Innovation and resilience in times of crisis

From the IDPC website

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, prompting governments around the globe to declare a state of emergency and/or implement a wide variety of policies and programmes in order to curb outbreaks, minimise mortality rates, and maintain public safety and order. These include, but are not limited to, different forms of travel and/or movement restrictions (such as lockdowns and quarantine), closure of premises deemed non-essential, and restrictions on gatherings and/or events. Such measures have caused significant changes in public life, public services, governance, democracy and policymaking processes around the world – as well as having serious short- and long-term economic implications.

One additional impact of these measures is the disruption of various channels and dynamics of advocacy conducted by civil society organisations. Prior to the global pandemic, civil society organisations were already facing increasing constraints and shrinking space for advocacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated this downward trend of intensifying repression, in some cases combined with various forms of disinformation, abuse of power and violence. Meanwhile, some civil society actors have been pushed to adapt their ways of working while remaining resilient as they face impacts such as increased workload and/or pressure (amid having less in-person interactions, working from home, and growing demand for services), uncertainty around financial and organisational sustainability, and health concerns, among others.

Aiming to better understand and support the network to respond to these emerging challenges, especially with regard to advocacy for drug policy reform centred on human rights and public health, the IDPC Secretariat initiated a process of documenting and analysing the experiences of civil society and governmental actors working in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result of this process is report “Innovation and resilience in times of crisis – Civil society advocacy for drug policy reform under the COVID-19 pandemic” available following this link>>>.

 

Bolstering resilience among civil society in the Western Balkans

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI TOC), through their Observatory of Illicit Economies in South Eastern Europe (SEE-Obs) and the Resilience Fund, published Stronger Together: Bolstering resilience among civil society in the Western Balkans report.

As the space for civil society appears to be shrinking in the Western Balkans, this report looks at organized crime and corruption in the region from a civil society perspective. It aims to give an overview of how civil society organizations in the Western Balkans deal with issues related to organized crime and corruption and highlights their main activities and concerns.

The GI-TOC’s experience of engaging with community actors all over the world has shown that individuals and community groups are able to build their individual and collective capacity to respond to and recover from organized crime. This report shows that courageous and committed CSOs across the Western Balkans are doing the same, but would benefit from further support to help strengthen communities’ resilience.

More about the report is available from this video

To read the report, follow this link>>>.


GI TOC shall present the report at the webinar scheduled for Friday 19 Mar 2021 at 11 AM (CET). Interpretation to Albanian, Macedonian, and Bosnian-Montenegrin-Serbian will be available during the event.

This webinar will draw together insights from civil society actors from across the Western Balkans working on organized crime and corruption and identify good practices across the region. During the 90 minute discussion we will also explore how these organizations’ resilience can be strengthened and how CSOs themselves can contribute to strengthening resilience in their communities and across the region.

Registration is required: Click here to register>>>.

 

Social Security Protocol for Civil Society

CIVICUS – a global alliance of civil society organisations and activists dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world, published “Protecting our co-workers during COVID-19: A Social Security Protocol for Civil Society”. It includes a set of social protection measures that civil society organisations can consider to protect our colleagues from the adverse economic and psychosocial consequences of the pandemic.

Based on the International Labours Organisation’s policy framework to fight coronavirus, the six-point protocol provides a shared template for civil society groups to deliberate context-specific measures and adopt feasible actions in a time-bound and transparent manner. The proposed measures are:

  1. Systems to ensure physical distancing and other precautions.
  2. Support for COVID-19 testing and related treatment.
  3. Protection of jobs and pay across the COVID-19 lockdown and escalation period.
  4. Flexibility and support for home and care related responsibilities.
  5. Extending our community of care to our collaborators and constituencies.
  6. Acting in solidarity with workers and other vulnerable communities.

DPNSEE have signed the Protocol.

Should your organisation like to do the same, find the Protocol following this link>>>

 

SEE government – civil society dialogue on drugs

Following the success of the first dialogue between national authorities and civil society organisations held in 2018, the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised the second South East Europe government – civil society dialogue on drugs on 21 February 2020. The meeting was held in Belgrade, in the Palace of Serbia.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss about issues of importance for drug policy and reflect on the cooperation between authorities and civil society organisations at the national and regional level and perspectives of future cooperation.

The key topics for this meeting were:

  1. Decriminalisation of drug consumption and possession for personal use – challenges and experiences
  2. Role of civil society in drug policy

38 participants from all 11 countries of the region and 3 guest countries participated in the Dialogue.

The Dialogue was an excellent opportunity to hear various experiences from the region and wider and exchange ideas and comments.

