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Feb 20, 2008

Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) Press Release

Paisan Suwannawong, TTAG +66-81-824-5434
Karyn Kaplan, TTAG +66-81-866-1238

Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) Press Release – February 14, 2008

Within days of his appointment earlier this month, Thailand’s Interior Minister, Chalerm Yubamrung, reinstated a war on drugs. Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group (TTAG) is concerned that those responsible for past human rights violations committed in the name of drug control have not been held accountable, nor have steps been taken to ensure oversight, professionalism, and accountability in drug suppression efforts. Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently provided unpublished data from the previous government’s investigation into the 2003 war on drugs, which found that 2,819 people were killed in 2,559 murder cases between February and April in 2003. Of those killed, more than half had no relation to drug dealing or had no apparent reason for their deaths. No concrete action has been taken to redress these wrongs, or to prevent their occurrence in the future.

The government’s rash drug war announcement has not been accompanied by appropriate mechanisms in place to guard against history repeating itself. Apart from prosecuting perpetrators of past drug war-related crimes, the Thai government must immediately hold public consultations to discuss the impact, including human, social, political, and health costs, of the Thai drug war approach, and develop policies and laws that uphold human rights, not undermine them. Wholesale repression of the type experienced in 2003 will again result in thousands of inappropriate arrests, deaths, and the disruption of HIV prevention and other services.

Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej must urgently renounce the drug war and all human rights violations that have taken place in its context. Drug suppression efforts need to take place with full respect for due process of law and human rights standards. In addition, Prime Minister Samak should encourage his government to work with civil society organizations including people who use drugs to develop a humane approach to the country’s drug problem, for example through the promulgation of a national harm reduction policy supporting comprehensive harm reduction services integrated into existing health and social policies and programs and the immediate cessation of military-style compulsory drug “treatment.”

Continued rates of HIV infection among drug users in Thailand, and reports of abuses by law enforcement, demonstrate how much is at stake. Rather than being subjected to indiscriminate suppression, people who use drugs must be supported to be actively and meaningfully involved in leading harm reduction work in Thailand. Efforts to force tens of thousands into prison or drug treatment are ineffective and immoral.

Recommendations from two previous Human Rights Watch (and TTAG) reports still go unheeded. Please review these recommendations, below, and send letters to the Prime Minister and Interior Minister demanding that they SAY NO TO A THAI DRUG WAR and urgently hold past police officers guilty of abuse and criminal offenses accountable. Demand that people who use drugs are treated as human beings by the government and receive appropriate, effective health and harm reduction services that meet them where they are at, and prevent government actors from committing human rights violations, in the name of drug demand and supply reduction and national security.

Harm Reduction Saves Lives! NO MORE THAI DRUG WAR!

Address your letters and faxes to:

His Excellency

Samak Sundaravej

Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Government House,
Pitsanulok Road,
Bangkok 10300 THAILAND

FAX: +66-2-282-5131


Chalerm Yubamrung,

Minister of the Interior

Ministry of the Interior

Asdang Road, Bangkok, 10200 THAILAND

FAX: +66-2-222-8866

    1. RECOMMENDATIONS from: “Not Enough Graves: The War on Drugs, HIV/AIDS, and Violations of Human Rights in Thailand”

To the government of Thailand:

Cease and publicly repudiate any policy of extrajudicial killing of criminal suspects. Royal Thai Police must conduct arrests of criminal suspects using the minimum force necessary, as called for in the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials. The Thai government should ensure that the National Human Rights Commission has the necessary resources and authority to fully investigate extrajudicial killings and other serious offenses committed in the context of the war on drugs. The Ministry of Justice should completely and transparently prosecute all drug-related homicides and release statistics on the status of these prosecutions. Additionally, the government should invite the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to investigate these killings.

Cease the practice of placing drug suspects on “blacklists” or “watchlists.” Publicly recognize that the practice of “blacklisting” has been widely abused by local officials to settle scores with enemies and has created pressures to include innocent people on the lists, many of whom have been killed or wrongfully arrested.

Cease arbitrary arrests and other due process violations by Royal Thai Police.Cease all practices of false arrest, planting of narcotics on drug suspects, and use of threats or physical force to coerce confessions of drug activity. Cease arresting drug suspects on the sole basis of a known history of drug use. Conduct independent and impartial investigations of any allegations of these activities, and appropriately discipline, discharge, or prosecute officers found to be complicit. Repeal any policy that encourages law enforcement officers to stop or arrest suspected drug users in order to meet predetermined targets for drug treatment enrollment.

Take concrete steps to reduce drug users’ fear of seeking health services.Immediately and publicly declare that drug users seeking health services will not be penalized or forced into drug treatment based solely on their self-identification as drug users. Conduct an independent, publicly issued evaluation of the impact of the war on drugs on the health-seeking behavior of drug users, including their access to sterile syringes and other HIV prevention services. Provide basic training to all police officers on referring known drug users to treatment, HIV prevention and other health services. Cease any interference with efforts by nongovernmental organizations to reach out to drug users who have gone into hiding during the war on drugs.

Increase harm reduction services for drug users. Develop a clear national harm reduction policy with the consultation of high-level officials within the Ministry of Public Health, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, and the Prime Minister’s Office. Establish syringe exchange, methadone maintenance, and other harm reduction programs commensurate with HIV prevention programs for other risk populations such as sex workers and men who have sex with men. Include harm reduction services in proposals for HIV prevention funding from international donors and funding agencies. Evaluate the existence of any legal barriers to harm reduction services, such as the use of syringe possession as sufficient evidence to arrest drug suspects, and eliminate these legal barriers.

