Call for inputs – UNSR on Health’s report

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health is producing a second report on harm reduction this year entitled ‘Harm reduction for sustainable peace and development‘. The Special Rapporteur intends to explore the ways in which harm reduction intersects with the right to health and related human rights.

Most commonly, harm reduction refers to policies, programmes and practices that aim to minimise the negative health, social and legal impacts associated with drug use, drug policies and drug laws. For the purposes of this report, the Special Rapporteur defines harm reduction in a broader sense, including the policies, programmes, and practices that aim to minimise the negative health, social, and legal impacts associated with various behaviours and related policies and laws, as exemplified above.

A ‘Call for inputs’ is now available on the UNSR’s website.

The deadline for submissions (which can be made in English, Spanish or French) is Monday, 27 May 2024.

The report is a great opportunity to build on UN human rights experts’ increasingly supportive positionings on harm reduction and drug policy.

 

EU Civil Society Forum 2024

Registration are now open for the 2024 EU – Civil Society Forum for the Western Balkans and Türkiye!

The Forum will take place from 11 to 13 June 2024 at the Hotel Mona Plaza in Belgrade, Serbia. It will also be accessible online.

This year’s Forum will be on the theme of the new momentum for EU enlargement. It will be an opportunity to connect with colleagues from civil society, the European Union, government officials and international partners, to debate and to be inspired.

The agenda includes the following sessions:

  • The EU and civil society in the Western Balkans – the Growth Plan and new momentum for EU enlargement;
  • Launch of the second Assessment against the DG NEAR Guidelines for EU Support to Civil Society in the Enlargement region, for 2023;
  • A World Café session for topics proposed by conference delegates;

The number of delegates in person is limited to 150, including representatives from civil society, government officials, international partners working with civil society, and European Union institutions.

The EU Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organisations in the Western Balkans and Turkey (TACSO) encourages all delegates to contribute to the discussion, to work together to find common solutions to current and future challenges, and to come with a “mandate” to represent constituencies or members.

If you are interested to participate, please apply online through the following link>>>.

In your application, you will have a chance to propose topics for the Forum agenda – TACSO encourages you to include the topics you think would benefit from discussion at the Forum.

The EU TACSO 3 project is able to financially support the participation of up to 65 representatives who are based in the region but outside of Belgrade. Financial support will be provided on the following basis:

  • Applicants represent a constituency of citizens and/or civil society organisations;
  • Applicants are not in receipt of current EU funding of more than EUR 700,000;
  • Selection of supported applicants will be representative of the geography of the region and of the various communities within the region.

Applicants who are not eligible for financial assistance are nevertheless encouraged to apply to participate.

The closing date for registration is 8 May.

 

Advanced role of the civil society

On 30 June 2023, the European Parliament and Council of the EU published a regulation which revises the existing mandate of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), in order to keep pace with an ever more complex and rapidly changing drug phenomenon. This regulation entered into force on 1 July 2023. The EMCDDA will become the European Union Drugs Agency (EUDA) on 2 July 2024, the day on which the regulation enters into application.

The new mandate grants the agency considerably more power to perform the tasks needed to address current and future challenges related to illicit drugs. With this more proactive remit, adapted to the current reality, the new EUDA will be better equipped to support the EU and its Member States in addressing emerging issues in this field. This will take place in three key areas: monitoring, preparedness and competence development for better interventions.

The new mandate also includes better cooperation and “co-creating” of EUDA and the civili society organisations.

The agency is currently in a transition period to prepare to implement the new mandate in 2024. As part of that transition process, DPNSEE Executive Director was today with the CSFD Core Group colleagues at the EMCDDA to discuss future cooperation with the civil society. Several other CSFD member organisations’ representatives participated online.

This was the first meeting, where a lot of interesting ideas were thrown at the table. The process will continue throughout this year.

More about the new EUDA mandate is avalable following this webpage>>>.

 

Hepatitis C toolkit

People who inject drugs are a key population for the elimination of hepatitis C in Europe, and increasing their access to HCV testing and care is a goal in European and national hepatitis C policies. Despite this, HCV testing remains low among people who inject drugs and effective approaches to promote testing as the first element of a cascade of care are particularly needed.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has launched a vital toolkit to enhance Hepatitis C testing and care, supporting the World Health Organisation’s 2030 goal to eliminate Hepatitis. It is a step by step guide for those involved in planning and managing infectious diseases and drug services, focusing on how to identify barriers to and opportunities for improving provision of HCV testing and access to treatment for people who inject drugs. It incorporates tools and materials supporting the organisation of a participatory process for identifying actions at the national or local level in order to improve the situation.

