds of the EDSS, will prepare participants to meet the complex policy challenges in this field – both in Europe and beyond. The focus of the 2020 course will be hepatitis C.

Week 1 of the summer school, focusing on the ‘Drugs problem: substance use and problems, substance characteristics, and market’, will feature lectures on: the global burden of drug-related problems; drug markets in Europe; detecting new drugs; and prevention approaches in demand-reduction interventions. This session will also focus on the EMCDDA’s epidemiological indicators and their use in informing drug policy.

Week 2, dedicated to ‘Policymaking for drug-related issues’, will include lectures on: drug policies and new challenges (concepts, issues and analysis); the use of evidence to inform decision making; drug laws; and monitoring supply reduction and drug enforcement activity. It will also include group discussion exercises on how to use the knowledge acquired during the course, to sustain drug-related debates. Finally, students will be guided through an analysis of the link between evidence and decision-making, including examples of implementation.

Study visits to outreach facilities and to one of the Portuguese commissions for dissuasion will be organised over the two weeks. During the course, students will also participate in interactive workshops to discuss their own projects and views. The course will conclude with an open debate with guest speakers.

The target audiences for the EDSS are: university students, researchers, professionals and administrators interested in working on drug issues. The previous rounds of the summer school brought together students from the EU Member States as well as from Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

In 2020, students will again be able to apply for scholarships and ‘early-bird’ reductions are also available.

Information and registration is available following this link>>>

Have a look at the promotional video of the European drugs summer school below

United Nations & world leaders condemned for failure on drug policy, health and human rights

329 NGOs call for global leadership to halt global public health emergency and to end egregious human rights violations against people who use drugs.

As the 26th International Harm Reduction Conference comes to a close, hundreds of health professionals, academics, drug policy and human rights experts, frontline workers and people who use drugs released a statement calling on world leaders to urgently address the health and human rights crisis among people who use drugs.

Signatory NGOs shed light on the alarming public health emergency faced by people who use drugs. Between 2009 and 2015, the number of drug-related deaths rose by a worrying 60%. In 2015 alone, this culminated in a total of 450,000 deaths – an estimated 50 deaths every hour. The target to halve the incidence of HIV among people who inject drugs by 2015, set eight years ago, was spectacularly missed by 80%, and HIV prevalence increased by one third among people who inject drugs over the same period. Furthermore, globally, six in ten people who use drugs are living with hepatitis C, while 168,000 people who use drugs were reported to have died of an overdose in 2015 alone.

These health harms are preventable. The evidence, presented at the Conference this week, shows that harm reduction and human rights-centred drug policies can save lives, prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, and promote the dignity and empowerment of people who use drugs. But this requires leadership from both governments and the UN.

Naomi Burke-Shyne, Executive Director of Harm Reduction International (HRI), said: ‘The evidence for harm reduction is indisputable. It is nothing short of disgraceful that governments continue to fail to support and invest in health services for some of the most marginalised people’.

The joint NGO statement also expresses serious concerns over the ability of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to adequately lead the UN response on this issue. By its very mandate and construction, the UNODC remains more attuned to the law enforcement response to drugs. As a result, UNODC leadership has consistently failed to unequivocally champion harm reduction, human rights and decriminalisation, and has lost further creditability with repeated silence in face of egregious human rights violations. Today, people who use drugs continue to be victims of incarceration, compulsory detention, denial of access to healthcare, corporal punishment, institutionalised violence, stigma and discriminations, and – in the most extreme cases – extrajudicial killings.

In response to the vacuum of political leadership, NGOs conveying in Porto have called for global leadership to protect the human rights of a ‘population under attack’ and demanded that these unacceptable human rights abuses to come to an end.

Ann Fordham, Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), stated: ‘just over ten years left for countries to meet their global commitment to champion health, reduce inequalities, and provide access to justice for all, as enshrined in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, there has never been a more urgent need to strengthen political leadership at all levels. Faced with the current crisis, complacency can no longer be tolerated’.

Cooperation with Portugal – the leading country in drug policy

During several events which happened in October, DPNSEE have deepened existing and established new relations with Portugal.

