CND – half way through

The 62nd CND is running full steam on the third day. Besides plenary work with national delegations discussing and voting on formal decision, a variety of side events present interesting experiences, projects, results and challenges from around the globe.

Decriminalizing drug use and possession: A cross-national perspective on lessons learned and best practices

Organized by the Czech Republic, the Drug Policy Alliance, Release and the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy. Niamh Eastwood from Release (UK) reminded that UN agencies estimate that 83% of all drug offenses globally are related to possession and use of drugs. Tough sanctions don’t deter people from using drugs. Decriminalisation is not a new option – some countries use it since seventies of the last century. No country that recently decriminalised experiences increase in drug use! It is time to start exploring new models of decriminalisation. An argument against is that “we need to protect kids”, but the majority of those who are under criminal justice systems are young people up to 24 years of age. For young people, we should work on preventing long-term problematic drug use. Caitlin Hughes from the National Drugs and Alcohol Research Centre (Australia) presented results of several studies on decriminalisation. Barbara Janikova and Viktor Mravčik from the Czech National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addictions presented successes their country achieved adopting decriminalisation. After they criminalised drug use and possession in 1999, use of cannabis was growing; on contrary, when they decriminalised it in 2010, the cannabis use dropped significantly. There is a national consensus that there is benefit of decriminalisation for public health and general wellbeing. Same way, Dagflin Hessen Paust from the Norwegian Association for Safer Drug Policies (Norway) presented their change of approach, which included a large national debate. Finally, there is the proposal for decriminalisation in process now, evidence based and proposed by the ruling conservative party. Supply issue is the elephant in the room when discussing decriminalisation. Theshia Naidoo from the Drug Policy Alliance (USA) had a large discussion where the three main issues were: How to define the conduct that is decriminalised? Who are the optimal decision makers? Appropriate response to drug use and possession? Decriminalisation should be followed by large investment in social services to people who use drugs.  Blog notes from this side event are available following this link>>>.

Aligning data collection with UNGASS implementation and the Sustainable Development Goals: Recommendations for a review of the Annual Report Questionnaire

Organized by Canada, Mexico and Switzerland, IDPC, the Centre on Drug Policy Evaluation from Canada and the Global Drug Policy Observatory of Swansea University. Mexico prepared a matrix of 106 recommendations related to the UNGASS outcomes. EMCDDA representative claims that it is a very complex job to get data. On one side, they are specific and complex and on the other side there is a specific political aspect attached to them. Marie Nougier from IDPC presented the information on data collecting they included in the report “Taking stock: A decade of drug policy – A civil society shadow report” and expressed the willingness of IDPC and many civil society organisations to contribute to updating the Questionnaire.

Women, incarceration and drug policy: Special vulnerabilities that call for focused responses

This side event gathered various representatives that agreed that women that are drug users face various obstacles and are much more vulnerable in prison settings and their human rights. Ms Ivana Radačić from OHCHR pointed out the fact that in general more women than men are serving drug use related sentences and that there are significant obstacles for them to be provided with fair trial. Project officer in Eurasian Harm Reduction Association Ms Eliza Kurčević presented the results of the research conducted by EHRA and said that “33,6% out of total number of prisoners in Russia are women, while 19.628 of them are sentenced for drug related offences. They face many challenges relate to human rights violations, family rights and other justice related problems.” These challenges remain one of the key priorities that should be addressed through both drugs and justice policies.

Launch of UNODC-VNGOC civil society guide on UNGASS outcome document and SDGs

Organized by the Sweden, UNODC, Civil Society Team and the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs. Jamie Bridge, Chairman of VNGOC, emphasised that more than 85% of the civil society organisations replied that they contributed to at least one SGD, while a quarter of them said they contributed to all 17 SGDs. HE Mikaela Ruth, the Ambassador of Sweden, presented the key features of the guide for NGOsWorking together: Drugs and the Sustainable Development Goals“. The UNODC representative Billy Batware underlined how the UNGASS outcome document and SDGs are connected and presented the structure and content of the guide. Dayana Vincent from Fourth Wave Foundation working in India, Wangari Kimemia from Médecins du monde France in Kenya and Heloisa Broggiato Mater from International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care about their workshops on Availability and Access to Opioid Medications in Latin American Countries presented their experiences in working on programmes related to sustainability development goals.

