Civil Society Perspective on Harm Reduction in Europe

Europe represents one of the regions of the world with the greatest number of harm reduction services.

There is no other region in the world where more than 90% of the countries have at least one NSP or OST site, and more than 90% of the countries reference harm reduction in their national drug policies. Nevertheless, stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs continue to exist, and much is needed in terms of supporting and securing access to services and human rights to all different groups of people who use drugs.

More such data can be exclusively found in the second civil society-led monitoring of harm reduction report The Civil Society-led Monitoring of Harm Reduction in Europe 2020 published by the Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network. With more than one hundred contributors and Focal Points from 34 European countries involved, the report aims to make a necessary and useful contribution to the development of drug policy in the region.

Compared to 2019’s report, the information provided in 2020, brings to the forefront of the situation in particular cities or regions showing the experiences of harm reduction providers on the ground. It also bring direct perspectives of people who use drugs. This significant approach will hopefully provide an understanding of the successes and challenges of drug policy and harm reduction implementation.

To read the Report, please follow this link>>>.

5th harm reduction conference postponed

The Fifth European Harm Reduction Conference, planned for 4 to 6 November 2020 in Prague, Czechia, is finally postponed.

The organiser of the Conference Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network made a lot on preparations, including exploring different options for holding it. Unfortunately, they had to postpone it for the next year. Here is their message:

In regard of the still unstable situation around COVID-19 and our discussions with main partners, we decided to postpone the conference to 2021. We waited as long as possible for this decision because we think face to face meetings are crucial and important also under this threat, but the disadvantages are too strong to neglect.  

We aim to organise the meeting at the earliest (safe) opportunity in 2021 and come back to you with more information soon. We hope you continue to stay with us during the new process of preparations.


World Hepatitis Day 2020

Worldwide, 290 million people are living with viral hepatitis unaware. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost.

World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July bringing the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. In 2020 the theme is ‘Find the Missing Millions’. Have a look at the promotional video of the campaign in 2020

WHD is a day for the world’s hepatitis community to unite and make our voices heard. It’s a day to celebrate the progress we have made and to meet the current challenges. It’s also an opportunity for us to increase awareness and encourage a real political change to jointly facilitate prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

WHD is a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of the importance of knowing your hepatitis status and to spread the word about treatment.

Whether you have one minute or an hour, there are plenty of ways you can get involved in World Hepatitis Day. Find out how to join following this link>>>.


The WHO Regional Office for Europe published Compendium of good practices in the health sector response to viral hepatitis in the WHO European Region. It includes 34 practice examples from 18 Member States in the European Region authored by various actors in the collective response to viral hepatitis, including government and national viral hepatitis programmes, academia and public health institutes/research institutes and NGOs and CSOs. The Compendium is available for free download following this link>>>.


To inspire and challenge you with its essential stories, our colleagues from Correlation – Harm Reduction Network collected and published Good Practice Examples of hepatitis C interventions which is the first of its kind with a focus on civil society organisations in Europe.

A realistic insight into the consequences of COVID-19 to vulnerable populations

DPNSEE held the Conference “Social, mental and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic to the vulnerable populations in SEE: Do we know them and how to recognise and respond to them?” with support of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions and Correlation – Harm Reduction Network.

39 representatives of civil society organisations, national drug agencies, international organisations and agencies and donor community participated.

Initial results of the EMCDDA study on Impact of COVID-19 on people who use drugs and drug services in the Western Balkans, as well as Correlation’s approach to collecting data from the point of view of civil society which can be of use in establishing our indicators and method of collecting them. Our colleagues gave us a very realistic view on the situation in their countries and efforts they made to provide services needed.

We hope to produce and distribute the report from the Conference in the next few days.

The presentations from the Conference are ready to download:

  • Kateřina Škařupová, PhD, Scientific analyst on health at the IPA project, European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA): Initial results of the study on Impact of COVID-19 on people who use drugs and drug services in the Western Balkans following this link>>>
  • Roberto Perez Gayo, Project Officer at the Correlation – Harm Reduction Network: Results of the harm reduction response to the epidemic in Europe following this link>>>
  • Marija Radović, Coordinator of the department of direct assistance to people who use/inject drugs, sex workers and prisoners at Juventas, Montenegro: The influence of the COVID19 on the social and economic status of persons who use/inject drugs following this link>>>


Update on the 5th European Harm Reduction Conference

From the Correlation webpage

The unexpectedly prolonged uncertainty in the future of international events and meetings caused by COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down our preparations of the Conference as well. However, the epidemic also made the significant role of our work focus, harm reduction, even more strongly certain.

