I think we did a good job

Talas – Serbia based media portal “about politics, economy and ideas” published an article about effects of the coronavirus on people who use drugs in Serbia. The article is based on information published by DPNSEE and interviews with Milutin Milošević, our Executive Director, and Irena Molnar, the Executive Director of our member organisation Re Generacija.

Milutin emphasized that the civil society organisations from the region have done a good job before and during the first period of the outbreak. The result is that we haven’t noticed any infection among users of our services.

Irena emphasized that people who are on treatment are in an additional risk because they have to travel, sometimes daily, to get the treatment or social care.

The article, in Serbia, is available here>>>

Instructions on coronavirus in Serbian

Together with our member organisations Prevent and Re Generation, DPNSEE have prepared information and instructions for protection against coronavirus in Serbian for people in risk from vulnerable populations we support. We used several sources: INPUD, Leafly, Crew and BesD.

The instructions are printed in 500 – 2.000 copies to share to the key populations.

These instructions will be available in various institutions and civil society organisations in Serbia. We expect that they will be adjusted to local languages in some other countries of South East Europe.

General harm reduction tips for people who use drugs
General prevention measures against coronavirus COVID-19
Instructions for people who take drugs snorting
Instructions for people who use cannabis
Instructions for people who go clubbing
Instructions for sex workers

Together against coronavirus

On the initiative from civil society organisations, following the DPNSEE Public appeal to protect vulnerable groups from coronavirus COVID-19, a meeting was called by the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia to discuss the measures to protect people who use drugs and other connected vulnerable groups. The meeting was held on 13 March with representatives of the Office, Ministry of Health, Special Hospital for Addictions and four civil society organisations.

All participants agreed that vulnerable groups need to be supported for their personal and protection of the entire society. Conclusions include

  • By noon on Monday 16 all service providers will send estimations of their needs for materials they need to protect the key populations they serve and their staff. The Office for Combating Drugs will collect them and send a joint request to the Ministry of social affairs. Once they are provided, they will be distributed to the organisations.
  • The Office will also request for an information about the needs of the shelters for children, young people and elderly and try to organise support to them.
  • Funds for the additional support will be requested from the project supported by the Global Fund and Ministry of Health, at least for the staff supporting the key affected populations.
  • Civil society organisations are preparing specific instructions for people who use drugs and other vulnerable populations and share them both through social networks and printed materials.

 

Chem-Sex and the City

On the occasion of the Global Day of Action of the “Support.” Don’t Punish” campaign and within the Pride Month, NGO Re Generation with the support of the Belgrade Pride Info Centre, in cooperation with the regional ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association, organized the premiere of the movie: “Chem-Sex and the city“. This short documentary was produced with the support of the Right Reporter Foundation and firstly presented at the Harm Reduction International 2019 conference in Portugal this April.

The movie is part of the activities Re Generation has related to public advocacy for awareness raising about problems related to psychoactive substances. The event marked the launch of an open dialogue about chemsex which will include mapping the needs to design appropriate services.

After the movie, Stefan Pejić from NGO Re Generation spoke on “ChemSex and what stands behind this phenomenon”, Zoran Milosavljević, independent researcher on “ChemSex in Serbia – Strategic (in) visibility of practice and its implications” and Amarillo Fecanji from ERA on “Regional perspectives and initial steps in mapping respond to the appearance of ChemSex”.

Serbia celebrated the International day against drugs

The Office for combating drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia organised a conference in occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Belgrade on 26 June 2019. Representatives of international organisations, governmental institutions, civil society and media joined to hear about latest experiences and successful stories in fighting drug abuse and support to the people who use drugs.

