A new report on flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans

The Western Balkans is a crossroads for the trafficking of many illicit commodities, and it is a geographical hub for the smuggling of migrants who are trying to enter Western Europe.

The Global initiative against transnational organised crime (GI-TOC) published a new report: “Spot Prices: Analysing flows of people, drugs and money in the Western Balkans“.

It provides a detailed overview of the prices and routes for drugs and migrants being smuggled through the Western Balkans and sheds light on the size of the profits generated and where the money is laundered.

This report contains a wealth of information gathered through field research and interviews carried out with current and former law enforcement officials, investigative journalists, researchers, local officials, migrants, drug users, and civil society representatives in the region.

There are a lot of interesting maps and visual presentations about migrant smuggling, drug trafficking and money laundering. I hope you will enjoy it reading.

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

 

European Drugs Summer School 2021

From the EMCDDA, we have received an update regarding the 2021 European Drugs Summer School (EDSS) – organised by the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL) in cooperation with the EMCDDA – which will take place online from 28 June until 9 July.

The course prepares professionals and students to meet the complex policy and practice challenges in the field of drugs. Involving scientific experts from the EMCDDA, university professors and policymakers, they provide a multi-disciplinary and inclusive approach to the study of the drugs problem in Europe and beyond.

The two-week course will focus on Vulnerable groups. Sessions will include lectures on the prevention of drug-related problems; social determinants of drug use and interventions for vulnerable groups (homeless, prisoners, migrants). Virtual study visits will be organised to one of the Portuguese commissions for dissuasion as well as a local harm reduction centre. During the course, students will participate in interactive workshops to discuss their own projects and views. The course will conclude with an open debate with guest speakers, followed by an exam for those wishing to obtain credits.

Also this time, the EMCDDA-IPA7 project will provide for some limited bursaries to applicants from the Western Balkan countries

Interested candidates should register before 7 June next, directly at the ISCTE-IUL web site by using the blue ‘Register Now’ button. Successful candidates will be informed about their bursary acceptance during the week of 14-18 June 2021.

For more information, please follow this link>>>.

 

Civil Society Declaration for 2021 HLM on HIV/AIDS

From the Aidsfonds website

DPNSEE have endorsed the 2021 high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS Civil Society Declaration.

There is a crisis in the HIV response. Over the last five years, the world has failed to meet any of the targets for prevention, diagnosis and treatment set out in the 2016 Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, with progress on HIV prevention lagging particularly far behind. The 2021 high-level meeting on HIV/AIDS – and the Political Declaration that results from it – is the last chance to create sustained momentum for the policies, programmes and funding that are needed to end HIV as a global health threat by 2030.

Now more then ever, evidence-based responses and renewed political will are called for –especially in face of the additional burdens imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to focus efforts and resources where they are most needed, we call for a Political Declaration that:

  • RECOGNIZES explicitly who is most at risk of HIV
  • ACKNOWLEDGES why this is so
  • COMMITS to fully fund and support effective responses
  • HOLDS ACCOUNTABLE Member States for their actions

As a team, Aidsfonds are proud of the hard work that we have done collectively to make this document a reality. We want to commend the Multi-Stakeholder Task Force and its Advisory Group for their efforts to bring the voices of our diverse communities to the table despite the limited time. The Civil Society Declaration builds on the UNAIDS regional consultations, over 700 survey respondents and input from the Multi-Stakeholder Hearing Civil Society Debrief.

We realize that it is impossible to craft a declaration that includes everything that everyone in our diverse HIV movement would wish for, but we hope you will find that many elements of the HLM 2021 Civil Society Declaration are aligned with your organizational priorities and that your community can take it and run with it.

To read and endorse the Declaration, please follow this link>>>.

Grants Program “Gender and HIV”

Eurasian Key Populations Coalition (EKPC) is pleased to announce an open Request for Proposals (RfP) for 2021 Grants Program “GENDER and HIV” in framework of the #SoS_project.

