Training for local advocacy

Six organisations that will implement local advocacy project that won the support throught a BOOST call for proposals gathered for a workshop in Budapest, Hungary on 13 and 14 June. Workshop aims and objectives were to:

  • Provide a comprehensive understanding of key advocacy concepts and the nuances of advocacy within the harm reduction field.
  • Familiarize participants with the BOOST project’s aims, objectives, and activities, including the Advocacy Strategy.
  • Review and improve local advocacy plans, emphasizing the community’s role in shaping and implementing these plans.
  • Provide tools and resources for the development and implementation of advocacy

Our colleagues from ARAS (Romania) and HOPS (North Macedonia) were among them, together with BerLUN (Germany), HuNPUD (Hungary), R3 (Portugal) and XADUD (Spain).

Besides inputs on the BOOST project, Advocacy, How to engage communities developing and implementing communities, and Media advocacy, participants had the opportunity to present their projects and work with mentors to fine-tune their projects and plans for their implementation.

ARAS plans to use the Electoral Year 2024, which in Romania includes elections on different levels, to ensure long term political support for harm reduction funding at all levels.

HOPS prepared a project to ensure the financial sustainability of Harm Reduction Programs in North Macedonia. It is important because last years the Ministry of Health cut the budget for harm reduction programs by about 40%.

Participants and regional network representatives were interviewed about their advocacy projects by the Right Reporter Foundation, Budapest based organisation that is an expert in video advocacy. The video they shall produce will be disseminated via BOOST project and partners’ communication channels.

BOOST Project Progress and Future Steps

The BOOST Project, running from 2023 to 2025, is nearly halfway through. This was the perfect time for meeting with all project partners to review achievements and plan the remaining project period.

At the partner meeting that took place in Antwerp on 27 – 28 May, Correlation staff, as coordinators of the project, provided an overall overview of the current state of affairs. The picture is very positive: all milestones and deliverables due so far have been achieved, indicating that the project is well on track.

Following this, all work package leaders reported on their respective areas. The first project period focused on collecting and compiling information through monitoring, surveys, and focus group discussions. Now, this information will be translated into follow-up activities such as mentoring programs.

An important element of BOOST – creating awareness and supporting advocacy efforts – will also be a focus in the next project period, supported by intensified communication and dissemination activities.

Overall, meeting with colleagues involved in the project was very inspiring. Participants emphasized that the meeting provided a better overview of the project’s different elements and improved the synergies created by the project.

The meeting concluded with a visit to the local NGO Free Clinic, co-host of the meeting. This was another inspiring experience facilitated by Free Clinic staff and volunteers.

 

Local grant awarded

The Correlation-European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN), the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), the Drug Policy Network South East Europe (DPNSEE), and the European Network of People Who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD) are proud to announce the recipients of grants from the recent call for proposals under the BOOST project. This initiative supports local advocacy efforts aimed at enhancing access to comprehensive, people-centered health and harm reduction services for people who use drugs in European countries.

The awarded organizations, each receiving a grant of €3,000, are:

  • ARAS – Romanian Association Against AIDS, Romania
  • XADUD, Xarxa de Dones que usen drogues (cat) – Network of Womxn Using Drugs (en), Spain
  • HuNPUD – Hungarian Network of People Who Use Drugs, Hungary
  • HOPS-Healthy Options Project Skopje, North Macedonia
  • R3 – Riscos Reduzidos em Rede, Portugal
  • BerLUN – Berliner und internationale Gemeinschaft der drogenkonsumierenden Menschen, Germany

The competition for these grants was notably high, with 22 organizations submitting applications. We are particularly pleased to see an overwhelming interest in the advocacy grant, with nearly half of the applications coming from community groups of people who use drugs. While many applications were of high quality, funding limitations allowed for only six awards.

The selection process was rigorous, with a panel comprising representatives from EHRA, C-EHRN, DPNSEE, and EuroNPUD, who assessed proposals based on their alignment with advocacy priorities, quality, potential impact on harm reduction services, and organizational experience.

These organizations have demonstrated a strong commitment to developing and implementing robust local advocacy plans that align with one or more of the priority areas of our Joint European Advocacy Strategy for 2024-2028. The strategy focuses on increasing political will and financial sustainability for community based and community-led harm reduction, promoting community-driven solutions tailored to diverse needs of people who use drugs, ensuring access to essential health services, and achieving universal access to comprehensive care for people who use drugs.

In addition to financial support, the grantees will benefit from ongoing mentorship, participation in an advocacy training workshop, and assistance in organizing policy dialogue meetings and events at the local level. These efforts are part of the broader BOOST project, funded by the EU, which aims to strengthen the capacity of community-based and civil society organizations in their critical work.

 

Call for proposals

The Correlation-European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN), the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA), the Drug Policy Network South East Europe (DPNSEE), and the European Network of People Who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD) are pleased to announce a call for proposals.

This initiative aims to support local advocacy efforts of community-led and civil society organizations in Europe, enhancing access to comprehensive, people-centered health and harm reduction services for people who use drugs in European countries.

Applicants must be based in eligible countries, and proposed activities should align with the advocacy priorities stated in this call.

The Application form should be completed ONLINE.

Awarded grantees will receive ongoing mentorship support, the opportunity to participate in advocacy training, and a small grant of €3,000 for organizing advocacy-related activities, including policy dialogue meetings and events at the local level.

More information and application form are available at the BOOST webpage following this link>>>.

 

Drafting a joint European advocacy strategy

Representatives from the BOOST project implementation organisations – C-EHRN, EHRA, EuroNPUD, and DPNSEE – met in Amsterdam on 30 and 31 January 2024.