After the welcome and introductory speech from the Director of the Office Milan Pekić, presentation followed:

  • A comparative analysis of the statistic data about drug seizures in 2018 – Radomir Popović, Office for combating drugs
  • Modern approach to treatment and curing drug addiction – Dr Diana Raketić, Special hospital for addictions
  • Psycho-social interventions and re-integration process of people with drug disorder in Serbia – Milka Kalaba, The Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy
  • Misuse of drugs in adolescence – Dr Svetislav Mitrović, Institute for mental health
  • New psychoactive substances and new trends in drug use – Dr Jelena Janković, Ministry of Health
  • Treatment of addiction of people in prisons – Dr Maja Paunović, Special prison hospital
  • Role of media in drug prevention and fighting stigma of ex-drug addicts – Mladen Mijatović, Member of the Committee for fighting narcomania in schools

The civil society had an important role too with Aleksandar Žugić from the Association Izlazak presenting Evaluation of multi-sectorial meetings they held in local communities, while Irena Molnar from NGO Re Generacija spoke about the “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign. She also presented the results of the research on “Discrimination of people who use drugs” prepared by DPNSEE.

The conclusion of the conference is that cooperation between different stakeholders is very much needed, as well as education of people from different professions (health workers, police, teachers and others, including civil society activists) on drug addiction and human rights.

The Support. Don’t Punish campaign launched in South East Europe

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

Besides journalists, representatives of colleague civil society organisations, UN agencies, Office for combating drugs and political parties were present.

Representatives of the Network presented the key findings from baseline research on “Documenting Drug Related Cases of Discrimination”. This small scale research aims on raising awareness on existing discrimination in different areas of everyday life, map the situation and make a base for the further advocacy actions in decreasing stigma and discrimination towards people who use drugs.

DPNSEE also presented the proposal for decriminalisation of drug use and possession made to the Working group on changes to the Criminal Law in Serbia. The proposal was submitted to the Working Group for amendments to the Criminal Law but unfortunately was not supported.

DPNSEE member organisation Prevent presented results of the regional project “Budget Advocacy Monitoring in South East Europe” in Serbia. That included analysis of the national budgets for 4 last years with a specific focus on health and harm reduction, execution of the budget and excises, and the Declaration for sustainable national response to HIV.

Re Generation presented the results of their research “How the closing of the needle exchange programs affected the access to harm reduction services in two cities – Belgrade and Budapest“.

Finally, DPNSEE representatives presented the activities in the region in scope of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign.

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

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

Training for a safe night environment

DPNSEE member organizations Re Generation and Udruga Terra joined in two days training activity, held in Rijeka, Croatia on 11 and 12 April 2019. The training “New psychoactive substances and outreach for a safe night environment” was held by Irena Molnar i Bojan Arsenijević from Serbian NGO Re Generation.

The purpose of the training was raising the capacity of young people and work with their peers in order to have a safer night environment. Re Generacija’s Training of peer educators for volunteering in nightlife setting and on festivals includes following topics:

  • Drugs – tradition – illness or crime
  • Harm Reduction Programs. Nightlife outreach and peer education (may include good examples of practice around the globe)
  • Prevention of the final negative outcome (overdose) and basic First AID for nightlife setting
  • New psychoactive substances (may include different examples of drug checking services)

Young activists of the Association Terra team, employees and volunteers, engaged in harm reduction program, visited the clubs of youth gathering in Rijeka with Re Generation representatives, evaluated the information and reports from training in practice.

How have closing of services affected drug users?

DPNSEE member organisation Re Generacija implemented the survey “Access to services of ex-users of the needle and syringe programme closed in Belgrade and Budapest” with the support of the Rights Reporter Foundation. Aim of the survey, implemented in 2018, was to analyse the consequences of closing the services and the effects that it has on risks and daily life of injecting drug users. Objectives included to reach out to the service users and learning about their current use of substances, mapping their access to services, sterile injecting equipment and analysing their perception of the closure of services and most important currently missing service. The conference was also an opportunity to discuss the current situation with recently established outreach programmes, as well as opioid substitution therapy and early warning system for new psychoactive substances.

The results of the survey were presented today at the conference organised together with the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia. The conference was held in the Palace of Serbia, with participants coming from both governmental and civil society sectors.

Two major groups of users were approached by the survey: drug users which were using the services for a long time and Roma people. A typical drug user both in Belgrade and Budapest is male, in mid-forties, with low education and income. In Budapest, users mainly use new psychoactive substances (synthetic cathinones), while in Belgrade they mainly use opioids (heroine). One of the main conclusion from the survey is that closing the services caused even more difficulties to reach out to drug users who are usually very suspicious.

