An interesting discussion about the harm reduction crisis in SEE

On the 20th of April 2022, the three Networks organized a Webinar on Harm reduction crisis in South East Europe. During this event, national decision-makers from the region, researchers, harm reduction service providers, community and civil society representatives came together to present and discuss the key findings of the research activities.

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Drug Policy Network of South-Eastern Europe have been working together to advocate for addressing the harm reduction crisis in South East Europe since 2019.

Countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, are experiencing relatively high levels of HIV and HVC infection among people who inject drugs. However, due to limited domestic resources and the gradual withdrawal of the Global Fund from the region, the governments of these countries are facing a lack of resources to continue the long-term funding of comprehensive harm reduction programmes.

During this webinar, C-EHRN, EHRA and DPNSE present the research Crisis in harm reduction funding: The impact of transition from Global Fund to Government support and opportunities to achieve sustainable harm reduction services for people who inject drugs in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo*, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia they have conducted in the area and discuss its key findings, which include among others:

  • Common challenges of scaling-up harm reduction programmes in the countries of South-Eastern Europe.
  • Consequences of the limited funding of the harm reduction services for public health and national healthcare systems.
  • Opportunities available for the governments of the region to act and invest funds and efforts in effective and proven models of harm reduction in their respective countries.

Building upon this research, this publication, and also policy briefing and factsheet, highlight opportunities available for the governments of the region to act and invest funds and efforts in effective and proven models of harm reduction in their respective countries.

Recording of the Webinar is available below.

A Swiss pilot to sell cannabis for recreational use

From the Swiss Info news

The Federal Office of Public Health said it had approved a request for a pilot on the regulated sale of cannabis through local pharmacies. It will be restricted to just under 400 participants over the age 18 as part of a joint project by the University of Basel, its psychiatric clinics and the cantonal health department.

The trial, due to begin in September, is intended to help evaluate the effects of new regulations on the recreational use of cannabis and ultimately combat black market distribution, the office said on Tuesday.

Several other local authorities, including Zurich, Geneva and Bern, have also applied to roll out similar trials. The Swiss parliament laid the legal basis for such small-scale initiatives in September 2020.

The health office estimates there are 220,000 regular consumers of cannabis in Switzerland despite a legal ban.

Until now, the use of cannabis is only allowed for medical reasons.

In 2008 almost two-thirds of Swiss voters rejected an initiative to decriminalise cannabis consumption; it was the second national vote on the issue in a decade.

 

Albania to legalize medical cannabis

Government of Prime Minister Edi Rama will pave the way for the legalization of medical cannabis in Albania, as in the question of National Counselling, 61% of Albanian citizens have pronounced in favor of legalization. According to the results of the poll, 308.000 citizens voted for (61%), 148.000 against (29%), while 51.000 had no opinion on the matter. The survey was conducted online and on paper form from 19 January to 31 March.

In a statement to the media, the Head of Government, who published the results on Thursday said that what the citizens have asked will be done. “We will legalize cannabis and open a new front of work and economic growth, in addition to increasing the technological aspect. What the citizens have said will be realized. The voice of the citizens is resounding and we will do exactly what the citizens want, some things faster, some less slowly. This is a process, but very soon within a few days you will see the members of the cabinet who will come out with concrete commitments, to give people back the trust they have returned to this process“, stressed the Prime Minister.

Mr Rama hailed the government initiative as a ‘major achievement’ in getting the citizens’ opinion on crucial issues.

 

Harm reduction crisis in South East Europe

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Drug Policy Network of South-Eastern Europe have been working together to advocate for addressing the harm reduction crisis in South East Europe since 2019.

The three networks are hosting an online discussion about the funding challenges and opportunities for governments to the crisis of harm reduction services in SEE countries and the Balkans.

The webinar will take place on the 20th of April from 13:00h to 14:30h CET.

Countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, are experiencing relatively high levels of HIV and HVC infection among people who inject drugs. However, due to limited domestic resources and the gradual withdrawal of the Global Fund from the region, the governments of these countries are facing a lack of resources to continue the long-term funding of comprehensive harm reduction programmes.

