Crafting a joint European advocacy strategy

Representatives from the BOOST project implementation organisations – C-EHRN, EHRA, EuroNPUD, and DPNSEE – met in Amsterdam on 30 and 31 January 2024.

The aim of the meeting was to finalize the European Advocacy Strategy, ensuring comprehensive access to HIV, HCV, and TB services for people who use drugs, based on online dialogues and consultations with regional network governing bodies.

The objectives of the meeting were:

  • To determine key advocacy priorities for the European harm reduction networks over the coming years.
  • To explore opportunities for advocating at the European level for comprehensive harm reduction services for people who use drugs.
  • To focus on establishing a unified European advocacy agenda aimed at implementing effective models for the prevention, treatment, and care of communicable diseases, tailored specifically for people who use drugs, at the European, national, and local levels.

As a result, four regional European priorities were agreed in each thematic area of the project. In addition, actionable and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) advocacy goals achievable at the regional level within the next 3-5 years were developed and relevant stakeholders and potential project partners were identified.

The final Strategy is expected to be launched and published in March 2024 and will be implemented with the support of a broader network of European harm reduction and drug policy organisations.

In February, the networks will launch a call for local harm reduction services to support the development and implementation of Local Advocacy Plans in 6 countries/cities.

We are glad to underline that 6 out of 19 participants came from South East Europe, although representing different partner organisations in the project.

Online dialogue meetings

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe (DPNSEE) organised two regional online dialogues as part of the BOOST project. The aim was to assess the needs and challenges for the implementation of community-based good practices in the field of HIV/HCV/HBV prevention, treatment, and care for people who use drugs (PWUD). The two online dialogue meetings held in South East Europe gathered 30+ participants from 17 organisations in 9 countries

As the situation in the region is far from good, most of the dialogue was on the problems that people from key affected populations, their community organisations, service-providing organisations, and institutions face. In the context of our region’s challenging situation, discussions primarily revolved around the issues confronting key affected populations and organisations providing support to communities facing elevated risks.

Problems are common across the region. These include the pervasive stigma and discrimination directed at nearly all at-risk communities, particularly within institutional sectors where understanding should be most prominent. The public discourse surrounding these communities often employs disrespectful and discriminatory language, despite the efforts of NGOs to promote appropriate terminology.

Financing and sustainability of support services pose significant challenges, and the civil sector’s operational space is limited, reflecting a lack of motivation among institutions and decision-makers to enhance the quality of life for these communities. Existing laws related to these communities are problematic, as is the complex and exclusionary nature of accessing healthcare services and treatment programs. Official registers or record-keeping mechanisms are often lacking, and strategies are frequently rewritten without effective implementation.

The recommendations and conclusions from our open dialogue emphasise the need to focus on these issues. Through lobbying, public awareness campaigns, collaboration agreements, participation in working groups, and partnerships, we aim to improve the current situation. Our goal is to raise public awareness about these critical issues faced by at-risk communities and advocate for improvements in services, policies, and laws. Ultimately, we strive to ensure that members of these communities, who are at an elevated risk of social exclusion, can fully integrate into our society.

The report from the dialogues is available following this link>>>.