Urgently establish HIV prevention services in all detention facilities. Provide information about HIV transmission to all prisoners, pre-trial detainees, and patients in compulsory drug treatment centers. Ensure that all prison personnel receive training on HIV prevention. Establish and evaluate pilot projects for the distribution of condoms and sterile syringes in detention facilities, based on best practices from other jurisdictions. Ensure that all detainees receive relevant information on HIV transmission prior to discharge. Promptly investigate any allegation of prison guards receiving bribes to smuggle narcotics or drug paraphernalia into prisons, and discipline guards accordingly.

To the United Nations and all international donors to Thailand:

Promptly and clearly denounce human rights violations in Thailand’s war on drugs. The United Nations has the regional headquarters of its drugs and crime office in Bangkok, and the United States provides anti-narcotics training to the Thai police. Both should forcefully and publicly declare that they oppose the methods being used in Thailand’s war on drugs, in addition to conducting ongoing monitoring of human rights violations. If the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations are not fully and independently investigated, each should consider redirecting programs from Thai government agencies to nongovernmental organizations.

Take steps to mitigate the HIV/AIDS impact of Thai drug policy. Relevant United Nations officials and offices—such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Human Right to Health, the U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)—should commission an independent evaluation of the health impact of Thailand’s war on drugs, conducted by individuals with expertise in HIV/AIDS epidemiology, drug demand reduction, and harm reduction. Donors to HIV/AIDS programs in Thailand should call for an independent evaluation of the health impact of Thailand’s war on drugs, call for basic human rights improvements including transparent investigations of alleged extrajudicial executions of drug suspects, and include human rights requirements in any financial assistance they provide directly to the Thai government.

    1. RECOMMENDATIONS from: “Deadly Denial: Barriers to HIV/AIDS Treatment for People Who Use Drugs in Thailand”


To the government of Thailand

Increase harm reduction services for drug users:

Develop a clear national harm reduction policy, consistent with international standards, in consultation with high-level officials from the Ministry of Public Health, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Office, the Prime Minister’s office, Thai and regional non-governmental HIV/AIDS and harm reduction organizations, relevant United Nations officials and offices (such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)), the U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and people who use drugs

Establish and integrate needle and syringe exchange, methadone maintenance therapy, and other evidence-based harm reduction interventions into the existing Continuum of Care Centers in Thailand.

Ensure that drug users have access to harm reduction services, including methadone and sterile syringes, and that cost or fees are not a barrier to such access. This would be consistent with the constitutional provision that all persons shall be protected “against dangerous infectious diseases” “free of charge and in a timely fashion.”

Establish clear, time-bound targets for extending the provision of low-threshold harm reduction services to all parts of the country.

Take concrete steps to reduce drug users’ fear of seeking health services:

Immediately and publicly declare that drug users seeking health services will not be penalized or forced into drug treatment based solely on their identification as drug users, and amend relevant laws and policies to ensure prompt compliance with this policy.

Provide basic training to police on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, and the importance of harm reduction in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Take active steps to address drug users’ distrust of public health services. This should include concrete measures to ensure that information about patient drug use provided in the course of medical care is not shared with law enforcement officials and to establish and sustain active cooperation with harm reduction programs and outreach workers.

Train healthcare providers in the appropriate care and treatment of people who use drugs. This should include human rights training to reduce stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs.

Take concrete steps to ensure drug users’ rights to information:

Ensure that drug users, healthcare providers, and law enforcement officers have complete, accurate information about ART, HIV/AIDS, and harm reduction services, and information about drug users’ rights to these services.

Ensure that drug users can obtain ART, harm reduction, and other HIV/AIDS information and services without fear of punishment or discrimination.

Expand and enhance the scope of and support for ART, harm reduction, and other HIV/AIDS information and services including voluntary HIV testing and counseling for people in prison and other places of detention.

Provide information and training to healthcare providers about basic principles and practices of providing antiretroviral treatment to injection drug users, including about adherence support; drug-drug interactions; and co-infection, such as with tuberculosis and hepatitis C.

Provide information and training to drug users about HIV/AIDS-related services, including ART, drug interactions, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C.

Provide support for peer outreach and education workers, including as counselors for HIV testing, ART adherence support, and harm reduction.

Establish and strengthen communication among relevant ministries (including the Ministry of Public Health, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Justice, the National Police Office, and the Prime Minister’s office).

Address structural barriers to care:

Adopt and disseminate a clear national policy to ensure coordination of basic services for drug users (HIV/AIDS services, harm reduction, drug treatment, psychosocial support) and ensure that such services are coordinated between those provided in the community and in custodial settings.

Develop effective referral systems between HIV, drug treatment, and other relevant services to link community and custodial settings.

Ensure that people who use drugs enjoy an equal right to receive public health and welfare services, and protection against disease. The Thai constitution provides that there should be guaranteed access to public health and social welfare services.

To the government of the United States

Lift the ban on U.S. funding for syringe exchange program services.

Officially recognize the importance of harm reduction in preventing HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, and encourage and support international efforts to implement harm reduction interventions, including measures to ensure access to sterile syringes.

To the United Nations and International Donors to Thailand

  • Relevant United Nations agencies (including UNAIDS, WHO, UNODC, the U.N. Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia, and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health) and international donors to Thailand should take steps to ensure that Thailand promptly and immediately adopt concrete measures to address drug users’ fear of seeking health services, and that Thailand promptly and immediately meet its public commitments to ensure harm reduction, ART, and other HIV/AIDS services for drug users.

    1. ARTICLE: Thailand to revive controversial war on drugs

Reuters, Feb 7, 2008

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's new government will revive a controversial war on drugs in which more than 2,500 alleged dealers were killed, Interior Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said on Thursday.

