EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs Update: New 3-year term begins with European Commission highlighting their commitment to drug issues

EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs Update: New 3-year term begins with European Commission highlighting their commitment to drug issues

A new term of the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs (2015-2018). EURAD's Secretary General Fay Watson will act as Vice-Chair during this period.

The Civil Society Forum, an expert group of the European Commission, held its first annual meeting this year. The Forum represents a diverse group of NGOs working across Europe in various fields, mostly in the domain of drug demand reduction.

Reflecting on the previous two years, the forum has provided advice for the EU institutions and member states on several drug-policy-related issues, including the impact of the financial crisis on services, new psychoactive substances, quality standards within demand reduction as well as preparations for the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, which will be held in New York in April, 2016.

During the meeting several weeks ago held in Brussels, the Forum elected a new core group for the period 2015-2018, where it was announced that Fay Watson, Secretary of EURAD, will remain Vice-Chair.

Meanwhile, four working groups have been established:

1) Working Group on minimum quality standards for demand reduction (a topic on which the previous Forum produced a paper with a set of recommendations, which were reflected in the EU Council’s conclusions). The 20 minimum standards were adopted by the EU this year, to help bridge the gap between science and practice, and guide service providers and policy makers alike on how to implement effective interventions. This technical tool provides an opportunity to measure the quality of services and to design new, effective programs. The working group hopes to monitor the practical implementation of these standards in member states.

2) Working Group on Civil society engagement at the national level – to involve civil society in decision-making in member states. The working group will conduct a survey and produce a paper, with a set of recommendations for best practice.

3) Working Group on Civil society input in the mid-term evaluation of the Drug Strategy (2013-2020) and its Action Plan (2013-16), as well as preparation of the new Action Plan on Drugs (2017-2020). The EU Commission is currently undertaking an exercise, with the help of an external evaluator, to assess the existing drug strategy and action plan. This process was outlined in a roadmap published in July, which anticipates a meeting between the external evaluator and the Forum. In 2012, the Forum produced a paper, with recommendations which were partly reflected in the current Action Plan. 

4) Working Group on communication with the institutions of the EU and the UN During the meeting, NGOs discussed what recommendations they can propose to the EU, regarding its position paper on UNGASS, to be accepted by the HDG next month. The recommendations followed the five thematic areas of UNGASS: drugs and health, drugs and crime, drugs and human rights & communities, new challenges (new psychoactive substances) and development (problems in producer countries).

During the meeting, Floriana Sipala, Head of the European Commission's anti-drug department stated that "the commission remains fully committed to the full spectrum of the EU Drugs Strategy".