On 5th and 6th October 2015, the newly constituted Civil Society Forum (CSF) on Drugs met in Brussels to discuss NGO engagement in EU drug policy processes. Composed of 45 European NGOs working in the drugs field (among them IDPC), the CSF is a broad platform of discussion that aims to offer guidance and recommendations to EU institutions on drug policy.

Meeting of the Civil Society Forum in October 2015, copyright: IDPC

A new Core Group for the CSF was set up, and four working groups were established for the next two years focusing on:

  • Minimum quality standards for demand reduction – chaired by Dave Liddell from the Scottish Drugs Forum
  • National-level civil society engagement – chaired by Marcus Keane from the Ana Liffey Drug Project in Ireland
  • Civil society input into the mid-term evaluation of the EU drug strategy and plan of action, and in the elaboration of the new action plan for 2017-2020 – chaired by Peter Sarosi from the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union
  • CSF engagement with the EU around international drug policy debates, in particular the UNGASS – chaired by me from IDPC

Maria Phelan of Harm Reduction International was elected as chair of the Core Group, with Fay Watson from Europe Against Drugs elected as vice-chair.

The meeting was an opportunity for the CSF to split into working groups to discuss and draft recommendations on the UNGASS – in an effort to feed into the conclusions of the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF), the official NGO engagement mechanism for the UN Special Session.

Each working group was also given space to meet and discuss their work plan and activities for the coming years. For the coming months, my working group will work hard to influence the EU positions at the UNGASS – and planned to draft of a series of strategic documents to be shared with the EU Presidency and members of the Horizontal Drugs Group (HDG).

The last session involved a meeting between the CSF and members of the HDG, to talk about the UNGASS. It was positive to see a number of HDG members attending – even though their level of participation in the discussions remained relatively low. The EU Presidency initiated the meeting with a short review of the EU’s position and activities around the UNGASS, which was followed by a presentation from the CSF of its recommendations for the Special Session.

Following the meeting, the CSF presented a set of recommendations to the HDG on the UNGASS outcome document, and we will continue to feed into the EU position around the Special Session in the coming months. 

Although the CSF is far from being recognised as a key partner for policy making at EU level, this meeting showed a welcome willingness from the EC, EU Presidency and HDG members to listen to the NGO voice.

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