In the Middle East and North Africa, illicit drugs have long been tackled through drug policies mainly focusing on tough law enforcement. As a result, few efforts have been made to assess the nature and the scope of drug use and dependence, and drug users have become increasingly stigmatised. In recent years, some MENA countries have started to recognise that a law enforcement approach to illicit drugs had not addressed drug-related harms and drug dependence and are considering new options of intervention.
In an effort to support this new development, IDPC organised a seminar in collaboration with its local partner, the National Rehabilitation Centre in Abu Dhabi (NRC), in order to generate constructive discussions and share experience on drug policy, in the region and beyond. The seminar was attended by over 150 participants from 12 different countries, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Gaza, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the West Bank and Yemen.
The seminar benefited from the participation of policy makers, representatives of international governmental and non-governmental organisations, local NGOs, healthcare providers and law enforcement officers. The goals of the seminar were twofold – to share experience and perspectives on drug policy to get a better understanding of the main issues in MENA, and to discuss possibilities for networking activities in the region. The main sessions focused on four themes, drug prevention, drug dependence treatment, harm reduction and drug laws and enforcement. Each session started with a short presentation on global evidence, followed by presentations on regional examples of good practice, and ended with discussions and a Q&A from the audience. This report highlights the main discussions that took place at the meeting.