Indigenous peoples’ rights

Drug policy is often developed and implemented as if it existed outside of human rights obligations and standards. The ‘International Guidelines on Human Rights & Drug Policy’ highlight specific actions for States to affirm Indigenous peoples rights:

  • Rights to self-determination; to lands, territories, and resources; and to conservation of lands (including protections to ensure drug control measures do not undermine indigenous peoples’ rights to own, use, develop, and control *their* lands, territories, and resources)
  • Right to free, prior, and informed consent (including the need to collaborate and consult indigenous peoples’ representative institutions to seek their free, prior, and informed consent on drug control measures that may affect them or their territories)
  • Rights to enjoy culture and to profess and practice religion (which covers practices involving plants and preparations that have psychoactive effects)
  • Right to traditional medicines and health practices (which calls for a repeal of laws, policies and practices inhibiting access to controlled psychoactive substances in relation to community health and well-being)

The Guidelines, a highly useful resource, are available in English, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish following this link>>>.

 

In danger

New data from UNAIDS on the global HIV response reveals that during the last two years of COVID-19 and other global crises, progress against the HIV pandemic has faltered, resources have shrunk, and millions of lives are at risk as a result. The new report, In Danger, was launched ahead of the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada.

Over the past two and a half years, the colliding AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics, along with economic and humanitarian crises, have placed the global HIV response under increasing threat. COVID-19 and other instabilities have disrupted health services in much of the world, and millions of students have been out of school, increasing their HIV vulnerability. Low- and middle-income countries have been challenged to respond as 60% of the world’s poorest countries are in debt distress or at high risk of it, and an estimated 75 to 95 million people have been pushed into poverty, an increase without precedent. As a result, the AIDS response has faced serious pressure while communities that were already at greater risk of HIV are now even more vulnerable.

In some parts of the world and for some communities, the response to the AIDS pandemic has shown remarkable resilience in adverse times, which has helped avoid the worst outcomes. However, global progress against HIV is slowing rather than accelerating: the latest data collected by UNAIDS show that while new HIV infections fell globally last year, the drop was only 3.6% compared to 2020—the smallest annual reduction since 2016. As a result, many regions, countries and communities are left to address rising HIV infections alongside other ongoing crises.

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

 

Civil Society Demands Balanced EU Funding for Drug Policies

Civil society organisations sent an open letter to the EU Commission to criticise the new call for drug policy grant proposals that almost only focuses on law enforcement and excludes harm reduction.

Since the Drug Unit of the EU Commission was relocated to the Internal Security Department, civil society has been concerned about the continuous shifting of its approach towards a more repressive, law-and-order direction from a balanced, integrated model of drug policies.

The new call for proposals launched by the Commission is another step in this direction. Unlike the previous EC JUST drug policy grant calls, this funding mechanism almost only focuses on supply reduction. From its four objectives, three focuses on improving supply reduction, it has only one objective on drug prevention – while harm reduction is completely missing.

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN), an umbrella of European harm reduction organisations (Rights Reporter Foundation, the organisation operating this website, is a Steering Committee member) sent an open letter to Ilva Johanson, Commissioner of Home Affairs, and Fiona Sipala, the head of the Drug Unit of the EC, to address this issue.

The text of the open letter:

We write to you on behalf of Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN), representing 158 civil society organisations (CSO) working in the area of harm reduction drug policy in Europe. C-EHRN is part of Foundation De Regenboog Groep and, as such, is also represented in the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs.

 Together with the undersigned networks, we would like to express our concern and disappointment with the current call of the Internal Security Grant concerning better law enforcement in the area of illicit drug trafficking. We believe this call does not reflect the principles of an evidence-based, integrated, balanced and multidisciplinary approach to the drugs phenomenon and is not in line with the Drug Strategy of the European Union. The call has a narrow focus on law enforcement interventions, with no objectives to improve complex public health and social services, including harm reduction.

 For several years, the members and organisations we work with have benefited from the EC JUST Drug Policy grants launched by the European Commission. These grants demonstrated the balanced, evidence-based and multidisciplinary approach to drug policies in accordance with the core principles of the European Union. They provided an excellent opportunity for civil society organisations working in the field of drugs to cooperate internationally and exchange knowledge and good practices.

 When the Drugs Unit was moved from the Justice Department to the Internal Security Department, civil society organisations were promised that this would not affect the balanced and multidisciplinary approach to drug policies of the EU Commission. However, the apparent shift towards law enforcement and crime prevention proves different – with social and public health aspects slipping off the agenda.

 The Internal Security call lays only limited emphasis on drug demand reduction and none at all on harm reduction. At the same time, no other EU Programme took over this responsibility, leaving drug demand and harm reduction behind, without any opportunity for EU funding and support.

 This is an extremely concerning development. EU funding has become increasingly important in recent years because of the emerging funding crisis for harm reduction, especially in the Eastern part of the European Union. Since the 2008 economic crisis, funding for harm reduction has constantly been declining in most Member States. Several essential services operated by CSOs have been closed down or curtailed due to budget cuts and the retreat of international donors.

