On 19th and 20th April 2012, the Civil Society Forum (CSF) on Drugs met again in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss European drug policy and upcoming activities for the CSF.

Updates on the work of the CSF on Drugs

Between November 2011 and March 2012, a small committee from within the CSF was established to draft a set of recommendations to feed into the debates around the new EU Drug Strategy. The CSF is a body composed of NGOs of various backgrounds and ideologies and has often been divided on a number of issues. However, the final recommendations were adopted by almost all members of the CSF. The recommendations notably call for:

  • more financial and structural support for civil society involvement in national drug policy dialogue
  • the adoption of a multi-disciplinary and balanced approach in the design of drug policies
  • the necessity to address the underlying social, health and economic inequalities that may lead to problematic use
  • the necessity to base drug policy on human rights principles, and to reduce stigma and discrimination

A number of short annexes complimented the recommendations, one of which was presented by IDPC on the need for depenalisation or decriminalisation of people caught for small amounts of drugs. The annex was supported by 19 members of the CSF.

The recommendations were presented a few days before the CSF meeting to the EC and Member States at the Horizontal Drug Group (HDG), a high level drug coordination forum of the EU which meets regularly to discuss drug policy issues. Several government officials appreciated the fact that the CSF had managed to reach a common ground on the recommendations and provided positive feedback on the document.

Updates on the work of the European Commission

The European Commission is currently working on a series of legislative instruments focusing on how to detect and tackle new psychoactive substances and minimum provision of penalties for drug trafficking offences. The EC is also developing minimum quality standards on demand reduction, and seeks to improve dialogue with neighbouring countries involved in the drugs trade.

Regarding the European Drug strategy, RAND Europe released an independent review of the 2005-2012 EU Drug Strategy and its implementation. The evaluation was presented at the HDG meeting. The 2013-2020 draft strategy will be drafted by the EU Presidency this summer and will then be discussed at subsequent HDG meetings.

Summary of discussions at the CSF meeting

After introductory updates from both the Core Group of the CSF and the EC, representatives from various organisations (including the HIV/AIDS Civil Society Forum, the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs and the Alcohol and Health Forum) introduced their work and explained how they manage to encourage the participation of civil society in policy debates. A series of lessons were drawn on how these different mechanisms could be relevant to the work of the CSF.

These discussions were followed by debates around the structure of the CSF. It was decided that the Core Group would draft terms of reference explaining clearly the objectives and mandate of the Core Group. Two co-chairs will be elected to lead and represent the CSF.

In terms of sustainability, the CSF has funding for one last meeting. One idea raised during this meeting was for the CSF to apply for a grant from the EC DPIP or ISEC.

These technical issues were followed by thematic sessions focusing on evidence-based drug prevention with a presentation from the EMCDDA; the need for drug policy reform with presentations from ENCOD and a representative of Spanish cannabis social clubs; and finally a description of the Minimum quality standards and benchmarks in drug demand reduction developed at the EU level. The document was adopted by the CSF, almost at unanimity.

Regarding upcoming activities, in order to ensure that the forum remains active in the next few months, three working groups were established to:

  • Monitor the implementation of the EU Drug Strategy at the national level
  • Monitor the implementation of the CSF recommendations at European and national level
  • Monitor the implementation of the guidelines included in the report on the minimum quality standards on demand reduction and prepare a statement on the report.

To conclude the meeting, several members of the CSF showed interest in discussing a number of issues at the next CSF meeting – decriminalisation, women and children, criminal justice and alternatives to custody, human rights, safer night life issues, among others.

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