"Narcotics must be lessened in 90 days, although they can't be wiped out," said Chalerm, a former police captain whose son was acquitted of charges of killing a policeman in a bar for lack of evidence.

The fight against drugs was one of his top three priorities and he would spend time along the border with Myanmar, the source of most drugs now entering Thailand, seeking to defeat trafficking networks, Chalerm told reporters.

The war on drugs launched by ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2003 was praised by many rural Thais whose villages were rife with drugs but fiercely attacked by rights activists for giving police a "licence to kill".

A military-appointed government, set up after the generals ousted Thaksin in a bloodless 2006 coup, investigated Thaksin's war and called it a "crime against humanity", but failed to link Thaksin to extrajudicial killings. Mogelijk ondersteunt de browser de weergave van deze afbeelding niet.

Thaksin, now living in exile in Hong Kong, won a second landslide election victory two years after the war on drug was launched, largely on the back of support in the countryside.

At the time, Thailand, once a major supplier of heroin from the Golden Triangle where it meets Myanmar and Laos, was awash with methamphetamines made across the border in the former Burma.

The war on drugs cut supply and pushed up prices for a while, but business returned to normal after the campaign petered out, anti-drug agencies say.



Feb 19, 2008

Moscow AIDS Conference Blocks Drug Treatment Patients, Groups Charge

For Immediate Release

Moscow AIDS Conference Blocks Drug Treatment Patients, Groups Charge

The letter with full list of sign-on groups is online at:

Kiev, Ukraine, February 14, 2008

In advance of a regional AIDS conference in Moscow, nearly 90 health and human rights groups from 27 countries today petitioned a top health official to allow drug treatment patients to enter Russia with their medications.

Methadone and buprenorphine are prescribed worldwide to treat addiction to opiates such as heroin, and have been shown to be effective tools in HIV prevention and treatment efforts. Yet Russia continues to ban the use of the medications for drug addiction treatment.

Thousands of people throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia use methadone and buprenorphine to overcome addiction and improve their lives,” said Vladimir Zhovtyak of the East European & Central Asian Union of People Living With HIV Organizations (ECUO). “In order to create truly effective AIDS responses, we need the full participation of marginalized populations including drug user communities.”

The petition was organized by ECUO along with the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS, the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network, the European Opiate Addiction Treatment Association, the Russian AIDS activist group FrontAIDS, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, the International Network of People Who Use Drugs, the South Eastern European-Adriatic Addiction Treatment Network, and the International Harm Reduction Development Program of the Open Society Institute.

The groups are calling on Russia to make exceptions to the ban and accommodate conference participants who are undergoing methadone or buprenorphine treatment in their home countries. The petition was delivered today to Russia’s Chief Sanitary Doctor, Gennady Onischenko, and conference organizers, including the International AIDS Society and officials with the United Nations and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The Eastern European and Central Asian AIDS Conference (EECAAC) will be held in Moscow May 3-5. The meeting is being promoted as a leading forum for health experts and activists addressing the HIV pandemic. However, in a region where injection drug use accounts for more than 70 percent of cumulative HIV cases, many AIDS activists are former drug users who are undergoing methadone or buprenorphine treatment. These activists will be forced to choose between their personal health and participation in an important public health forum, say the groups.

The Russian ban on methadone and buprenorphine, and the failure of global health leaders to address this issue directly, undermines the goals of the conference and the needs of people at risk for or living with HIV,” said Raminta Stuikyte of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network.

Methadone and buprenorphine, which are on the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines, are prescribed in many countries throughout the region, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan, among others.


  • Iryna Borushek, All-Ukrainian Network of PLWHA,


  • Vladimir Zhovtyak, East European & Central Asian Union of PLWH,


  • Raminta Stuikyte, Eurasian Harm Reduction Network,


  • Paul Silva, Open Society Institute,


Download the complete petition in Russian:

Eastern European and Central Asian AIDS Conference (EECAAC) Petition
PDF Document 145K

Download the complete petition in English:

Eastern European and Central Asian AIDS Conference (EECAAC) Petition
PDF Document - 89K


Feb 18, 2008

INPUD Director Invited by UNAIDS for High-Level Meeting on AIDS

Geneva, 15 February 2008

Dear Mr Goossens,

Invitation to the

2008 High-Level Meeting on AIDS Civil Society Task Force

26-27 February 2008, New York

The United Nations General Assembly President’s Office has requested UNAIDS Secretariat to convene a Task Force of civil society representatives to advise in key decisions relating to attendance and participation of civil society organizations in the High Level Meeting on AIDS to be held in New York from 10 to 11 June 2008.

The Task Force will report to the General Assembly President’s Office and seek to provide a key link into the UN for the key civil society constituencies engaged in the AIDS response. Task Force representatives will be asked to work with the UN on developing key aspects of the Review. The role of representatives will be unpaid but expenses and travel will be met by UNAIDS.

UNAIDS, on behalf of the Office of the General Assembly President, is inviting 12 individuals from civil society and the private sector to join the Task Force. Individuals were identified for invitation following a lengthy consultation process involving the Civil Society Support Mechanism and Support group, UNAIDS and the Office of the General Assembly President.

I am pleased to inform you that you are among those who have been selected and would like to invite you to attend the first Task Force meeting in New York on 26-27 February 2008. Subsequent Task Force meetings are likely to take place on March 25-26, 6-7 May and 8 June 2008.

You will be receiving shortly a formal invitation letter to participate in the Task Force from the President of the United Nations General Assembly.

The attached Information Note outlines details about the meeting and your attendance. Upon confirmation of your attendance, any additional meeting documents will be sent to you separately.