 On top of the funding crisis, CSOs experience a shrinking space for civil society in several Member States, where governments are increasingly hostile to those organisations that receive international funding or work with marginalised groups of society. With decreasing national and local funds, direct funding from the European Commission was often the only funding opportunity to improve advocacy and innovation in the harm reduction field for many organisations. This opportunity is now lost.

 DG Home is the department within the EC responsible for developing and implementing a balanced, integrated and evidence-based EU Drug Policy. Such a balanced approach requires that funding mechanisms are available for all drug policy areas and not only for law enforcement and crime prevention programmes. We, therefore, call upon the European Commission and DG Home to reinstall the funding mechanism for drug demand and harm reduction to ensure a balanced and evidence-based drug policy also in the future.

 We look forward to your response and hope for your continued support for civil society in the area of drug policy and harm reduction.

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe is one of the signatory Networks & Organizations to this letter. Other include:

  • AIDS Action Europe [AAE]
  • EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs1
  • EU HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis and Tuberculosis Civil Society Forum
  • Eurasian Harm Reduction Association [EHRA]
  • European AIDS Treatment Group [EATG]
  • European Network of People Who Use Drugs [EuroNPUD]
  • Forum Droghe
  • Harm Reduction International [HRI]
  • Federation des Acteurs en Education en Promotion de la Sante de Guyane [AGRRR]
  • International Drug Policy Consortium [IDPC]
  • International Network of People Who Use Drugs [INPUD]
  • MAINline
  • Positive Voice
  • Red de Atencion a las Adicciones [UNAD]
  • ReShape
  • Youth Organizations for Drug Actions [YODA]

 

Maritime Balkan routes

Despite the prevalence of trade over land, South Eastern Europe (SEE) also contains more than a hundred ports and 12 container terminals, which are important entry and exit points for trade in the Adriatic, Aegean, Black and Ionian Seas, as well as along the Danube.

The report Portholes: Exploring the maritime Balkan routes, prepared by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI_TOC), reveals that there is also a maritime Balkan route bringing drugs into SEE through key commercial seaports: cocaine from Latin America and heroin via Türkiye and the Middle East. Other commodities being smuggled along this route include weapons, waste, counterfeit goods and cigarettes. In addition, it provides a glimpse of smuggling along the Danube.

The case studies, which feature nine of the region’s commercial ports, are a central element of this report. These ports were chosen to provide an overview of different types of ports (based on size, ownership, location and history of seizures) and to assess their vulnerability to organized crime.

The report is available following this link>>>.

 

 

End ‘war on drugs’ and promote policies rooted in human rights: UN experts

UN human rights experts have called on the international community to bring an end to the so-called “war on drugs” and promote drug policies that are firmly anchored in human rights. Ahead of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on 26 June 2022, the experts issued the statement which indicated that “the “war on drugs” undermines health and social wellbeing and wastes public resources while failing to eradicate the demand for illegal drugs and the illegal drug market. Worse, this “war” has engendered narco-economies at the local, national and regional levels in several instances to the detriment of national development. Such policies have far-reaching negative implications for the widest range of human rights, including the right to personal liberty, freedom from forced labour, from ill-treatment and torture, fair trial rights, the rights to health, including palliative treatment and care, right to adequate housing, freedom from discrimination, right to clean and healthy environment, right to culture and freedoms of expression, religion, assembly and association and the right to equal treatment before the law.”

To read the statement, please follow this link>>>.

 

The EU Western Balkans and Turkey Civil Society Forum 2022

The EU TACSO 3 project organised the EU Western Balkans and Turkey Civil Society Forum on 8 – 9 June 2022, in Skopje, North Macedonia. Senior officials from the European Commission, EU Delegations, governments and diverse representatives from civil society organisations attended the Forum, a total of 120 participants in person, and an additional 100 online. In light of recent dramatic developments in Europe, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the Forum provided an opportunity to better understand challenges and opportunities in the region, and the role of civil society in helping to respond.

The main objective of the Forum was to launch the revised EU Guidelines for Support to Civil Society in the Enlargement region (2021-2027). These Guidelines set out objectives for EU assistance to civil society, provide a tool for governments to improve cooperation with civil society, and help to measure progress towards meeting conditions for EU integration. Over the period 2014 to 2020, through the Civil Society Facility and Media Programme, the EU has provided around EUR 330 million in support for civil society, whereas the amount planned for the period 2021-2023 is EUR 218 million. The Guidelines will assist the EU to assess the impact of this support.

Commenting on the discussion which followed, DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević emphasized two important point: that the most of the support goes to a selected number of large civil society organisations and that support whould also be shared to small and medium-size organisations, and that besides indicator proposed for implementation of the Guidelines, the impact achieved should be the main source of measuring their success.

