Why DPNSEE is not accredited by ECOSOC?

The Drug Policy Network South East Europe applied for the ECOSOC membership in 2018. Since then, our application was 5 times differed with occasional questions of not a great importance, on which we provided accurate answers. Why this happens? The recent study prepared by the International Drug Policy Consortium explains.

 

Here is the extract from the IDPC webpage presenting the analysis of this phenomenon:

“Decision-making across the board, on development, on security, on social affairs, is more effective and legitimate when people from different backgrounds are able to contribute. Meaningful participation of civil society in international processes and bodies, including in the UN, relies on free and vibrant democratic spaces with effective participation channels for diverse groups at the national level. This, in turn, requires respect for freedom of expression and access to information online and offline, freedom of association and physical security for those who speak up and assemble peacefully”.

 The United Nations (UN) has long recognised the role of civil society as a key component of effective decision-making at all levels of governance. Yet, civil society continues to face significant barriers in accessing the decision-making table, including at the UN itself. One of these obstacles is the inability for many NGOs to obtain accreditation from the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which would enable them to attend and engage in key UN policy-making fora such as the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, and the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

 According to the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), no less than 41 NGOs have seen their application for ECOSOC status deferred for over four years. Similarly, research by the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), which will be presented here, has shown that NGOs working on drug-related issues are facing increasing difficulties in obtaining ECOSOC status. This is mainly due to obstructive practices within the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (thereafter called ‘Committee on NGOs’ or ‘Committee’), which is used by some countries as a tool to limit NGO participation in UN policymaking processes.

 In this advocacy note, IDPC presents key research on how the Committee on NGOs has effectively restricted civic space for drug NGOs wishing to engage in UN proceedings, and offers key recommendations for member states as they are preparing to elect new members of the Committee on NGOs in April 2022.

You can access the report following this link>>>.

 

New resources to strengthen advocacy for decriminalisation

From the IDPC webpage

Around the world, governments use criminal justice systems to respond to complex issues in society that often have roots in poverty, trauma, racism and other forms of discrimination and inequality. In most countries, drug laws stand out for their strict enforcement, imposition of harsh punishment, disproportionate sentences, and stigmatising and discriminatory impacts.

The criminalisation of people who use drugs is often driven by the goal of a ‘society free of drugs’, and has been central to the policies and rhetoric of the ‘war on drugs’. Yet governments that have adopted punitive drug policies and campaigns have failed to eradicate drug use and dependence, and such policies have had disastrous consequences. The results are seen in overcrowded prisons; the continued existence of detention centres (including those in the guise of ‘drug rehabilitation’); the exacerbation of poverty for affected communities; inadequate and underfunded health and social support services as resources flow to punishment and policing; stigma, marginalisation and demonisation of people who use drugs, which poses obstacles to accessing the support and services they might need, including healthcare, education, housing and employment; and increased incidence of preventable adverse health consequences, including overdose deaths and high prevalence of HIV, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis.

 The ‘war on drugs’ has disproportionately impacted people who are already marginalised, including people living in poverty, women, people of African descent, Indigenous peoples, young people, and other communities who are marginalised because of immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or race.

 In this Guide, decriminalisation is defined as the removal of all sanctions for drug use and activities relating to personal use: possession, acquisition, purchase, cultivation and possession of drug use paraphernalia. Governments, civil society groups, networks of people who use drugs and academics around the world increasingly acknowledge the need to reform drug policies to decriminalise drug use and the possession of drugs for personal use. The entire UN system has now come together to recommend decriminalisation, with many positive statements also made by other international bodies.

 This Guide for Advocacy, published by the International Drug Policy Consortium (available following this link>>>) is intended to be a user-friendly resource for people from all sectors who wish to understand the key objectives, principles and concepts relating to decriminalisation of drug use and how to advocate for it. Through three stages – Know it, Show it, Grow it – it outlines practical steps for developing strategies to advocate for decriminalisation, and offers tools that can be adapted and applied to plant the seeds for cultivating healthy, safe and inclusive communities.

Seeking to accelerate the growing momentum toward achieving the ‘gold standard’ of decriminalisation, IDPC are delighted to share a suite of other new knowledge and advocacy resources that we trust will be useful to you and your colleagues:

·                Module 5 of the #DrugDecrim [e]Course

·                Decriminalisation: Building a future without punishment for people who use drug

·                Building communities of care: The Support. Don’t Punish 2021 Global Day of Action

 

Drug Decriminalisation [e]Course

The International Dug Policy Consortium (IDPC) in partnership with Mainline, Health[e]Foundation and Frontline AIDS designed the Drug Decriminalisation [e]Course to support and equip partners from around the world to advocate for the decriminalisation of drug use and personal possession.