Yours sincerely,

Kate Thomson
Acting Chief, Civil Society Partnerships


Feb 15, 2008

The Goa Declaration (INPUD Asia and the Pacific Region)

Link to INPUD website:

The Goa Declaration

By International Network of People Who Use Drugs

"Asia and the Pacific Region"

January 2008, India

Besides being the world's largest producer of opiates and other drugs such as Amphetamine type substances (ATS), the Asian and the pacific region is home to the largest number of drug users. Although evidence-based, cost-effective approaches are endorsed and promoted by various agencies people who use drugs in the region continue to be oppressed by discriminatory government policies and non-evidence based `solutions' to drug use, such as imprisonment and compulsory detoxification and rehabilitation. Without taking into consideration the socio-economic factors underpinning drug use in the region, people who use drugs will continue to be harassed, marginalised and discriminated against, stereotyped as dangerous and imprisoned.

The constant oppression, persecution and human rights violation contributes to HIV and hepatitis vulnerability of people who use drugs, particularly those who inject. In Asia, up to 89% of new HIV
and 92% of hepatitis C infections are occurring among injecting drug users (IDUs). On average IDUs account for 30-50% of new HIV infections and 40-60% of the IDU population is estimated to be living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) as well. Even though it is obvious that drug users' vulnerability to and experience with HIV and HCV make them one of the most important constituents in responses to HIV and HCV in Asia and the Pacific, the level of harm reduction, treatment, support services available as well as involvement of that particular community continues to be grossly insufficient.

If Asian and the Pacific governments, civil society, health care providers and other stakeholders are serious about halting the HIV/HCV epidemic, purposeful attention and action must be given to ensure evidence-based and non-oppressive approaches to address the needs and high vulnerability of the IDU population in Asia and the pacific. Policies on drug control need to be harmonized with HIV and HCV prevention, treatment, care and support efforts and standards of services for harm reduction would also be required in order to have an enabling environment for sustainable service delivery.

In this context, WE, the people who use drugs in Asia and the Pacific, thereby: Call on governments, various agencies, bi- and multilateral organisations, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the general public to support in:

  • Empowering our communities to advocate and protect our rights and to facilitate meaningful participation in decision making on issues affecting us;

  • Promoting a better understanding of current drug policies that negatively impact on the lives and rights of people who use drugs, their families and communities;

  • Acknowledging and enhancing our knowledge and skills to educate and train others, particularly our peers and members of our community;

  • Advocating for Universal Access to harm reduction, HIV/HCV treatment and care programmes, including access to evidence-based and effective drug treatment, appropriate medical care, safer consumption equipment, safe disposal of syringes and needles, up-to-date information about drugs and their effects, and safer facilities for practicing harm reduction;

  • Protecting and eexercising our right to evidence-based information on various drugs including their side effects and complications, access to equitable and comprehensive health and supportive social services, safe and affordable housing and meaningful employment opportunities;

  • Establishing specifically designed program to address the issues of women who use drugs and allocate enough resources to ensure programs are sustainable while actively promoting their meaningful full participation in all policy, program design and implementation process.

  • Supporting local, national and regional networks of people who use drugs are incorporated at all levels of decision-making and equitably remunerated for their contributions;

  • Challenging laws, policies and programmes that disempower, oppress and prevent us from leading healthy and positive lives;

  • Distinguishing drug dealers from people using drugs who need support, care and treatment instead of oppression and prosecution;

  • Providing easy access to affordable antiretroviral medicines including second and third line treatments, TB and HCV treatment for all who need them; if necessary by enacting intellectual property laws to protect the rights of developing countries to implement the safeguards enshrined in the TRIPS agreement and Doha Declarations such as Compulsory Licenses, as endorsed by the 2007 WHO General Assembly;

  • Advocating for development and adherence to harm reduction service delivery such as NSP, OST, residential care, ARV/HCV treatment etc.

Affirm our duties and responsibilities as responsible citizens in:

  • Contributing to collective efforts against the HIV and HCV epidemics in Asia and the Pacific, including HIV and HCV prevention, and care and support of those already infected and affected;

  • Seeking understanding of issues, challenges and needs of drug users in Asia and the Pacific;

  • Promoting tolerance, cooperation and collaboration; fostering a culture of inclusion and active participation;

  • Respecting the diversity of backgrounds, knowledge, skills and capabilities, and cultivating a safe and supportive environment within the drug user community regardless of the types and routes of drugs consumption;

  • Supporting, strengthening and encouraging the development of organizations for people who use drugs in communities/countries where they do not exist. State our position that:

  • The most profound need to establish a network of people who use drugs arises from the fact that no group of oppressed people ever attained liberation without the empowerment and involvement of those directly affected;

  • Through collective action, we will challenge existing oppressive drug laws, policies and programmes and work with government and our constituents to formulate evidence-based drug policies that respect human rights and dignity of people who use drugs.

Issued at the First Asian Consultation on the Prevention of HIV Related to Drug Use.

Goa, India on 31 January 2008.

contact for information:

INPUD Chairman Anan Pun (Nepal):

INPUD board member Fredy (Indonesia):


Feb 13, 2008

European Commission; Final Report on the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs (13-14/12/2007)

As a reminder:
our own report written by European INPUD Activists


Directorate General Freedom, Security and Justice

Civil Society Forum on Drugs in the European Union

Brussels 13-14 December 2007


The content of this document does not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the European Commission

Executive Summary

On 13 and 14 December 2007, the Directorate General for Justice, Freedom and Security (DG JLS) hosted a meeting of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs in the EU, where 29 representatives of civil society met with the Commission to discuss the role of civil society in EU drugs policy.