The toolkit was presented at the World Hepatitis Summit held this week in Lisbon.

More information and the toolkit are available following this link>>>.

 

Vision of a Europe for Health

In 2019, in the run of the European Elections, Coalition PLUS and its European Platform released a document called “Our Vision of a Europe for Health” endorsed by 56 NGOs.

Because the war on drugs is tougher than ever and keeps failing people’s access to care, the initiators have decided to update their 2019 Manisfesto, with a version focused on Decriminalization and Harm reduction. It will be used to reach out to candidates for the European Parliament.

The Manifesto (linked here>>>) will be available in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Romanian.

DPNSEE and several our member organisations have supported this Manifesto.

If you want to join us, send a message to Stéphan Vernhes (svernhes@aides.org) with:

  • a contact name that won’t appear on the document
  • the full name of their NGO
  • a high-definition logo of their NGO
  • and then a simple sentence: “I agree that the name and logo of my organisation are used and displayed in support of the Coalition PLUS European Platform’s 2024 European Parliament Elections Manifesto”.

The deadline to sign it is Monday 8th April at 1pm (Brussels time).

 

Manifesto for the upcoming European Elections

Several European networks and organisations working in the area of drugs (DPNSEE indluding), initiated by Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network and NEWNet Enjoying Safer Nightlife, have joined forces to prepare a document that lays down a vision for a pragmatic, innovative, and human rights-centred European drug policy that will deliver healthier and safer communities and invite candidates for the Members of the European Parliament and various political parties to support it.

The Manifesto for the 2024 European Parliament Elections For a drug policy that makes Europe safer, healthier, and more just Drug Policy is available by following this link>>>.

DPNSEE has signed the Manifesto and recommends that you join us and our colleagues from around Europe in this effort.

Additionally, if you are interested in being an active campaign member, reaching out to candidates for the European Parliament, etc., please write to Marie Nougier (mnougier@idpc.net) and she will loop you in with the campaign core group. The group has developed a toolkit to support campaign members!

 

Farewell, Djurica

Our colleague, Djurica Stankov, an activist who fought for the rights of people living with HIV for decades, died at the age of 49. LGBT organisation “Da se zna” announced it on their Instagram account on Tuesday 26 March 2024. Stankov himself lived with HIV infection for more than 20 years.

– If I were now 19 years old, as I am HIV positive, after all that I have experienced, even though it sounds like a joke, if God came and gave me the possibility of having HIV or some other disease, I would choose HIV without thinking. You can live with this disease quite normally.

Djurica was the head of the AS Centre, an association that brings together HIV-positive people and provides them with much-needed support. The association had young people as its focus. He was also chairman of the Association of Patient Organisations of Serbia.

We had very good cooperation working together in the National Commission for Fighting HIV and Tuberculosis.

May he rest in peace.

 

Partial legalisation of cannabis approved in Germany

Germany’s upper house, the Bundesrat (The Federal Council), cleared the way to partially legalise cannabis on Friday 22 March.

Implementation of the law, supported by the government and passed in the Bundestag, could have been delayed by Bundesrat, which is made up of delegates from Germany’s 16 state governments.

Some representatives in the chamber argued about negative consequences of the law, and a motion on Friday to send the law to a mediation committee threatened to delay the enforcement of the law. However, the motion did not receive enough votes, clearing the way for cannabis to become legal on 1 April 2024.

 

In brief, the legalisation includes:

Legal possession and consumption of limited quantities

The law provides for the partial legalization of cannabis. It allows the possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis, and up to 50 grams of cannabis within your own four walls. Growing three cannabis plants in your own home will also become legal, although the cannabis harvested is only intended for personal use and may not be passed on.

The ban still applies to minors

Possession and consumption of cannabis remain prohibited for minors. Adults are also not allowed to consume cannabis in their presence. There is also a ban on consumption within sight of schools and daycare centers as well as in pedestrian zones before 8 p.m.

Growing associations instead of legal buying and selling

The purchase and sale of cannabis also remains prohibited. However, if you don’t want to grow plants yourself, you can do so in growing associations. These are organized as registered non-economic associations or cooperatives and may not have more than 500 members. Minors are prohibited from membership. Adults may only be members of one cultivation association and must actively participate in cultivation. The law does not provide for passive membership that is aimed solely at purchasing cannabis.

Come into effect

After the law has passed the Federal Council, most parts of the law can come into force on April 1, 2024 after it has been drawn up and promulgated.

