Founded in 1998, Dianova is celebrating its 25th anniversary. 25 years of commitment to people and communities in vulnerable situations in 19 countries on four continents. However, Dianova’s origins go back much further, to the 1970s…

From the opening of the first reception centre in France to the international network we know today, the history of our organization spans almost five decades.

The 1970s


After 40 years of unprecedented economic expansion the engine of economical progress has begun to slow down while increasing discrepancies occur between real progress and sociocultural evolution. In many countries, the youth rebel – against the Establishment and the Vietnam War, and for civil rights, for women’s rights and for freedom of behavior. Drugs become the symbols of protest and freedom, leading to explosive drug use worldwide.

  • 1974, the opening of “La Boere”, in France – an alternative community open to all, based on the Summerhill School education model and classless management practices. Foundation of the association “Le Patriarche”.
  • Invention of the Patriarch methodology, based on a drug-free and substitute-free approach to withdrawal, a re-defining of social ties and the supervision of new-comers by “those who have experienced the same problem” – their peers. The Patriarch’s motto: “help, to be helped”.
  • Instant success: the Patriarch brings along a concrete, efficient response while the traditional establishment still relies on repressive measures and individual, psychiatry-based treatment approaches.

The 1980s


Substance use disorders become a major public health issue. Healthcare responses get better organized in most countries. However, around the year 1985, hepatitis and AIDS-related concerns totally disrupt healthcare policies and mentalities.

  • The Patriarch opens a multitude of centers in Europe and the Americas. By the time the decade comes to an end, the organization has more than 5,000 residents in 210 centers located in 17 countries.
  • In 1985 the AIDS pandemic breaks out. By 1989 half of new residents are HIV-positive. The Patriarch manages to provide those with AIDS or HIV-positive with an organized response based on “Health Spaces”, use of clinical trials and destigmatizing the condition.

The 90s


Substances and consumption patterns become more diversified and available. Needs change. Social and healthcare responses have to adjust: harm-reduction programmes, specialized therapeutic communities, professionalization of resources.

  • The Patriarch is unable to meet the new challenges for the treatment of substance use disorders.
  • Critics become widespread, notably aiming at the lack of professional personnel.
  • In the organization, many deplore the distortion of the Patriarch’s original purpose – helping those suffering from substance use disorders – and its growing isolation. This internal trend grows and becomes an opposition movement   In February 1998, after an internal consultation by concerned Dianova personnel, the association’s founder and director is removed from office.
  • The organization begins a process of drastic, fundamental overhaul: reduction of the number of facilities, delineation of a therapeutic program, professionalization of services and personnel, standardization and openness of management practices.



Cocaine use spreads rapidly throughout most western countries, while ecstasy use, originating among “techno rave” groups in the UK and the US, expands elsewhere, reaching out to a middle-class, professional public.

  • The organization adopts the corporate name, Dianova, in order to emphasize its renewal. Local organizations become separate, independent members.
  • Local organizations elect a transition committee, the objectives of which are to safeguard the cohesiveness of the member organizations, to support local executive direction and develop a fully-shared plan for the future.
  • After a broad consultative and carefully thought-out deliberation, the basic principles of Dianova are written. Member organizations are now united by a common name, mission, values, policies and principles – acknowledged and shared by all. Foundation of the Dianova network.
  • The project is on its way: it will develop based on four main principles: openness, quality of service, professionalization and the development of ties with other networks – on a local, national and international basis.
  • End of 2000, Dianova members and all of their employees are united by a contractual relationship.

21st Century


Multiple drug use and dual diagnosis – co-occurring mental illness and problematic drug use – increase. At the same time, the perception of addiction is changing: it now includes addiction to legal drugs, as well as behavioural addictions.

  • Dianova pursues a process of modernization and adapts its services to new trends. In December 2002, the organization hosts its first conference to promote exchanges of best practices in the field of addiction treatment.
  • Another stage of the organization’s development is exemplified by the explicit recognition of Dianova’s increasing variety of services prescribed by a new mission statement. Dianova is now committed not only to helping those suffering from addiction, but more broadly to helping people become self-reliant and achieve social progress.
  • In 2007, Dianova International is granted special consultative status to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, which brings about new opportunities for cooperation with other NGO’s at the local, national and international levels.
  • In November 2008, the Dianova Network celebrates its 10-year anniversary in Madrid. All facilities are officially integrated in local networks; more than 150 local health care agreements have been signed, and all Dianova personnel already consist of skilled and experienced professionals.

The 2010s














The NGOs continue to adapt to meet the demands of international organizations. At the same time, they increase their advocacy efforts to increase the impact of their interventions and ensure that good practices are transformed into sustainable policies.

  • Since obtaining special consultative status with ECOSOC, Dianova has been working to develop links with international organizations and other NGOs. These activities have a twofold objective: to raise awareness of the work of Dianova and its members and to carry out advocacy actions in various fields.
  • 2010: Publication of Dianova’s International Manifesto, a document that reflects Dianova’s commitment and positioning in various areas of interest to the organization and its members. The document becomes a reference tool for advocacy work – updated in 2020.
  • In order to increase its effectiveness and influence, Dianova expands its network and welcomes new members according to criteria of similarity of commitment and transparency. All Dianova International associate members are registered with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) or have consultative status with ECOSOC.
  • Network members diversify their activities to better respond to the specific needs of individuals, especially women who use drugs. At the same time, Dianova International collaborates with several organizations that defend women’s rights.
  • Since 2013, Dianova International and its members have participated annually in the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, making written and oral statements and organizing several side events throughout the session.
  • In 2015, Dianova International actively participates in the consultations in preparation for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016) scheduled for the following year – to this end, Dianova co-organizes the Drug Policy Consultation Forum at the European Parliament on 23 September.
  • After UNGASS 2016, Dianova clarifies and strengthens its advocacy work: promoting addiction management from a public health perspective; specific needs of women; addressing the dual issue of addiction and mental health problems; decriminalization of drug use.
  • In 2017, Dianova begins to evaluate its activities in relation to their impact on the 17 goals and 169 targets defined by the United Nations in the framework of the 2030 Agenda. The aim is to report on the network’s action within a common framework and criteria and to highlight its contribution to the SDGs.

The 2020s






In 2020, COVID-19 hits billions of people. Authorities rightly support health services. However, most addiction services must close their operations. Thousands of vulnerable people are suffering the consequences.

  • Like thousands of businesses and associations around the world, the Dianova network’s drop-in centres must close their doors for several months, threatening their economic viability.
  • In addition to supporting its members, Dianova International launches a campaign to advocate that substance use and other addictive disorders are a public health problem and that addiction services should therefore be considered essential.
  • In 2023, Dianova International is recognized by three international organizations (ECOSOC, OAS, UNESCO), and affiliated to several networks, platforms or organizations active in the field of addiction (European Civil Society Forum, VNGOC, WFTC, RIOD), development of NGO networks (NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee, CoNGO, NGO Major Group), Gender Equality (NGO CSW New York) and Mental Health (NGO CMH).