19th Ibero-American Seminar on Drugs and Cooperation

The seminar organized by the Ibero-American Network of NGOs working in the fields of Drugs and Other Addictions (RIOD) took place between 8 and 10 May 2017 in San José, Costa Rica

Opening remarks during RIOD Seminar

The RIOD is an organization that groups 43 Ibero-American NGOs from 14 different countries to work in the field of drugs with regards to prevention, treatment, insertion, research and advocacy. Since 1999, RIOD has been organizing an annual international seminar focusing on issues related to drugs and addiction. It is a very important and significant meeting with an international perspective and it is attended by professionals and experts from the sector.

In 2017, the theme chosen for the meeting was “Local Solutions for a Global Phenomenon” in order to  dig deeper into the analysis and search for different solutions, so that an impact can be made on the complex global phenomenon of addictions on a local level, which is the one closest to people and their communities. Forty-two organizations belonging to the RIOD participated in the meeting, along with several external attendees from Costa Rican associations. All of the contributions from the member organizations and some non-members came together to form a great mosaic. Dianova Spain was represented by the psychiatrist Miguel Morales Galicia.

The first day was an intense day. Olger Bogantes and Luis Eduardo Sandí opened the event with a speech on the situation in Costa Rica, where recreational consumption predominates and interventions “arrive too late” (when the person is already addicted). They were followed by a debate about the positions held by different countries in UNGASS 2016, and how they could confront the challenges they faced today. Constanza Sánchez described the changes that are taking place in drug-producing countries, how products are distributed, routes for commercialization, and how violence is not inherent to trafficking, but depends on other factors. Another aspect to emphasize is that drug policies have to be adapted to the local context in which they will be applied, because otherwise they may even make matters worse.

RIOD seminar

The “Public Health Approach” session, with the presence of Javier Sagredo, Josep Rovira, Mauricio Varags and Luis E. Sandí, was also aimed at drug policies in countries, and how they could be improved by changing approaches, stakeholders, issues and self-evaluation methods. The need to foster a person-centred approach with human rights in order to reduce the stigma associated with drug abuse, and also the importance of harm-reduction-based measures, had a significant part. A representative of the RIOD Working Groups was usually present at each round table session and they could then share the conclusions reached by their group.

Another round of presentations focused on the pathologies associated with drug abuse, which are primarily mental disorders on the one hand and infectious diseases on the other. Luis Alfonzo Bello, Juan José Fernández and Sebastián Rodríguez all talked about this dual pathology and the emphasis was placed on how this is a huge problem, but one that tends to remain in no man’s land, and that it is very important to find more effective models of approach which include civil society. Dr Sandí also discussed the subject in his presentation.


At the “Empowerment and Restorative Justice” session, Jorge Ollero, Raúl F. Tovar, Jorge A. Salazar, Isabel Gámez and Nelson Ayala explained how “restorative justice” comes about and what “restorative justice” entails, where it has been applied and what effects it is having when it comes to generating change in people who have committed a crime. They then described various projects that applied the foundations of this model in different areas, so that they could share their experiences and results. These were all very different (one is a program with children in Claret Households, another with inmates and another about treatment with judicial supervision).

To conclude the seminar, the final session was “Evidence-Based Community Intervention Programs” (Domingo Comas, Silverio Espinal, Gloria Bodnar and Laura Chacón) with a debate about how a lot of “scientific proof” regarding drug policies is biased. Domingo Comas had already mentioned some of this in his presentation of experiences for good practices, about the crisis of evidence-based medicine and encouraged everybody to implement an evaluation system that makes it possible to determine the effectiveness of the practices. Several programmes were also presented where the results had been analyzed.

Dianova poster at the RIOD seminar

The last two round table sessions were “Drugs in the Context of Development Cooperation Instruments for Access to NGDOs” (Jesús Molina, Gerardo Lerma, Lucía Rodríguez, María Victoria Correa) and “Challenges in RIOD: Gender, Stigma and Prevention with Children and young people” (Raquel Cantos, Juan José Fernández, Marcelo R Choclín). In the first one, the speakers discussed how to be included in a country’s policies through development cooperation and through projects that contribute to those already in place in a complementary manner, and shared their practical experience.

The last round table session focused on the most disadvantaged people, especially women and children. It highlighted how to include gender policies and how they can influence outcomes, and how to include the fight against stigma in these populations. Much remains to be said and many ideas are needed to continue improving the quality of these measures.

Dianova presented two posters about two experiences for good practices, as a sign of their willingness to participate actively in the seminar and to improve its work.

Miguel Morales Galicia

Psychiatrist, Dianova Spain