Closing event of the “No risk, no borders for young people” project was held on 22 October 2021. Our generous host, like many times before, was the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia.
Mr Milan Pekić, Director of the Office, welcomed participants expressing his satisfaction with the level of cooperation they have with the civil society organisations working on the issue of drug policy. He proposed that the results of the project should be widely promoted, especially fighting stigma and discrimination of people who use drugs.
Mrs Snežana Žugić, Assistant Minister for Youth and Sport informed that the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 includes provisions for youth at risk which links the project with the Strategy. She emphasized that improving current and designing new programs for vulnerable groups may contribute to their involvement in the community, including education, employment, etc.
Young members of the Project Team presented activities and results of the project. We hope that it will bring sustainable results in supporting youth at risk and be a basis for long-term cooperation with the Regional Youth Cooperation Office.
Our Executive Director Milutin Milošević was guest at the morning programme of the K1 TV together with Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Serbia Milan Pekić and psychologist Ms Vesna Tomić.
The trigger for the talk was result of a survey presented recently which shows that 17,7% of secondary school pupils use drugs while 14,1% of them is involved in drug trafficking.
The guests estimated that the target of the survey were sport fans, which are deeply involved in drug trafficking, and that resulted in so high number. Still they agreed that situation is not good.
Milutin presented official data collected by the Institute for Public Heath using the ESPAD methodology which are significantly lower. He also emphasised the need for multi-stakeholder, systematic, long-term approach to the issue of drugs.
The recording of the talk is available in Serbian.
The annual Press Conference “Activities on the field of reducing the problems of the dependency” was held on 20 December 2018 in the EU info Centre in Belgrade. Speakers at the Conference were Nebojša Đurasović, President of the Association Prevent, Milan Pekić, Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of the Republic of Serbia and Milutin Milošević, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe. Representatives of the institutions and organisations with whom Prevent and DPNSEE cooperate participated in the Conference.
Nebojša Đurasović presented activities which Association Prevent conducted in scope of the project “At Risk Youth Social Empowerment” and other projects realised in 2018. For a good work, Prevent deserved the award “Responsible attitude and work with vulnerable young people” offered by the city of Novi Sad. Đurasović also spoke about extending the programme of needle exchange to Belgrade and draw attention to the issues of drugs in Serbia including raising number of overdose deaths in young population.
Milan Pekić presented the co-operation between the Office for Combating Drugs and civil society organisations in Serbia as an example of good practice, especially in the process of designing the new Action Plan for implementation of the Strategy for drug prevention.
Milutin Milošević presented a situation in the region of South East Europe, activities in 2018 and plans of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe for the future. His comments on new psychoactive substances and change of culture of drug use raised a special attention.
Representatives of institutions and organisations that co-operate with Prevent and Drug Policy Network SEE were attended the Conference and took discussion on several topics, especially about discrimination.
The open discussion that followed was mainly focused on the issue of discrimination of drug users.
Two news publications were presented at the Conference: Prevent published the one on “Empowering against the discrimination of youth at risk“, while DPNSEE prepared the Serbian version of their Glossary of terms used in drug policy with the support of the Office for combating drugs.
With the support from the Central European Initiative (CEI) and funded through the European Union project, The Drug Policy Network South East Europe organised regular annual General Assembly on 10 December 2018 in The Palace of Serbia, in Belgrade, Serbia.
The participants held voting rights from 16 out of 22 ordinary member organisations. That provided the Assembly with the right to make qualified decisions, even those related to the amendments to the Statute.
During the agenda point on membership issues, candidatures for membership from two organisations were discussed. The Assembly unanimously recognised as ordinary members Timok Youth Centerfrom Zaječar, Serbia and Center for Human Policy from Sofia, Bulgaria. The Network now has 24 ordinary and 2 associate member organisations.
The General Assembly discussed the Operational and financial report for 2018 and elements for the Action plan and the Financial plan for 2019. The General Assembly welcomed the reports. They will be completed with the activities in December and then be adopted. The Assembly analysed the donor and funding trends and issues and concluded that, based on donor research, negotiation and exchange, no funding from EU for the Network can be expected for 2019 and some amounts can be obtained for year 2020, more project based. Funding plans and activities and possible issues that might be funded in 2019 include budget advocacy, the Network being the leader on the issue of quality of services in the region, redefining harm reduction and human rights element of the approach in work. The need for greater participation in relevant international events and DPNSEE taking role in organizing regional events were emphasized.
Nine candidates applied for elections to the DPNSEE Board. The new Board includes Anna Lyubenova from Initiative for Health Foundation, Denis Dedajić from Margina, Marios Atzemis from Positive Voice, Nebojša Đurasović from Prevent, Safet Blakaj from Labyrinth, Sanja Šišović from Cazas and Vlatko Dekov from HOPS.
