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.

The CND67 side event!

DPNSEE hosted the side event “Decriminalize drug use and possession for personal use: Why, what, and how?” at the Sixty-seventh session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND 67) on 20 March 2024.

At this side event, we presented the scientific and political background for such policy changes and models of decriminalization that may be used, using Position paper on decriminalisation recently published by the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD).

The event was supported by Montenegro and Serbia missions to OSCE, the Correlation – European Harm Reduction Network, the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs, the Fédération Addiction, the Forum Droghe, the International Drug Policy Consortium, the Juventas, the Knowmad Institut, the Positive Voice, the Prevent and the Villa Maraini Foundation.

At this side event, we presented the scientific and political background for such policy changes and models of decriminalization that may be used, using Position paper on decriminalisation recently published by the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs. Panelists from Macau, Croatia, Greece and Italy shared dilemmas, examples of results and challenges from their countries that implemented decriminalization or discuss making that move.

     

Recording of the side event:

https://youtu.be/JKJtuI728Hw

 

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>>>.

 

By youth for youth

The safety of young people in the nightlife, a topic of extreme importance for most young people, is often neglected. NGO Re Generacija, which has been putting this topic in the focus of its projects and programs aimed at a systemic approach to this topic for many years, invites to the event to promote the report on the results of the research and the Handbook for participation in public policies for organizations working with youth involved in nightlife and marginalized youth.

The event will be held on 25 January 2024 at the premises of the Office of Combating drugs, Palata Srbija, starting at 10:00. The event is organized with project partners Terra from Croatia and HOPS from North Macedonia and with the support of DPNSEE.

More about the event is available (in Serbian) following this link>>>.

 

A very successful regional campaign

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe (DPNSEE) coordinated the „Eliminate Violence Against Women Who Use Drugs – EVAWUD“ campaign in South East Europe, together with its 25 member organisations from 11 countries of the region. The campaign lasted from 25 November and lasted until 10 December 2023.

The campaign started in early November with informing the member organisations and inviting them to participate. The press release, originally prepared by the Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN) and adjusted by DPNSEE, was translated into local languages of the region and distributes to media and institutions >>>. DPNSEE also prepared and distributed a document with key facts related to women and drug use.

From more than 30 social networks accounts (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) of partners in the region, 70+ posts, stories and photos were shared. They reached arounf half a million users who interacted seeing reacting, commenting and reposting. Most of these posts were at the DPNSEE Instagram account.

DPNSEE organised a meeting dedicated to eliminating violence against women who use drugs on Friday 8 December 2023 in the Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, with the support from the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Serbia. It was the opportunty to share thoughts and experiences in working on this important issue.

Participants came from several intitutions, including ministries on human and minority rights and social dialogue and health, the Institute for Public Health and UNODC representatives for South East Europe, and civil society organisations.

The meeting was very well covered by the media in Serbia (N1 >>>, Beta >>>, Danas >>>, Radio 021 >>>, NasloviNet >>>).

Other media from the region also reported about the issue of women who use drugs: Vijesti (MNE) >>>, TRN (RNM) >>>, Telma (RNM) >>> , SMK (RNM) >>>, CIN (MNE) >>>, IMA (RNM) >>>.

Thanks to media and social networks, we estimate that we reached out to more than half a million people. We regret that we didn’t have funds to pay te adverts at the social networks. With them, we should have had 10 times wider reach.

Eliminate Violence Against Women Who Use Drugs

The Drug Policy Network Southe East Europe organised a meeting dedicated to eliminating violence against women who use drugs on Friday 8 December 2023 in the Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, with the support from the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Serbia. It was the opportunty to share thoughts and experiences in working on this important issue.

Participants came from several intitutions, including ministries on human and minority rights and social dialogue and health, the Institute for Public Health and UNODC representatives for South East Europe, and civil society organisations.

Ivana Joksimović, the Assistant Minister for human rights and social dialogue spoke about human rights of marginalised and discriminated communities. Milutin Milošević, the DPNSEE Executive Director presented the EVAWUD campaign to eliminate violence against women and gender diverse people who use drugs and presented some results from recent surveys published by DPNSEE.

Irena Molnar from ReGeneration shared about their program on improving the competencies of employees in social protection through examples of activities aimed at working with women who have survived violence and are drug users and young people at risk. Nebojša Djurasović from Prevent, the DPNSEE President, presented their experiences in working with the shelter for sex workers in Novi Sad.

The discussion showed a shared determination to continue fostering and protecting human rights of women and gender diverse people who use drugs in Serbia.