During this webinar, C-EHRN, EHRA and DPNSE will present the research they have conducted in the area as well as opportunities available for the governments of the region to act and invest funds and efforts in effective and proven models of harm reduction in their respective countries.

The webinar is open to national decision-makers from the SEE region, the Balkans and other European countries, researchers, harm reduction activists, civil society representatives, harm reduction service providers and the media.

The event will be held in English. To register and to receive the complete webinar agenda, please fill in the form https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_-4Dh14MmQumJc3mPJxZgOw

Please contact for more details: Roberto Perez Gayo rpgayo@correlation-net.org

 

Fight Against Corruption: The Western Balkans in Focus

The Southeast Europe Leadership for Development and Integrity (SELDI) organised the regional policy forum Fight Against Corruption: The Western Balkans in Focus on 7 April 2022 in Skopje. The Forum focused on the challenges that Western Balkan societies face in closing the institutional gaps that allow the flourishment of corruption.

The forum included a presentation of SELDI’s Corruption Monitoring System (CMS) for the period 2014-2021. Dr. Aleksandar Gerganov, Senior Analyst at the Center for Study of Democracy underlined that the anti-corruption progress achieved in the Western Balkans between the early 2000s and mid-2010s has been halted or even reversed. Self-reported involvement in corruption in the Western Balkans remains very high – 20-40% of the citizens admit to having paid some kind of a bribe. Tolerance of corruption by the general public, although declining, still ranges between 25% and 40%. The most concerning fact, revealed by the CMS however, was that the overwhelming majority of the citizens has lost hope in the feasibility of anti-corruption policy responses. This points to a deep-seated crisis in the trust in governments.

In conclusion, the representatives of the CSOs agreed that the lack of political will in implementing systemic reforms remains as a core democracy challenge. The participants called for more decisive actions, including stricter monitoring of budget spending, harsher sanctions for rule of law violations, and increased support and EU funding for those who implement successful reforms. The adoption of new laws on lobbying and on the seizure of assets, the opening of registers, the cross-border exchange of information allowing checks of asset declarations, as well as the media portrayal of victims of corruption were also among the policy recommendations voiced at the forum.

More about the Forum, including presentation and recording, is available following this link>>>.

 

Crisis in harm reduction funding

Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the Drug Policy Network of South-Eastern Europe have been working together to advocate for addressing the harm reduction crisis in South East Europe since 2019.

Countries of South-Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, are experiencing relatively high levels of HIV and HVC infection among people who inject drugs, including those who inject psychoactive substances. However, due to limited domestic resources and the gradual withdrawal of the Global Fund from the region, the governments of these countries are facing a lack of resources to continue the long-term funding of comprehensive harm reduction programmes. In addition to these and other barriers, in some countries, there is no legal basis for NGOs to provide services to marginalized populations, including people who use drugs.

Graham Shaw produced the research he have conducted with our and support of our colleagues from the region.

The following report, policy briefing and factsheet present and analyze current common challenges of scaling-up harm reduction programmes in the countries of South-Eastern Europe and the consequences of the limited funding of the harm reduction services for public health and national healthcare systems. Building upon this research, these publications highlight opportunities available for the governments of the region to act and invest funds and efforts in effective and proven models of harm reduction in their respective countries.

Report

 

 

 

 

 

 

Policy brief

 

 

 

 

 

 

Factsheet

European Testing Week 2022

European Testing Week is a European campaign that encourages partner organisations – in community, health care and policy institutions – throughout Europe to unite for one week twice a year to increase testing efforts and promote awareness on the benefits of earlier hepatitis and HIV testing. This initiative has progressed since its start in 2013 and has grown to be a widely recognised European event with hundreds of organisations participating every year. What once started as an annual event has now become a biannual event with two ETWs occurring each year in Spring (May) and Autumn (November). Each organisation volunteers their own time to organise their Testing Week activities and create incredible displays of a united effort to increase testing awareness at all organisational levels.

