Position paper on decriminalisation

Decriminalisation is defined as the removal of criminal sanctions for certain activities related to drug use and possession for personal use.

Several actors in the field of drug policy have indicated that a punitive approach is counterproductive to achieving the health and welfare of humankind. Many UN agencies have reported the negative impact of criminalization on people who use drugs and on their surrounding communities. Recommendations have also been brought that favour a decriminalisation process in drug policies. This process aims to remove the stigma against people who use drugs as well as ensure that they have access to a broad range of support and health services, including prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction. The decriminalisation of drug use and related activities is a policy option that is widely supported by the United Nations as a core component of a human rights- and health-based approach towards people who use drugs.

The current EU Drug Strategy 2021-2025 endorses alternatives to coercive sanctions as an approach that respects the human rights of people who use drugs.

While some EU member states retain a stance of criminalising personal use and related behaviours in their national legislation, several member states have already decriminalised use and possession for personal use, and various EU member states have bills in their parliament to take that step as well.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD), an expert group of the European Commission, is of the opinion that the perspective established by the EU Strategy 2021-2025 – a balanced, human rights-based approach to drug policy – needs to be improved at the EU level and in member states.

After almost two years of discussions and balancing often oposite positions, CSFD produced this Position paper. DPNSEE is proud of being involved and even managed the process of agreeing on the final version of the document.

To access the Position paper, follow this link>>>.

 

European civil society consultations

To facilitate meaningful civil society contributions to the 2024 high-level segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the Vienna & New York NGO Committees on Drugs (VNGOC & NYNGOC) in cooperation with the UNODC Civil Society Unit organised a series of regional civil society consultations in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, and the Americas. In addition, a global online survey was launched in November 2023 to further solicit broad input. The outcomes of the regional consultations in preparation of the 2024 mid-term review will feed into the global civil society contributions towards the 2024 mid-term review and will be presented to Member States in February 2024.

The European Civil Society consultations were conducted in partnership with the Civil Society Forum on Drugs in the EU (CSFD). They consisted of a series of online consultations as well as a hybrid consultation held on 16 January in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević participated and contributed to this event in person.

Mental Health and Substance Use

On the 10th of October, on World Mental Health Day, the Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) sent its position paper People Who Use Drugs and Mental Health to the EU Spanish Presidency, the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs, and the European Commission.

The paper addresses the complexity of the relationship between mental health conditions and substance use. Mental health conditions are influenced by social determinants such as inequality, discrimination, violence, and homelessness, factors which disproportionately affect people who use drugs. Furthermore, specific subpopulations, including women, young people, ethnic minorities, and indigenous groups, face unique challenges in accessing appropriate services for their mental health and substance use needs. These disparities highlight the pressing need for a comprehensive and inclusive approach to addressing these issues from a person-centred, holistic perspective. The paper also calls for specific terminology reform, promoting the use of the term ‘comorbidity’ to describe the existence of both mental health conditions and substance use.

The paper concludes with a number of recommendations related to this issue, urging for a comprehensive review of current shortcomings in accessibility, inclusivity and sustainability of care. The CSFD welcomes the introduction of this topic within the political agenda, as these issues have historically been disregarded and warrant urgent consideration. The CSFD’s position paper serves as a call to action, urging policymakers, healthcare providers, and society at large to recognize and address the critical issues surrounding mental health and substance use. By adopting these recommendations and working together, we can strive for a more inclusive and compassionate approach to mental health care for all, particularly those who use drugs and face complex challenges.

Read CSFD’s position paper here>>>.

Marija Mijović, member of the DPNSEE Board, who contributed to the document, translated it into Montenegrin (also easy to read by those speaking Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian). You can access the document Osobe koje koriste droge i mentalno zdravlje following this link>>>.

CND side events organised by CSFD members

Member organisations of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) have prepared an impressive list of 24 side events for the UN Committee on Drugs and Narcotics (CND) that will take place the next week. The list of the side events is available following this link>>>.

One of the side events is organised by the CSFD: “Driving change from a shrinking space: Challenges to effective civil society participation in drug policy making“, which will take place on Wednesday 16 March, at 9am Vienna time. It is prepared by the Brussels Federation of Institutions for Drug Addicts with the support of Czechia, the Civil Society Forum on Drugs in the EU, the Council of Europe – Pompidou Group, the

European Union and the French NGO Platform on Drug Policy.