Key points:

Many participants felt that there had been too little time to prepare for the meeting and usefully discuss the progress review of the EU Action Plan on Drugs and the Council Recommendation on drugs and prison. A new meeting was suggested to give participants time to prepare and consult with their members.

Regarding the purpose and agenda of this and the next meeting, some participants felt the focus should be on the Action Plan, while others wanted to discuss more fundamental issues regarding the role of the Forum.

Chairing the Forum on behalf of the Commission, Carel Edwards of DG JLS said that the agenda for a follow-up meeting was clear: to discuss the current Action Plan with a view to providing input for the next Action Plan, due for adoption by the end of 2008, the focus being on how the Action Plan was put into effect.

The Programme on Drug Prevention and Information was introduced in a presentation and question and answer session, rather than a workshop. It was noted that the Programme was still new and priorities were therefore intentionally being kept broad and wide-ranging.

The role of civil society needed to be clarified, especially at the national level, where many participants felt that more structured and permanent links between civil society and Member States were necessary.

Terminology was identified as an important issue, and the terms used in the Action Plan needed to be defined to make sure that the Commission, civil society and Member States were using a ‘common language’.

New patterns of drug use were emerging, with new types of drugs and new groups of drug users. Prevention and treatment efforts needed to reflect this.

Opening and Introduction (Carel Edwards, DG JLS)

Opening remarks were made by Carel Edwards of the Directorate General for Justice, Freedom and Security (DG JLS), who began by apologising for shortcomings in the practical organisation of the event and the short time available to participants for preparation.

Edwards emphasised that the European Commission does not dictate a European drugs policy, and that it is important for participants to understand that any such notion was wrong. Drugs policies in Member States are run by the governments of the Member States. There are certain areas of drug policy that do have a European dimension laid down in the Treaties, relating to complementary action in the public health field, as well as to certain judicial and law enforcement aspects. The role that the Commission has been given in its regular institutional communication with the Council and the European Parliament is as “broker of ideas” and “representative of the European interest” through data, information and analysis emanating mainly from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The purpose of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs in the EU was to find a more effective approach to the drugs issue and to feed into a debate which the Commission, along with the Member States, was sustaining within the European Institutions. What the Commission needed was the information, knowledge and direct experience that civil society had, not political opinion or moral outrage.

On the selection of participants, he explained that criteria had been published in the Green paper on the role of civil society in EU drug policy and the report on the open consultation on the Green paper. As stated there, the maximum size of the Forum was 30 organisations – large enough to be representative, but small enough to be effective.

Altogether 75 organisations had expressed an interest. In selecting participants the Commission had given preference to European consortia where possible and had aimed for a geographical balance. This meant that while some national organisations were selected even when there was no European consortium, other (national) organisations were not selected in the interest of maintaining the geographical balance.

In closing, Edwards again reminded participants that the Commission was not looking for political views. One of the qualities of the European model, he said, was that rather than going for an ideological approach, for the aim was an approach based on evidence and knowledge. There is no ‘war on drugs’ in Europe.

The objective of the meeting should be for civil society to give the Commission some useful pointers on where the Action Plan was missing the target, where it could be improved and how it could be made more easily assessable. These recommendations would be taken into account, but participants were also reminded that drugs policy was ultimately made by Member States.

Action Plan progress review (Maurice Galla, DG JLS)

Both the EU Drugs Strategy and the Action Plan have two major pillars: drug demand reduction (includes prevention, treatment and rehabilitation) and drug supply reduction (law enforcement efforts). There are also cross-cutting themes such as international cooperation, information, research and evaluation. Progress reviews are being carried out every year to keep information up to date and to ensure that the Action Plan remains a dynamic policy instrument. An evaluation of the Action Plan is due in 2008. Civil society can play an important role in telling both the Commission and Member State

governments how successful the Drug Strategy and the Action Plan have been.

Broad conclusions of the progress review include the following:

Drugs policies are converging across the EU, with Member States learning from each other, while at the same time retaining national models and perspectives.

The evidence-based approach of the Action Plan helps the Commission identify areas in need of improvement.

A key challenge, and where civil society can be of help, is how to go from objectives and action to real outcomes.

Indicators need revisiting.

Programme on Drug Prevention and Information (Caroline Hager, DG JLS)

The Drug Prevention and Information Programme 2007-2013 was adopted on 25 September 2007 and published in the EC Official Journal on 3 October 2007. The duration of the programme is seven years (2007-2013), with a total budget of €21.35 million. The thematic priorities derive from the legal basis establishing the programme and also the EU Action Plan on Drugs 2005-2008. The Commission is aware that this is a new programme, and is setting very broad priorities for the first two years of the programme to attract a wide range of applications in the field of drug prevention and information. Once the Commission has gained more experience with the programme and the response from applicants, it can identify the needs of the target groups better and narrow down the priorities.

The Drug Prevention and Information Programme is very keen on the role of civil society; one of its specific objectives is to involve civil society in the implementation and development of the European Union's Drugs Strategy and the Action Plan. The role of civil society is extremely important in building closer links with networks and developing innovative approaches that can be funded by the Programme.

Recommendation on Drugs and Prison (Natacha Grenier, DG SANCO)

Objective 13 of the Action Plan calls on Member States to develop activities on prevention, harm reduction, treatment and reintegration services for drug addicts in prison. In addition, it calls on the Commission to come up with a proposal for a Council Recommendation on drugs and prison.

The Commission has tasked an external contractor with writing a report on the current situation; defining the problem of drugs and prison and determining what the specific objectives of the future recommendation could be. These include encouraging Member States to prevent the use of drugs in prison and facilitate access to treatment; to increase access to harm reduction and reintegration services; and to monitor and analyse drug use in prison.