Other events

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs held an Informal Dialogue with the UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov. NGOs had an opportunity to propose questions and 11 of them were selected for Mr Fedotov to reply to. Participants of the dialogue touch upon topics like prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, alternative development, healthcare, opioid crisis, prevalence of drug use, Listen first and Strong families programmes and research and analysing new trends. One of the questions was asked by Janko Belin, about if UNODC have programmes related to drugs and migrants.

Another Informal Dialogue was held with with the INCB President Viroj Sumyai. Blog notes from this dialogue are available following this link>>>.

IDPC recommendations: On the road towards the 2019 Ministerial Segment

In preparation for the third intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs to be held on 25th to 28th September in Vienna, the International Drug Policy Consortium has drafted an advocacy note to contribute to these international drug policy discussions.

The advocacy note outlines key issues for consideration as member states reflect on what has been achieved since the adoption of the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action, including in light of UNGASS implementation, and the implications for the next phase of international drug policy. In addition, we analyse issues likely to come up in negotiations of the annual drugs ‘omnibus resolution’ at the UN General Assembly, and offer suggestions for approaching these negotiations. Finally, we provide recommendations to address some of the outstanding procedural questions related to the 2019 Ministerial Segment.

The advocacy note is available as a PDF in the attached, as well as online following this link>>>

The UNGASS 2016, a catalyst for change?

Diogenis – Drug Policy Dialogue issues a publication Drug Policy Reform: The UNGASS 2016, a catalyst for change? The book refers concisely to important developments of the drug control system since the beginning of the 20th century and the entry into force of the three international drug control conventions after 1961.

In 2016 a special Session of the General Assembly of the UN reviewed “the achievements and challenges in countering the world drug problem within the framework of the three international drug control conventions”. This special session is the main subject of the publication. The author considers the outcome document of the UNGASS 2016, to be a promising sign for the change in orientation of the current drug control system and a shift in drug policy from repression and punishment, to pragmatism and focus on public health and respect for human rights.

Policy makers, practitioners in the field of drugs and interested readers will find in the book valuable insights about trends and possible alternatives for the current drug policy.

You can read the publication following this link >>>.

Socio-political developments and drug policy in SEE

The annual drug policy Regional Conference in South East Europe, “Socio-political developments and drug policy in SEE” was organised from 7 to 9 June 2017 in Thessaloniki, Greece. The conference is part of the regional project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South East Europe”, supported financially by the European Commission and the Open Society Foundations. The organiser was Diogenis – Drug Policy Dialogue.

The conference aimed to bring together civil society organisations, policy makers, researchers and lawyers working on the drug issue in the region of South East Europe, but also people active in the field related to cultural change and young people. The meeting was organized in order to discuss drug policy developments and trends, exchange experiences and best practices in the region, Europe and the United Nations.

This year, topics covered recent emerging situations, reflecting the most important areas at the moment, including:

  • Refugees, migrants and Drugs, the policy of the competent authorities and the involvement of NGOs. How do the competent authorities address the issue? Which are problematic aspects and how NGOs can contribute to a fair and effective policy? Harm reduction services and Refugees and migrants in countries of South East Europe.
  • Youth culture, festivals, drug use and harm reduction in South East Europe: Policy implications for authorities, the festival and party organisers and harm reduction services. Difficulties and legal barriers to implementing harm reduction services. Suggestions for measures to prevent unintended risks. Policy aspects of Youth and festivals and Health protection.
  • The evaluation of the Political Declaration 2009 – 2019 and its relation to the UNGASS outcome document. Main issues of discussion and the contribution of NGOs.
  • The Follow up of the Harm reduction project in South East Europe. Latest data analysis from the research. Cost-effectiveness analysis of harm reduction services. Approaching local authorities and increase their engagement in the area of HR, including funding opportunities. Budget advocacy and monitoring for harm reduction. Accreditation of the services provided by the civil society organisations.
  • Information about Current topics of importance – the regional project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South Eastern Europe”, DPNSEE developments, activities of importance for drug policy in the region of SEE.

