Protecting communities: Responding to the impact of urban drug markets

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and it is predicted that by 2050 roughly two-thirds of all the people on our planet will live in urban areas. This creates opportunities but also challenges like drugs and organized crime.

Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime is a network of over 500 independent global and regional experts working on human rights, democracy, governance, and development issues where organized crime has become increasingly pertinent.

Their new paper looks at the challenge posed by urban drug markets, particularly the impact on crime, safety, and development. It combines a granular local analysis – based on research as well as interviews with current and former gang members, police, drug users, social workers, court employees and representatives of civil society – with a broader transnational perspective. The study focuses in particular on drug markets in the cities of Cali, Colombia; Chicago, US; Cape Town, South Africa; Karachi, Pakistan; Kingston, Jamaica, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The paper first identifies the problems, types and impact of urban drug markets, and then examines what can be done about them. It looks at what can and is being done at the community level to strengthen local resilience to drugs within a broader context of improving urban management to make cities safe, resilient and sustainable (in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable cities and communities). The topic of protecting communities takes on added relevance as calls to defund the police open important debates about the limitations of militarized policing and create new opportunities beyond law enforcement to build safer communities.

In short, this study looks at the impact of urban drug markets: why they develop in some cities; how they manifest themselves; how they shape and are shaped by their environment; and what can be done to disrupt them and help nurture resilience in these communities.

To read the report, follow this link>>>.

 

 

 

 

 

 


On 5 October, World Habitat Day, The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) will convene a webinar to discuss contemporary challenges of making cities safer. The webinar will build on GI-TOC’s recent report Protecting Communities: responding to the impact of urban drug market. Among the topics to be discussed are:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on urban drug markets;
  • Militarized policing and its limitations;
  • How violence spreads like an epidemic – and how to interrupt it;
  • Lessons learned from alternative development for urban security;
  • Promoting safer communities in vulnerable neighbourhoods.

To join the webinar, follow this link>>>.

COVID-19 and HIV

Decades of investment in the HIV response have created platforms that are proving useful in battling COVID-19 – just as they were in responding to the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in western and central Africa.

The new report by UNAIDS examines how the experience of tackling HIV can help inform and guide effective, efficient, people-centred and sustainable COVID-19 responses.

This report focuses on three key issues: (1) how key lessons learned from the HIV response should inform COVID-19 responses; (2) how the HIV infrastructure is already driving COVID-19 responses and has the potential to catalyse accelerated progress through strategic action; and (3) how the COVID-19 response, informed by the history of responding to HIV, offers a historic opportunity to build a bridge to adaptable results-driven systems for health that work for people.

Key recommendations for the COVID-19 response include:

  • COVID-19 responses should benefit from learning from the HIV experience
  • Communities must be at the centre of COVID-19 responses
  • COVID-19 responses should be guided by human rights principles and practices
  • COVID-19 responses should be gender-sensitive and transformative
  • COVID-19 demands a multi-sectorial, all-of-government, all-of-society response
  • COVID-19 responses should leverage the HIV infrastructure
  • COVID-19 strategic information data must be used to guide action, increase accountability and improve programme performance
  • COVID-19 responses will require strong political leadership
  • We must use COVID-19 to reimagine systems for health

To read and download the report, follow this link>>>.

 

New Psychoactive Substance use in Eastern Europe

From the EHRA webpage

The phenomenon of new psychoactive substances (NPS) started decades ago with the growth and production of drugs that replicate the effects of controlled drugs (such as amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis and heroin) but avoid legislative control based on different chemical structures.

In recent years, the increasing use of NPS has led to new threats for health of people who use drugs (PWUD) – including overdose, psychotic reactions, high HIV risks due to multiple injections and increased number of sexual contacts. However, in many countries service providers such as harm reduction, drug treatment programs and ambulance services are not prepared to provide PWUD with quality support and counselling to reduce risks of NPS.

In the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) region the situation with NPS is truly alarming and has become one of the major challenges for the national public health systems, local NGOs, communities PWUD.

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) in partnership with School of Law, Swansea University undertook the project “New Psychoactive Substance Use in Moldova, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Serbia” to generate a more accurate picture of the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and to assess harm reduction and law enforcement responses to the emerging issues related to use of NPS. Results from this project will supplement scarce international data on the use of NPS in these countries, present a more accurate picture of their use, and provide information to national civil society organizations (CSOs) for political advocacy.