The aim of the meeting was to finalize the European Advocacy Strategy, ensuring comprehensive access to HIV, HCV, and TB services for people who use drugs, based on online dialogues and consultations with regional network governing bodies.

The objectives of the meeting were:

  • To determine key advocacy priorities for the European harm reduction networks over the coming years.
  • To explore opportunities for advocating at the European level for comprehensive harm reduction services for people who use drugs.
  • To focus on establishing a unified European advocacy agenda aimed at implementing effective models for the prevention, treatment, and care of communicable diseases, tailored specifically for people who use drugs, at the European, national, and local levels.

As a result, four regional European priorities were agreed in each thematic area of the project. In addition, actionable and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) advocacy goals achievable at the regional level within the next 3-5 years were developed and relevant stakeholders and potential project partners were identified.

The final Strategy is expected to be launched and published in March 2024 and will be implemented with the support of a broader network of European harm reduction and drug policy organisations.

In February, the networks will launch a call for local harm reduction services to support the development and implementation of Local Advocacy Plans in 6 countries/cities.

We are glad to underline that 6 out of 19 participants came from South East Europe, although representing different partner organisations in the project.

Digital Skills Training Course

As part of the BOOST project (where DPSNEE is an associate partner), a Digital Skills Training Course for harm reduction organisations working in the area of HIV and viral hepatitis will be held over the course of 4 weeks, between February 26th and March 23rd, 2024. This course has been conceptualised by the organisations involved in the Working Package 3 of BOOST, and will be implemented by NGO Re Generation, our member organisation.

This training course is aimed at building the capacity of community-based & community-led harm reduction organisations to use digital tools in the area of HIV and viral hepatitis services to improve the quality and accessibility of communicable disease prevention, testing, linkage to care and treatment, as well as the monitoring of these services.

The call is open for applications from representatives of community-based & community-led harm reduction organizations working in the area of HIV and viral hepatitis which are members of the networks C-EHRN, EHRA, EuroNPUD and DPNSEE. Please note that trainees are required to commit to the entire process and actively participate in the training course and the follow-up sessions. Additionally, they should be motivated to implement the training skills & content in their work.

Applications are welcome by January 19th following this link>>>! Successful applicants will receive more detailed information about the training program and agenda during the last week of January.

 

Online dialogue meetings

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe (DPNSEE) organised two regional online dialogues as part of the BOOST project. The aim was to assess the needs and challenges for the implementation of community-based good practices in the field of HIV/HCV/HBV prevention, treatment, and care for people who use drugs (PWUD). The two online dialogue meetings held in South East Europe gathered 30+ participants from 17 organisations in 9 countries

As the situation in the region is far from good, most of the dialogue was on the problems that people from key affected populations, their community organisations, service-providing organisations, and institutions face. In the context of our region’s challenging situation, discussions primarily revolved around the issues confronting key affected populations and organisations providing support to communities facing elevated risks.

Problems are common across the region. These include the pervasive stigma and discrimination directed at nearly all at-risk communities, particularly within institutional sectors where understanding should be most prominent. The public discourse surrounding these communities often employs disrespectful and discriminatory language, despite the efforts of NGOs to promote appropriate terminology.

Financing and sustainability of support services pose significant challenges, and the civil sector’s operational space is limited, reflecting a lack of motivation among institutions and decision-makers to enhance the quality of life for these communities. Existing laws related to these communities are problematic, as is the complex and exclusionary nature of accessing healthcare services and treatment programs. Official registers or record-keeping mechanisms are often lacking, and strategies are frequently rewritten without effective implementation.

The recommendations and conclusions from our open dialogue emphasise the need to focus on these issues. Through lobbying, public awareness campaigns, collaboration agreements, participation in working groups, and partnerships, we aim to improve the current situation. Our goal is to raise public awareness about these critical issues faced by at-risk communities and advocate for improvements in services, policies, and laws. Ultimately, we strive to ensure that members of these communities, who are at an elevated risk of social exclusion, can fully integrate into our society.

The report from the dialogues is available following this link>>>.

 

The BOOST project launch

DPNSEE President Nebojša Djurasović and Executive Director Milutin Milošević participated at the first meeting of the BOOST Project in Rome 13 – 14 of February. 45 participants from more than 20 organisations joined in the Fondazione Villa Maraini in Rome.

The main aim of the BOOST project is to enhance the implementation of high-quality community-based & community-led communicable disease services as part of a comprehensive, people-centred and integrated harm reduction approach. To ahieve its goal, over the next three years, together with our partners we will focus on four key areas:

  • INFORM – providing a collection of up-to-date information and data on current practice and quality of community-based and community-led services.
  • IMPROVE – supporting the organisation of capacity building activities in the field of communicable diseases, indluding the use of digital tools.
  • SUPPORT – enhancing the scale-up of integrated community-based good practices building up existing models of good practice.
  • CONNECT & ACT – strenghtening and consolidating existing civil society networks and fostering advocacy interventions for the improved implementation comunity-based and community-led good practices oriented towards the needs of people who use drugs at European, national and local levels.

BOOST Project is founded by the EU4Health programme of the European Union, under the Action Grants to support the implementation of best practices in community-based services for HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections. Partners include the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association, EuroNPUD, Free Clinic, Podane Ruce, LILA Milano, Asociacion Bienestar y Desarrolo, IGTP/ICO, ISGlobal, Foundazinone Villa Maraini. Supporting the projects work, the project with count with Scientific Advisory Board and the collaboration of organizations such as DPNSEE, ReGeneration, ARAS Foundation, AIDS Action Europe, among others.