APDES outreach team in action

Our staff member Irena Molnar had an unofficial visit to APDES (Agência Piaget para o Desenvolvimento), a non-governmental which promotes integrated development in their headquarters in Vila de nova Gaia, near Porto. APDES main goal is to intervene with vulnerable communities and people, in order to improve their access to healthcare services, employment and education, working for the empowerment of institutions and individuals, as well as for the reinforcement of social cohesion. They developed several activities in this municipality and cities like Porto, Barcelos, Guarda, Viseu, Setúbal and Lisbon. The services they deliver are related to health, harm reduction and human rights, among others. Irena had a special opportunity to spend a day with the outreach team of GIRUGaia project, inter-disciplinary outreach team that works with drug users. Guided by principles related to harm reduction, it promotes the use of aseptic material and the adoption of lower risk use practices. It also provides services that promote citizenship, health and social inclusion. During several days, with good help of Joana Francisca Canedo, Advocacy and Policy officer in APDES, Irena got introduced to the Portuguese policies and functioning of the system itself, but most important also situation on the ground.

As a part of the TWIST project at Lisbon Addiction 2017 conference, several days later, member organisations representatives and Staff members had an opportunity to meet with various officials and activists from Portugal and learn about their policy and activities. We got an opportunity to informally meet with executive director of APDES, Jose Queiros, with whom we discussed future cooperation of APDES and DPNSEE. We presenting the DPNSEE work and discussed various issues and potential future cooperation. That included support which APDES could offer to DPNSEE member organisations through study visits, know-how exchange and other activities. Lisbon Addictions 2017 and the TWIST project haven’t served only as a great opportunity for learning from academia, but also to reconnect with old and make new connections with wider European specialist in areas related to substance use.

Irena and Milutin with Jose Queiros, executive director of APDES

Just after returning to Serbia, DPNSEE staff members had a meeting with the Ambassador of Portugal His Excellency Augusto Saravia Peixoto and the Deputy Head of Mission Ms Graça Vosta Macedo. The meeting was scheduled on the DPNSEE initiative for cooperation.

We had an interesting exchange about the Portuguese drug policy, which is usually seen as one of the most effective in the European Union, agreeing easily that a comprehensive approach involving all stakeholders is necessary for obtaining good results. DPNSEE representatives presented their recent cooperation with their peers in Portugal, especially APDES. The Ambassador and his colleagues offered support in ensuring a wide array of contacts for the visit to Portugal, where a delegation consisting of governmental and NGO representatives from Serbia would have the opportunity to get a full insight into the policy and field activities. Following that visit and on the basis of the priorities established by the new Action Plan Against drugs in Serbia 2018 – 2020, the Embassy will assist with finding most suitable experts that would come to Serbia and bring their experiences to local stakeholders.

His Excellency is also interested to extend cooperation to other countries of the region where he represents Portugal: Bosnia Herzegovina, FYRO Macedonia and Montenegro.

Lisbon Addictions 2017

The second European Conference on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies – Lisbon Addictions 2017 – was held from 24 to 26 October 2017 building on the success of the first Lisbon Addictions, which took place in September 2015. That conference was originally planned as a small, one-off event to support networking across European addiction professionals. But, organisers were taken by surprise by the enthusiasm that the Conference generated. Participants’ evaluation showed that it provided a unique and valuable opportunity for discourse and networking across the different disciplines involved in this challenging and dynamic area. Lisbon Addictions was therefore made a biennial event.

Vision for Lisbon Addictions 2017 was to provide a European focused Conference but with an international perspective. Therefore, more than 1 200 participants from over 71 countries came to Lisbon, including policy actors, researchers, academia, practitioners, health professionals, governmental and non-governmental representatives, patient organisations, health economists and others. The conference spanned all aspects of the addictions field with wide diversity of the submissions made. Participants had the opportunity to select from over 500 oral presentations, view over 200 posters and hear from over 20 keynote speakers representing some of the most eminent scientists and practitioners working in the addiction field today.

The evaluation of the first conference also indicated a demand to go beyond the usual conference communication formats and complement the programme with an integrated training event to explore a selection of “hot” drug and addiction topics in-depth and build capacity among different stakeholders, using novel interactive dynamic learning formats, knowledge and experience exchange, and multi-sector networking environments. The TWIST project (Training WIth STakeholders – Applying EU drug and addiction research) was prepared as a training strand, with the participation of the target audience (early stage professionals) and other stakeholders. Aim was to meet this need through a two-day training programme embedded within the scope and programme of LxAddictions17. Most of the participants from South East Europe, especially from the civil society sector, were supported by TWIST. The topics, contents and delivery formats of the TWIST training programme were conceptualised and designed through a participatory process with selected EU representatives of the stakeholder groups.

The conference was held in the excellent facilities of Lisbon’s Congress Centre which provides the opportunity to hold large major sessions as well as smaller venues for more intensive and participatory discussions.

Sharing at the conference, either at scheduled sessions or in informal setting, helped build future collaborations between professionals both within Europe and beyond.

The next conference is already scheduled for 23 – 25 October 2019, again in Lisbon.