Cannabis and Development

Millions of people have found a lifeline in the illicit cannabis economy in these past decades, but traditional cannabis farmers in the South are confronted with huge obstacles to participating in the emerging legal markets. The rapidly expanding legal cannabis markets for medical and adult use are increasingly captured by corporate businesses. Cultivation is more and more shifting from the South to the North, from small farmers to big companies, and from outdoor to indoor, with negative impacts on sustainable development goals.

The Transnational Institute (TNI) issued their first policy brief which argues that it is vital that the socio-economic needs and rights of traditional cannabis producers are not overlooked and that ‘no-one is left behind’ in this historic transition.

To read the brief, please follow this link>>>.


COVID-19 and Sex Workers/Sex Worker-led Organisations

As a criminalised population, sex workers have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, often living in precarious economic situations and excluded from social protection systems. The policy brief COVID-19 and Sex Workers/Sex Worker-led Organisations, produced by the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), includes feedback directly from sex worker-led organisations and sex workers on their experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic, including its impact upon access to services, supplies of HIV treatment, and prevention commodities. It also highlights how the already extremely limited funding available for both advocacy and programming for sex workers continues to shrink.

This brief documents how sex worker-led organisations supported sex workers where states failed to provide adequate assistance in their social protection mechanisms and emergency responses. Finally, this paper examines the threats to sex workers and sex worker-led organisations as the world emerges from the pandemic, looks at how we can mitigate the harms and prepare sex worker-led organisations for future crises, and asks what lessons can be learned that might strengthen advocacy for sex workers’ rights going forward.

You can download this Policy Brief followint this link>>>. It is also available in Russian, Chinese, French and Spanish.


Social return on investment for HIV services

Countries in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region have made significant progress in setting the foundation for effective social contracting mechanisms. All of the countries have legal structures that allow them to contract NGOs for the provision of various HIV-related activities as well as provide care and support to PLHIV. However, some challenges remain, ranging from legal obstacles, complex bidding processes as well as lack of technical capacity (by NGOs) to participate in the bidding processes.

UNDP prepared the Policy Brief: Social Return on Investment for HIV services to explore this issue.

As the case studies featured in this brief have shown, activities that are conducted under the auspices of social contracting result in significant returns on investment: for each USD invested, there is a return in social investment of between 2 to 3 USD. These social returns include, inter alia, improved quality of life among PLHIV, numerous averted infections among key population groups, through counselling and distribution of needles and condoms, ultimately resulting in improved self-esteem and better quality of life among the key populations.

To access this document, please follow this link>>>.

Police as partners in harm reduction

The International AIDS Society (IAS) published a policy brief on “Reducing harm: police as partners in preventing HIV, promoting public health and protecting the rights of people who use drugs“. The brief spotlights the role of police through exploring the interface of policing, harm reduction and the human rights of people who use and inject drugs.

The police have a central role in enabling people who use drugs to realise their human rights and access the health and other services they need and are entitled to. By fulfilling this role and becoming a partner in harm reduction, both the police and the broader communities in which they serve benefit immeasurably.

Law enforcement must work in partnership with the community, including people who use drugs, in pursuit of creating a rights- and health-affirming environment. While protecting public health is not the primary function of the police, operating within a human rights framework that improve health and well-being is part of progressive and effective policing practice.

Launched on World Hepatitis Day in 2018, the IAS policy brief series on inclusive care services and policies spotlights the needs of people who use drugs and aims to accelerate the global viral hepatitis response by bringing more attention to a population whose needs remain underserved. Topics include prioritizing people who inject drugs in viral hepatitis C (HCV) elimination efforts, women who inject drugs, police and harm reduction, young people who inject drugs and community-delivered harm reduction services. Other areas of focus include stigma and effective advocacy strategies for health promotion.

To read, download and share this policy brief follow this link>>>

Growing like weeds?

The cultivation of cannabis in Albania goes back several decades, but experienced a peak around 2016, at which point the police undertook an eradication operation in an attempt to curtail the country’s widespread cannabis production industry. A more recent resurgence in cannabis cultivation, however, points to the fact that the underlying drivers of this illicit economy are still in place. Without a concerted effort to address collusion in the cannabis market and the country’s structural conditions, which entice many young people to seek a livelihood in cannabis production, the conditions that enable the market are unlikely to be disrupted.

Key points of the brief on this issue “Growing like weeds? Rethinking Albania’s culture of cannabis cultivation“, published by the Civil Society Observatory to Counter Organized Crime in South-Eastern Europe, include:

  • The conditions that enable cannabis cultivation in Albania have been in place for many years.
  • Despite police crackdowns on cultivation, the phenomenon continues to be pervasive.
  • Cultivating cannabis is seen as a source of income for many, particularly the young.
  • Colluding state officials are among the drivers of the Albanian cannabis economy.
  • A new approach is needed to break the cycle of reliance that the cannabis economy provides and attract young people into legitimate work.

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime is a network of prominent law enforcement, governance and development practitioners who are dedicated to seeking new and innovative strategies and responses to organized crime.

Policy briefs on current issues in the Western Balkans are published on a regular basis by the Civil Society Observatory to Counter Organized Crime in South-Eastern Europe which operates under The Global Initiative.  The Observatory is a platform that connects and empowers civil-society actors in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. The Observatory aims to enable civil society to identify, analyse and map criminal trends, and their impact on illicit flows, governance, development, interethnic relations, security and the rule of law, and supports them in their monitoring of national dynamics and wider regional and international organized-crime trends.

The briefs draw on the expertise of a local civil-society network who provide new data and contextualize trends related to organized criminal activities and state responses to them.

To read this brief, follow this link>>>

Consultation on community-based harm reduction services

International AIDS Society (IAS), in partnership with Medicins du Monde and the consultant Rafaela Rigoni, is developing a policy brief on community-delivered harm reduction services and integration with HIV and HCV services. The brief will include a literature overview on the topic, good practice examples of community-based harm reduction services integrating HCV services, and recommendations for further developments. The document is intended for policy guidance and advocacy purposes and will be widely distributed.

The partners believe that integrating the knowledge of people working on the field is essential to develop effective and feasible guidance. Therefore, you are being invited to contribute to the development of this brief by sharing with us your expectations around a policy brief and your experience with community-delivered harm reduction services and integration with HCV services. For that, they would like to ask you to answer the five questions below and send it back to them. Your relevant information will be anonymised and integrated into the policy brief.

Key questions:

  1. Please provide a short summary of the harm reduction services that your organization offers.
  2. How do your harm reduction services address HCV, HIV, TB and associated health risks for people who use drugs?
  3. What are the main challenges involved in integrating HCV approach and treatment into harm reduction services?
  4. What points do you consider essential for the development of good community-delivered harm reduction services that address HCV?
  5. What points do you consider essential (form and content) for the development of a policy brief that will be useful to support grassroots advocacy in support of community-delivered harm reduction services to address HIV and HCV?

For responses and any questions regarding this consultation or the policy brief, please refer to Rafaela Rigoni at