The Assembly decided to keep at the current positions Vlatko Dekov as the President, and Nebojša Đurasović as Vice-President.
An external consultant Jarmila Bujak Stanko facilitated the strategic workshop through which participants analysed achievement of aims and objectives of the strategic plan adopted in 2016 and indicated in which way and by which activities the priorities will be followed in the next two years.
The General Assembly ended in a positive and friendly atmosphere with an improved sense of belonging to the Network.
The event “got up steam” these two days. Here are some reflections and information.
Wednesday 14 March
Impact of life skills education programmes on prevention in schools: experience in southeast Europe and Latin America
Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch of UNODC welcomed participants, including diplomatic representatives from Bosnia Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. He underlined importance of civil society role and the success of the programme and thanked Lions Clubs International.
Matthew Kiefer, Manager of the Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence Programme presented the programme which is based on social and emotional learning. It incorporates the community and family through activities such as service learning. Since 2014 piloting was undertaken in Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro. In 2017 Bosnia Herzegovina was added and plans for this year are to start in Guatemala and Albania.
Miloš Stojanović, UNODC Regional DDR Officer for South East Europe emphasized the importance of collaboration between UNODC and Lions Club which gives excellent results. So far, more than 4.500 adolescents were involved in the programme. UNODC plans scaling up of programme results in SEE in 2018 and 2019. Melva Ramirez, UNODC Regional DDR Officer for Central America and Caribbean, presented the initial results of the programme in Guatemala. Wadih Maalouf, UNODC Global Programme Coordinator, presented impact among adolescent on prevention and substance use (specifically alcohol, tobacco and marijuana).
Representatives of Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina presented results of the work in their countries.
The urgent need for harm reduction funding: Scaling-up evidence-based interventions for people who use drugs
This event was organised by the Strategic Advisory Group to the UN on HIV and Drug Use, with the aim to highlight the latest evidence on the state of the harm reduction response around the world and explore challenges related to increasing financial and political support for harm reduction and the strategies to overcome them.
Chair of the event was Anne Skjelmerud, NORAD, Norway. Speakers were Dr. Gilberto Gerra, Chief, Drug Prevention and Health Branch, UNODC, Dr. Monica Beg, Chief, HIV/AIDS Section, UNODC, Aljona Kurbatova, National Institute for Health Development, Estonia, Valentin Simionov, International Network of People who Use Drugs and Fionnuala Murphy, Harm Reduction International.
Interesting points from the presentations include:
Anne Skjelmerud opened the event and presented Norwegian experiences with harm reduction. Today in Norway, HIV is not the key problem but HR is still an issue and programmes exist.
Anne Frodham from IDPC talked about the work of the Strategic Advisory Group to the UN on HIV and Drug Use which is comprised of various stakeholders coming from both governmental and civil society sectors.
Dr. Monica Beg presented facts about HIV and drug connection. Globally, PWID account for 8% of all new HIV infections. In EECA, they account for 65% of HIV cases. Average 33 needle-syringes are distributed per person a month, which is far lower than needed (200). UNODC supports some countries, none in SEE.
Aljona Kurbatova talked about harm reduction in Estonia.
Valentin Simionov presented history, aims and mission of INPUD. Death Penalty is still imposed in 32 countries. But, around 8 out of 10 drug related offences are for drug possession only. Only 8% of people in need get harm reduction services. 70.000 – 100.000 people die of opioid overdose annually. Stigma and discrimination are direct result of discrimination of drugs and drug users.
Fionnuala Murphy: overdoses kill more people than murders and traffic accidents together. Situation is critical due to donors withdrawal and lack of national funding.
The future of drug prevention: How to personalize your strategy to be more effective
The event was organized by the Government of the Netherlands, UNODC, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
Speakers were Victor Sannes, Dr Lonneke van Leeuwen, Trimbos Institute, Dr Sandra Bukman, University of Applied Siencies, Utrecht, Gilberto Gerra, UNODC and Danilo Ballotta, EMCDDA.
Project run by the Institute and the University to understand the types of young people to be able to prepare personalised prevention. Which substance use-related subgroups of young adults were identified in earlier studies? Five groups were identified: no substance; alcohol; plus tobacco and marijuana; plus ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamine and hallucinogens; plus prescriptive medicines. The same research was done interviewing young people. This led to identifying 14 subgroups varying on preferred substance, reasons for use, context of use and intention to reduce or quit.
Gilberto Gerra: Personalisation of prevention is important because we need to see people as persons, not as a statistic number.
