Workshop on civil society advocacy

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) organised an on-site Workshop on civil society advocacy from 23th to 24th November in Madrid, with the support from UNAD, International Drug Policy Consortium, Rights Reporter and AFEW.

Since advocacy is an important tool for civil society members to achieve their main goal of influencing public policies, this training workshop brought together representatives from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the field of drugs in order to improve their capacities in formulating, implementing and evaluating advocacy actions.

Several participants came from the DPNSEE member organisations. The participants’ profile was:

  • Civil society representatives and service providers in the field of drug use and drug demand reduction which have their main base of operation in an EU member state, EEA, acceding, candidate or potential candidate country(*). They are members of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs or related to one the members’ networks.
  • Highly motivated to improve their capacities in the area of advocacy and will be able to implement and share gained knowledge and information within their organisation.

The workshop was an interactive training with open space to intervene and to create new tools for advocacy in a hostile environment. Excellent presentations were delivered by Peter Sarosi and Marie Nougier.

UNODC launched Synthetic Drug Strategy

From the UNODC press release

In response to the rapidly-growing problem of synthetic drugs around the world, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today launched a new strategy to support countries in addressing the situation on 19 November 2021.

The launch of the new strategy comes at a critical moment. The number of new psychoactive substances emerging on illicit drug markets has increased six-fold in the past decade and reached a record high of over 1,000 unique substances in 2020. Annual global seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants increased by 64 per cent in 2019, while opioid use disorder deaths have gone up by 71 per cent over the past decade.

Building on UNODC’s experience and lessons learned from the past years in dealing with the opioid crisis, the new Synthetic Drug Strategy will offer a balanced and comprehensive framework that is grounded in science.

A particular emphasis will be placed on evidence-based responses for women and youth, in recognition of the specific challenges they face.

The Strategy will focus on four “spheres of action”: multilateralism and international cooperation, early warning on emerging synthetic drug threats, science-informed health responses, and counternarcotic interventions.

Those challenges have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, as economic hardship and growing inequalities have pushed people towards dangerous coping mechanisms.

Women who use drugs also face specific difficulties, including a lack of availability of necessary gender-specific health and drug treatment services, barriers to accessing existing services, social stigma and the fear of possible legal sanctions in relation to drug use and/or losing the custody of children while in treatment.

Through science-informed processes, evidence, and knowledge, the new strategy will help policymakers to introduce effective policy directions and strategies to disrupt the manufacture and trafficking of synthetic drugs, and to provide access to treatment in different parts of the world.

To learn more about the UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy, follow this link>>>.

European Union 2021 Enlargement Country Reports

Traditionally, the European Commission adopted its annual assessment of the implementation of reforms in the Western Balkan partners and Turkey, together with recommendations on the next steps for those countries, and published its annual country reports. This year, due to coronavirus pandemic, the report was published in autumn, not in spring as it used to be.

The 2021 Enlargement package: European Commission assesses and sets out reform priorities for the Western Balkans and Turkey includes a detailed assessment of the state of play and the progress made by the Western Balkans and Turkey on their respective paths towards the European Union, with a particular focus on implementing fundamental reforms, as well as clear guidance on the reform priorities ahead.

All six Western Balkans partners have committed to establishing a Common Regional Market, building on EU rules and standards, and should focus on overcoming the difficulties encountered in order to bring the opportunities of this initiative to the citizens and businesses of the region and to maximise the benefits of the investments under the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans, which aims to spur the long-term recovery of the region, a green and digital transition, foster economic regional cooperation, boost economic growth and support reforms required to move forward on the EU path.

Accession negotiations have been opened with candidate countries Montenegro (2012), Serbia (2014), and Turkey (2005). North Macedonia is a candidate country since 2005 and Albania since 2014. Bosnia and Herzegovina (application to join the EU submitted in February 2016) and Kosovo* (Stabilisation and Association Agreement entered into force in April 2016) are potential candidates.

As in the previous three years, DPNSEE extracted segments related to drugs from each of the country reports and packed them in one document. Same like in previous years, it is a pity to see that, almost exclusively, except some references to drug abuse prevention and harm reduction in Chapter 28: Consumer and health protection, the reports deal only with law enforcement related to drugs.

 

The document we prepared with reports for 2020 and part 2021 is downloadable following this link>>>.

Full versions of the Commission’s documents from 2020 and part 2021 are available following this link>>>.

European Drugs Winter School 2022

The European Drugs Winter School 2022 (EDWS), organised by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL) will be held from 14th to 25th of February 2022. EDWS prepares professionals and students to meet the complex policy challenges that face Europe and the World in the field of drugs.

This edition will have a special focus on Cannabis: practice, policies and debates in the EU and beyond.

The Winter School will be delivered through online and remote instruction. Following the success of the first Winter School, live sessions with experts and practitioners will be held from early afternoon until late afternoon (Lisbon Time, GMT +1 to GMT +3/4). Individual small exercises will be given and assessed every day, and an exam will be offered to those who wish to earn the credits. Virtual tours to field work will be included.

