As the DPNSEE project Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe funded by Open Society Foundations (OSF) through Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is about to come to an end in April this year, EHRA Financial Director Tatiana Fomicheva and Sustainability and Transition Adviser Ivan Varentsov visited DPNSEE on 17 and 18 April 2019. The purposes of the visit were to make an oversight of the project related documents and provide support with regard to the development of the final financial report.
EHRA representatives had an opportunity to meet with representatives of the national coordinator organisations Margina, Juventas and Prevent and get to know better their achievements and challenges while implementing the project. It was also interesting to discuss lessons learnt, possible next steps and follow up actions. All three indicated that the main issue they faced was lack of information or very slow response to provide them by the authorities. Understanding this obstacle, an agreement was made that DPNSEE and partner organisations will propose to extend the project by September 2019.
Our guests presented us the EHRA activities in the scope of the Global Fund HIV multi-country project, content of the workshop on human rights issues for the Balkan region planned for autumn this year and the Global Fund Community, Rights and Gender Technical Assistance Program. For this occasion, we also invited our colleagues from Serbian partner and member organisations Duga, GAJP, Timok Youth Centre and Čovekoljublje.
For our guests, we also arranged meetings with Dr Jasmina Tanasić, Head of the Department for Social Affairs at the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities and Primarius Dr Danijela Simić, Head of Department for HIV infection, STI, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis, Centre for Prevention and Control of Diseases, at the Institute of Public Health of Serbia “Dr Milan Jovanović Batut”.
The visit will help to better document the approach, process and results of our project as well as the lessons learnt. Documenting this our joint experience as a regional best practice and example of small grants to NGOs in recently transitioned of transitioning countries to support their sustainability and transition related advocacy activities can be of benefit to the Sustainability Bridge Funding that is about to be created by a group of international donors led by the OSF.
Nova stranka is the first political party in Serbia which signed the Declaration for sustainable national response to HIV, proposed by the Group for Analysis of Public Policies (GAJP) as part of their project Political support to the harm reduction programmes. Aim of this project is to invite all political parties in Serbia to sign the Declaration that will oblige them to support harm reduction programmes and their financing from budgetary sources in their future work and participation in legislative and executive bodies.
The President of the Council of the Nova stranka, Aris Movsesian said that it is normal for the Nova stranka, as well as all other political parties, to sign this declaration. Nova stranka is committed to joining the European Union, and the last year’s European Commission report calls for regulating the treatment of HIV patients, specifically in Chapter 28 where such measures are proposed. Nova stranka also emphasises in point 8 of their Action Plan the problem of relations with vulnerable groups of citizens.
Movsesian invited other political parties to follow our example and make such a civilization step.”
The declaration is developed in scope of the Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in South East Europe project. The project is managed by DPNSEE, and coordinated in Serbia by the Association Prevent.
To read the news from the signing of the declaration in Serbian follow this link>>>.
Association Prevent and Drug Policy Network SEE organized a three-day training “Advocacy of Budgetary Financing of the Harm Reduction Programs in Serbia” from 25 to 27 September at Mt. Avala, near Belgrade. The training was attended by 16 representatives of organizations: Bečej Youth Association, Timok Youth Center, Policy Analysis and Policy Creation Group, Association Remiks, Association Prevent and DPNSEE. The training was led by experts from Macedonia’s Healthy Options Project Skopje and ESE.
The training included general information and practical steps in the advocacy and monitoring process. In addition, Dr Jasmina Tanasić from the Standing Conference of Cities and Municipalities presented the Budget programming model used in the country.
A one-year budget support plan for harm reduction program in Serbia was prepared. According to the plan, in the forthcoming period an analysis of the budget of the Republic of Serbia (Ministry of Health, alcohol and tobacco excise, income from games of chance and opportunity) will be carried out and 4 projects by 4 organizations on the following topics:
- Cost-benefit analysis
- Analysis of open calls of the Ministry of Health
- Political parties and harm reduction
- Promotion of the project and results in the public
The training for national consultancy teams was organised from 3 to 5 September 2018 in Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina. It was the first in a serial of training opportunities offered by the Budget Advocacy and Monitoring in countries of South East Europe project.
The aim of the training was to gain mutual understanding of the project, the budget advocacy and monitoring model and role of the consultancy teams in implementing the national plans of actions. 15 participants came from the three involved countries.