 The 5th European Harm Reduction Conference now aims to serve as the platform where all the vital exchange of our “pandemic” experiences takes place, as well. Currently, we are busy fine-tuning the Conference, with a couple of adjustments such as ensuring the necessary social distancing and enabling video streaming opportunities just in case.

We have almost finalised the Conference programme and speaker list.

“Objects or subjects? Youth in drug policy and harm reduction services”
“Migrant sex workers right to health, safety and protection”
“New Psychoactive Substances, Drug Injecting and Sex”
“Sustainability and accessibility of OAT Programs in the Context of COVID-19 and Transition” are only a couple of the highlights from the Conference programme.

The complete list of sessions and their details are HERE

 If the Conference cannot take place on the envisaged dates, we plan to organise virtual conference sessions between 4 – 6 November and to postpone the face-to-face Conference to 2021.

Your registration is valid for the postponed event as well, but if you wish, your registration fee could be refunded too.

Please be aware that hotel and flight bookings can be refunded in almost all cases.

You can check out the Conference website for updates HERE or subscribe to our newsletter, so we send them to your inbox.


Our initiative presented at the Global Fund Board meeting

The Developing Country NGO Delegation at the Global Fund published a statement with the 42nd Board Meeting highlights, including 8 important matters they pushed for at the meeting, with ways that civil society can move them forward. The statement is available following this link>>>

The initiative of the three regional networks: Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, Eurasian Harm reduction Network and Drug Policy Network South East Europe to respond to the critical situation concerning the sustainability of harm reduction services in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania was among the issues that the Delegation raised at the Global Fund Board meeting. It is mentioned in the point 4 of the statement:

Addressing civil society concerns: The Developing Country NGO brought to the Board and bilateral meetings concerns raised by civil society organisations including those by nearly 100 NGOs about the ending of multi-country grants in West Africa; cases of the failed transitions and interruption of services for key populations, including the lack of funding for harm reduction programs in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Romania and Bulgaria; and exploring next steps to ensure access to health services, treatment and care in Venezuela.

We hope that the Global Fund will make some concrete steps in helping us find a quick response to the urgent needs and building a sustainable solution in these countries.


European Hepatitis C Community Summit

The 3rd European Hepatitis C Community Summit was held in Marseille, on 25 and 26 November 2019. The aim of the Summit was to bring together researcher, health and community workers, medical staff and HCV patients and advocates to discuss elimination of the disease and role of harm reduction and community services. The event was organised by Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, in cooperation with the European Union funded Eurosider project.

The programme contained plenary and parallel sessions and focused on priorities for community involvement and advocacy targets for after the event.

A variety of examples of good practice was presented during parallel sessions on: Models of good practice, HCV in prison, Peer Involvement works – we just need to implement it, Capacity building, Access to services, ODBuster – Digitally Networking the Response to Opioid Overdose Emergencies, HCV prevention for (un) documented migrants and Building Capacity to support People who use drugs. Probably the most interesting one was on HCV in prison.

Several representatives of DPNSEE member organisations participated, including Aksion Plus, Margina, Proi, Prometheus, Juventas, HOPS, Positive Voice, ARAS and Alliance of Non Governmental Organisations for Drugs and Addictions in Slovenia. The DPNSEE Board member Marios Atzemis was member of the planning team of the Summit.

The French Embassy in Belgrade provided support for two representatives from Serbia. One was from the Institute for Public Health while the second was DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević.

At the Summit, a statement about the negative effects of criminalisation on health and well being of people who use drugs entitled The decriminalisation of drug use and ensuring national funding of key services will reduce death, disease and marginalisation of people who use drugs was launched – without any opportunity to discuss it.

Emergency situation concerning the sustainability of harm reduction services in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania

The three regional networks: Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, Eurasian Harm reduction Network and Drug Policy Network South East Europe were informed by our members organisations about the situation with sustainability of  harm reduction services in Bosnia Herzegovina which is characterised by lack of strategy, policy and funding caused by the delay in establishing national Government for more than a year after the elections, withdrawal of international donors and misunderstandings and low level of cooperation between the governmental institutions and civil society, but also inside the civil society sector providing harm reduction services. The national Strategy for prevention and control of HIV and AIDS has ended (2016) and the Transition plan, developed by the Country Coordinating Mechanism during implementation of The Global Fund funded programme has not been implemented. As a result, the harm reduction services are closed in Sarajevo, Mostar, Bihać and Banja Luka and exist only in Zenica and Tuzla relaying on voluntary work of unpaid Staff and with all supplies already on minimum.