The Course includes seven modules:

  1. Introduction, definitions and support for decriminalisation (Available in English and French)
  2. Existing models of decriminalisation (Available in English and French)
  3. Making the case for decriminalisation (Available in English and French)
  4. Designing decriminalisation – part 1: selecting the model of decriminalisation (Available in English)
  5. Designing decriminalisation – part 2: defining drug possession for personal use (Forthcoming)
  6. Designing decriminalisation – part 3: sanctions and intrusiveness (Forthcoming)
  7. The ‘gold standard’ for decriminalisation (Forthcoming)

Ahead of the December break, I share the good news that Module 4 was presented. It is the first of three modules delving into the complex and important challenge of designing decriminalisation models, addressing key issues such as the model’s normative basis and key decision-makers.

This e-course was designed to strengthen our movement’s capacity to advance effective and full decriminalisation and is entirely free.

To register and access the course click here>>>.

 

On International Human Rights Day, UN drugs body silences UN human rights expert on ground-breaking report

From the IDPC and Harm Reduction International press release

In an unprecedented, last-minute decision, the lead UN drugs body has blocked the presentation of a report from a group of independent human rights experts that calls out governments for serious human rights abuses committed in the war on drugs.

The UN’s lead drug policy-making body has slammed the door on human rights expert Dr Elina Steinerte, Chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, who was due to present a watershed study on how drug control policies drive an epidemic of arbitrary detention across the world. She has been blocked from addressing the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs today, 10th December, which is coincidentally International Human Rights Day, and her statement has been merely published online. This last-minute decision, which led to a contentious exchange during the session, was reached through an opaque, closed-door process that kept the human rights experts in the dark about their exclusion until today.

The report sheds light on the arrest and incarceration of millions of people around the world for drug-related offences, including for drug use. People who use drugs are also routinely held against their will in so-called ‘rehab centres’, where they are often subject to degrading and inhumane treatment, including forced labour. With today’s decision, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs stands in defiance of the Human Rights Council – the main UN human rights body – which had asked human rights experts to produce the very same report that now has been stonewalled.

The move to block the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s presentation is particularly galling, given that it is happening on International Human Rights Day 2021, held under the themes of equality and non-discrimination. From stop and search practices to mass incarceration or the death penalty, evidence shows that repressive drug policies disproportionately target oppressed and marginalised people across the world, including racialised groups, Indigenous people, people living in poverty, women, and  LGBTQI+ people.

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.

Turning the tide

IDPC published a historical analysis of civil society advocacy for drug policy reform at the UN, assessing gains, challenges and insight on how the latter have been generally overcome. The “Turning the tide: Growth, visibility and impact of the civil society drug policy reform movement at the UN” briefing paper offers a historical analysis of civil society advocacy for drug policy reform at the UN, assessing the many gains made and challenges encountered over time – and ways in which reform-oriented civil society has met, resisted, and generally overcome, these challenges. This paper is based on desk research, discussions with advocates involved in the key events discussed in the paper, and the lived experiences of the authors, and so is naturally weighted more to the recent moments such as Beyond 2008, the 2016 UNGASS, the 2019 Ministerial Segment, and the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key international drug policy moments studied in this report – including the 1998 and 2016 UN General Assembly Special Sessions (UNGASS) on drugs, the 2009 High Level Segment and its 10year review in 2019 in particular – have created the momentum for civil society to engage in, and influence, global drug policy debates.

The participation of a wide range of reform-minded civil society representatives – including affected communities of people who use drugs, people in recovery, patients using medicinal cannabis or essential medicines for pain relief, farmers of crops used for illegal drug production, formerly incarcerated people and others – has had an undeniable impact on UN drug policy events, elevating real lived experience from the ground at often dry and bureaucratic debates in Vienna.

To read the briefing paper, follow this link>>>.

Innovation and resilience in times of crisis

From the IDPC website

In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, prompting governments around the globe to declare a state of emergency and/or implement a wide variety of policies and programmes in order to curb outbreaks, minimise mortality rates, and maintain public safety and order. These include, but are not limited to, different forms of travel and/or movement restrictions (such as lockdowns and quarantine), closure of premises deemed non-essential, and restrictions on gatherings and/or events. Such measures have caused significant changes in public life, public services, governance, democracy and policymaking processes around the world – as well as having serious short- and long-term economic implications.

One additional impact of these measures is the disruption of various channels and dynamics of advocacy conducted by civil society organisations. Prior to the global pandemic, civil society organisations were already facing increasing constraints and shrinking space for advocacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly accelerated this downward trend of intensifying repression, in some cases combined with various forms of disinformation, abuse of power and violence. Meanwhile, some civil society actors have been pushed to adapt their ways of working while remaining resilient as they face impacts such as increased workload and/or pressure (amid having less in-person interactions, working from home, and growing demand for services), uncertainty around financial and organisational sustainability, and health concerns, among others.

