"The UNGASS 2016 and its significance for SEE": Statement of NGOs in South East Europe
From October 1-3, 2015 a Regional meeting of NGOs, policy makers and scientists/researchers from the countries of Southeast Europe, was organized by Diogenis Association in Belgrade, to discuss about the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS, April 2016) and its significance for Southeast Europe. The meeting closed with the formulation of some conclusions relevant for the situation in the SEE countries.
Read the statement here.
Foundation of Drug Policy Network in South East Europe DPNSEE
Thirteen non-governmental organizations of the SEE region founded the Umbrella Organization "Drug Policy Network in South East Europe". The organization acquired legal status by registering in the register of the competent authority (Business Registers Agency) in Belgrade. The organization is called in English “Drug Policy Network South East Europe” with the abbreviation DPNSEE. The registration of the network as a legal entity was one of the main objectives of the project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South East Europe”. Founding members of the DPNSEE are 13 organizations from SEE countries: Aktion Plus (Albania), Margina (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Viktorija (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Healthy Options Skopje (HOPS), (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), Diogenis (Greece), Positive Voice (Greece), Center for Life (Greece), NGO 4life (Montenegro), Juventas (Montenegro), RHRN (Romania), ALIAT (Romania), Prevent (Serbia) and SEEA.NET (Slovenia). The DPNSEE will be responsible for coordinating the Network. The Board of the organization consists of 7 members elected by the general meeting of the members which is the Network’s highest decision-making body. The founding General Assembly elected the first Board and approved the action plan for 2016.
Read more here.
Newsletter #3, August - October 2015
The 3rd newsletter of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe covers the period August till October and its basic points are:
- Foundation of Drug Policy Network in South East Europe DPNSEE
- UNGASS 2016 and its significance for South East Europe
- News of the organizations of the Network
- Civil Society Forum meeting in Brussels
- Meeting of young people in Tirana, Albania
- International of Harm Reduction Conference 2015 From Malaysia with Inspiration
Read more here.
Letter towards the General Secretary of the Health Ministry on the “Elimination of the waiting list and the direct access of drug users in treatment - substitution programs”
On October 26, 2015, we addressed a letter towards Mr. John Baskozos – General Secretary of the Health Ministry, by which the signatory NGOs - Association «Diogenis», PRAKSIS, Greek Association of People living with HIV "Positive Voice", "Center for Life" for the support of people living with HIV/AIDS, Hellenic Liver Patients Association "Prometheus" and the Greek Drug & Substitute Users Union - welcome his statement concerning the elimination of the waiting list within the next year and the direct access of drug users in treatment/substitution programs provided by the Hellenic Organization Against Drugs. With this letter, we are stressing out the need for such interventions and declare our support for any related initiative. As representatives of civil society, we remain vigilant as far as it concerns the implementation of the promises made by the state, while ensuring that the quality of the provided services is going to be maintained at the necessary quality levels for the needs of all beneficiaries.
You can read the letter here.
Preparations for the UNGASS 2016
Following the annual session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March 2015 intensive work has started to develop proposals and recommendations of the UN member states which should be discussed and approved by the Special General Assembly on Drugs. The Special Session of the General Assembly will take place in New York from 19 to 21 April 2016 (UNGASS 2016). Already some countries expressed initial thoughts on the content of conclusions and recommendations they expect from the UN Special Session of General Assembly. Non-governmental organizations wish to actively engage in the debate and have prepared draft texts that will be submitted to the competent national authorities, regional organizations and the United Nations. The Vienna NGO Committee on drugs (VNGOC) in cooperation with the New York NGO Committee on drugs (NYNGOC) and the Civi Society Task Force (CSTF) are coordinating the contributions of civil society organizations.
The European Union will discuss in September/October 2015 a first draft of conclusions and recommendations at a meeting of the Horizontal Drugs Group. The member states of the European Union have been invited to submit proposals to the EU Presidency, for the first draft discussion paper. The aim is to develop a "short, substantial, concise and action oriented outcome document ".