Candidates’ Profile include university students (undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate), researchers, professionals and administrators interested in or working in the drugs field, including participants from the EMCDDA’s network of focal points in 30 countries, or from programmes being developed by the EMCDDA with third countries (e.g. Western Balkans, North Africa, Eastern Europe).

Bursaries are available for Western Balkan region and European Neighbourhood Policy!

Professionals, academics and experts from the Western Balkan region and European Neighbourhood Policy countries will have an opportunity to participate in the 2022 European Drugs Winter School (EDWS), thanks to scholarships offered through two EMCDDA projects: the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA7) and EU4Monitoring Drugs (EU4MD). The scholarships will cover the course fees. All candidates from those regions who apply in the first phase (deadline 5th of December) will be eligible.

Deadline for applications: 5 December 2021 (Early Bird) | 23 January 2022 (Final).

Deadline for scholarship applications: 5 December 2021.

The EDWS will be followed by the European Drugs Summer School (EDSS) from 27 June to 8 July. Scholarships (covering course fees) are also available.

If interested, find more information following this link>>>.

 

 

Global Fund Board Approves New Strategy 2023-2028

From the EECA Regional Platform for Communication and Coordination communication

The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria approved the new Global Fund Strategy: Fighting Pandemics and Building a Healthier and More Equitable World. The new Strategy places people and communities front and center of the fight against HIV, TB, malaria and accelerates the shift to more integrated, people-centered models of prevention, treatment and care. Strengthening the leadership and engagement of communities living with and affected by the diseases will reinforce this unique strength of the Global Fund partnership and tackle barriers to effective participation and leadership.

In addition, the Board approved the planned operating expenses (OPEX) budget of US$322 million for 2022 bringing the total OPEX investment to US$930 million for the 2020-2022 cycle to sustain achievements and transition to the new Strategy cycle, and a new global disease split for the 2023-2025 allocation methodology. At amounts for country allocations up to and including US$12 billion, the split of 50% for HIV, 18% for TB and 32% for malaria will be applied. A new split of 45% for HIV, 25% for TB and 30% for malaria will be applied to additional amounts above US$12 billion.

The Board also approved the new model for the Global Fund Independent Evaluation Function which establishes an Independent Evaluation Panel (IEP) and creates a Chief Evaluation and Learning Officer (CELO) function.

Recognizing the significant impact of COVID-19 on the Global Fund’s operating environment and risk landscape, the Board recalled its ultimate responsibility to the Global Fund’s stakeholders for overseeing the implementation of effective risk management. While supporting the increased risk appetite, Board members stressed the importance of actively mitigating risk, especially at a country level, and instructed the Secretariat to provide greater granular reporting on emerging risk trends and the effectiveness and results of the assurance measures, including the assurances put in place.

Ahead of the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment next year, and less than a decade to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Board called the entire partnership to mobilize to increase financial resources to fight the three diseases. The grants based upon the new Strategy will start in January 2024 with funds from the upcoming Seventh Replenishment.

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

 

RYCO’s Regional Strategy Forum

The Regional Youth Cooperation Office (RYCO) has organised the Regional Strategy Forum aimed at gathering inputs from the region for its new three-year strategic plan. The three-day event was held in Fruška Gora, Serbia, 8-10 November, and gathered more than 70 representatives of civil society, governments, international and regional organizations, and youth. The final RYCO Strategic Plan 2022-2024 is planned to be adopted by the end of the year.

During the forum, RYCO has presented the results of the local consultations which gathered over 370 people in the previous months as well as its recently published Shared Futures study which it aims to use as the evidence-based tool for the strategy development. On the other side, the participants discussed RYCO vision and values, youth exchanges and intercultural learning, peace building education, peace outreach, peace supportive environment, support and building capacities of peace building multipliers, and cross-cutting issues such as gender, inclusion, participation, etc. Furthermore, they also discussed partnership building and outreach and visibility of RYCO.

Nenad Maletin from the DPNSEE Office participated in the Forum.

RYCO thanked all dedicated participants for their invaluable inputs and support. The event we showed that the Western Balkans has a bright future only if we join our forces and work towards a common goal – a prosperous Western Balkans, a region closer to the European Union where young people want to stay and build their future. The Regional Strategy Forum is an example of such a region.

 

Global Drug Policy Index

The Harm Reduction Consortium, which includes the following partners: the European Network of People Who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD), the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), the Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs (ENPUD), the Global Drug Policy Observatory (GDPO) / Swansea University, Harm Reduction International (HRI), the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), the Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association (MENAHRA), the West African Drug Policy Network (WADPN), the Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN), and Youth RISE, just published the Global Drug Policy Index – a unique tool that documents, measures and compares national drug policies.

The Index provides each country with a score and ranking that shows how much their drug policies and their implementation align with the UN principles of human rights, health and development. It offers an essential accountability and evaluation mechanism in the field of drug policy.

The Index is composed of 75 indicators running across 5 broad dimensions of drug policy: the absence of extreme responses, the proportionality of the criminal justice response, health and harm reduction, access to controlled medicines and development. Each country is then given a total score ranging from 0 to 100.

