Annual Meeting of CSFD

CSFD member organizations met in Brussels, once again doing their bit to address priority issues and transform drug policy

CSFD meeting

Dianova representative, Ms Lucia Goberna was among the attendees, as Dianova has been a member of the Forum since 2013, actively contributing to the international policy and emerging issues working groups – Image: CSFD members, all rights reserved

As every year, the members of the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs (CSFD) met on 14-15 November 2023 in Brussels (Belgium) to discuss some of the priority issues of concern in drug policy, whether in Europe and at the international level.

Representatives of the some 43 civil society organizations working in the addiction field that make up the CSFD discussed various issues including the mental health of people who use drugs (PWUD), the rise of fentanyl use in Europe, the humanitarian situation in Palestine, the situation of PWUDs in prison, the future of the European Drugs Agency or the framework of decriminalization policies, among others.

The members of the Forum met with representatives of various European institutions such as the European Commission and the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs (HDG), as well as representatives of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the European External Action Service.

For its members, the aim of the Forum meeting was on the one hand to present the results of last year’s work and to organize and coordinate themselves in order to determine on what issues they should focus in 2024 and how to do it. The meeting represented a unique opportunity to bring the whole group for an in-person meeting, as the rest of the year is dedicated to online meetings organized within the pre-established working groups, i.e. on EU policy, international, national, and emerging issues. Among the topics discussed, the following can be highlighted:

Improving policies and services for people with comorbidity

The Spanish Presidency of the Council of the EU decided to put the issue of mental health among PWUDs as one of its agenda’s top priorities. To this end, Council Conclusions are being prepared in order to determine the specific issues of concern and outline actions to be taken and objectives to be achieved. It should be noted that the Horizontal Working Party on Drugs requested the position of the CSFD on this specific issue to contribute to its deliberations.

In July 2023, the CSFD participated in a session of the HDG to present its recommendations regarding comorbidity. In addition, a written contribution dedicated to “People who use drugs and mental health” was subsequently prepared. Dianova’s representative, Lucia Goberna, was in charge of presenting the report to the representatives of the European Union – in this regard, we would like to extend our appreciation to the Spanish Presidency which allowed civil society organizations to be involved in this important issue.

  • People who use drugs and mental health – access contribution in: EN ES FR

These recommendations included the need to: develop additional, community-based outpatient services; ensure that mental health and addiction services are provided at the levels of primary care, as well as in treatment, harm reduction, and reintegration programmes; avoid the risk of overmedicalization; implement treatment approaches based on biopsychosocial models; increase support for reintegration programmes; address the deteriorating mental health situation of young people as a priority; invest in services, research and innovation; and review curricula for mental health and drug dependence specialties to ensure the inclusion of intersectional and gender-based approaches.

Position statement before the High Level Segment of the CND

In March 2024, the High Level Segment of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) will be in charge of reviewing progress made towards the realization of the international drug policy commitments set out in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration (the final review will take place in 2029). It is therefore a crucial moment for international drug policy, especially given the current situation, with serious drug-related public health risks across the world, human rights violations being committed in the name of drug policy, increases in consumption and trafficking of certain substances, and the impact of drug-related organized crime, among many other dramatically worrying situations.

As part of its contribution to this end, the prepared and presented a document including some of the key aspects to be included in the negotiations, ranging from putting more focus on public health and human rights perspectives, aligning with the 2030 agenda, integrating civil society and affected communities in the review process, and maintaining coherence within the UN system itself.

The humanitarian situation in Palestine

As being made up of civil society organizations, the CSFD is concerned about the situation in Israel and Palestine. We believe that it is crucial to have as much information as possible to evaluate the impact of the war on the drug using population, addiction services, and the accessibility of essential medicines. The EU has always been vocal about these issues (in Ukraine for example), despite their falling within the purview of the international drug control system.

The CSFD has been collecting information on the situation on the ground from NGOs working in the region, including information on drug-related public health risks in Palestine. At the same time, the Forum examined the situation in relation to relevant international standards and commitments. As a result, a series of recommendations have been made.

Among others, the CSFD urges the European Union to defend the respect of human rights and international commitments in international fora in an objective, bold and consistent manner.

In addition, the EU should utilize its position at the CND to call for a ceasefire and to ensure that humanitarian aid is provided to those most affected by the conflict, including essential medication to alleviate pain, and ensuring the continuation of addiction services. The CSFD also recommends that the situation of PWUDs and addiction services be evaluated and monitored, while paying special attention to the situation of children who constitute nearly half the population of Gaza.

The CSFD will continue to update the report, so the work is ongoing. If you have additional information to contribute in this regard, please write to dianova@dianova.org.

Dianova would like to express our condolences for the death of the president of the Palestinian NGO Green Crescent for Addiction Prevention, Dr. Omar Fraouneh and 13 members of his family who died as a result of the bombings. This is one the organizations we are in contact with to get first-hand information for the CSFD report, and with which we work in such platforms as the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC).

It was a meeting where relevant issues were discussed and where it became obvious that the reality of drug policies requires a clear, balanced and efficient intervention and perspective on the part of the EU and all the actors involved, including civil society organizations. We must be up to the current problems and future challenges. As Dianova’s motto states, together, farther.