The general conclusion from the conference is that a new definition of harm reduction is needed to reflect the current situation and change in drug use, including type and the patterns of drug use.

Other conclusions were proposed on specific issues such as drug checking as potential integrated harm reduction measure in nightlife, which needs to be supported and systematically implemented from the side of the all stakeholders (as the Slovenian case showed its success), designing and implementing specific harm reduction services for immigrants and refugees, etc.

Governments – NGO dialogue

In scope of the project Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South Eastern Europe, Diogenis – Drug Policy Dialogue, in co-operation with the Drug policy Network in SEE (DPNSEE) and the Office for Combating Drugs of Serbia, organised a meeting between representatives from the countries in the region of South East Europe and representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The meeting was held on 10 May in Belgrade, at the representative governmental building Klub poslanika.

The aim of the meeting was to bring together representatives responsible for the coordination of drug policy in the countries of South East Europe and representatives from NGOs working in the field of drugs to discuss about the cooperation between authorities and NGOs at the national level. The meeting was an opportunity to exchange information and experiences of good practices and to reflect on possibilities of future cooperation on the national and regional level. Exchange of information, experiences and good practices leads to ideas of setting up co-operation structures, which can be profitable for both national authorities and NGOs.

At the first part of the meeting, participants discussed the current situation of cooperation, existing models and conditions that need to be fulfilled for good cooperation. The second part of the programme focused on areas of cooperation between National Authorities and NGOs in the field of drugs related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the recommendations of the UNGASS 2016.

The meeting showed that the relation between governmental and civil society sectors in the area of drug policy is improving. Ideas produced can bring better cooperation for a mutual benefit and, first of all, for the benefit of key affected populations and the societies as whole.

Annual Drug Policy Conference

The Annual Regional Conference in South East Europe was organised in Thessaloniki from 8 to 10 June 2017. The conference aimed to bring together NGOs, policy makers and researchers active in the drugs field in the region of South East Europe, in order to discuss drug policy developments and trends, exchange experiences and best practices in the region, Europe and the United Nations.

The conference is part of the regional project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South East Europe”, supported financially by the European Commission and the Open Society Foundations. The organiser was Diogenis, Drug Policy Dialogue.

National drug coordinators from Romania and Croatia

The Conference agenda included a large number of interesting issues:

  • The Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and drug policy. Priority issues, the role of UN agencies, expected commitments from the member states and role of NGOs. Presenter was Jo Dedeyne-Amann, Chief Secretariat to the Governing Bodies, Division for Treaty Affairs, UNODC. Nikos Stergiou, Communication and public relations Officer, Diogenis, presented experience of two local meetings.
  • Initiatives undertaken in the countries of our region related to implementation of the outcomes of the UNGASS and the role of NGOs. National drug coordinators presented work in their countries: drug co-ordinators: Sorin Oprea (Romania), Milan Pekić (Serbia), Željko Petković (Croatia) and Manina Terzidou, head of the Greek Monitoring Centre for Drugs (EKTEPN) (Greece)
  • Women and Drugs. Facts and Special Characteristics for Girls and Women who use drugs was the presentation from Meni Malliori, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Athens, while Georgia Aslanidou, Psychologist, OKANA Thessaloniki presented about Addicted mothers and the journey of therapy
  • Drugs and internet: experiences, opportunities and concerns in the use of online counselling tools presented by Ilias Paraskevopoulos, Consultant for addictions at KETHEA ITHAKI
  • The Harm reduction project in South East Europe. Developments and next steps presented by Sofia Galinaki, Advocacy Officer, Diogenis and Peers’ involvement in harm reduction, with introduction from Christos Anastasiou, Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances (PENUPS).
  • Irena Molnar and Bojan Arsenijević from the NGO Re Generation, Serbia provided valuable insight into Changing culture in drug use including new psychoactive substances
  • Developments in the discussion about cannabis policy in countries of SEE
Irena Molnar presenting about Changing culture in drug use including new psychoactive substances

Representatives from 14 DPNSEE member organisations, 3 Board members and all 5 Staff were at the Conference. We presented the Network, strategic priorities and plans for the future. Our two volunteers talked about their work on the Glossary and Resource Pool.