Through this RfP2021, EKPC invites proposals from EECA countries (Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan) and SEE countries (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia), countries based civil society organizations scaling up access to gender oriented, sensitive and/or transformative HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and assuring that resources are mobilized and utilized appropriately to respond gender gap in HIV epidemic.

The goal of this year’s EKPC Grants Program is to contribute to improved health, inclusion and social wellbeing for TG in EECA and SEE. To reach this goal, EKPC provides funding to strengthen the institutional and advocacy capacity of civil society and their alias. The regional networks and national organizations, which meet the definitions and criteria set by this RfP2021 are invited to apply for a grant for up to 5 months duration.

The deadline for submission of proposals is 28 May 2021 at 12:00 (noon) CET.

For more details and application procedure follow this link>>>.

 

Letter of support for the decriminalization in Lithuania

Eurasian Harm Reduction Association asks you to help us urge the Members of the Parliament – the Seimas of Lithuania – to support the drug policy changes (decriminalization project) in Lithuania and sign the attached letter.

Until January 2017, possession of psychoactive substances in small amounts in Lithuania was considered an administrative offence, regulated by the Code of Administrative Offences and as a criminal offence, regulated by the Criminal Code. There were so-called legal collisions (conflict of laws).

In January 2017, procurement and possession of a small amount of an illicit drug with no intent to distribute became an offence punishable by community service, restraint of liberty, a fine or arrest. The same offence involving more than a defined small amount, became a criminal offence punishable by up to two years in prison.

Over the past 3 years alarming indicators have shown that drug policy in Lithuania is focused only on criminalization of people who use drugs and possess small amounts of drugs without intent to distribute them. For example, possession of illicit substance in small quantities without intent to supply accounted for 77% of all drug related offences committed in 2019. 63 % of the offenders were under the age of 29. Between 2014 and 2019 there was an increase by 53,9% of drug laws related offences without intent to distribute. Each year, about 750 people are serving a custodial sentence in prisons, which costs Lithuania around 10,5 million Euro per year. In 2019, 21,7% of all inmates were officially diagnosed with mental and behavioral disorders due to drug use. While in prisons there are no harm reduction services, and limited access to OST.

At the moment, the Seimas of Lithuania is considering decriminalization of small amounts of drugs without intent to distribute them. Civil society from Lithuania is looking for an international community support.

If your organisation wishes to support the letter, please fill in this form before 9th May (by midnight, Vilnius time). The letter will be sent to the Members of the Seimas before the final hearings.

Feel free to share this email with other organisations which may be interested in supporting the initiative!

In case you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact eliza@harmreductioneurasia.org.

 

The third trendspotter study on COVID-19 and drugs

Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the way we live, with European countries having to introduce unprecedented measures to protect public health. As with all areas of life, drug consumption, related harms and drug markets have been impacted, as have the services established to respond to drug-related problems. During the first weeks of the pandemic, the EMCDDA instigated two rapid assessment studies to identify the initial impact and implications of COVID-19.

The EMCDDA releases today the third in a series of rapid ‘trendspotter’ studies exploring the impact of COVID-19 on the drug situation and responses to it. Revisiting and reviewing findings from two studies in 2020 on the effects of the pandemic on drug use and services, the report identifies new trends and developments which may have implications for policy and practice.

The report explores the situation in the EU Member States from June 2020 to February 2021, particularly changes in drug markets, patterns of use, harms and drug services, both in the community and in prisons.

The EMCDDA’s trendspotter methodology examines emerging drug-related trends by rapidly collecting and triangulating data from a variety of sources to allow for timely assessments of topics of concern. Specifically, for this COVID-19 impact study, the methodology was adapted to suit online investigation, taking into account the national emergency restrictions on both the EMCDDA team and the study participants. The study was designed to be carried out in successive waves.

The new analysis draws on a range of sources, including: three online surveys, eight virtual facilitated groups, data and literature reviews.

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

 

Media coverage on cannabis regulation in Serbia

Statement of the Minister of Health Dr Zlatibor Lončar that Serbia will regulate cannabis in line with the decision of the UN Committee on Narcotic Drugs triggered a lot of attention in the country.