Harm reduction services for people who use drugs recreationally

The Alliance for Public Health organises webinar “Introducing harm reduction services for people who use drugs recreationally in EECA and the Balkans”, with the support from ReGeneration and DPNSEE.

Recreational drug use is on the rise, but at the same time young people who engage in it are not properly targeted by harm reduction services and don’t receive the necessary support, information and commodities they need to prevent them from turning to problematic use and all the relevant consequences.

On this webinar international experience on planning and implementing harm reduction programs specifically for this target population will be shared. Also, the draft guide that on this topic will be presented.

The Agenda includes topics:

  • Introducing the key principles and the justification behind the need to advocate for, develop and offer HR services for people who use recreationally.
  • Promoting Safety, Health, and Well-being: The need for Systematic implementation of Harm Reduction Strategies in Southeastern European Festivals.
  • Ukrainian experience on harm reduction services for people who use drugs recreationally.
  • #SafeParty – good practice example of multi-sectoral approach in nightlife harm reduction and recreation settings.
  • Q&A and Discussion.

This webinar will be useful for program managers, advocates, policy makers and communities from across the region to help them inform their decisions and actions.

The webinar will be held via Zoom platform on Tuesday 25 July, from 11:00 to 12:30 CET. Translations will be available in English, Russian, BHCS and Albanian.

Please register to participate following this link>>>.

 

EU – Western Balkans Expert Meeting on Drugs

The EU-Western Balkans Expert Meeting on Drugs was held on 25 May 2023 in Brussels, within the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU. The aim of the meeting was to exchange information on the state of drug policies in the Western Balkans, discuss current trends and contemporary challenges in this area, as well as areas that need and can be improved when it comes to cooperation between EU and Western Balkan institutions in this field.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the state authorities responsible for the creation, monitoring and implementation of drug policies in the Western Balkans, as well as representatives of EU member states, and representatives of the Council of the EU, the European Commission, the EMCDDA and EUROPOL.

The representative of the delegation of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Jože Hren, in his presentation referred to the importance of civil society organizations and civil sector initiatives in the area of drug policy creation in the Western Balkans region. In his presentation, Mr. Hren highlighted the work of DPNSEE with special reference to the Regional round table: Community-led consultati ve process on the importance of human rights and evidence-based national drug strategies in HIV response.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs of the European Union (CSFD), an expert group at the European Commission consisting of 45 civil society organizations from all over Europe, representing a variety of fields of drug policy, and a variety of stances within those fields, prepared the document with information, views and recommendations of civil society. Several civil society organizations from the region participated in its preparation. DPNSEE, as a CSFD member organization, coordinated the collection of their contributions.

A chapter on drugs in the PrEUgovor Alarm Report

The Coalition prEUgovor, consisting of seven civil society organizations from Serbia with expertise in various policies under chapters 23 and 24 of the European Union accession negotiations, held a conference on 22 May 2023 to celebrate 10 years of their work. Mission of the prEUgovor is to oversee the implementation of policies in the field of judiciary and fundamental rights (Chapter 23) and Justice, freedom and security (Chapter 24) and propose measures to improve the reforms, using the process of EU integration to achieve substantial progress in the further democratization of Serbia.

PrEUgovor published their jubilee 20th Alarm Report. For the first time, it includes section on drugs. This chapter was prepared by DPNSEE Executive Director Milutin Milošević.

To Alarm Report is available in English following this link>>> and in Serbian following this link>>>.

EU – Western Balkans Dialogue on Drugs

The Dialogue between the European Union and the countries of the Western Balkans on drugs will be held on 25 May 2023 in Brussels. The European side is coordinated by the Swedish Presidency of the European Union. Representatives of the national drug agencies of the EU countries who cooperate within the Horizontal Drug Group (HDG), the body of the Council of the European Union responsible for leading and managing the work of the Council and the European Union on policy, will participate. The embassies of the countries of the Western Balkans to the European Union are invited to the Dialogue.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs of the European Union (CSFD), an expert group at the European Commission consisting of 45 civil society organizations from all over Europe, representing a variety of fields of drug policy, and a variety of stances within those fields, prepared the document with information, views and recommendations of civil society. Several civil society organizations from the region participated in its preparation. DPNSEE, as a CSFD member organization, coordinated the collection of their contributions. The document has been sent to the Swedish EU Presidency and will be distributed to HDG members and embassies.

The CSFD document is available following this link>>>.

We hope that it will have an impact and contribute to better and coordinated partnerships and support to the region.