Marios Atzemis, DPNSEE Board member, making an intervention

The Conference was a very good opportunity to share and learn about interesting ideas and make plans for the future.

Paris Pact Expert Working Group (EWG) on Integrating Drug Dependence Treatment in the Public Health System

Paris Pact Expert Working Group on Integrating Drug Dependence Treatment and  Care in the Public Health System. Belgrade, 10.10.2016
Paris Pact Expert Working Group on Integrating Drug Dependence Treatment and Care in the Public Health System.
Belgrade, 10.10.2016

Paris Pact Expert Working Group on Integrating Drug Dependence and Care in the Public Health

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission to Serbia and the Government of the Republic of Serbia hosted the Paris Pact Expert Working Group (EWG) on Integrating Drug Dependence Treatment in the Public Health System. The meeting was held at the Palace of Serbia in Belgrade on 10 and 11 October 2016.

The meeting of this working group is part of the activities of the Paris Pact Initiative and the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). Participants had the opportunity to discuss current trends and scientifically based approach to the treatment of drug addicts, as well as the implications of UNGASS-a – special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the global drugs problem. UNODC also introduced international standards of treatment of drug addiction, common document prepared by UNODC and the World Health Organization.

The event brought together 64 participants representing 22 member countries of the Paris Pact Initiative (Central Asia, Iran and the Balkan) and 3 international organisations. It included the series of interactive sessions where participants discussed, among other things, about the general situation regarding the use of drugs as well as on national systems for the treatment of addiction in the public health system.

The meeting started with the presentation of international standards of treatment of disorders of the drug use by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Health Organization, presented by the Dr. Elizabeth Sáenz, UNODC, with the objective to exchange and discuss frameworks for the integration of treating drug addiction in the health care system.

What followed were presentations by the member countries of the Paris Pact on national systems of treatment for substance use and the system of prevention; shortcomings and challenges and the Round Table with the objectives to identify gaps and challenges in the process of building a comprehensive and integrated system for the treatment of drugs in accordance with the international standards.

Special emphasis was given to group discussion on the existing mechanisms for quality assurance in the countries of Western and Central Asia and the Balkans, with group work discussion on common regional issues and explore opportunities for regional cooperation.

DPNSEE staff members, as well as representatives of the two Network’s member organisations (Prevent and Re Generacija) and few other civil society organisations from Serbia, were part of the Balkan Working group. The group made conclusions and gave recommendations on several topics such as Policy, Research, Prevention and Treatment regarding the challenges, needs gaps and opportunities. It was concluded that for the matter of the policy there are National strategies in the region but there is no specified budget for their implementation. Regarding prevention it was concluded that there is no enough evidence based treatment programs, and not enough prevention programs integrated in the curriculum of schooling systems, that could adequately address the needs. For the matter of the research, there is not enough funding and resources, and it is seen as a missing ring. Throughout whole discussion it was highly recognized that the leave of the Global Fund and lack of readiness of the Government to support and make services sustainable as a biggest problem. Lack of programs for rehabilitation and re-socialization is recognized along with lack of harm reduction programs, but mostly by the NGOs that were invited to participate in the discussion.

Second day continued with presentation from the members of the Paris Pact, and presentations that were oriented on emphasis of a multi-sectorial approach in the treatment and care of drug addicts.

The members of the DPNSEE stuff and representatives of DPNSEE member organizations had a lot of contacts with country representatives at the Workshop. They were approached by the delegates from Uzbekistan and The Russian Federation, expressing interest in work of the civil society organisations in the region of South East Europe and wish to connect and cooperate more in the future.

The expert meeting closed with review of the expert recommendations, a summary of conclusions and discussion in order to assess progress and consider putting priority conclusions with concrete and measurable proposals for the enforceable improvement.