Now in its ninth year, the European Testing Week initiative will host the Spring and Autumn ETWs on the following dates:

  • Spring ETW: 16 – 23 May 2022
  • Autumn ETW: 21 – 28 November 2022

The aim of the Spring and Autumn ETWs remain the same: to unite partner organisations throughout Europe for one week to increase access to testing and promote awareness on the benefits of earlier hepatitis and HIV testing.

If you are interested in joining the campaign, visit this link>>> and register your organisation!

 

The right to sit at the table

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) is an expert group to the European Commission. Its membership comprises 45 civil society organisations coming from across Europe and representing a variety of fields of drug policy, and a variety of stances within those fields.

The Rights Reporter Foundation produced a new video on why is it important to involve civil society in drug policy decision making, featuring the members of the EU’s Civil Society Forum on Drugs by interviewing its members about the valuable contribution civil society is doing in the field of drug policies in Europe. The movie was produced with the support of the EC JUST Drug Policy Grant.

 

London adopts new approaches to reduce drug-induced deaths

The London Assembly’s health committee released a new report on 17 March 17 urging Mayor Sadiq Khan to cooperate with the government and police to develop a new strategy to combat drug fatalities in the city. The report argues that drug checking services should be provided in London, including at clubs and music events.

Given the increase in drug-related deaths over the last decade there have been growing calls for the adoption of new approaches focusing on harm-reduction methods. The report states that harm-reduction approaches would “not only benefit those who are using drugs but reduce harm to and the costs for their wider communities.

The Committee’s investigation focuses on three harm-reduction interventions – drug-checking services, naloxone and drug-consumption rooms – to understand whether these could reduce drug-related deaths in London; the barriers that may be faced in rolling these out; and the solutions to address these barriers. These interventions were chosen because they have an existing evidence base, having been trialled or implemented in other parts of the world or the UK.

Recommendations also include practical advices to authorities:

  • The Government should introduce a national naloxone programme in England
  • Thee Mayor’s Drugs Commission should work with partners and service providers to assess the availability of naloxone in relevant settings in London, as well as the education and training levels of staff; and identify barriers and solutions to ensure adequate and consistent access across the capital.
  • The Mayor should lead a public awareness campaign on naloxone and how it is used to save lives in the event of an overdose.
  • The Mayor should run a campaign with partners to educate Londoners about how to reduce drug harm and deaths.

 

To read report, follow this link>>>.

 

How to prevent marijuana industry monopolies?

With many U.S. cannabis executives arguing that federal legalization is only a matter of time, industry insiders and politicians are increasingly focused on how to structure a national marijuana marketplace that is both vibrant and diverse.

To that end, former Massachusetts cannabis regulator Shaleen Title published a white paper last month laying out proposals for how Congress can help ensure the marijuana industry won’t be dominated by multistate operators and national brands. The paper is titled, “Bigger is not better: Preventing monopolies in the national cannabis market”.

It is a crucial and vulnerable moment for the future of the cannabis market. While states are making historic progress creating paths for small businesses and disenfranchised groups, larger companies are expanding, consolidating, and lobbying for licensing rules to create or maintain oligopolies. Federal legalization will only accelerate the power grab already happening with new, larger conglomerates openly expressing interest. Left unchecked, this scramble for market share threatens to undermine public health and safety and undo bold state-level efforts to build an equitable cannabis marketplace.

This paper argues for intentionally applying well-developed antitrust principles to federal cannabis reform now, before monopolization of the market takes place, and offers eight concrete policy recommendations:

  1. Allow people to grow a reasonable number of marijuana plants for personal use.
  2. Prohibit vertical integration.
  3. Do not cap the number of business licenses available in total, but limit how much of a market any one person or entity may control.
  4. Create incentives for states to license small or disadvantaged businesses.
  5. Enforce ownership limits and review mergers based on existing evidence of predatory and anticompetitive tactics in state marijuana markets.
  6. Disqualify corporations from the cannabis industry if they have engaged in corporate crimes, defrauded the public, or caused significant public health damage.
  7. Create a multi-agency task force to enforce anti-monopoly limits.
  8. Authorize states to ban or delay interstate commerce in order to preserve state-level advantages to local businesses.

 

The document is available following this link>>>.