The training will be delivered by Darko Antikj from ESE and Vlatko Dekov from HOPS who have developed the model and successfully implemented it in Macedonia.
The agenda included issues of:
- Introduction to Budget cycle on national and local level
- Budget research and analysis
- Stakeholders and advocacy models
- Planning and implementation of the budget advocacy process and
- Country group work on national budget advocacy plan
The training have helped to clarify various issues related to the topic and the way the project will be implemented and agree on basis for designing the national plans. Also, it was specific team building exercise for the national consultancy teams.
Policy Analysis and Policy Creation Group (GAJP), Center for Public Administration, Local Self-Government and Public Policy of Faculty of Political Sciences with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and PERFORM, organised The Fifth Days of Public Policy at the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Political Sciences.
The topics of the event were: construction policy, public advocacy as a science and art, the role of citizens in changing public policies, privacy on the Internet, circular economy, public administration reform and drug policy of Republic of Serbia. Creators, decision-makers and politicians, academics, private sector, state institutions and civil society organizations spoke about these topics. During Friday and Saturday, workshops were organized to bring participants closer to the process of creating public policies.
Drug Policy Network South East Europe participated in the panel devoted to drug policies, alongside with Director of The Office for combating drugs, Milan Pekić and Miroslav Savković farmacologist, Professor at the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Pharmacy.
Panel discussion included topics like: The current state of affairs when a drug policy is in question and how is the system of drug control in Serbia regulated? What are the possible alternatives when policies in this field are concerned? While Irena Molnar, Communication officer of the Network drove attention to harm reduction programs and culture change of substance use in Serbia, Milutin Milošević, Executive director spoke about process of defining amendments to Laws and work on it at institutional Level included but not limited to process, public debates, working groups, engagement of NGOs. He was also briefly explaining processes of evaluation of Strategy and Action plan and what has been done so far.
Around 100 participants voted the panel on drug policies as the most interesting at the event.
Ministry of Health of Serbia proposed changes to the Law on psychoactive controlled substances at the end of 2016. Very limited proposal and the public debate which was organised during 4 weeks of festive days caused serious concern among civil society organisations in Serbia. DPNSEE with two member organisations Prevent and Re Generacija, along with three other partner organisations, made large number of comments and proposals to improve the draft.
Unfortunately, there were no reply from the Ministry for more than 9 months. Finally, with the support of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, a meeting was organised on 4 October to discuss our contribution. Representatives from the Ministry of Health, Office for Cooperation with Civil Society, Office for combating drug abuse and Ministry of Interior met with the aim to present civil society organisations comments and proposals and exchange about which of them should be incorporated into the next version of the draft.
Although we were prepared for qualified discussion about our proposals, it turned out that the Working group in the Ministry of Health already prepared the next draft and that some of our proposals were accepted. Despite the requests to specify which proposals were accepted and which not and why, the representatives of the Ministry remained on the position that it will be possible only when this new version will be sent for the next round of consultations.
The meeting had a limited success because we presented comprehensive and qualified approach to dealing with legislation and stayed on our positions regarding very important issues related to drugs: need to ensure involvement of civil society organisations in all issues related to drug use, wider set of services of the early warning system that is to be established (including field work and consulting), right to bring samples of substances for checking, wider distribution of naloxone around the country, use of language that will not stigmatise people who use drugs, respecting the right to information and protection of sensitive information, better coordination of all the stakeholders, especially reporting about drugs, etc. The proposed amendments to the Law still have to pass a few levels to come to the Parliament and we are ready to keep advocating for a better Law.
The Working Group of the Ministry of Health of Serbia proposed changes to the Law on Psychoactive Controlled Substances. This law has long been announced, as part of the obligations that Serbia has in the process of accession to the European Union, specifically covered by Chapter 24 of the negotiations. The draft is disappointing and restricting instead of proposing active and modern solutions. The public debate was badly prepared and led, with not proper timely information and draft being publicly shared after the debate started.
DPNSEE and its member organisations, together with a few other interested civil society organisations, communicated, met and prepared a comprehensive set of comments that were sent to the Ministry. We also held a press conference and were guests on three TV stations and national radio, and the news about the proposals we made was also in other electronic and social media. The cooperation with partner organisations was very fruitful, and can be a good basis for future partnerships and actions.