The Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSF), an expert group of the European Commission with more than forty members representing leading European NGOs, held its annual plenary meeting in Brussels last week (7-8/11). The Forum has become an important voice, but it needs more inclusion and funding from EU institutions. “Diogenis” is an official member of the CSFD and at that meeting was represented by Nikos Stergiou.
The Forum, is a diverse group of NGOs representing different fields, regions and ideological approaches an it has four working groups.
The first is the biggest and busiest. It coordinates institutional relations with the EU – that is, it feeds into the discussions at the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG), the monthly decision-making forum of the EU Council, where all member states represent themselves. This twenty-member working group prepared several papers which have been submitted by the CSF to the HDG. Its recommendations were reflected in the EU’s position at the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in April, 2016.
The Forum’s second working group, is focused on promoting minimum quality standards for demand and harm-reduction interventions in the EU.
The third working group, focusses on civil society engagement in national drug policy in member states. This group conducted an online survey on civil society involvement in drug policy in Europe – 119 responses were received from 32 countries.
The fourth group, works on the evaluation of the EU drug strategy and action plan. This year, the EU is carrying out the mid-term evaluation of its drug strategy (2013-20) and final evaluation of the first action plan (2013-16). The Commission contracted an external evaluator (Rand). The working group prepared an evaluation report in the summer, and this has been one of the main sources used by the external evaluators.
The CSF had a joint meeting with the HDG on Tuesday afternoon, where civil society representatives and member states discussed key issues, such as the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document, the situation in the Philippines, minimum quality standards, and the new Action Plan on Drugs, which will be adopted during the next, Maltese, EU presidency.
The plenary meeting of the Forum was hosted by the drug coordination unit of the European Commission, which now forms part of the home department, and has recently changed its name from “Anti-Drug Unit” to “Organized Crime and Drug Policy Unit”. According to the head of the unit, merging the drug and organized crime units will not affect the Commission’s balanced and evidence-based approach to drug policy.