An ad-hoc expert meeting was held in Luxembourg on 22 October to exchange views on the possible structure and content of the proposal. Also, a first exchange of views with representatives of civil society was held on 23 April with the Civil Society Forum on HIV/AIDS, organised by DG SANCO. Participants at the Civil Society Forum on Drugs were invited to discuss the conclusions arising from these two meetings and to exchange their experiences in the field.

Q&A session on the Programme on Drug Prevention and Information

A question and answer session was held on the Drug Prevention and Information Programme.

Third countries

Question: One of the thematic priorities of the 2007 Work Programme is the exchange of experience, transfer of skills and best practice in the field of drug demand reduction, including the reduction of drug-related harms, with third countries along the main trafficking routes. Does this refer only to third countries in the European region or does it include countries in Caucasian and Central Asia?

Answer: Organisations from third countries can participate in projects, but activities carried out in these countries cannot be funded by the EC. However, the Commission recognises that these organisations should be able to participate in any meetings, seminars etc. with their project partners in EU countries which are necessary for successful project implementation, so it will allow travel costs and per diems for associate partners attending such meetings. Any such organisation may take full advantage of the cooperation at transnational level and benefit from the results.

Role of civil society

Question: What is expected of civil society? In the Action Plan, responsibility is largely assigned to the Commission, Member States, or agencies such as the EMCDDA. Civil society can provide ideas, but how will they be given tangible form?

Answer: While delays made it impossible to consult civil society in the preparation of the 2007 and 2008 programmes, the Commission would welcome proposals from civil society in the preparatory work for the 2009 programme. Representatives of civil society are invited to send their views on what the future priorities of the Programme should be, given they are the primary users and beneficiaries. However, the Commission has made it clear that this process would be informal rather than formal as the Programme has a legal basis which must be taken into account, including a Programme Committee made up of Member States representatives and the Commission.

Action Plan evaluation

Question: One of the possibilities offered through the Programme is funding for activities which feed into the evaluation of the current Action Plan and to the development of the next one. One of the participants expressed some concern with regard to deadlines. Anyone requiring funding for Action Plan evaluation work will not know whether funding will be forthcoming until the deadline for submitting the evaluation contribution has passed.

Answer: The Commission replied that this is true, and an unfortunate result of the aforementioned delays. However, the Programme covers a lot of other activities as well, not only Action Plan evaluation.

Project level

Question: At what level should the projects be carried out: local, regional, national or European?

Answer: The Commission is looking for input on an operational, grassroots level, but one of the award criteria for Action Grants is that projects should have a European dimension which is consistent with the geographical scope of the project in terms of partners, participants and target group, or of added value at European level. The Commission is aware that, for now, the priorities are very broad and it is recommended that applicants try and fit the Commission’s criteria around their own needs.

Budget issues

Question: What is the breakdown of the 2007 budget?

Answer: The types of action to be financed by the programme for 2007 are:

specific actions initiated by the Commission through tender contracts (€750 000)

specific transnational projects of Community interest involving at least two applicant organisations based in two different Member States, or at least one applicant in one Member State and a partner in another state which may either be an acceding or a candidate country. (Action Grants) (€2.25 million) For 2007 there will be no operational support for non-governmental organisations working in the area of drugs due to the late adoption of the programme, and given that Financial Regulation 112, Par.2. states: "An operating grant shall be awarded within six months after the start of the beneficiary's budgetary year. Costs eligible for financing may neither have been incurred before the grant application was lodged nor before the start of the beneficiary's budgetary year." The Commission assured the participants that after the adoption of the 2008 Work Programme there will be a Call for Proposals for Operating Grants.

Question: What is the difference between Action Grants and Operating Grants?

Answer: An Operating Grant is broader based than a grant for an action: its purpose is to provide financial support for the existence and functioning of a body over a period that is equivalent to its accounting period to enable it to carry out a set of activities. An Action Grant helps to co-finance a one-off activity over a given period which has a budget that is specific to that action irrespective of the body's other activities. Public health programme

Question: Is there any collaboration to avoid overlap between this programme and the Public Health Programme?

Answer: There has been close collaboration between the two DGs in preparation of the 2007 Work Programme. Although the two programmes can complement each other, a major difference is that the Drug Prevention and Information programme has drugs as its sole focus. The Public Health Programme, on the other hand, considers drugs along with other health determinants. The Drug Prevention and Information Programme is designed to fund smaller networks, where as the Public Health Programme finances several larger networks.

Funding projects

Question: A certain portion of the funding for projects must be raised by the organisation itself, before any grants can come from the Commission. What is the percentage that must be provided as a cash contribution, be it from the applicant organisation or its partners?

Answer: The Commission’s contribution towards a single project cannot be less than € 75 000 and there is no maximum limit. The Community’s financial contribution may not exceed 80% of the total direct eligible costs of the action. A minimum of 20 % of the total eligible costs must therefore be provided as a cash contribution, either from the applicant organisation and/or partners, or from another donor source. Evidence should be provided by the applicants that the funding is secured on the date of the application.

Working Group on Drugs in Prison

The ‘security culture’ of prison systems

The first point reported by the group focused on the fact that prisons generally fall under the responsibility of Member States’ departments of justice and on how the justice and security culture of prison systems is different from what was referred to as a health and care culture. Although this presents a number of challenges, the group felt that these two cultures can be brought together. However, any change of culture requires the support of departments of justice:

One example of how this can be supported is through training for staff.

Prison officers in particular are seen as having a key role and need to see the value of an approach involving treatment and healthcare.

Opportunities for training need to be made available.

Data protection was also identified as a particular issue. Information not being shared for security reasons can sometimes pose problems for collaboration.

