Board preparations for the General Assembly

The Board of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe, at meeting the held by Zoom on 8 March 2021, discussed preparations for the annual General Assembly.

The Board decided that the General Assembly will be held via Zoom on Monday 29 March 2021.

The member organisations are invited to send information about their official representatives by Monday 22 March. The registered representatives will get the link to the Assembly and password so that we are able to establish quorum and organise voting.

The Board was informed that the Greek Users Union “Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances – PeerNUPS” has a legal status and that they will request membership in the Network. The Board supported this application and proposes that community organisations don’t have the obligation to pay membership fees for several years until they achieve sustainability.

The Board noted that Ilinka Serdarević submitted her resignation due to personal reasons which prevent her to perform this position in full capacity. The Board thanks Ilinka for her significant contribution to the work of the Network and hopes that she will continue supporting us.

In accordance with the Article 18 of the DPNSEE Statutes, the Board invited member organisations to propose candidates for co-opting. The Board reminds that this article defines that “The composition of the Board shall reflect the entire diversity (geographical, gender, ethnic) of the Network” and warmly welcomes candidatures from countries which currently we don’t have a Board member (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, North Macedonia and Romania). The Board strongly supports and invites women and representatives of the community of people who use drugs to apply.

The Board was informed that DPNSEE signed the contract with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office on 23 February for implementation of the project No risk, no borders for young people. The first activities of the project already started, including a consultative meeting of the project partners, the call for logo and visual identity is already open, scheduling workshops and the first planning meeting of the project team.

The Board also discussed the process of finalising the agreement with the EU TACSO 3 to get support for Adjusting the DPNSEE Strategy to the new reality caused by the coronavirus pandemic and designing the Public Relations and Communication Strategy and communication with several partners on potentials for preparing a project proposal for the Supporting Initiatives in the field of drugs policy – a big call from EU, aimed for strategic, long term projects related to drug policy.

The Board concluded that we DPNSEE is not invited to participate in preparations of the multi-country project to the Global Fund. The Board finds this process as not fully transparent and based on a comprehensive evaluation of needs of our region and deprives some countries of South East Europe.

 

First Board meeting in 2021

The DPNSEE Board held its first meeting in 2021 on Tuesday 12 January. The Agenda of the meeting included DPNSEE Reports for 2020, Membership organisations situation, Current projects and Plans for 2021.

The Board adopted draft versions of the narrative and financial report for 2020. A decision was taken that the General Assembly will be called for early March so that the annual financial statement would then be presented along with these draft documents for adoption by the member organisations.

The Board discussed situation with member organisations, including about two of them which stopped working, membership fee payments and member organisations participation in Network’s activities.

Information that our project proposal is currently on the Regional Youth Cooperation Office Preliminary List of 12 Best Evaluated Project Proposals was welcomed. We hope that other two applications submitted in 2020 will also be successful, as well as those we plan to develop in the next few months.

The Board decided to hold Consultations on Sustainability of the Network. Aim is to exchange about the way we shall position us in the future so that our profile is improved and clearer for potential partners and donors, our communication is tailored and focused and our sources of funding are diversified.

Participation in the 5th European Harm Reduction Conference, webinar we plan with Trimbos Institute and participation in the Serbian visions multikongres was also discussed.

 

DPNSEE Board discussed situation in the region

The meeting of the DPNSEE Board was held by Zoom on 13 April 2020. The meeting was scheduled to discuss the current situation related to outbreak of the coronavirus in South East Europe and plan future steps.

Based on the information collected at conference calls with member organisations, the Board concluded that it is time to make some conclusions and decisions about what we can do in the forthcoming period to help member organisations and ensure their sustainability after the current crisis caused by the coronavirus.

The Board also concluded that member organisations and the did a good job reacting in time, providing information to the communities, organising the work of our services in accordance with the situation and protecting our staff and, wherever possible, communicating with state officials and inviting them to protect vulnerable populations. Most of our users behave responsibly, even taking initiative and helping our organisations. The drug market is stable. The problems include lack of opportunity to start the treatment during the epidemic and lack of income to buy essential needs, bit also drugs. In most of the countries, we have problem to ensure enough protective material for our staff. In some countries, state institutions, especially drug agencies/offices, should provide more help to users for methadone distribution, protection of their rights, etc.

The Board decided to call an on-line conference on protection of vulnerable populations in South East Europe for Thursday 23 April. Besides our members and other civil society organisations from the region and wider, we shall invite to the conference national drug agencies and health institutions, international organisations partners and donors.

 

Consultations on reaction to the coronavirus outbreak

Last two days, the DPNSEE Board had on-line communications, including a few experts from inside the Network, on the threat of coronavirus outbreak in South East Europe following the first cases which appeared in neighbouring Italy. The first case of the virus were also reported in Croatia. Those participating shared information about situation in their countries.

The Board agreed that if the situation in our region escalates in our countries, we need to see if the health system is ready to respond in such a way that the services we provide to key affected populations are not jeopardized. There may be issues with accessing drop-in centres, protection of users and our staff working there, distribution of substitution therapy and access to it, etc. In addition, it may be good to take measures in the drop-in centres already now to advise the users about prevention measures because they may not be informed and be cut from regular information channels through media.

A Letter to member organisations inviting them to prepare for the coronavirus outbreak with brief instructions is being prepared and will be shared as soon as possible.

 

DPNSEE Board meeting

The Drug Policy Network in South East Europe Board held a regular board meeting in Skopje from 28 to 28 September 2019. All 7 Board members and Executive Director participated.