You can download presentations from the panelists at our web page with publications following this link>>>.

 

Report from the dialogue is available following this link>>>.

 

CND Wrap-up

The 62 Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs ended on Friday 22 March. It was a large event, with 2.400 participants, more than 130 Member States and representatives of over 90 civil society organisations and over 20 intergovernmental organisations. The CND 2019 was chaired by Ambassador Mirghani Abbaker Altayeb Bakhet of Sudan.

The meeting began with a ministerial segment on 14 and 15 March aimed at taking stock of the implementation of the commitments made to jointly address and counter the world drug problem.

The regular segment, which lasted for the full working week, agreed on 8 resolutions on various topics including strengthening forensic detection capability for synthetic drugs, promoting alternative development and measures to prevent transmission of HIV for women who use drugs.

Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, underlined that “We need to enhance our efforts to bridge the gaps in addressing the persistent and emerging trends and challenges through the implementation of balanced, integrated, comprehensive, multidisciplinary and scientific evidence-based responses to the world drug problem.

The civil society was not so happy with the event. Even though it was clear and based on evidence that the target to “eliminate or significantly reduce” drug use and trafficking in 10 years is far from achieving, the declaration adopted at the ministerial segment doesn’t include a significant shift and genuine re-orientation of drug policies which is so much needed. The civil society strongly recommend ending punitive approaches towards vulnerable groups and individuals. Ann Fordham, the Executive Director of the International Drug Policy Consortium, speaking in the name of a global network of more than 180 NGOs including DPNSEE and several our member organisations, emphasized that “Ending punitive approaches towards those most vulnerable will require that global drug control going forward puts people and communities at the centre, and seeks to improve their living conditions, address their situations of vulnerability and protect their human rights, in line with the SDG vision of ‘leaving no one behind’.

Ann Fordham addressing the Ministerial segment of the 62 CND

The World Health Organisation proposal to reschedule cannabis from schedule IV (same class as heroin, with high abuse potential and no recognised medical value) to schedule I was not discussed with the explanation that it would “allow more time for Member States’ delegations to consider such a potentially radical decision”. But, it is clear that there is no consensus to adopt it and most probably it won’t be reached in a near future.

At the regular meeting, countries mainly glorify their results in fighting drug problem, and civil society organisations mainly appear only on side events so we started discussing if our presence there has a significant effect. As Péter Sárosi, Editor in Chief of the Drugreporter, well noted “Several member states still consider NGOs hostile forces who disturb the business-as-usual operation of the UN“. So, “Tons of expertise and knowledge is channelled to the sometimes rather dull conversations.

Two DPNSEE Board members, the Executive Director and a few representatives of member organisations participated in both segments the CND. It was a good opportunity to exchange with our partners, make new and build new contacts, present our work and learn about new developments. Most of the benefit was achieved at the side events and in informal contacts.

***

The side events held on 21 March you may be interested to hear about:

Our recent news on 62 CND:

 

Greek Parliament set to vote on new bill establishing Supervised Drug Consumption Sites

A hearing meeting of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs of the Hellenic Parliament took place on 20 February 2019 to discuss draft law submitted by the Health Ministry. Among others, it includes various amendments of the Law 4139/2013 on drugs as well as a specific provision for the legal establishment of supervised drug consumption sites in Greece. The debate over the recent draft law is entitled “Private Clinics Statutory Framework, Modernization and Reformative recommendations, The National Public Health Organization establishment, the National Institute of Neoplasms and the other provisions establishment”.

Sofia GalinakiSofia Galinaki, Advocacy Officer of Diogenis and representative of the Greek organizations’ Platform for psychoactive substances, participated in the hearing, during which in cooperation with other Platform’s member organizations presented a series of proposals aiming to improve this legislative initiative.

Α relevant proposals’ memorandum was submitted on behalf of the Platform to the Committee and the Minister of Health, Mr A. Xanthos.

The second reading of the draft law by the Committee scheduled for 26 February 2019.

The current Law (in Greek) is available following this link>>>>

Council of Europe’s recommendation on protection and promotion of the civil society space

At their 1330th meeting, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted a Recommendation CM/Rec(2018)11 on the need to strengthen the protection and promotion of the civil society space in Europe and encouraged member States to continue their efforts in this respect.

The Recommendation calls on CoE member states to comply with the principles that it sets out, to ensure its wide dissemination among competent authorities and stakeholders and to examine its implementation five years after its adoption, within the Council of Ministers.