One possible solution could be the development of protocols, as has been done with medical information and how it can be shared.

Level of service

A second point was that services within prisons should be equivalent to those available in the outside community:

Inmates should have access to the same level of services, and these services should be made as attractive as possible.

There needs to be a common standard across European countries as standards differ not only between countries, but also between prisons.

Any such standard must be underpinned by respect for human rights, as prevention, treatment and rehabilitation can only work when delivered in a prison environment where such a regime is in place.

Alternatives to prison

There is also a need for alternatives to prison, but a detailed discussion on this was outside the scope of this workshop. A related issue is overcrowding, which makes both prevention and treatment difficult.


Evidence shows that release from prison is a time of major risk of overdose. As overdosing also happens within prison, it was proposed that prison staff should be given training, e.g. in the use of Naloxone, which is an effective way of dealing with an overdose.


Another major problem area concerns Hepatitis-C, which is believed to affect significant portions of prison populations. Prisons, it was suggested, do not only provide an important opportunity for spreading information and raising awareness, but are also suitable places to commence treatment.

Links with the outside community

There was also a discussion on the need to link services within prison to services in the outside community:

Examples from various countries include a key worker who is in contact with inmates both when they are in prison and when they come out, and who can play the role of linking the person into housing and employment services.

In other countries there are more structured programmes in place where people come together in groups.

Regardless of what form this takes, it was felt that this support and advocacy role was crucial.

It was recognised that probation services are looking to take on this role, but also that they may currently be seen as too much part of the prison system and so not have the level of trust among prisoners that they need to carry out this role.

Need for data

Finally, the need for more data on drug use in prisons was discussed:

A large proportion of prisoners are using drugs, but more detailed information is necessary both on the nature and extent of such use.

Gathering such data across European countries would also be useful for both prevention and treatment, in that it would help pinpoint the barriers to such measures, be they cultural or a resource issue.

Working Group on the Action Plan Progress Review

Following a general discussion, the working group was divided into two sub-groups to discuss specific objectives. As the group consisted mainly of organisations from the field of drug demand reduction and information, research & evaluation, both sub-groups focused on Objectives 1 to 17 of the EU Action Plan. One of the two sub-groups also pursued certain points from the general discussion, including the organisation and purpose of the Civil Society Forum. As a result, this report is divided into two sections.

The first reports on the general discussion carried out by the working group as whole, and the general comments made by one sub-group. The second summarises the discussion on specific objectives for coordination (1-6) and for demand reduction (7-17). Some overlap between the two sections is inevitable, as many of the general comments also apply to specific objectives.

General discussion

Overall, the discussion in the working group showed that despite ideological differences between Members of the Forum, there is common ground for debate. Shared concerns range from the role and position of Civil Society in the European debate on drugs, to service provision, innovation and quality assurance.


Despite differing views on the drugs problem and solutions to it, a general concern emanating from the discussions was whether the Action Plan was being implemented properly. In other words, do Member States really do what they are asked to do, and do they report correctly on what they are doing? One participant suggested a focus on what happens between the central and local levels. Money spent by the central government of a Member State may not always give an accurate measure of what is being spent operationally at local level.

Role of civil society

Another general point was that the role of civil society at the Member State-level needs to be clarified. Member States should provide links with civil society to make it possible to achieve action plan objectives. Cooperation should be regular, permanent and structured. It was suggested that the next Action Plan could, for example, include more concrete suggestions on how civil society might be consulted by Member State governments.

New patterns

There was a common understanding among participants that the scope of treatment needs to be widened from the current focus to include new patterns of drug use. This includes not only new types of drugs, but also new user groups. New treatment options should also be developed, e.g. for cocaine dependence, as medically assisted treatment options are limited for cocaine users. In general, it was felt that prevention and treatment should reflect the specific needs of drug users and other groups involved.

There is also generally a focus on disadvantaged groups, marginalization and social exclusion. However, problems are spreading to other groups as well and it was felt that a special approach is often needed for these groups.

A wider issue with regard to new and changing patterns is how well the structure of the Action Plan and drugs policy in general follows these trends. It was recognized that the boundaries between legal and illegal drugs are becoming less clear and that many problems are interrelated as a result, for example, of poly-drug use. The need to pay more attention to interactions between licit and illicit drugs, and with other areas of public health, was considered important. Another participant noted that although the Action Plan is divided into sections (prevention, harm reduction, etc.), at grassroots level, plans are often integrated across these areas, for example bringing together street-dealing with targeted prevention and social integration activities aimed at specific groups of young people.

Accessibility and coverage

Accessibility and coverage is another major issue. Services may be available, but the point was made that this does not necessarily mean that they are accessible to all groups. Hidden populations, e.g. illegal immigrants and sex workers, may not get enough attention in the Action Plan. The availability and accessibility of services to young people is often hampered by a lack of treatment places, resulting in waiting lists. In the field of prevention, more needs to be done to roll out effective prevention programmes to larger groups of beneficiaries.


Civil society has an important part to play in assessing the quality of programmes and services. Participants noted that civil society can contribute to evaluation from a grassroots level. Overall, it was recognised that for future drug policy, the need to incorporate evaluation and quality control as key instruments for making drug demand reduction action more effective, needs to be stressed. Some participants suggested that more qualitative indicators are needed to evaluate the Action Plan.

There was some concern in the group that innovation is missing from the Action Plan, and some participants felt there was no room for experimentation. Given the evidence based approach favored by the Commission, this could be a serious issue. New and innovative programmes may not have had enough time to generate evidence, and participants argued that the Action Plan should allow more room for innovation.


