A chapter on drugs in the PrEUgovor Alarm Report

The Coalition prEUgovor, consisting of seven civil society organizations from Serbia with expertise in various policies under chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations, held a conference on 22 May 2023 to celebrate 10 years of their work. Mission of the prEUgovor is to oversee the implementation of policies in the field of judiciary and fundamental rights (Chapter 23) and Justice, freedom and security (Chapter 24) and propose measures to improve the reforms, using the process of EU integration to achieve substantial progress in the further democratization of Serbia.

PrEUgovor published their jubilee 20th Alarm Report. For the first time, it includes section on drugs. This chapter was prepared by DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević.

To Alarm Report is available in English following this link>>> and in Serbian following this link>>>.

Two additional workshops held

Two additional workshops for service providers and shelter staff on gender-responsive HIV/harm reduction services, healthcare and social needs of women who use drugs, stigma, discrimination and prevention of gender-based violence were held in Novi Sad (on 19 May, at OPENS) and Niš (21 May, EU info point Nis). The workshops were organised in scope of the “Emergency support for the provision of HIV and Harm Reduction services among key populations in Ukraine and refugees in selected neighbouring countries” project.

The content of the workshops was designed on the basis of the training accredited by the Chamber of Social Work, as well as many years of experience of the NGO Re Generacija in research and in the field, in Serbia and internationally.

The training placed a special focus on prevention of stigma and discrimination, prevention and response to gender-based violence, as well as co-dependency and trauma, to ensure greater awareness and understanding of comprehensive gender-sensitive services for women who use drugs, living with HIV, and/or are at risk of gender-based violence.

EU – Western Balkans Dialogue on Drugs

The Dialogue between the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkans on drugs will be held on 25 May 2023 in Brussels. The European side is coordinated by the Swedish Presidency of the European Union. Representatives of the national drug agencies of the EU countries who cooperate within the Horizontal Drug Group (HDG), the body of the Council of the European Union responsible for leading and managing the work of the Council and the European Union on policy, will participate. The embassies of the countries of the Western Balkans to the European Union are invited to the Dialogue.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs of the European Union (CSFD), an expert group at the European Commission consisting of 45 civil society organizations from all over Europe, representing a variety of fields of drug policy, and a variety of stances within those fields, prepared the document with information, views and recommendations of civil society. Several civil society organizations from the region participated in its preparation. DPNSEE, as a CSFD member organization, coordinated the collection of their contributions. The document has been sent to the Swedish EU Presidency and will be distributed to HDG members and embassies.

The CSFD document is available following this link>>>.

We hope that it will have an impact and contribute to better and coordinated partnerships and support to the region.

Women, Violence, and the Use of Drugs

A workshop for service providers and shelter staff on gender-responsive HIV/harm reduction services, healthcare and social needs of women who use drugs, stigma, discrimination and prevention of gender-based violence was held in Belgrade. This was the first out of three workshop organised in scope of the “Emergency support for the provision of HIV and Harm Reduction services among key populations in Ukraine and refugees in selected neighbouring countries” project.

Thanks to support of the Office for Combating Drugs, the workshop was held in the Palace of Serbia. 16 representatives came from governmental institutions and civil society organisations. Trainers were Irena Molnar and Stefan Pejić from ReGeneration.

The workshop highlighted the unique reasons, risks, and effects of drug use among women, emphasizing the need for tailored approaches and non-punitive measures. The topics that were discussed at the workshop included:

  • Drug use. HIV and violence – the specificities of risk in women
  • Basic concepts, definitions, intersectionality – sexism, sexual, sexualized and gender-based violence
  • Access to services and needs for women living with HIV and/or using psychoactive controlled substances
  • My bad habit – co-dependency and trauma


Rome Consensus 2.0 Summit

The Summit of the Rome Consensus 2.0 was held on 2 – 5 May 2023 in Villa Maraini, in Rome. It was a strategic meeting between different realities that deal with drug issues along with the large humanitarian family of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, giving a proof that we can work together on the same side for the good of the most vulnerables

The Summit brought together a task force of humanitarian practitioners, activists and experts leading on drug policy, treatment, diversion and deflection from 29 countries. More than 100 experts from all around the world enriched the debate and filled the formal and informal discussion with new ideas and common goals.

The event started with the presentation of the leading role of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent in responding to humanitarian emergencies and disasters with its wide network of millions of volunteers in 191 countries.  The Partnership Anniversary has been a valuable opportunity to meet among 15 Red Cross/Red Crescent National Societies who have interest in tackling drug problems and  collaborated in the last 10 years with the Partnership, and discuss internally and with CSOs how to build connection, exchange of know and how and increase the effectiveness of the RC2.0 statement as a common tool and ground to promote and disseminate humanitarian drug policy side by side, taking in consideration the power of the emblem as an asset to reach the most vulnerable of the society.

