Drug consumption rooms are coming to Slovenia

After decades of advocacy by civil society, Slovenia finally approved the opening of the first drug consumption room in the country. In 2023, the Ministry of Health finally approved the opening of a supervised consumption room for two organizations – Stigma and Šent Nova Gorica. The NGO Šent Nova Gorica will open a supervised consumption room for sniffing, smoking, and injecting. Stigma plans to facilitate sniffing in the drop-in centre.

On this occasion Rights Reporter Foundation interviewed Katja Kranjc from the NGO Stigma.

The interview on this and other interesting topics of the Slovenian drug policy is available following this link>>>.


By youth for youth

The safety of young people in the nightlife, a topic of extreme importance for most young people, is often neglected. NGO Re Generacija, which has been putting this topic in the focus of its projects and programs aimed at a systemic approach to this topic for many years, invites to the event to promote the report on the results of the research and the Handbook for participation in public policies for organizations working with youth involved in nightlife and marginalized youth.

The event will be held on 25 January 2024 at the premises of the Office of Combating drugs, Palata Srbija, starting at 10:00. The event is organized with project partners Terra from Croatia and HOPS from North Macedonia and with the support of DPNSEE.

More about the event is available (in Serbian) following this link>>>.


Another year of the Support. Don’t Punish campaign

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Action 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

The campaign took to the streets, social networks, parliaments and many more to bring collective message to life in at least 294 cities of 94 countries – an incredible feat that we should all be proud of!

The Support. Don’t Punish 2023 campaign was held in all countries of South East Europe. It had

In 2023, we also participated in activities of the #DrugDecrimmonth to contribute to fighting stigmatisation and criminalisation of people who use drugs.

The DPNSEE staff collected and published articles alongside with photos of the involved organisations in the Network during the campaign on Internet page www.dpnsee.org and social media FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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


Positive Voice naimed “European Citizen of the Year”

The European Parliament declared the Greek Association of people living with HIV/AIDS Positive Voice 2023 “European Citizen of the Year” for the Ref Checkpoint initiative, by decision of the Chancellery of the European Citizen Award.

The European Citizen’s Prize was established by the European Parliament in 2008 and is a reward for outstanding achievements, activities or actions of citizens and organizations that promote European values: human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights rights.

Ref Checkpoint is a prevention and sexual health center for refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in Athens and provides free information, counseling on sexual health issues in the native language of the beneficiaries (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Urdu or Farsi), anonymous testing for HIV and viral hepatitis, and linking the beneficiaries with the National Health System or with other agencies and services.

The idea of ​​this initiative, which began in 2022 with the support and assistance of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Europe and the Municipality of Athens, arose from the identification of the significant obstacles faced by mobile populations in their access to health services and the lack of modern, inclusive sexual health information materials.

Ref Checkpoint, adapted to the needs of this community and implemented by the people of the target community themselves, was and is intended to provide access to targeted, inclusive sexual health services without stigma and discrimination.

We congratulate our colleagues from Positive Voice for this great achievemtn and recognition of their work.

President of Montenegro supported LGBTI community

Jakov Milatović, newly elected President of Montenegro, met on 28 June 2023 with representatives of the LGBTI community and organisations that support them on the occasion of International Day and Pride Month. That was an opportunity to gain insight into the challenges these communities face.

Mr. Milatović clearly stated that Montenegro is a country of equal rights for every citizen and that there shouldn’t be any kind of discrimination. To achieve that, institutional and legal support have to be ensured for every person.

Our colleagues from Juventas, Queer Montenegro, and Stana were among those who met with the President and presented their work.

Support to unaccompanied and separated refugee children

Montenegro is sharing the same challenges as the rest of Western Balkan countries. Between January and December 2022, Montenegro registered 8,298 arrivals, including 463 children (285 boys, 178 girls) mainly from Afghanistan, Iran, and Bangladesh. This presented an increase of 161 % compared to arrivals in 2021. In addition, in 2022, after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, around 95 000 Ukrainian citizens entered Montenegro (8047 applied for temporary protection).

Our member organisation Juventas published the “Guide on referral system/social services delivery for UASC in Montenegro”. This practical tool is of use for those who work with unaccompanied or separated child, citizen of a third country, or a stateless person under the age of 18, who entered Montenegro unaccompanied by an adult who takes care of him or remained unaccompanied after entering Montenegro, until placed under guardianship in accordance with the regulations of Montenegro.

The Guide will be a multipliable model for the efficient provision of social services to the UASC to support the establishment of a protection-sensitive migration management system in the target countries. It will serve to assist the UASC who approached our services and ensure that the assistance in service provision is provided in a timely and professional manner.

This document is prepared within the project “Security for Human Beings and Borders – Combating Smuggling of Migrants in the Western Balkans”, financed by the Group 484 through the EU project and implemented by the Nisma për Ndryshim Shoqëror – ARSIS (Albania) and NGO Juventas (Montenegro).

The Guide is available following this link>>>.


Duga raises awareness about importance of testing and early discovery of HIV infection

Community-based and community-led testing services are crucial in the HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections response, particularly in reaching populations where diagnosis and linkage to care are lower than the national average. However, providing these services can be challenging, especially in environments that may be hostile towards community-based and -led service delivery, and where policy and legal barriers exist.

In 2022-2023, the COBATEST Network supported six member organizations in countries where the environment is particularly challenging for community-based and community-led service delivery. In the interview with Asocijacija DUGA, one of the 6 organisation supported, they asked the organisation to tell about their work, the challenges they face, and how they are working to improve community-based testing services for HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections in their communities.

