From the 2nd to 4th January 2011, over 100 delegates from across the region gathered in Abu Dhabi to attend a seminar, marking the launch of the IDPC regional drug policy network. Hosted by the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi (NRC), the seminar brought together NGOs, academics and government representatives from 12 different countries (Afghanistan, Egypt, Gaza, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, the West Bank and Yemen) to exchange information and ideas on the drug policy challenges facing the region, and discuss how best to organise themselves into a standing regional network.

The seminar heard welcome speeches from the regional UNODC office, IDPC and the government of Abu Dhabi, then examined specific concepts and challenges under the headings of Prevention, Treatment, Harm Reduction, and Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice. In each session, an international speaker gave an overview of the global evidence base, then speakers from the region presented their own experiences. After the session on criminal justice reform, a representative of the government of Abu Dhabi announced their support for a policy of diversion of drug users from prison to community based treatment, a move in line with IDPC policy principles.

On the second day of the seminar, participants discussed plans for the IDPC regional network. It was agreed that the National Rehabilitation Centre would take on the role of regional network lead, and an initial work plan would be developed by email contact over the next few months, and be discussed at the next meeting of the network, that will be held in the margins of the International Harm Reduction Conference in Beirut in April.

IDPC will produce a briefing paper on the seminar, which will soon be available on our website.