The Interior Minister of Italy, Matteo Piantedosi, and the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Giorgio Silli, joined the event and gave supporting words on humanitarian drug policy, awareness and harm reduction as powerful tools to create the opportunity for change from a repressive approach to a health-centered one.

A final declaration was prepared to summarize what has been discussed and committed during the event. It will serve as a common ground to relaunch the initiative in the upcoming months.

Participants were able to experience field visits along with the Villa Maraini Foundation, the historical Italian Red Cross Rehabilitation center founded in 1976 by Massimo Barra, among the first in the world to put in practice humanitarian and evidence-based solutions to drug problems. Participants had the chance to personally experience the therapeutic environment where everyday Villa Maraini offers a comprehensive path of services to more than 600 clients from the street to the community, in a continuum of care, in order to adapt the therapy to the person, according to the motivation, needs and adherence. Participants personally met clients and heard witness from them and the social workers (all former drug users – the core of the VM staff), and were able to deepen the whole access to treatment strategy of Villa Martaini, from the very low-threshold to the high threshold.

DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević actively participated at the Summit and was honoured to speak at the opening session.

How to set up online harm reduction services?

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) presents a brief guide with recommendations how to launch a new – or improve an existing – online harm reduction service for people who use drugs. The guide “Recommendations for setting up online harm reduction services” entails all the information needed to start-up an online outreach programme. The information is presented in the form of concise, evidence-based, easily implementable recommendations.

It provides step-by-step, practical advice organized into thematic units, including sections on how to launch programs, policy development, staffing, safety and security, referral procedures, and a section on monitoring and evaluation.

The text is 100% reader-friendly, meaning that you literary do not need to know anything about ‘saturation’ or ‘validity’ or any other research related terminology. The recommendations included in this guide can be adapted in line with the needs and resources of individual organisations, local contexts, and characteristics of the target population. They can also be adapted for web outreach with other key populations, such as people living with HIV, sex workers, or men who have sex with men.

To access the Guide, follow this link>>>.


A quiet CND

The 66th session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was held between 13th and 17th March in hybrid format with much broader in-person participation than in the past two years. Chaired by the Colombian Ambassador Miguel Camino Ruiz Blanco, it was also the first ever CND session that was recorded on UN Web TV. Positively, a wide number of civil society organisations attended, with 135 NGOs registered, and more than 570 NGO participants following the debates both online and in person.

In a way, the CND was quiet and without many sparkles, but some statements indicate that the next one will be very intense.

As in previous years, the session was marked by ongoing clashes between more progressive member states, and those that continue to promote a war on drugs approach, resulting in new tensions and contradictions hampering the so-called ‘Vienna consensus’. This was clearly felt during the fractious negotiations of the 5 draft resolutions tabled for this CND session.

For the first time in recent history, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk addressed the CND, which is an important historical development in itself. Recognising that ‘if drugs destroy lives, the same can also be true of drug policies’, Mr. Türk called for ‘transformative change’ in the global approach to drugs.

The call for change was explicitly echoed by Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health. After restating the known fact that criminalisation aggravates stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs, the Special Rapporteur urged States to ‘End prohibition, decriminalize drug use or the possession, purchase, or cultivation of drugs for personal use and other related activities; and introduce appropriate regulations’. Other clear and open challenges to the global drug control regime were voiced by Member States.

But if the 66th CND session witnessed some open challenges to the UN drug control regime, the status quo stroke back. At least 14 countries took the floor to express concern over the legal regulation of cannabis and the resulting contravention of the UN drug conventions. In contrast with

It was another record-breaking year for side events at this year’s CND, with 155 taking place in total, up 21 from last year. In contrast to last year, where side events remained entirely online, the 66th session saw the majority of its side events take place in-person or in a hybrid setting. Only 20 side events took place solely in an ‘online setting’, which meant that in-person attendance for events was extremely high, including from UN diplomats.

DPNSEE President Nebojša Djurasović, Board Member Marios Atzemis, Executive Director Milutin Milošević and several other member organisations’ representatives participated in the event. For the first time, DPNSSE participated in the meeting in full capacity as an ECOSOC-accredited NGO.

In addition to very useful meetings with UNODC representatives, especially Ms. Fariba Soltani and Gorica Popović (including sharing about the implementation of the project for refugees from Ukraine) and colleagues from the Rome Consensus 2.0 (Marios spoke at their side event “A global call for deflection: as the new policy on policing and drugs”), Milutin participated in events organised by the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs.


Principles for a Human Rights-Based Approach to Criminal Law

From the UNAIDS news

The International Committee of Jurists (ICJ) along with UNAIDS and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) officially launched a new set of expert jurist legal principles to guide the application of international human rights law to criminal law.