Significant part of the meeting was dedicated to developing DPNSEE strategic plan. Using the results of the Strategic workshop held in May, the Board worked on the text of a stagey document which will be shared with the member organisations for consultations, to be completed at the General Assembly.

The Board discussed activities held in between the two meetings and projects which are being implemented or planned for the future.

The tentative days for the annual General Assembly are 16 to 18 December 2019. The Assembly will be held in Belgrade.

The Board proposes that all member organisations should re-affirm their acceptance of the DPNSEE Mission and Vision and formally sign it.

The Board discussed and adopted the proposed DPNSEE Travel and Expense Policy and Website privacy policy.

The Board was informed about critical situations of harm reduction services in Bulgaria and Bosnia Herzegovina and discussed potential ways to help member organisations.

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.

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

Our recent news on 62 CND:

 

Regular DPNSEE Board meeting

The meeting of the Board of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe was held from 25 to 27 February 2019 in DPNSEE Office in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Board adopted minutes from the General Assembly held in December 2018 and Board meeting held by Skype recently this month. The DPNSEE Narrative and Financial report for 2018 were also adopted.

The Board discussed various elements of the DPNSEE Plan for 2019. An important decision is that the Strategic planning workshop will be held from 14 – 17 May. More details about the programme and venue will follow.

To increase visibility of our work and present our experiences and expertise, the Board decided to support participation of DPNSEE representatives in various international events: Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Harm Reduction International Conference and Lisbon Addictions 2019 Conference.

The Board also discussed contacts with member organisations, producing an operational manual, process and criteria for appointing DPNSEE representatives to various events, production of web pages for Glossary and Resource Centre, human rights and discrimination of people who use drugs, opportunities for engaging volunteers, overview of personal expertise, tools for on-line communication, problems with immigrants in Slovenia, accreditation and licencing of HIV prevention services, Regional EECA multi country grant and other issues.

Planning the year ahead

The DPNSEE Board held the first meeting in 2019 on 4 February by Skype. Most of the meeting was dedicated to finalising the DPNSEE operational plan and budget for the year.

The plan was structured under seven headlines:

  • Improving management capacity
  • Advocacy
  • Contacts with the member organizations
  • Human rights
  • Regular (recurring) activities
  • Resource Centre
  • Office and Staff issues

Work of the Network in this year will be supported by an institutional grant from the Open Society Foundations.

The Board also decided to hold an in situ meeting in Belgrade on 25 – 27 February. Following the work at the General Assembly, a strategic workshop to define priorities for the future is planned for 10 – 14 April in Montenegro.

DPNSEE working visit to Greece

Members of the DPNSEE board, Ana Lybenova and Vlatko Dekov visited Athens from 28 to 30 November 2018. Aim of the visit was to meet with major stakeholders in the field of drug policy and obtain information about the situation, problems and viewpoints of civil society and government actors. It was the final visit to the countries of the region in the process that started in July 2016.

Lybenova and Dekov visited DPNSEE member organizations from Greece Positive voiceDiogenis and Centre for Life. The host of this working visit were: Marios Atzemis, the DPNSEE board member and member of Positive voice and Nikos Stergiou from Diogenis.

During the three – day delegation visit, DPNSEE board members visited CheckPoint Athens, Kethea Needle exchange service, Red Umbrella Athens, National EMCDDA Focal Point, NGO STEPS, NGO Praksis and activists at the mobile unit for HIV & HCV rapid tests.

Based on the general information that were collected on this visit, the main problems were identified for the possible areas for advocacy of DPNSEE network.

To see the full report from this visit follow this link >>>

New DPNSEE Board elected at the General Assembly

The new DPNSEE Board was elected at the General Assembly, held on 10th December 2018, in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Chairman reminded the representatives of the member organisations that there is no clear procedure for this election in the Statute and proposed the following procedure:

  • Select three persons for the commission (persons who are neither nominated nor a member of organisations whose members are nominated)
  • Nominate candidates for the Board
  • Vote anonymously for seven Board members
  • Commission to count votes and declare the results

The proposed procedure was adopted by a unanimous decision.

Commission members that fulfill the criteria were selected:

  1. Olga Pateraki from Diogenis, Greece,
  2. Nataša Boškova from Coalition ‘Sexual and Health Rights of Marginalized Communities’, Macedonia and
  3. Marjana Krsmanović from Juventas Montenegro.

There were 9 candidates proposed for for the Board. Elected members of the DPNSEE Board are:

  1. Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation
  2. Denis Dedajić from Margina
  3. Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice
  4. Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent
  5. Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth
  6. Sanja Šišović from Cazas
  7. Vlatko Dekov from HOPS

The proposal to choose Vlatko Dekov as the President and Nebojša Đurasović as the Vice-President of the Board was adopted by a unanimous decision of all 16 member organisations representatives.

During the discussion about the elections, the proposals were made to change the Statute so that all functions other than president and vice-president become just „member“ and to extend the duration of the mandate of the Board members from two years to three. The Assembly at this meeting had 2/3 majority needed for the change of Statute. The proposed changes of the Statute were adopted by a unanimous decision.

Nebojša Đurasović proposed the new co-opting procedure – if somebody resigns from the Board during their mandate to be replaced with the first person below the line from the list of nominated but not elected persons if that person agrees. This proposal brought about a short discussion of possible issues in proposed case. On this proposed change of the Statute 14 member organisations representatives voted for and 2 against which was not sufficient majority for the Statute change, so it was not adopted.