Irena Molnar, a researcher from the non-governmental organization Re Generation (the only CSO that conducts activities aimed at dealing with NPS in Serbia, DPNSEE member organisation), prepared the report for Serbia, the only country involved in the project from South East Europe. Here is a brief overview of it:

The appearance of NPS in Serbia is not a new phenomenon, but their market share is very small. NPS have been talked about for a whole decade, although scientific research and answers to their appearance in the form of special services aimed at ensuring the health and well-being of users, but also the whole society, have not progressed at all.

Among other things, the report examines in detail the actions taken by the state in the context of this issue and formulates recommendations for improvement. For example, in order to improve the response to problems related to the emergence and use of NPS, greater state involvement is needed in terms of adapting to rapid market changes. This means not only putting substances on the banned list, for which Serbia is very up to date, but also improving the entire system.

To read the reports, follow this link>>>.

 

Transnational Tentacles

From the Global Initiative webpage

While the Western Balkans is often portrayed as a hotspot of illicit activity, the region is a relatively small market for organized crime.  The big money is made elsewhere. This report shows why and how groups from the Western Balkans have become engaged in organized crime abroad, particularly in South Africa, Turkey, Australia as well as in some countries of Latin America and Western Europe.

The report shows that criminal groups from the Western Balkans operating abroad are modern, dynamic and entrepreneurial. They have demonstrated an ability to adapt and innovate and use technology to their advantage: for example, using encrypted forms of communication; exploring new routes and means of trafficking, such as ‘narco-jets’; and laundering their money through cryptocurrencies, offshore havens and into their home countries.

The report suggests that there is not a ‘Balkan Cartel’ per se, although groups from the region sometimes work with each other, and there are also instances of multi-ethnic groups.

The report calls for more effective law enforcement cooperation, tracking and seizing of assets, and the sharing of information, not least since perpetrators tend to use multiple identities. It also stresses the need to reduce demand for the goods and services provided by criminal groups from the Western Balkans.

To read the Report in various languages follow these links

English>>>

Albanian>>>

Macedonian>>>

BHCS>>>

 

Seizing the moment

Excerpts from the UNAIDS Media release

A new report by UNAIDS shows remarkable, but highly unequal, progress, notably in expanding access to antiretroviral therapy. Because the achievements have not been shared equally within and between countries, the global HIV targets set for 2020 will not be reached. The report, Seizing the moment, warns that even the gains made could be lost and progress further stalled if we fail to act. It highlights just how urgent it is for countries to double down and act with greater urgency to reach the millions still left behind.

Fourteen countries have achieved the 90–90–90 HIV treatment targets (90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, of whom 90% are on antiretroviral treatment and of whom 90% are virally supressed.

Millions of lives and new infections have been saved by the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy. However, 690 000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses last year and 12.6 million of the 38 million people living with HIV were not accessing the life-saving treatment.

The world is far behind in preventing new HIV infections. Some 1.7 million people were newly infected with the virus, more than three times the global target. Around 62% of new HIV infections occurred among key populations and their sexual partners, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs and people in prison, despite them constituting a very small proportion of the general population.

Stigma and discrimination, together with other social inequalities and exclusion, are proving to be key barriers. Marginalized populations who fear judgement, violence or arrest struggle to access sexual and reproductive health services, especially those related to contraception and HIV prevention. Stigma against people living with HIV is still commonplace. At least 82 countries criminalize some form of HIV transmission, exposure or non-disclosure, sex work is criminalized in at least 103 countries and at least 108 countries criminalize the consumption or possession of drugs for personal use.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seriously impacted the AIDS response and could disrupt it more. A six-month complete disruption in HIV treatment could cause more than 500 000 additional deaths in sub-Saharan Africa over the next year (2020–2021), bringing the region back to 2008 AIDS mortality levels. Even a 20% disruption could cause an additional 110 000 deaths.

In 2019, funding for HIV fell by 7% from 2017, to US$ 18.6 billion. This setback means that funding is 30% short of the US$ 26.2 billion needed to effectively respond to HIV in 2020.

To read the Report, follow this link>>>.

Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 – May 2020

The Coalition prEUgovor, which consists of seven civil society organizations from Serbia with expertise in various policies under chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations, publishes a semi-annual independent report on the progress of Serbia in chapters 23 and 24. Today, they presented the Report on Progress of Serbia in Chapters 23 and 24 – May 2020.