The expectation of NGOs is to have a substantial and open dialogue on all issues without limitations and prejudices in order to promote realistic and effective policies tailored to the needs of society and the wellbeing of citizens directly affected by drugs. The organizations of the Drug Policy Network in Southeast Europe will express their views in all actors concerned. This Newsletter will report regularly about all initiatives concerning the UNGASS in the Balkan region.
Newsletter #2, April - July 2015
The 2rd newsletter of the Drug Policy Network South East Europe covers the period April till July and its basic points are:
- Meeting of the Drug Policy Network in SEE in Novi Sad 6-8 July 2015
- Conference: Hepatitis C and drug use in Greece, Athens, June 17, 2015
- News from the partners in SEE
- Montenegro: Withdraw of global fund, harm reduction services close down
- 26 June, International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
- Update preparations of the UNGASS 2016
- Upcoming Events
Read more here.
26 June, International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
Support. Don’t Punish.
Association Diogenis on the occasion of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking participates in the campaign “Support. Don't Punish.” in co-operation with the NGOs Praksis and Greek Drug Users Union with a short video in Greek.
In the Press Release the civil society organizations, Association Diogenis – Positive Voice – Center for Life – Praksis – Prometheus – Greek Drug Users Union, have published they highlight the need for change in drug policy and practise in order to ensure the protection of health and human rights.
Public Meeting on Drug Strategy and Drug Legislation in Sarajevo
A public meeting organized within the context of the program “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South Eastern Europe”, which is co-funded by the European Commission DG Enlargement and the Open Society Foundations, took place on the 14th of May at the faculty of Law at the University of Sarajevo. The meeting was organized by the Association Diogenis, in co-operation with the faculty of Law and Association Margina, and it focused on drug strategy and drug legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The main issues addressed in the meting were:
- The adoption of a drug specific law (lex specialis) which will be enforced in the entire Bosnia & Herzegovina territory.
- The support of harm reduction practices by the police.
- The need for co-operation between the law enforcement authorities and the academic community (law faculty) in order to educate police officers and jurists on drug related issues and cultivate supporting attitudes towards people who use drugs. Read the full report here
“Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy”: New perspectives for the Drug Policy Network in South East Europe
Since 2010 the Drug Policy Network in South East Europe has functioned with a minimum of financial resources. The award of a grant from the European Commission for 2015, increases the potential for more systematic and adequate advocacy and more structured cooperation between NGOs. The project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South East Europe” is financially supported by the European Commission, DG Enlargement, Regional Cooperation and programmes and co-financed by the Open Society Foundations.
The objectives of the project are: a. to promote drug policies and drug legislation based on a public health and human rights approach, b. to improve contacts with relevant national and regional authorities in the field of drugs and follow closely the European Union and international drug policy developments.
Briefing paper of the Association Diogenis on cooperation of drug law enforcement and service providers in South Eastern Europe
The Association Diogenis issued in its series of briefing papers on drug policy, a paper on the issue of cooperation between drug law enforcement and service providers in South Eastern Europe. The paper describes the shift in drug policy, during the last decade, from repression to protection of public health and respect for human rights. An important development is the recognition by more and more countries in the world that the current system of drug control, where law enforcement and repressive measures is the main feature of the policies, does not meet the requirements of our time and did not bring the expected results.
The shift observed is supported by service providers, but also by police authorities who have initiated cooperation initiatives with public health and social care. The paper outlines police initiatives in Europe and Latin America and states that in the Southeast European countries contacts between police authorities and social services are inadequate, and collaboration is problematic. It is necessary to start a serious dialogue about the treatment of drug users by the police. Service providers and drug users organizations express in the paper heavy criticism on the behavior of the police towards drug users, refer to examples of human rights violations and make recommendations to address them.
