Last month, Harm Reduction International hosted the 23rd international harm reduction conference in Vilnius, Lithuania. Around 800 participants attended from all around the world to share latest experiences, developments and evidence – and the sense of community was noticeable from the opening.
As always at these events, there was a huge range on offer – from traditional presentations to ‘dialogue space’ discussions, an international film festival, and a music concert by local superstars Ball and Chain! Such spoils inevitably meant that no-one got to see everything they wanted to, and this was exacerbated by the large number of important side-meetings taking place as well as groups sought to take advantage of being in one place at one time.
One such event was an IDPC Members Meeting, at which around 40 people met over lunch to discuss the network’s work and the opportunities coming up (see picture) – reflecting on the recent developments in Latin America and New York among many other things.
Highlights from the main programme included video addresses from Richard Branson and Stephen Lewis, a great speech from former Polish President President Aleksander Kwaśniewski (now a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy), and Ethan Nadelmann from the Drug Policy Alliance in the USA. From IDPC’s perspective, we launched our new Drug Policy Advocacy Training Toolkit during a lunchtime session and Secretariat staff presented on a wide range of topics – such as amphetamine-type substances, the Community Action on Harm Reduction project, and the history of drugs and sex work in the twentieth century. It was also a great opportunity to further promote the Support. Don’t Punish. campaign.
Overall, the conference was a great success and an invaluable opportunity to be with colleagues and allies at an important time for harm reduction and drug policy reform. For more information, please visit the conference website: http://www.ihra.net/conference
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