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.
The European Commission has published draft of its new EU drug strategy (now called the Drugs Agenda), which is part of a wider Security Union strategy entitled “Delivering on a Security Union: initiatives to fight child sexual abuse, drugs and illegal firearms.”
Péter Sárosi, the executive director of the Rights Reporter Foundation, sees this document as “a disappointment for civil society organisations that have been advocating for a sensible, balanced approach in drug policies. He listed 4 reasons for this statement:
War on Drugs language & framework
Not reflecting some key evaluation findings – and the reality
For three years, Serbia was not eligible for funding from the Global Fund, which resulted in the closure of harm reduction programs around the country. The movie, prepared by NGO Re Generation, gives a glimpse of the desperate situation faced by injecting drug users in Serbia, and also explores the consequences of the closure of needle exchange programs in Belgrade, whilst trying to assess the current situation in the country!
Serbia is at the crossroads of a number of heroin trafficking routes. It has a significant population of injecting drug users – 20,000 according to the official estimates. Thanks to grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, several harm reduction services were introduced during the first decade of this century. Approximately two thousand people enrolled in opiate substitution programs, and four needle exchange programs provided sterile equipment to injecting drug users. The prevalence of HIV among drug users was low, though access to harm reduction services was far from adequate – the best indicator of risk being the high prevalence of Hepatitis C infections.
The last grant from the Global Fund ended in June 2014. The Government made no commitment to continue funding the programs, and there are no other international donors available to step in and cover the harm reduction funding gap. This resulted in closing of all needle and syringe projects except one, which is operated by Association Prevent in Novi Sad. Three years later, the Government has changed but the programs are still out of focus when it comes to national funding!
What it means for Serbia at this point, and what it will mean for the future of the needle and syringe programs in the country is yet unknown. To find out more, watch the movie “Without Shift” produced by NGO Re Generation with support of Drug Reporter, exploring the opinions of different stakeholders on the topic.