Replying to the question about the role that CBVCT plays in reaching this community in Serbia, they said:

Community-based and community-led testing (CBVCT) centers have a crucial role in reaching of GBTMSM population in Serbia. This is mainly due to the fact that the population is still significantly stigmatized and discriminated. This is also noticeable within the system of public health institutions. The most of the VCCT centers exist only in bigger cities, and even not all of them have sufficiently sensitized staff in order to properly approach and address the needs of the community. Therefore, majority of the target population rather chooses CBVCT as a place they would like to get the information, counseling and testing services.

 Nowadays, as we are faced with the greater influx of the clients coming from the migrant population, CBVCT approach becomes even more important. No matter if they come from migrant, refugee or asylum seeker community, and belong to the GBTMSM population (which make significant share), they usually find information through the community based organizations and their social networks, as they are more accessible, so we are usually the first they approach to ask for services. Many of migrants belong to the population of PLHIV, and we were able to ensure they get linkage to care as well as to regulate their health insurance status, in order to continue using therapy in Serbia, which would be very difficult to achieve without support of CBVCT organizations.

You can read this interesting interview following this link>>>.


Alternative sanctions and probation in Montenegro

Study The system of alternative sanctions and probation in Montenegro – legal framework and the transition process from imprisonment to re-integration into society is the project activity of our member organisation Juventas, as a partner of the project to strengthen probation and alternative sanctions in Montenegro and Serbia. The project was funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands. The main goal is to contribute to improved security in communities, reducing the rates of returnee and more efficient application of alternative sanctions.

The first part of the study contains an overview of the institutional and legal framework of the probation system and alternative sanctions in Montenegro, with special reference to parole, conditional condemnation and conditional condemnation with protective surveillance. Also, special attention is paid to comparative analysis, with Serbia, Croatia and Switzerland systems.

The second part of the study deals with the transition from imprisonment to re-integration into society. The focus is at the regulation of this transition in the Montenegrin legislative framework, and then follows the description of that process from the point of view of the persons who have passed through that process. The study provides a kind of insight into the functioning of the criminal sanction execution system and underlines both good and quality sides, and those that need to be improved in the coming period.

The aim was to analyze this process, identify legal solutions, practical implications, positive things, but also shortcomings, and all the endeavor to create a kind of road map that all relevant actors in this area must follow to improve it.

The roadmap is a proposal for concrete steps to be taken to correct the identified deficiencies in the system and practical functioning, and to make the system of alternative sanctions, the probation system and transition through the criminal sanctions of the criminal sanctions better and post-penalty acceptance more efficient.

During the preparation of the study, cooperation was established with many institutions, without whom authors would not be able to obtain data. Juventas thanks the Ministry of Justice of Montenegro, the Department of Criminal Sanctions, the Directorate for Conditioning, and the Center for Social Work in Podgorica.

Thanks also go to the expert term from the Helsinki Committee of the Netherlands, which supported the entire work on the study and gave significant suggestions and advice.

Juventas are especially grateful to all prisoners and former prisoners whose sincere testimonies in the situation in practice was extremely important for making a study and enabled important data to make the road map.

The Study is available following this link>>>.


Visit to the Duga Checkpoint centre

Representatives of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Ms Fariba Soltani, Chief, HIV/AIDS Section and Global Coordinator for HIV/AIDS, Ms. Gorica Popović, Specialist, Law Enforcement and HIV and Ms Žana Glavendekić, the Regional Project Officer for Drug Demand Reduction visited the Duga Checkpoint centre in Belgrade and met with community-led organizations working on HIV and harm reduction services for key populations.

It was an opportunity to share about services which Prevent, TOC, Duga and ReGeneration provide and to discuss operational issues related to implementation of the UNODC-led project “Emergency support for the provision of HIV and Harm Reduction services among key populations in Ukraine and refugees in selected neighbouring countries”.

A dialogue on national drug strategies

Following the previous South East Europe government – civil society dialogues on drugs, held in 2018 and 2020, the Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised a very successful Regional round table focused on community-led consultative process on the importance of human rights and evidence-based national drug strategies in HIV response.

The Round table was held in scope of the UNODC-led project for implementation of the “Emergency support for the provision of HIV and Harm Reduction services among key populations in Ukraine and refugees in selected neighbouring countries.” The primary objectives of the project are to ensure the continuity of the HIV prevention, treatment and care (including OAT and ARV) services for people who use drugs/live with HIV, especially community-based care and support for people who use drugs, people living with HIV and other key populations.

The aim of the event was mobilising civil society, service providers, policymakers and other national stakeholders from the Western Balkan region to ensure wide and all-involving drug strategy development process, with the focus on evidence and human rights-based drug strategies which prioritise health-related needs and resources.

The Regional round table was held on 21 February 2023 in Belgrade. The Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Serbia supported the event ensuring that it is held in the Palace of Serbia.

A record 58 participants came from across of the region, including civil society, service providers, policymakers and other national stakeholders. Representatives of UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), European Drug Agency (EMCDDA) and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria joined.

The agenda of the event included presentations of the UNODC project and work around key populations at the global level, the ongoing refugee situation in Serbia and Montenegro, as well as national responses to humanitarian refugee crisis and changing drug situation in countries of the region. In addition, the Round table offered a platform for discussion on with the focus on identifying needs of different stakeholders, especially key affected populations, analysing the national HIV/harm reduction response, key challenges and priorities, the role of the civil society, funding, monitoring, evaluation and impacts assessment.

Presentations from the Regional round table are available following this link>>>.

Bellow is the recording of the Regional round table.