A Review of Drug Policy Advocacy Organizations in Europe

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Civil society

218 drug policy advocacy organizations are active in Europe

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is one of the EU's decentralized agencies. Its role is to provide a factual overview of European drug problems and a solid evidence base to support debates. This information provides policy makers with the data they need for drawing up informed drug policies and strategies. It also helps practitioners identify best practice and new areas of research.

Among other elements explored recently by EMCDDA was the engagement of civil society in drug policy advocay in Europe – this aspect is especially relevant because civil society organizations have an increasing access to the policy-making process due to their integration in formal debates as well as an increased ease of communication and information dissemination. The result has been an expansion of the influence of civil society as a whole.

The EMCDDA defines advocacy as developing activities and actions with the intention of influencing decision-makers and with the aim of developing, establishing or changing policies and practices and of establishing and sustaining programs and services.

The European Monitoring center on drugs has currently identified 218 active drug policy advocacy organizations, most of which engaging at a national level, whereas only 14% work at the european or international levels. 

As regards the objectives pursued by these organizations, various categories have been observed. On the one hand, the majority of organizations aim to improve practice development and delivery through perspectives such as use reduction and harm reduction. On the other hand, another group of organizations focus on achieving legislative reform (prohibition vs liberalization).

Half of the organizations advocate on behalf of drug users (among which 21% advocate for cannabis users specifically). The remaining organizations advocate for the benefit of society as a whole. 

As of the tools utilized to influence political debates and to provide information, those used most commonly are awareness raising campaigns, with 82% of the organizations engaged in such activities. More than half of these advocacy organizations work to have an impact at the EU or the United Nations through their participation within international forums and policy-making spaces.  As regards information dissemination, most organizations rely on semiars and conferences, publication of research studies and other evidence-based materials.  In addition, it is worth mentioning that only 4% of organizations use legal advocacy to promote human rights-based approaches to drug policy. 

Dianova International was included as one of these 218 organizations and categorized as an organization focusing on use reduction at the European and International levels.  

Drug Policy Advocacy Organizations in Europe. Read complete paper by EMCDDA