The ‘8 March principles’ as they are called lay out a human rights-based approach to laws criminalising conduct in relation to sex, drug use, HIV, sexual and reproductive health, homelessness and poverty.

The principles are the outcome of a 2018 workshop organized by UNAIDS and OHCHR along with the ICJ to discuss the role of jurists in addressing the harmful human rights impact of criminal laws. The meeting resulted in a call for a set of jurists’ principles to assist the courts, legislatures, advocates and prosecutors to address the detrimental human rights impact of such laws.

The principles, developed over five years, are based on feedback and reviews from a range of experts and stakeholders. They were finalized in 2022. Initially, the principles focused on the impact of criminal laws proscribing sexual and reproductive health and rights, consensual sexual activity, gender identity, gender expression, HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission, drug use and the possession of drugs for personal use. Later, based on the inputs of civil society and other stakeholders, criminalization linked to homelessness and poverty were also included.

Continued overuse of criminal law by governments and in some cases arbitrary and discriminatory criminal laws have led to a number of human rights violations. They also perpetuate stigma, harmful gender stereotypes and discrimination based on such grounds as gender or sexual orientation.

In 2023, twenty countries criminalize or otherwise prosecute transgender people, 67 countries still criminalize same-sex sexual activity, 115 report criminalizing drug use, more than 130 criminalize HIV exposure, non-disclosure and transmission and over 150 countries criminalize some aspect of sex work.

In the world of HIV, the abuse and misuse of criminal laws not only affects the right to health, but a multitude of rights including: to be free from discrimination, to housing, security of the person, movement, family, privacy and bodily autonomy, and in extreme cases the very right to life. In countries where sex work is criminalized, for example, sex workers are seven times more likely to be living with HIV than where it is partially legalized. To be criminalized can also mean being deprived of the protection of the law and law enforcement. And yet, criminalized communities, particularly women, are often more likely to need the very protection they are denied.

The Principles are available following this link>>>.


‘Right to asylum in the Republic of Serbia 2022’ report presented

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) presented its annual report Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia 2022 at a press conference in the Belgrade Media Centre on 28 February. The report was presented by UNHCR Representative in Serbia Soufiane Adjali, BCHR Executive Director Sonja Tošković, BCHR Asylum and Migration Programme Coordinator Anja Stefanović, Report Editor Ana Trifunović and BCHR Asylum and Migration Programme Senior Integration Adviser Jelena Ilić.

According to the data of the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, over 119,000 refugees and asylum seekers stayed in the Serbian asylum and reception centres in 2022, or twice as many as in 2021, said the Report Editor, Ana Trifunović.

Serbia issued 1,115 rulings granting temporary protection mostly to Ukrainian nationals, in accordance with the temporary protection mechanism activated after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said Trifunović.

The arrival of Ukrainian nationals in Serbia was facilitated by the visa-free regime and they applied for temporary protection on arrival. In BCHR’s experience, the application of the temporary protection mechanism was relatively smooth. The people who fled Ukraine mostly stayed in private lodgings and many of them have friends and relatives, even spouses, here. The Serbian Government designated the Vranje Asylum Centre for the accommodation of exclusively Ukrainian refugees,” Asylum and Migration Programme Coordinator Anja Stefanović said, adding that most Ukrainian refugees wanted to return to their country as soon as circumstances permitted.

Jelena Ilić, a Senior Integration Adviser with BCHR’s Asylum and Migration Programme, said that 230 refugees in 2022 asked BCHR to help them pursue their education or access the labour market in Serbia.

She said that BCHR in 2022 represented 94 Ukrainian clients, as well as clients from Burundi, Iran and Libya, in procedures for accessing their economic and social rights.

Only 23% of the foreigners between 20 and 56 years of age who asked us to help them access their right to work or education spoke Serbian. Four BCHR’s clients have enrolled in Serbian colleges since 2021,” said Ilić.

The report is available in Serbian and English.


Visit to the Duga Checkpoint centre

Representatives of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Ms Fariba Soltani, Chief, HIV/AIDS Section and Global Coordinator for HIV/AIDS, Ms. Gorica Popović, Specialist, Law Enforcement and HIV and Ms Žana Glavendekić, the Regional Project Officer for Drug Demand Reduction visited the Duga Checkpoint centre in Belgrade and met with community-led organizations working on HIV and harm reduction services for key populations.

It was an opportunity to share about services which Prevent, TOC, Duga and ReGeneration provide and to discuss operational issues related to implementation of the UNODC-led project “Emergency support for the provision of HIV and Harm Reduction services among key populations in Ukraine and refugees in selected neighbouring countries”.