The forum also discussed the current state of affairs for CSOs in the region, as well as joint actions on the part of the EU, public authorities and civil society that would address the identified challenges. The four priority areas: the Green Agenda; Rule of law, good governance and anti-corruption; Human rights, anti-discrimination and poverty reduction; and CSO cooperation with the media were discussed in separate breakout sessions.

 

Prison healthcare

More than 11.5 million people are estimated to be in prison globally – the highest ever, and a 24% increase since 2000 (a rate slightly less than the estimated growth in the world’s general population). Prison overcrowding remains at critical levels in some countries, with prisons operating above official capacity in 121 countries.

The Global Prison Trends 2022 is Penal Reform International’s annual flagship report, published with the Thailand Institute of Justice, identifying the key trends and challenges in prison systems worldwide.

National drug policies that result in imprisonment of people who use drugs and those involved in illegal drug markets continue to be a major contributing factor to prison overcrowding globally (see Imprisonment and prison overcrowding).  For decades, punitive drug laws that impose disproportionate criminal sanctions have led to the imprisonment of millions of people worldwide for drug offences. Today, it is estimated that 2.2 million people worldwide are in prison for drug offences, of which 22% (470,000 people) have been imprisoned for drug possession for personal use. Additionally, across seven East and Southeast Asian countries between 440,000 and 500,000 people who use drugs (and unknown numbers elsewhere) are subject to civil or administrative detention because of their personal drug use.

To access the report, please follow this link>>>.

 

The Global Fund Board approved transition funding for Kosovo

During the 47th Global Fund Board meeting held from 10 –12 May 2022 in Geneva, the Board discussed and approved changes to the Global Fund’s Eligibility Policy and approved the allocation methodology for the 2023-2025 allocation period. The Global Fund’s Eligibility Policy spells out three main criteria the organization uses to determine countries’ eligibility to receive an allocation for one or more disease components – HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria. The three determinants are:

  • Countries with the highest disease burden.
  • Those with the least economic capacity.
  • Where key and vulnerable populations are disproportionately affected by the three diseases.

The Board approved changes to the Eligibility Policy on the first two of the main determinants: disease burden and income category.

Based on the changes to the Eligibility Policy, upper-middle-income countries are eligible for Global Fund malaria investments if there is documentation of artemisinin resistance and/or partner resistance to malaria drugs. Also, regardless of the disease burden UMI countries are eligible if they are small states but are not islands that qualify for International Development Association support.

The Board also approved the Strategy Committee and the Secretariat’s proposal to extend the eligibility of six components (grants) for the additional allocation of Transition Funding for the 2023-2025 allocation period.  The six components are Armenia HIV, Guatemala TB and malaria, Guyana malaria, and Kosovo HIV and TB. The extension will allow the financing of important transition activities that are essential to support the countries’ move away from a reliance on Global Fund financing.

More information on the approved changes to the Eligibility Policy and 2023-2025 allocation methodology you may find following this link>>>.

 

The civil society monitoring report 2021

From the Correlation webpage

The Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN) published their 2021 civil society monitoring report on 11 May 2022.

The main aim and purpose of C-EHRN monitoring activities is to improve knowledge and information and complement existing data and monitoring efforts in Europe in specific areas of harm reduction based on the perspective of civil society organisations (CSOs). The data collected helps to assess the implementation of certain drug and health policies at the national and local levels and supports our advocacy efforts at the European and EU Member State levels.

The adapted 2021 civil society monitoring incorporated the experiences from the past years. During evaluation meetings with expert groups, it was decided to keep most of the questionnaires in 2020 intact for 2021. That was done both because the questionnaire of 2020 has worked reasonably well and also to allow for comparisons between 2021 and the previous year.

C-EHRN kept our focus on the situation at the city level which allowed for more accurate and precise information. Consequently, the information provided in this report sometimes represents the situation in a particular city or region. Although this information is not representative of a country, it reflects the fact that the situation in a country is diverse and most often dependent upon the approach at the city level. Small modifications were made for clarity in the sections on essential harm reduction services, overdose prevention, Hepatitis C, civil society involvement and new drug trends. More modifications were made in the COVID-19 section to cover a new phase of the pandemic.

In addition to the survey, and on an experimental basis, the expert groups decided to try new forms of data collection. In 2 countries – Finland and the UK – online Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) will be performed to gather data on new drug trends. That was decided due to the low response rate in the online survey and also due to feedback from our Focal Points that this remains the most difficult section of the survey to complete.

More than one hundred organisations and individuals from 34 European countries have contributed to this Monitoring Report. Thanks go to our Focal Points and associated experts at the national and local levels who have filled in the online questionnaire and provided all information and data on time. Without their dedication and commitment, we would not have been able to produce this report.

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

 

Drugs and mental health

Youth Rise published an educational resource which offers accurate, scientific and detailed information about drugs and mental health, providing people with key targetted harm reduction information in regards to mental health and how drugs interact with our brain.

Youth RISE (Resources, Information, Support and Education) mobilizes youth to be engaged in full spectrum harm reduction and drug policy reform to promote health and human rights.

The document is available following this link>>>.