The three Networks expressed our deep concern about the situation and willingness to give contribution to finding solution and ensuring both quick response to the urgent needs and building a sustainable solution. We are ready to provide non-partisan support in identification and advocacy for the best possible approaches to urgently start provision of services to the populations of people who use drugs, sex workers and prisoners and other affected populations and to properly advocate for the sustainability of governmental funding.

The urgent action we are taking is to explore opportunities for emergency bridging funding to ensure survival of existing harm reduction services in the country. The situation is alarming and requires direct action and mobilisation of the international community. The three network have limited resources, so we are now contacting some of our partners and donors, explaining the situation and calling for immediate and urgent support. This could include short-term funding and technical support to ensure a minimum of harm reduction services. So far, we have a promise from the Open Society Foundations for a small grant which would cover basic need for the month of November.

We plan to develop and implement a comprehensive process to achieve sustainable long-term solutions. The activities for long-term solutions target local governments and policy-makers with the aim to ensure sustainable funding for harm reduction services. We already offered our expertise and support in this process, In addition, we would like to engage and involve other relevant stakeholders, such as donors and funders.

As the first concrete long term action we decide to send an appeal to the Global Fund to review their eligibility model of supporting middle income countries, besides Bosnia Herzegovina also Albania, Bulgaria and Romania.

In advance of the upcoming 42nd meeting of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund) as well as the Global Fund Regional Meeting for Eastern Europe and Central Asia to take place in Istanbul on 26-27 November, 2019, we – civil society and community organisations and networks working in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region for the benefit of key affected populations, including people who use drugs – would like to express our profound concern as to the current lack of sustainable harm reduction services in the South East European countries of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania, respectively. Taking into consideration the successful results of the recent Sixth Replenishment Conference, we would like to invite the Global Fund to safeguard a part of the catalytic investment funds available for the 2020-2022, including multi-country grants, matching funds and strategic initiatives, in order to sustain life-saving services for people who inject drugs and other vulnerable groups and to incentivise domestic investment in harm reduction in each of these post-transition countries.

41 civil society organisations from Eastern Europe and Central Asia supported the letter. We hope that the Global Fund shall understand the situation and support our proposal.

The letter to the Global Fund is available following this link>>>


New Correlation Steering Committee elected

Correlation – European network on Social Inclusion and Health, held their first election of the Steering Committee after the reconstruction and enlargement they had in 2018. The Steering Committee is the primary governance and decision-making body of Correlation and consists of the two network coordinators and 6 elected representatives, including at least one community representative.

During the two weeks long open and transparent election process, members of the network had an opportunity to vote among 25 candidates from all around Europe, grouped in three geographic areas. 11 of them were from Central Europe and Balkan and 8 from DPNSEE member organisations.

The result of voting is that almost half of the Committee comes from our region: Péter Sárosi, Mariannela Kloka and Alina Bocai (from our member organisation ARAS). Other Committee members elected are John-Peter Kools, Jose Queiroz, Dirk Schaeffer and Tuukka Tammi.

We congratulate members of the Steering Committee and hope to have a good and fruitful cooperation in the future.

European Harm Reduction Conference

Following recent conferences held in Marseille 2011, Basel and Amsterdam in 2014, the 4th European Harm Reduction Conference is called for 21 to 23 November 2018. The Conference will be held in Bucharest, Romania, in the National Library. It will be organised by the Correlation Network in cooperation with Romanian partners and different European Networks and partners, such as Infodrug Switzerland, the European Network of People Who Use Drugs, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association and the European Joint Action HA-REACT.

The conference will present the latest harm reduction research results, innovative and next best-thing practices and discuss drug policy including the need to scale up harm reduction services. Last but not least, the conference provides an appropriate platform to create a link between national and European developments in drug policies and harm reduction.

The European Harm Reduction Conference is aimed at professionals that work in the areas of harm reduction, treatment, prevention, medicine, research, law enforcement, and politics and finally but importantly drug user and community organisations.

More about the Conference is available following this link>>>

DPNSEE is negotiating with the Open Society Foundations a project to ensure stronger participation of SEE representatives at the Conference.