Our Executive Director Milutin Milošević was invited to comment speculations that legalisation of cannabis may benefit those accused in the famous case of production of marijuana in the organic food farm Jovanjica” at the Nova S TV station. The segment from their news is available (in Serbian) following this link>>>.

Milutin was then invited for a talk with Prof Dr Vladimir Kovčin at the cable channel K1 where most of the attention was given to medical benefit of marijuana and possibilities to regulate it in Serbia.

 

High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

The UN General Assembly has called for a High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS (HLM) to be held on 8 – 10 June 2021 and invited Member States to participate at the highest level. UNAIDS is taking the lead organising the meeting.

The high-level meeting is likely to include a mix of virtual and in-person participation. The meeting will involve plenary sessions and up to five thematic panel discussions. The opening plenary meeting will feature statements by the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, a person openly living with HIV, and an eminent person actively engaged in the AIDS response.

Communities and other stakeholders are encouraged to participate in the process leading up to the HLM and in the meeting itself. GNP+ and Aidsfonds have been appointed to act as NGO Co-Conveners to work with UNAIDS to facilitate the active and meaningful participation of civil society organisations (CSOs) and communities in the entire HLM process.

UNAIDS has set up a Multi-stakeholder Task Force (MSTF) made up of 16 members representing civil society and the private sector to facilitate civil society involvement in the upcoming HLM. The MSTF will give advice on the format, theme, and programme of the multi-stakeholder hearing (MSH) and help identify speakers for the MSH and HLM plenary and panel discussions.

In addition to active participation at the HLM and the preceding Multistakeholder hearing (MSH), civil society activists have a critical role to play to influence their governments and their positions during the negotiations around the new Political Declaration to be adopted at the HLM. This Political Declaration will replace the one adopted at the 2016 HLM and could provide a powerful advocacy tool for civil society to hold their governments to account.

In order to ensure that the Political Declaration contains strong commitments to bring an end to AIDS and leave no one behind, there are a number of key advocacy actions civil society and communities can take in the run-up to the HLM:

  • High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS civil society and community-led organisations and networks in your country to determine joint priorities for communities, raise awareness about the process and organise joint advocacy activities to influence the HLM process
  • Contact key government officials engaged with the HLM at the capital level and at the New York Mission level to influence your country’s input into the negotiations around the Political Declaration
  • Advocate for your government to include representatives of affected communities in the country delegation to the HLM and advocate for the highest level of government representation at the HLMs (President or Ministerial)
  • Contact your national UNAIDS office if you need support or information.

The official page for communities of people living with, affected by, and at risk of HIV and civil society organisations to engage in the upcoming UN General Assembly 2021 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS is available following this link>>>.

 

The Balkans’ response to COVID-19

The #‎SoS_project offers the second in a series of “Response to COVID-19” events. On 27 April 27 2021, from 11:00 to 13:30 (CEST, UTC +2) or 12:00-14:30 (EEST, UTC +3), an online discussion will take place “The Balkans’ response to COVID-19: experience of #SoS_project partners”.

The Agenda includes following items:

  • Maintaining essential HIV services and introducing new ones in Covid-19 time – Andrej Senih, Executive Director Заедно посилни (North Macedonia)
  • Innovation in Covid-19 response – Aida Kurtović , LLB, MA, Executive Director of Partnerstvo za zdravlje / Partnerships in Health (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • COVID-19 case detection and vaccination – implementation strategy and challenges – Goran Radisavljević, CEO, Timočki Omladinski Centar (Serbia)
  • Access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment during COVID 19 epidemic – Sanja Šišovic, program director of NGO CAZAS (Montenegro)
  • Results of the study on the impact of COVID-19 on the sustainability of HIV and TB services (accent on Balkan) – Dr. Fifa_Rahman, principal researcher of the Matahari Global Solutions (United Kingdom)

To register for the COVID-19 online discussion follow this link>>>.