Τhe Greek parliament approved the amendment to establish Supervised Injection Sites for drug dependent people
On Monday, December 22 the Greek parliament voted in favor of the amendment to establish supervised injection sites for drug dependent people.The relevant article will be added at the end of Article 22 of the Law on addictive substances (n. 4139/2013). The amendment opens the way for reopening the supervised injection site ODUSSEAS whose operation was suspended a few months ago. The legislation is a significant development for the drug policy in Greece. For cities and especially for the city of Athens this legislation is another incentive to undertake specific initiatives to tackle drug use in public areas and to protect of the health of drug users.
Read more:The text of the article that will be added to Article 22 of Law. 4139/2013 "on addictive substances"
The Informal Drug Policy Dialogue in Southeast Europe (SEE), 10 & 11 October 2014 Athens, Greece
The Informal Dialogue on Drug Policy focused on the following issues a. recent developments in drug policy in the SEE countries, b. the shift from a punitive attitude to a human rights and public health oriented approach in future drug policy c.the collaboration between competent government authorities and civil society in South Eastern Europe, the action Plan on Drugs between the EU and the countries of the Western Balkans, and d.towards the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), main discussion items.
Initiative to re-open the supervised Drug Consumption Centre ODYSSEAS in Athens
The Greek Deputy Minister of Health, Mr. Grigorakos has proposed to regulate by law the establishment of supervised drug consumption rooms as part of the harm reduction policy for drug dependent people. The organisations Positive Voice, Praksis, Diogenis, Promitheas, Centre for Life and the Greek Drug and Substitute Users Union issued on the occasion of this decision the following statement.
" Τhe undersigned NGOs declare our support for the urgently needed legislation to promote the establishment and operation of units for intravenous drug users. The proposal includes the possibility to set up and make operational supervised drug consumption rooms for the protection of the health of active users, the early intervention to prevent overdose and the support to follow therapeutic treatment and harm reduction programs. The licence will be issued by decision of the Minister of Health, including the specific terms and conditions of the establishment and operation of the supervised sites..
This proposal is the framework in which the issue of the operation of the supervised drug consumption room "Odysseas" can be resolved. The undersigned organizations have strongly protested to the authorities when the operation of the supervised drug consumption room “Odysseas” has been suspended. We believe that with the proposed bill, the Greek state answers adequately to the needs of dependent users, the request of agencies and organizations providing services to drug dependent people and the wish of the municipality of Athens. All relevant stakeholders must co-operate to address the problem of drug use in the streets. The Municipality of Athens must provide places for the establishment of drug consumptions rooms and contribute to the health of users and the public safety. We hope that with the adoption of this law the drug consumption site “Odysseas” will be re-opened"
The proposed bill has to be adopted by the Greek Parliament.
Comments of the Association Diogenis on the Greek National Drug Strategy (2013-2020) and the Action Plan on Drugs (2013-2016)
In addition to points raised in thei letter of the NGOs Positive Voice, Praksis, Diogenis, Centre for Life, Promitheas and the Greek Drug and Substitute Users Union, the Association Diogenis referred in a memorandum to the National Coordinator on some specific issues which are directly related to goals and objectives of Diogenis. In its reaction Diogenis comments and makes suggestions on the issue of dialogue with society, the proposed epidemiological research, the major challenges in addressing drugs in modern society, the decriminalization of use, the issue of cooperation between police and service providers on the level of the community, the issue of cannabis, the availability and access to essential medicines, the treatment of addiction and finally the international cooperation including the cooperation in South Eastern Europe.
Report “Drugs, law enforcement and health and social services in South East Europe”
This report of the seminar organised by Diogenis Association on 5-6 June 2014 focuses primarily on a discussion on innovative methods of cooperation between the police and social service agencies, aspiring to achieve evidence-based, successful, and effective prevention, especially of HIV and other infectious diseases among injecting drug-users, sex workers, and other vulnerable social groups. The report contains information about experiences of NGOs with the police in the countries of South Eastern Europe and concludes with recommendations on effective cooperation and joint programmes, as well as the development and implementation of best relevant practices in the South-Eastern European countries.