Danilo Ballotta: Especially for young people, effective prevention interventions cannot ignore personality traits and environmental context. EU adopted the approach that prevention is not substance focused. EU doesn’t have a programme for nightlife setting.
Other side events
Notes about some interesting side events are available:
The criminal justice role in the implementation of drug policies in a human rights perspective
The event, organized by the Brazilian Harm Reduction and Human Rights Network presented a model of alternative measures offered to people who use drugs.
We heard about the project “REDES” – Social inclusion in crime and drug use prevention – which is a response to harsh situation in Brazil. Law enforcement structures launched “Custody Hearings Project” which ensures a quick presentation to the judge, a maximum 24 hours after the arrest. The Oswaldo Cruz Foundation was part of the partnerships that developed the project. It provides a support network: health, social assistance, human rights, personal identification documents, housing, work and others. Those who are charged for drug use pass through the process and are granted liberty. They are addressed to the social services providers. One of the most important results is improved sensibility of the judges.
Special event: Strengthening the global prevention response: International standards for drug use prevention – second edition, listen first campaign and stronger families programme
This special event was organized by the Governments of France, Norway and the United States of America, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Drug Prevention and Health Branch, and the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs.
The high-level representatives of organising institutions from France, USA, Norway and Mexico spoke about the role of evidence-based prevention in strengthening the global response and the role of civil society in supporting evidence based prevention.
Giovanna Campello, Officer in Charge, Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Section, presented the UNODC and WHO Second Updated Edition of the International Standards on drug prevention (LINK NA http://vngoc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Concept-note-2017-International-Standards-Update.pdf). Dr Virginia Molgaard and Dr Alaa Al Khani presented “Strong Families” – a new UNODC programme for families in low- and middle income families, including refugee families (LINK NA https://www.unodc.org/ropan/en/DrugDemandReduction/strong-families.html). The first 2018 video the “Listen First” campaign was released.
HIV prevention, treatment care and support for people who use stimulants
This event was organized by the Government of Romania and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime HIV/AIDS Section.
Romania showcased their experience with stimulants, which they simply call new psychoactive substances. We think that it is not quite good connection. Other speakers, Monica Beg, Chief of the HIV/AIDS Section, UNODC, Judy Chang, Executive Director, INPUD, Brun Gonzales, Mexico and Ukrainian activist spoke more about actual new substances.
The right to science and freedom of research with scheduled substances
This interesting side event dealt with conventions and the current barriers regarding research with scheduled substances, as well as present cutting edge scientific research on the therapeutic use of scheduled substances, such as cannabis, MDMA, psilocybin and ibogaine, as treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and problematic substance use. The full video of the side event is bellow.
Other side events
Notes about some interesting side events are available:
The Vienna Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) held its General Assembly on 15 March. A new Board was elected, with our good friend Jamie Bridge serving as the Chairperson. DPNSEE paid the membership fee and hope to complete the membership process soon.
The 61st session, chaired by Ambassador Alicia Buenrostro Massieu of Mexico, agreed 11 resolutions on various topics among them enhancing international cooperation to combat the synthetic opioid crisis, removing stigma as a barrier to the availability and delivery of health, care and social services for people who use drugs, and on preparations for the planned ministerial segment at the 2019 session. The first ever resolution of stigma and discrimination of people who use drugs is a great step forward!
“Ministerial segment” refers to high level meeting of ministers – a very important meeting that will be held as part of the CND next year. Some very important fights and decisions are expected. This CND indicated that there will be a lot of disagreements between those who still believe in rigid repressive approach and those who think that modern and innovative solutions are needed. Civil society organisations were very active in promoting the later, working hard around the meeting to promote it.
The Commission also agreed to schedule six analogues of fentanyl, including carfentanil, under the international drug control conventions. Abuse of fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine, has led to thousands of overdose deaths around the world.
More than 1.500 participants from Member States, inter-governmental organizations, academia, civil society and the private sector took part in the session.
The CND was an excellent opportunity to meet with colleagues and partners. We used it to share with Alexis Goosdeel, Director of the EMCDDA, Daniel Wolfe, director of International Harm Reduction Development and Matthew Wilson, Global Drug Policy Program, Open society Foundations, Marie Nougier, Head of Research and Communications and Juan Fernandez Ochoa, Campaigns and Communications Officer, IDPC, Jose Queiros, Executive Director APDES, Portugal, Thomas Bridgen, Grants Coordinator, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Richard Elliott, Executive Director, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Framework, John-Peter Kools and Daan van der Gouwe, Trimbos Instituut, Dr Claire Mawditt, Secretary of Women and Harm Reduction International Network (WHRIN) and Matej Košir from Institute for Research and Development “Utrip”, Slovenia.