 

An exciting CND

The 67th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was held from 14 to 22 March in Vienna. The programme included a high-level segment (14-15 March), including the mid-term review of the 2019 Ministerial Declaration and the ordinary session (18-22 March). It was the largest ever meeting of the Commission, with 140 Member States represented, as well as representatives from 18 intergovernmental organizations, 141 non-governmental organizations and 9 United Nations bodies. In total, the record with more than 2.500 people in attendance, including 600 civil society representatives from a wide range of organisations. Many more were able to follow the proceedings on UN Web TV, both in real time and on demand.

A central element of the high-level segment has been the analysis of progress on 11 specific challenges already identified in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration. One of the 11 challenges identified is the increase in drug-related deaths due to lack of treatment and health services.

Civil society organisations from all around the World contributed with the Global Civil Society Report. DPNSEE and our member organisations was also involved in this process.

The most interesting moments of this event was the intervention in person of Mr. Volker Türk, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (for the first time!), stating that “After decades of following a largely punitive approach, we can see this simply is not working. Not by any metric”, and the joint statement calling for the reform of the international drug control system, initiated by a coalition of 60 countries led by Colombia.

During the ordinary session, only four resolutions were proposed, discussed (very slow and in details) and finally adopted.

The CND 67th session culminated in a historical day on Friday 22nd March, as member states voted on resolutions for the first time in modern history, and finally included the words “harm reduction”. The overdose prevention resolution, proposed by USA and driven by the appalling human toll of a domestic overdose epidemic, recognies harm reduction for the first time as an important part of an effective public health response. It represents a landmark in political commitment to a rebalancing of drug policy towards a public health approach.

Previously, the CND’s dedication to the so-called “Vienna spirit” (whereby all resolutions and policy documents are agreed by consensus) had allowed certain member states to block progressive language or anything that they did not like. Things have changed thanks to the pressure from civil society and the increased presence of human rightsand health mechanisms in Vienna.

More about this historic moment is available in an IDPC blog post following this link>>>.

DPNSEE President Nebojša Djurasović, Board member Marios Atzemis and Executive Director Milutin Milošević participated in the CND 67th session. They firstly joined the civil society events on Sunday 17 organised by IDPC.

The side event on decriminalisation, hosted by DPNSEE, was one of 174 side events – a record number for the CND. The majority were hosted by, or involved, civil society organisations. Our event was fully appreciated by many and mentioned at later events and in corridors.

The CND is an opportunity to organize meetings outside the formal sessions. DPNSEE participated in the VNGOC annual meeting, a CSFD meeting with representatives of the EU delegation, several side events organised by our colleagues and partners, individual meetings with EMCDDA Director, UNODC HIV prevention department, national drug coordinators from Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece and Serbia, missions of Montenegro and Serbia to OSCE, Rome Consensus 2.0, Trimbos Institute andd much more.

 

First legal cannabis harvest in Marocco

Used news by Reuters and Barneys Farm

After Marocco approved its cultivation and export for medicine and industrial uses, country’s first legal cannabis harvest was 294 metric tons in 2023. This development has not only opened up new avenues for economic growth but also paved the way for a more regulated and controlled cannabis industry in Morocco.

Cannabis regulator ANRAC announced that the harvest was made by 32 cooperatives that brought together 430 farmers covering 277 hectares in the northern Rif mountain areas of Al Houceima, Taounat and Chefchaouen. The legalisation was intended to improve farmers’ incomes and protect them from drug traffickers who dominate the cannabis trade and export it illegally.

About 47,000 hectares of the Rif are devoted to cannabis output, roughly a third of the amount in 2003 after government crackdowns. Nearly a million people live in these areas where cannabis is the main economic activity. It has been publicly grown and smoked there for generations, mixed with tobacco in traditional long-stemmed pipes with clay bowls.

Recognizing the need for change, the Moroccan government took a bold step by approving the cultivation and export of cannabis for medicinal and industrial uses.

This decision aimed to improve farmers’ incomes, protect them from the clutches of the illicit drug trade, and position Morocco as a key player in the growing global market for legal cannabis products. The establishment of ANRAC, the national cannabis regulatory agency, was a crucial step in this process. ANRAC’s role is to oversee the cultivation, processing, and export of legal cannabis, ensuring that the industry operates within the boundaries of the law and benefits the local communities. ANRAC is currently examining applications from 1,500 farmers who have organized themselves into 130 cooperatives, highlighting the growing interest and participation in the legal cannabis industry.

The legalization of canabis cultivation has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of farmers and their families in the Rif region, who have long relied on the plant as their primary source of income.

A critical aspect of the legal cannabis industry in Morocco is the empowerment of local communities. By providing them with legal avenues to grow and sell cannabis, the government can help alleviate poverty, promote rural development, and reduce the influence of drug traffickers in these communities.