Strong protest against the closure of the Supervised injecting site in Athens
The Greek Drug & Substitution User’s Union supported by the non-governmental organizations PRAKSIS, POSITIVE VOICE, PROMETHEUS, DIOGENIS Association and Centre for Life is strongly protesting in a letter to the President of the Organisation Against Drugs (OKANA) for the shutdown by summary procedure of the pilot Supervised injection site in Athens ODYSSEAS.”We are extremely frustrated by the fact that ODYSSEAS, one of the most indispensable and crucial units of OKANA, has been shut down with quick procedures, turning its back to all users and dooming them to constant insecurity and severe danger. Its even more important, especially during this period, that Athens experiences an outburst in terms of infections and a rise in homeless drug users that inject in very harmful and dangerous ways”. The Union is asking OKANA to explain how could it happen that Justice intervened and has shutdown the facility, what was the accusation that led to this decision and what has been the reaction of OKANA against the closure the of the site. “Did you do everything within your powers to resist against the accusations and to fight in order to keep the unit open?”
More: See the letter to OKANA
From repression to policies that guarantee human rights and promote public health
The non Governmental Organisations Association Diogenis, PRAKSIS, Positive Voice, Cetre for Life, Promitheas and the Association of people in Treatment by OKANA express their views on the National Strategy (2014-2020) and the Action Plan (2014-2016) on drugs in a letter to the National Drug Coordinator Mrs. Chr. Papoutsopoulou-Diamantopoulou.These organizations had requested last June to enable civil society organizations to submit their views. After their letter to the Prime Minister the national coordinator answered positively. The organizations welcome the positive response and comment on five key points of the National Strategy:
a. The relationship between the National Strategy and specific priorities in the National Action Plan. B. The shift of interventions from repressive policies to policies that guarantee human rights and promote public health c. The interdepartmental coordination of institutions, government bodies and non-governmental organizations d. The cooperation with NGOs and e. The continuous review and assessment of programmes and actions.
The NGOs agree with the objectives of the National Strategy. They note, however, that "the planning framework of the Strategy should be accompanied by specific priorities in the Action Plan for the period 2014-2016." The general impression of the organizations is "that the present draft Strategy recognizes the need to implement major changes in drug policy, but the Action Plan 2014-2016 is lagging behind in terms of specific proposals for their implementation."
The Organisations are ardent supporters of major changes contained in the new drug strategy. They mention specifically two main points which they consider should be implemented immediately. One is the topic of "shifting the focus of interventions from repression to policies that guarantee human rights and promote public health" and the other is the is the proposal to address the lack of interdepartmental coordination and promote networking among organizations that provide services, government bodies and non-governmental organizations" as well as the need to evaluate programmes and actions.
Read More: NGO Comments on the National Strategy (in Greek)
Greek NGO's require active role in shaping drug policy
In a letter to the Prime Minister of Greece, Greek NGOs require that their involvement in shaping drug policy must be formalized. The reason for the letter is related to the expected Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 and Action Plan 2013-2016 that has to be proposed by the National Commission for Planning and Coordination.
The National Drugs Coordinator has recently stated in public meetings that the NGO’s will be asked to contribute in the process of shaping the new Drugs Strategy and Action Plan. But up to this moment there has not been any request to NGOs to submit their views. The NGOs have asked the National coordinator, in a letter, to inform them about the preparatory work of the National Commission and expressed their desire that the draft of the Strategy and Action Plan be subject of public consultation. The National Coordinator answered to the letter emphasizing that she considers civil society an important partner of dialogue with the Drugs Coordination office and is willing to develop cooperation at all levels. On the request of NGOs for public consultation and participation in the Committee for Coordination and Planning she states that «at this stage there is no provision for this in the law» and that she «will forward this request to the Inter-ministerial Commission, that is responsible for such a decision».