PrEUgovor’s monitoring of reforms in chapters 23 and 24 and certain political criteria of EU accession process indicates that, in most fields, the tendency of deterioration has continued during the period from October 2019 to April 2020. This was further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two months, especially after the state of emergency was declared on March 15.

In this prEUgovor Alarm report, special attention was given to the impact of the state of emergency – which President Vučić defined as “war against an invisible enemy” – on democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms, rule of law, and security and justice in Serbia. Controversy was raised by the very declaration of the emergency state by circumventing the Parliament, without offering proper reasoning as to why it could not convene. Preparations for the elections were suspended, but public officials continued their promotional campaign in favour of the ruling party. Public procurement rules were marginalised due to the pressuring need to “save citizens’ lives”. There was serious concern about the constitutionality of the imposed restrictive measures; however, the Constitutional Court remained silent on these issues.

Free access to information of public importance and media freedoms were de facto suspended at one point, while personal data protection was put to the test. Restricted movement and slowed-down work of institutions affected especially vulnerable groups such as women and children, victims of domestic violence or human trafficking, migrants and others.

Even political commitment to European integration suffered, from the very beginning of the public health crisis, due to statements of top officials criticising alleged lack of EU solidarity while praising and pleading help from “brotherly” China. The state of emergency ended on 6 May by the decision of the National Assembly.

To read full report, follow this link>>>.

Refocus drug laws

Using extracts from the GCDP press release

The Global Commission on Drug Policy presented their report “Enforcement of Drug Laws: Refocusing on Organized Crime Elites” on 7 May 2020.

In this first report of this decade, the Commission outlines how the current international drug control regime works for the benefit of transnational organized crime. It highlights how years of repressive policies targeted at nonviolent drug offenders have resulted in mass incarceration and produced countless adverse impacts on public health, the rule of law, and social cohesion, whilst at the same time reinforcing criminal elites.

The report argues that the top layers of criminal organizations must be disempowered, through policy responses and political will. It provides implementable recommendations for the replacement of the current policy of targeting non-violent drug offenders and resorting to mass incarceration. Law enforcement must focus on the most dangerous and protected actors and primary drivers of the corruption, violence, and chaos around illegal drug markets.

The control of psychoactive substances in a rational and efficient way must be cantered on people and their needs, and on a repressive approach against criminal elites who benefit from the illegal drug markets’ proceeds and have access to high-level networks, financial and legal support as needed. Only responsible legal regulation of currently prohibited drugs, with careful implementation, has the potential to disrupt criminal organizations and deprive them of their most lucrative sources of income.

The report contains research on the prerequisites for a successful transition towards the reform of the outdated ideology-based international drug control regime, and provides cutting-edge recommendations on how to ensure that international criminal organizations are effectively disempowered by the transition towards a legally regulated drug market under the control of governments.

The overcrowding of prisons worldwide is a direct result of drug policing,” Ruth Dreifuss, former president of Switzerland and chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, told AFP. “These are young people, often only those who possess drugs for their own consumption, or non-violent criminals who are there generally due to a lack of other opportunities to make a living.

The report is available following this link>>>

Recording of the report presentation held on 7 May 2020 is available here>>>

 

COVID-19 and drug markets

UNODC press release

Measures implemented by governments to curb the COVID-19 pandemic have led to drug trafficking routes by air being disrupted, along with drastic reduction or increased interdiction in trafficking routes over land. Some drug supply chains have been interrupted and traffickers are looking for alternative routes, including maritime routes, depending on the types of drugs smuggled. These are some of the findings from a report on drug market trends during COVID-19, launched on 7 May by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamine tend to be trafficked across continents by air more than other types of drugs. Restrictions on air travel are, therefore, likely to have a particularly drastic effect on this illegal cargo. The bulk of cocaine is trafficked by sea and large cargos have continued to be detected in European ports during the pandemic.

So far, heroin has mostly been trafficked by land. But due to the pandemic, maritime routes seem to be increasingly used now to traffic heroin as shown by seizures of opiates in the Indian Ocean.

Trafficking in cannabis, however, may not be affected in the same way as that of heroin or cocaine, given that its production often takes place near consumer markets and traffickers are thus less reliant on long, transregional shipments of large quantities of the drug.

 

Drug consumption trends

Several countries have reported drug shortages at the retail level. This can lead to an overall decrease in consumption, but mainly of drugs mostly consumed in recreational settings.