From the region of South East Europe, only North Macedonia is analysed in the 2021 issue of the Index. It took position 7 of 30 countries with overall index of 55/100:

  • Absence of extreme responses: 74/100
  • Proportionality & criminal justice: 38/100
  • Harm reduction: 46/100
  • Access to medicines: 61/100
  • Development: Not available

To read the Global Drug Policy Index, follow this link>>>.

 

UNAIDS calls for action against the criminalization of people who use drugs

1 November is International Drug Users’ Day, when the global community of people who use drugs comes together to celebrate its history and affirm the rights of people who use drugs. The International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) marks this day with a celebration of its diverse, vibrant communities’ accomplishments, while also acknowledging their work is more critical than ever.

On International Drug Users’ Day, UNAIDS is calling for urgent action against the criminalization of people who use drugs, for the redress of criminalization’s negative effects on HIV, viral hepatitis and other health issues, for the respect of human rights and for more funding for community-led harm reduction programmes.

People who use and inject drugs are among the groups at highest risk of acquiring HIV but remain marginalized and often blocked from accessing health and social services. In 2020, 9% of all new HIV infections were among people who inject drugs. Outside of sub-Saharan Africa this rises to 20%. Although women represent less than 30% of the number of people who use drugs, women who use drugs are more likely to be living with HIV than their male counterparts. Less than 1% of people who inject drugs live in countries with the United Nations-recommended levels of coverage of needles, syringes and opioid substitution therapy, and the funding gap for harm reduction in low- and middle-income countries sits at a dismal 95%.

Even where harm reduction services are available, they are not necessarily accessible. Punitive drug control laws, policies and law enforcement practices have been shown to be among the largest obstacles to health care in many countries. Criminalization of drug use and harsh punishments (such as incarceration, high fines or removal of children from their parents) discourage the uptake of HIV services, drive people underground and lead to unsafe injecting practices, and increase the risk of overdose. Women who use drugs face higher rates of conviction and incarceration than men who use drugs, contributing to the increased levels of stigma and discrimination they face in health-care settings. In effect, criminalization of drug use and possession for personal use significantly and negatively impact the realization of the right to health.

 

Harm Reduction Key Principles in Homeless Services

Correlation presented the Key Principles of Harm Reduction – an innovative set of tools developed through the HR4Homelessness Project. The innovation lies in their capacity to translate existing experiences and knowledge on Harm Reduction into actionable guidance through an open, iterative and evolving framework.

HR4Homelessness – Integrating Harm Reduction Services in Homelessness Service is an Erasmus+ Project aiming at improving Harm Reduction services for people experiencing homelessness in Europe. The project involves organisations working in the field of homelessness and drug use FEANTSA (Belgium), C-EHRN / De Regenboog Groep (NL), Rights Reporter Foundation (HU), Simon Communities of Ireland (Ireland), Health Team City of Copenhagen (DK), Norte Vida (PT) and SMES-B (Belgium).

The Key Principles aim to contribute to improving and transforming the services that shape access to and the quality of care that people experiencing homelessness who use drugs or alcohol receive. Further, they aim to support these services to respond to conditions that negatively influence marginalised and underserved communities’ social and health outcomes.

The document offers service providers to implement activities that respect the rights of people experiencing homelessness who use drugs or alcohol, which are informed by evidence. It also intends to advance social justice transformations, respect service user decisions and priorities, and contribute to eliminating stigma and discrimination of the communities they work for and with.

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

 

Cannabis decriminalised in Luxembourg

Source: Herb

On Friday, Luxembourg’s government announced that citizens would be permitted to grow up to four cannabis plants on their property, making it Europe‘s first official country to decriminalise the production and consumption of cannabis, noted The Guardian.

The announcement follows Luxembourg’s government’s pursuit to provide fundamental changes towards the country’s perspective and view on recreational cannabis cultivation after failing to prohibit the drug. Now, people 18 and older are legally allowed to grow their own cannabis, up to four plants per household. Seeds received via trading are also deemed legal without having to specify the THC content. Luxembourg’s government also said that users could obtain seeds from shops, importation, or online purchases.

“The idea is that a consumer is not in an illegal situation if he consumes cannabis and that we don’t support the whole illegal chain from production to transportation to selling, where there is a lot of misery attached. We want to do everything we can to get more and more away from the illegal black market.” said Justice Minister Sam Tanson.

Consumption of cannabis in public spaces, selling it and transporting it remains forbidden. If someone is caught with up to three grams, they won’t be charged with a crime but a misdemeanour. But, fines are now reduced to 25 euros, a massive shift from the previous fine of 2.500 euros. “Above three grams, nothing changes, you will be considered a dealer,” Tanson stated. “Nothing changes for car drivers either: there is still zero tolerance.”

The government plans to implement a state-regulated production and distribution system to help users find quality and safe products. The majority of the revenue earned will help invest in “prevention, education, and healthcare in the broad field of addiction,” government sources added.