In their letter to the Prime Minister, who is the chair of the inter-ministerial commission, the NGO’s express their support to the proposal of the National Coordinator to forward their request to the Inter-ministerial Commission and emphasize that the omission in the law 4139/2013 on addictive substances to include NGO participation in the National Commission should be corrected. Diogenis Association, PRAKSIS, Positive Voice, Center for life, Association of people in treatment by OKANA and the Liver Patients Association "Prometheus" that sign the letter conclude: "We believe that our organizations who are service providers and deal systematically with Drug Policy should be involved in co-shaping drug policy from the outset and therefore be represented in the Planning and Coordination Committee of the National Strategic Plan. The Minister of Health who is responsible for the composition of the National Planning and Coordination Committee to Combat Drugs should include , by amendment, NGO representation in the Commission".
Read more: Letter to the National Coordinator, Reply of the National Coordinator (in Greek)
Read More: Letter to National Co-ordinator (in Greek)
Seminar in Sofia,Bulgaria 5-6 June 2014
Cooperation between law enforcement and social and health services in the field of drugs
On June 5 and 6 a seminar organized by the Association Diogenis as part of the program "New approaches and interventions in drug policy" took place in Sofia, Bulgaria The meeting was attended by about 25 people from the 10 countries of Southeast Europe, Germany and Cyprus. The seminar was co-hosted by the Center for the Study of Democracy that is based in Sofia, Bulgaria. The theme of the meeting was about the cooperation between law enforcement agencies and service providers in the field of drugs. On behalf of law enforcement two initiatives have been presented: One about the cooperation between police and service providers to drug dependent people in the city of Frankfurt, Germany and another initiative about drug use prevention mainly by young people / teenagers in Nicosia, Cyprus. On behalf of service providers, practices have been presented about their services to drug users in their respective countries as well as about the attitude of the police towards users and the dialogue between service providers and the authorities in general.
The purpose of the seminar was to discuss innovative approaches about the cooperation between law enforcement authorities and service providers in order to achieve evidence-based, successful and effective prevention interventions in the field of drugs and especially in the prevention of HIV and other infectious diseases. The seminar was further aiming to make concrete proposals for effective collaboration and joint action programs between law enforcement and service providers in the countries of South Eastern Europe. The Association Diogenes will soon be publish the report of the meeting and will issue a briefing paper on the cooperation between law enforcement and social and health services in South Eastern Europe.
Report of the 11th Informal Drug Policy Dialogue, Athens, 24 and 25 January 2014
The eleventh Informal Drug Policy Dialogue, co-organized by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and Diogenis Association, took place on 24th and 25th of January 2014 in Athens, Greece. Participants from Czech Republic, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary and the countries of Northern, Central and Southern America, United States of America, Mexico, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina attended the meeting. The Dialogue also included representatives from the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Drugs Policy Unit European Commission and the Office of United Nations AIDS. The programme included five sessions: The first session looked at an overview of the national Greek drug policy and the drug situation in Greece, developments of drug policy in Greece; the second session was dedicated to the current state of affairs in Vienna: preparations for the CND high-level review and negotiations of the Joint Ministerial Statement; the third session discussed global cannabis policy developments; the control of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) was subject of discussion in the fourth session; and finally, in the fifth session, the road towards the upcoming UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS on drugs) in 2016 has been discussed.
Global drug use prevalence stable, says UNODC World Drug Report 2014
Drug use prevalence is stable around the world, according to the 2014 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with around 243 million individuals, or 5 per cent of the world's population aged 15-64 having used an illicit drug in 2012. Problem drug users meanwhile numbered about 27 million, roughly 0.6 per cent of the world's adult population, or 1 in every 200 people.
Τhe World Drug Report was launched in Vienna on June 26, the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, appealed for a stronger focus on the health and human rights of all drug users, but particularly those who inject drugs and are living with HIV. "There remain serious gaps in service provision. In recent years only one in six drug users globally has had access to or received drug dependence treatment services each year", he said, stressing that some 200,000 drug-related deaths had occurred in 2012.