In particular, it sets out recommendations in four sections:

  1. National legal framework and political and public environment to protect and promote civil society space
  2. National measures to protect civil society space
  3. National measures to promote civil society space
  4. Support from Council of Europe bodies and institutions

The Council of Europe Recommends that the governments of member States:

  1. Ensure that the principles set out in the appendix to this Recommendation are complied with in relevant national legislation and practice, and evaluate the effectiveness of the measures taken;
  2. Ensure, by appropriate means and action – including, where appropriate, translation – a wide dissemination of this Recommendation among competent authorities and stakeholders;
  3. Examine, within the Committee of Ministers, the implementation of this Recommendation five years after its adoption.

To download the Recommendation, follow this link>>>>

A dialogue between civil society and donors

The Open Society Foundations convened civil society activists from HIV, harm reduction, sex worker and LGBT communities from South Eastern Europe and health and human rights donors to discuss opportunities for strategic collaboration to sustain HIV prevention services for key populations and facilitate transition to domestic financing of these programs. The half-day meeting was held on 18 January 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia.

The aims of the meeting were:

  • Share examples of civil society advocacy towards domestic financing of HIV services, including efforts to push national governments to commit to provision and financing of services for key populations;
  • Discuss current challenges sustaining programming for key populations in the region with a specific focus on the threats to the human rights movements, programs, and advocates that were directly and indirectly supported by the Global Fund when it was still active in the region;
  • Present examples of how targeted donor support for civil society engagement in transition and sustainability process can bolster government ownership of the HIV response;
  • Discuss strategies and opportunities to address the service gap and enable civil society to navigate the transition process, as well as roles that donors, regional networks and technical agencies can play.

DPNSEE member organisations representatives were panellists: Denis from Margina and Dragos from RHRN presenting situation in Bosnia Herzegovina and Romania, Ivana from Juventas presenting the promising case study of Montenegro and Milutin, together with two other networks (ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey and SWAN – Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network) on possibilities for work together to strengthen national and regional advocacy.

Many organisations were at the list of potential invitees. Finally, around 35 CSO participated. Besides DPNSEE, 9 member organisations were present: Aksion Plus, Margina, Viktorija, Labyrinth, Cazas, Juventas, ARAS, RHRN and Prevent.

The meeting was mainly about presenting situation and needs, with not many questions and comments from the floor. Most of the results were achieved in informal exchanges with other participants. Besides OSF and Global Fund representatives, donors included Embassy of France in Serbia, Mama Cash and Reconstruction Women’s Fund (Serbia). Representatives of other Networks included Eurasian Harm Reduction Network and Eurasian coalition on male Health.

Just after the main meeting of the dialogue, an Informal dialogue on LGBTI and HIV in South-Eastern Europe was organised by the ERA – LGBTI Equal Rights Association for Western Balkans and Turkey. Most of the DPNSEE member organisations participated in the meeting that addressed the current work done, gaps and challenges in collaborating towards protecting LGBTI rights and addressing HIV and needs and opportunities for a regional approach and support of this work.

Representatives of the DPNSEE member organisations at the Dialogue

Multi-stakeholder workshop on UN Convention against Corruption in Southeast Europe

UNODC hosted the first multi-stakeholder workshop on the United Nations Convention against Corruption and its Review Mechanism in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, from 25 to 29 September 2017. As the first such workshop held in Southeast Europe, the event aimed to develop capacities of around 60 participants across the region to contribute to the implementation of the Convention and its Review Mechanism.

The UN Convention against Corruption, ratified by 182 States, is the only legally binding, universal, anti-corruption instrument. Its far-reaching approach and the mandatory character of provisions make it a unique tool for developing a comprehensive response to global corruption issues.

The Convention covers five main areas: preventive measures, criminalization and law enforcement, international cooperation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange. The Convention covers many different forms of corruption, such as bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions, and various acts of corruption in the private sector.

At the first review cycle, approximately 85 per cent of Governments involved civil society organizations in their country visits, building momentum to uphold their treaty obligations. The workshop, in this regard, reiterated the importance of this practice during the second review cycle, especially in the Southeast Europe region. It also aimed to promote collaboration between all relevant stakeholders.

Supported by the Austrian Development Agency through the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative, and by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the training informed participants about the methodology and tools for country reviews and build their capacity to reproduce workshop sessions at the national and regional levels. Participants engaged in a constructive dialogue by sharing their experiences, lessons learned and good practices, as well as undertaking practical exercises.

Milutin Milošević, the DPNSEE Executive Director, and Sanja Šišović CAZAS, Montenegro, participated in the workshop. That allowed them to gain a good insight in the Convention and opportunities to join the review process.