There are a number of terms in the Action Plan that will need clearer definition. Currently, Member States tend to have varying definitions. For example, terms such as treatment coverage, accessibility, evidence-based interventions, evidence-based policies and/or early detection are defined differently across Member States.

Specific objectives

Objectives 1-6, coordination

The involvement and role of civil society needs to be acknowledged, particularly at Member State level. While Objective 3 does call on Member States to give civil society a chance to express its opinion, a more structured and permanent mechanism for involving civil society would be beneficial.

Objectives 7-17, demand reduction

Objective 7 - improved coverage of, access to and effectiveness of drug demand reduction measures and programmes, better evaluation of these programmes and improved dissemination of evaluated best practices. A key issue discussed was the need for clearly defined terms. In particular with regard to evaluation, it is important that the Commission, Member States and civil society have a common language.

A second suggestion was to encourage Member States to fund programmes only if they have been evaluated with the necessary scientific rigour. An example was given from the United States, where only properly evaluated programmes can receive public money. Evaluation should be properly resourced. However, participants also expressed concern that putting excessively stringent requirements on funding could risk stifling new and innovative work at the grassroots level.

Objective 8 - improved access to and effectiveness of prevention programmes, including those in school-based drug prevention and for specific groups. More attention should be paid to formulating effective programmes, as there are many programmes around that do not work. At Member State level, the focus should be on implementation. Participants noted the importance of learning from best practices and from what has worked in other countries.

Objective 10 - improvement of methods for early detection of risk factors and early intervention. A common approach and terminology are needed. Early detection and intervention need to be integrated with other policies. Getting the leisure industry involved in prevention activities and funding might be worth considering, not least in order to reach young people.

As in other areas, there is a need to know more about what works. Indicators for this objective in the Action Plan should be adjusted to allow for the time-lag between the moment when problem drug use occurs and the moment when (young) people enter into treatment. A European-level perspective in identifying common risk factors acrossnations would be of benefit to the prevention and treatment community.

Objective 11 - ensure availability of and access to targeted and diversified programmes for treatment and rehabilitation. The general point that treatment options must be diversified to properly address clients' needs and to follow actual patterns of drug use was emphasised. Information about services must be available to all groups – for example those without access to the internet. Civil society can play a role in building links between groups and treatment. Drug users with mental disorders tend to fall between two stools. Drug services reject them because of their mental disorders, and mental health care rejects them because of drug usage. More cooperation is needed, and this aspect could be mentioned in the discussion on cooperation.

Objective 14 - prevention of health risks related to drug use. Although much of the information in the report on this objective was considered comprehensive, it was pointed out that hospitals, in particular emergency units, might be encouraged to improve their registration and reporting of drug-related incidents. It was also felt necessary to diversify approaches so as to reduce potential harms resulting from the (mixed) use of other substances and/ or in specific settings. .

Objective 17 - reduction of drug-related deaths. Again, increased focus was needed on new types of drug use and on possible risks in drug use that may cause drug-related deaths.

Form and Future of the Forum

As the discussion on the Action Plan progress review drew to a close, a more general discussion began to emerge:

Part of this concerned practical matters such as how to establish closer links with the Public Health Forum organised by DG SANCO. A suggestion was made to exchange observers between the two fora.

Another suggestion was to coordinate the Forum’s future work more closely with that of the EU Council's "Horizontal" Drugs Group. However, the lion’s share of this general discussion was taken up by a debate on the role and future of the Civil Society Forum, particularly the purpose and content of a follow-up meeting:

There seemed to be a general consensus, for example, that it had not been possible to comment properly on the Action Plan progress review, due to the fact that the document was only available a few days before the meeting.

Also, even where substantive discussion on the Action Plan had taken place, the views expressed by participants might not necessarily be representative of their respective networks, as there had been little or no time for consultation. For this reason, a new meeting was proposed, to give participants more time to prepare. Mr Edwards suggested that this should ideally take place within the coming three months; he said he would do his best to arrange it – but at the same time made it clear that no promises could be made as to the timing. Although it was generally recognised that the agenda for a second meeting would need to be set well in advance, there was considerable disagreement over what that agenda should be.

Two general positions emerged:

Some participants seemed broadly comfortable with the Forum accepting the relatively limited task of providing the Commission with practical and operational information as part of the process of evaluating the current Action Plan and developing the next.

Others felt that more fundamental questions regarding the Forum required attention. Those arguing for a more limited role suggested that the Forum ought to work on the Action Plan from a pragmatic perspective by giving practical input. For example, one participant was felt that the focus of the Forum should be aligned with the Action Plan, noting that the role of the Forum and the constituent organisations was to feed in to the Commission’s work. This would not necessarily exclude the possibility of the Forum at a later stage discussing EU drugs strategy as a whole, even if the current focus would be to work within the confines of the Action Plan. This view appeared to be in line with the expectations held by the Commission:

It was pointed out that the best way for organisations to influence the policy process was through the Action Plan evaluation exercise.

This was because at present, the Commission draws on sources mainly provided by national governments.

Civil society can make a difference by making additional information known to the Commission, thus adding to the evaluation of the Action Plan and, by extension, to the work of developing the next Plan.

This is the main raison d'ĂȘtre of the Forum. The main point of having civil society comment on the current Action Plan is to give the Commission an idea of the direction in which civil society wants the new Action Plan to go.

In conclusion, the agenda for the next meeting would seem to be fairly clear, namely to look at the current Action Plan with a view to providing input for the next one. This means that the work can start immediately with civil society preparing their input, which can be sent to the Commission and thus be of use even if the next meeting does not come about as planned, e.g. for logistical reasons. There is no need to wait for the Commission to distribute an agenda before this work can commence.


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