Aiming to better understand and support the network to respond to these emerging challenges, especially with regard to advocacy for drug policy reform centred on human rights and public health, the IDPC Secretariat initiated a process of documenting and analysing the experiences of civil society and governmental actors working in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result of this process is report “Innovation and resilience in times of crisis – Civil society advocacy for drug policy reform under the COVID-19 pandemic” available following this link>>>.

 

Taking stock of half a decade of drug policy

From the IDPC press release

Today, the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) released a new report Taking stock of half a decade of drug policy – An evaluation of UNGASS implementation revealing the widening chasm between UN commitments on health and human rights, and the devastation brought about by punitive drug policies on the ground.

As the annual meeting of the UN CND opens with a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, the legal foundation of the international drug control regime, IDPC’s report shows that there is little cause for celebration. Using wide-ranging data from UN, academic and civil society sources, the report illustrates the horrific human toll of the ‘war on drugs’ over the past five years, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • 585,000 preventable drug use related deaths were recorded in 2017, the highest figure on record.
  • A staggering 2.5 million people worldwide are in prison for a drug offence, of which at least 475,000 are incarcerated for personal drug use only. Hundreds of thousands more are detained against their will in forced ‘treatment’.
  • From ‘stop and search’ and mass incarceration to the death penalty, drug law enforcement disproportionately targets women, racial and ethnic minorities, and other marginalised communities, fuelling poverty and inequality.
  • Globally, only 1 in 8 people living with drug dependence have access to treatment, while the availability of life-saving harm reduction services is severely restricted.
  • Subsistence farmers of crops like cannabis or coca leaf continue to be subject to violent forced eradication campaigns that deprive them and their families of their livelihoods.
  • 5 billion people worldwide live with limited or no access to pain relief and palliative care due to repressive drug laws.

 

April 2021 also marks the 5th anniversary of the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs, where all countries in the world committed to adopt a public health, rights-based, and development-oriented approach to drug policy. By comparing these commitments with evidence from the ground, the new IDPC report reveals a widening gap between rhetoric and reality.

The 60th anniversary of the global drug regime gives us little cause for celebration’ said Ann Fordham, Executive Director at IDPC. ‘In the past five years, some progress has been made, as countries moved to adopt welcome initiatives on the decriminalisation of people who use drugs, and the legal regulation of cannabis. However, in most parts of the world, governments remain wedded to draconian policies that have had a catastrophic impact on communities, and have resoundingly failed in their stated purpose of eradicating drug markets, or reducing illegal drug use.

Marie Nougier, Head of Research and Communications at IDPC, said: ‘With this report, we wanted to give a voice to those most affected by punitive drug policies. What communities tell us through our research is that they continue to face criminalisation, extrajudicial killings, the death penalty, acts of torture and ill-treatment, stigma and discrimination, and are systematically denied access to life-saving health services. We cannot wait for another 60 years to align drug policies with health, human rights and development.

The report is available following this link>>>.

 

Open letter to UNODC Executive Director

In an open letter, with the support from more than 100 civil society organisations, the International Drug Policy Network Consortium (IDPC) invited Ms Ghada Waly, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to mark International Human Rights Day by calling on Member States to change drug policies and practices that violate human rights, and entrench exclusion and discrimination.

My Waly was invited to issue a strong statement that underlines UNODC’s commitment to rights-based drug policies, and calls for change in the laws and practices that threaten health and human rights. The 2020 International Human Rights Day, which will be held under the title ‘Recover better: Stand Up for Human Rights’, includes a thematic focus on the need ‘to apply human rights standards to tackle entrenched, systematic, and intergenerational inequalities, exclusion and discrimination’. As such, it presents a key opportunity for UNODC to highlight its commitment to the promotion of drug policies that respect, protect, and fulfil human rights, in line with the UN System Common Position.

Drug Policy Network South East Europe is one of the civil society organisations which supported the letter.

To read the letter, follow this link>>>.

 

A New EU Drug Strategy is Being Prepared by the German Presidency

The 2021-25 EU Drugs Agenda recently published by the European Commission was criticised by civil society and member states. We have already posted comments from Péter Sárosi, the executive director of the Rights Reporter Foundation and an article about the sign-on letter of the International Drug Policy Consortium’s (IDPC) members, raising our very serious concerns regarding the new 2021-25 EU Agenda and Action Plan on Drugs.

The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) also criticised the Agenda in its position paper for its stigmatising language and framework, lack of balanced approach, reduced role for harm reduction, decreased relevance of human rights and several other reasons.

Member States did not accept the new EU Drugs Agenda proposed by the EU Commission. The Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG) decided that a new EU strategy will be prepared by the German presidency.

To read more about the positions of the CSFD, follow this link>>> to the article on the Rights Reporter Foundation website.