In the case of heroin, however, a shortage in supply can lead to the consumption of harmful, domestically produced substances – heroin shortages have been reported by countries in Europe, South West Asia and North America and some countries in Europe have warned that heroin users may even switch to fentanyl and its derivatives.

An increase in the use of pharmaceutical products such as benzodiazepines has also been reported, already doubling their price in certain areas. Another harmful pattern resulting from drug shortages is the increase in injecting drug use and the sharing of injecting equipment. All of which carry the risk of spreading diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and COVID-19 itself. The risk of drug overdose may also increase among those injecting drugs and who are infected with COVID-19.

 

Trends in drug production

Restrictions resulting from lockdown could hinder the production of opiates with the key months of harvest in Afghanistan being March to June. Due to COVID-19 labour force might not be able or willing to travel to areas where opium poppy is grown in the country, which could affect this year’s harvest.

Cocaine production also appears to be impeded in Colombia, as producers are suffering from a shortage of gasoline. While in Bolivia, COVID-19 is limiting the ability of state authorities to control coca bush cultivation, which could lead to an increase in coca production. In Peru, however, a drop in the price of cocaine suggests a reduction in trafficking opportunities. This may discourage coca bush cultivation in the short-term, although the looming economic crisis may lead more farmers to take up coca cultivation in all the major cocaine producing countries.

A decline in international trade in the current pandemic could also lead to shortages in the supply of precursors, vital for the manufacture of heroin as well as for synthetic drugs. A limited supply in Mexico, for example seems to have disrupted the manufacture of methamphetamine and fentanyl, while in Lebanon and Syria it is affecting the production of captagon. Czechia on the other hand expects a shortage of metamphetamine for the same reasons.

In the long-run, the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to lead to a lasting and profound transformation of the drug markets, which can be fully understood only after more research is done. The economic difficulties caused by COVID-19 may affect people who are already in position of socioeconomic disadvantage harder than others.

The COVID-19 and drug markets Report is available online here >>>

Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus

Did organized crime groups continue with their activity at the time of Coronavirus, which trends in the criminal activities in the Western Balkans can be noticed in the first six weeks of the pandemic and which scenarios can be envisaged for the future?

Saša Đorđević

The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy published a report on criminal activities in the Western Balkans during the COVID-19 outbreak – Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus – early findings. The report was prepared by their researcher Saša Đorđević.

The report states that “The region has experienced a small increase in the price of marijuana, which is still very much present on the market. The same applies to stimulant drugs” and that “People with drug and alcohol problems, persons living with HIV, those who are susceptible to stress, citizens with mental health problems, pensioners, the poor, the homeless and recently released prisoners are the biggest potential victims of crime during this pandemic crisis.”

Scenarios envisaged for the future include the one that “There will be a decline in the supply and quality of illegal drugs. The price of heroin substitutes is expected to increase. It is certain that criminal groups will find alternative ways of distributing narcotics and other illegal products in urban areas, using mobile technologies and couriers, but also corruption of law enforcement. It is possible that criminal groups will shift their manufacturing and logistics activities to smaller towns and rural areas, where they will be less visible.

With information we received from our member organisations from around the region, DPNSEE provided significant contribution to the report section that deals with Narcotics, but also general comments and proposals for recommendations.

Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) is an independent think-tank publicly advocating human, national, regional and international security based on democracy and respect for human rights.

The report is available in English (Crime in the Western Balkans during the coronavirus – early findings) or in Serbian (Kriminal na Zapadnom Balkanu u doba korone: prva zapažanja).

2019 International Overdose Awareness Day Report published

The International Overdose Awareness Day, originated in Melbourne, Australia in 2001, has grown into a global campaign aimed to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It is also an opportunity to stimulate discussion about evidence-based overdose prevention and drug policy.

The campaign in2019 was the most successful yet. Their 2019 IOAD Partners’ Report shows that 874 events were organised in 39 participating countries worldwide. This is a new record, surpassing the previous high of 747 set last year. This year’s campaign brought more than 273,000 visitors to the IOAD website. Visitors to the website downloaded our online resources – posters, fact sheets, and event support kits – more than 20,000 times.

We have promoted the campaign in our news and reported about the press release we published and the activities during the IOA day held in Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania and Slovenia. Unfortunately, only those from Montenegro and Slovenia were mentioned in the report.

To read the report follow this link>>>