Interesting and important exchange was held with heads of national agencies responsible for drugs: Milan Pekić from Serbia, Željko Petković from Croatia, Ognjen Zekić from Bosnia Herzegovina and Catalin Negoi-Nita from Romania.
With our colleagues from Diogenis Thanasis Apostolou, Sofia Galinaki and Olga Pateraki, we had very good information share and some concrete agreements for future events.
The Office for combating drugs of the Government of Serbia signed on 10 January 2018 Memorandum of Understanding with 11 civil society organisations from Serbia, confirming the importance of civil society organizations and the need for their active involvement in the implementation of drug policy and promoting a new concept of cooperation between state bodies and civil society organizations. Civil society organizations now have the opportunity to join together with state authorities in establishing a broad social platform needed for creating an effective, global standards based and comprehensive drug policy.
The Memorandum was designed in partnership with the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society of Government of Serbia and civil society organisations. Organisations were invited to apply through a public call.
Drug Policy Network South East Europe was one of 11 organisations with whom the Memorandum of Understanding was signed: Nova Plus, Izlazak, Re Generation, Prevent, Duga, Timočki omladinski centar, Jazas Pozarevac, as well as from Novi Sad, Kokoro and Zemlja živih.
The Acting director of the Office for combating drugs of the Government of Serbia Milan Pekić underlined that civil society organisations are significantly contributing to implementation of the Strategy for combating drugs. He also stressed that CSOs have direct access to people using drugs. They have an important role in implementing plans and organising activities, from prevention to treatment and harm reduction.
Civil society representatives emphasized that cooperation with the Office for combating drugs is a huge step forward, significant recognition of their work and an opportunity for working together.
The Drug Policy Network South East Europe held its 2nd regular annual General Assembly in Belgrade, Serbia from 3rd to 5th December 2017. It was the opportunity to meet, analyse the work looking back on the year that almost ended and decide about the future work.
Thanks to the generous support from the Office for combating drugs of the Republic of Serbia, the Assembly was held in the Palace Serbia, the governmental representative building. Representatives of 15 out of 22 member organisations participated, including 2 newly recognised members.
Our distinguished guests at the Assembly were His Excellency Ambassador of Portugal Augusto Saraiva Peixoto and Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Serbia Milan Pekić.
The Assembly adopted the report about the work in 2017 and financial report presenting the Network’s main activities. The plans for 2018 were also adopted, based on the strategic priorities proposed by the Board and ideas for possible projects and partnership building.
Changes in the Board were introduced to ensure that this governing body is active in implementing the action plan. Vlatko Dekov (HOPS, FYRO Macedonia) is elected new Chairperson and Nebojša Đurasović (Prevent, Serbia) new Vice-Chair. While Denis Dedajić (Margina, Bosnia Herzegovina), Marios Atzemis (Positive Voice, Greece) and Saša Mijović (4 Life, Montenegro) remain members of the Board as Secretary, Treasurer and Member, newly elected Board member Anna Lyubenova (Initiative for Health Foundation,IHF, Bulgaria) will serve as Deputy Secretary, and Erlind Plaku (Aksion Plus, Albania) as Deputy Treasurer.
In order to establish common positions, small group work was organised on key issues for which DPNSEE will issue statements in the future. Cannabis and Drug checking were specific topics for sharing and generating ideas.
The Drug Policy Network South East Europe announced activities in scope of the “Support. Don’t Punish” campaign at the Kick-off event held on 20 June in the EU Info Centre in Belgrade, Serbia. This global campaign that will in 2017 be held in 178 cities in 85 countries promotes drug policies based on human rights and public health approaches. The campaign is a voice against ruinous War Against Drugs which has in 46 years brought numerous negative consequences including overdose deaths, HIV and hepatitis C infections among people who use drugs, prison over-crowding, extra-judicial killings, the use of the death penalty, and an exacerbation of stigma, marginalisation, violence and corruption.
The Network coordinates activities of the campaign in South East Europe around the Global Day of Actions 26 June – which is also the United Nations’ International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
During the event, the Network representatives emphasized numerous problems organisations that provide services are facing and growing trends in the region and Serbia specifically. Dr Maja Vučković Krčmar, representing the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia presented the European Drug Report 2017, prepared by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions, underlining dilemmas around cannabis decriminalisation, emerging of new psychoactive substances and increased availability of cocaine. Director of the Office for Combating Drugs of the Government of Republic of Serbia Milan Pekić reminded that Serbia is at the main Balkan drug route and called for coordinated work of all governmental structures and civil society organisations in preparing and implementing holistic answer to the problem.
The Drug Policy Network South East Europe presented the Glossary of terms used in drug policy and relevant related matters and the Resource Centre which will be of service to all those who need information and other kinds of support.