The event will take stock of the main challenges to effective civil society and community participation in both international and national-level drug policy making, with a particular focus on the shrinking space for civil society in certain contexts and on the impact of COVID19-related restrictions, and it will seek to provide concrete and actionable recommendations to decision-makers.

The 65th session of the CND will take place on 14-18 March 2022 via hybrid format with most participation taking place remotely. A final Programme for the session is available here>>>.

 

Workshop on civil society advocacy

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) organised an on-site Workshop on civil society advocacy from 23th to 24th November in Madrid, with the support from UNAD, International Drug Policy Consortium, Rights Reporter and AFEW.

Since advocacy is an important tool for civil society members to achieve their main goal of influencing public policies, this training workshop brought together representatives from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the field of drugs in order to improve their capacities in formulating, implementing and evaluating advocacy actions.

Several participants came from the DPNSEE member organisations. The participants’ profile was:

  • Civil society representatives and service providers in the field of drug use and drug demand reduction which have their main base of operation in an EU member state, EEA, acceding, candidate or potential candidate country(*). They are members of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs or related to one the members’ networks.
  • Highly motivated to improve their capacities in the area of advocacy and will be able to implement and share gained knowledge and information within their organisation.

The workshop was an interactive training with open space to intervene and to create new tools for advocacy in a hostile environment. Excellent presentations were delivered by Peter Sarosi and Marie Nougier.

DPNSEE presented and the CSFD – HDG meeting

The new Civil Society Forum on Drugs 2021 – 2023 (CSFD) held meeting with the Horizontal Drug Group on 7 October 2021.

The Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG) is a coordination body responsible for leading and managing the European Union Council’s work on drugs. This group, including national representatives of each EU country, meets on a monthly basis and prepares all relevant legislation and political documents adopted by the Council, such as the EU drugs strategies and action plans. In addition, the members of the group, under the leadership of the presidency, elaborate EU statements on drug-related aspects to be presented at international fora, such as the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). Currently, HDG is chaired by Slovenia, which holds EU Presidency in the second half of 2021.

Topic of the meeting included Implementation of the EU Drugs Strategy and Action Plan 2021-2025, role of the CSFD and Drug-related deaths and how to best prevent them.

On request of the Slovenian EU Presidency, the DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević presented the Network, including presentation of the situation with services for people who use drugs and drug strategies in the region.

Preparation call for CSFD members

The current Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) Core Group (which terminated their mandate) organised a preparation call for all CSFD members in the new mandate on 15 September.

During the meeting, a number of topics were discussed:

  • The rejected CSFD Proposal and the impact of this on the work of the new CSFD
  • The agenda of the first CSFD meeting scheduled for 6 – 7 October 2021
  • The working group structure of the new CSFD
  • All potential questions coming from CSFD members

The Drug Policy Network Youth East Europe have been selected as a member of the European Commission Expert Group – Civil Society Forum on Drugs 2021-2023.

DPNSEE invited to Civil Society Forum on Drugs

The Drug Policy Network Youth East Europe was today formally informed that we have been selected as a member of the European Commission Expert Group – Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) 2021-2023.

In February, the European Commission had opened the Call for applications for members of its expert group to completely renew membership for 2021-2023 mandate. We have applied as the network that gathers civil society organisations from all 11 countries of this region of Europe.

The Forum membership comprises 45 civil society organisations coming from across Europe and representing a variety of fields of drug policy, and a variety of stances within those fields.  Its purpose is to provide a broad platform for a structured dialogue between the Commission and the European civil society which supports drug policy formulation and implementation through practical advice.

We fell that this is a great acknowledgement of the work we did in the last 5 years and a promising opportunity to represent the region in this important EU body.

 

Call for CSFD members

European Commission has opened the Call for applications for members of its expert group the Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD). As the membership of the Group will be completely renewed for 2021-2023, the Commission is calling for applications with a view to selecting members of the group.

The Forum membership comprises 45 civil society organisations coming from across Europe and representing a variety of fields of drug policy, and a variety of stances within those fields.  Its purpose is to provide a broad platform for a structured dialogue between the Commission and the European civil society which supports drug policy formulation and implementation through practical advice.

Members shall be organisations in the broad sense of the word, including associations, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), trade unions, universities and research institutes, and other organisations, if relevant to EU drugs policy, and individuals appointed in a personal capacity.

The Call is available following this link>>>.