To get more information and results of the survey, please contact Re Generacija following this link>>>>.

Consultations in the Office for Combating Drugs

The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia held a meeting with civil society organisations on 25 February 2019. Besides 11 organisations which signed the Memorandum of Understanding with the Office in 2018 (including DPNSEE and 3 of its member organisations), 4 new organisations which established formal cooperation with the Office also joined the meeting.

Most of the meeting was dedicated to the proposals for amendments to the Criminal Law related to drug-related offenses. DPNSEE sent a formal proposal to the Ministry of Justice, the Working group for changes of the Criminal Law it created, The Office for Combating Drugs and the Office for support to the civil society organisations proposing decriminalisation of drug use and possession for personal use and protection of civil society organisations providing services to drug users. The proposal is available in Serbian following this link>>>.

The proposal was appraised as a very good, clear, concise and evidence based, but concerns were expressed that it may not be supported due to current situation in the country and increased conservatism in relation to the drug use. The participants emphasized the need to establish a system of accreditation of civil society organisations services. It should include all elements of their work, from prevention, harm reduction, treatment to social services and rehabilitation.

The Office will, through their representative, present civil society proposals to the Working group for changes of the Criminal Law.

The participation of civil society organisations representatives in the Working group to prepare the new Action plan for implementing the National Drug Strategy was appraised as a very good example of partnership. The Office will propose full involvement of the civil society in designing the new Strategy.

The participants at the meeting also got acquainted with the current activities of the Office on Drugs Policy, exchanged experiences on the previous cooperation defined in the Memorandum and made suggestions for improving it.

ReGeneration’s activities in the Support. Don’t Punish campaign

On Tuesday, 26th July 2018, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the NGO ReGeneration, in cooperation with the Belgrade night club Drugstore, organized an event as part of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign. The event, starting at 8 PM, was held in the Drugstore night club in Belgrade; the stand was placed in the lobby, next to the door leading to the main area, and opposite it, in front of the coat check, was displayed new informative material on the most common psychoactive substances and acute health issues the consumption there of could result in. A large poster of the campaign, in front of which visitors could, if they so wished, be photographed by members of ReGeneration’s with the Support. Don’t Punish logo as an act of support, was also placed in the lobby. Also, those who wished to could complete a short questionnaire regarding the usage of (new) psychoactive substances prepared by our team.

The visitors could then enter the main club area, where our guest Marko Milosavljević was the DJ support. To the backdrop of Marko’s music, the rest of the event passed in informal socialization and discussion. In casual conversation, the guests and visitors from various countries and of various educational profiles – anthropologists, healthcare professionals, psychologists, artist, etc. – touched upon many issues regarding the consumption of PAS and NPAS among the youth not just in Serbia and the region but globally as well, such as legislature, public policy, harm reduction strategies and public and media discourse on (N)PAS consumption. ReGeneration is determined to continue the tradition of organizing different events on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking with the goal of raising awareness and informing the general public.

Support Don’t Punish objectives were also promoted on the Pride Parade in Belgrade, by the Re Generation and YODA members. As Pride Parade had the topic of HIV prevention, we though it is important to support members of other vulnerable populations in fight against discrimination and stigmatization of all of us.

Before and after the event NGO Re Generation representatives were also present in media presented the goals of the Support Don’t Punish Global campaign to general public in addition to campaign that was recent initiated, as an answer to death of three young persons, related to the use of psychoactive substances, that inspired Re Generation to even more and bit aggressive advocate for the harm reduction programs in the recreational settings. #DAZNAMŠTARADIM is the campaign aiming to support and push for the implementation of nightlife outreach programs as a necessity.

Links to media coverage:
Re Genration blog: https://regeneracija.blogspot.com/2018/06/daznamstaradim.html?m=1
TV N1 Morning show: http://rs.n1info.com/Comment/StandardComment/789181/Vesti/Gosce- N1-Kultura-u-Srbiji-danas-podrzava-koriscenje-droga.html
TV Prva: http://www.prva.rs/web-tv/info/exploziv/41632/exploziv—25062018.html