About the process of building an inclusive frame of reference
On June 26, Dianova's "Institutional Positioning on Drug Policies and Addiction" was published and circulated among member organizations and other partners, as part of the Dianova network's contribution to the preparatory process for the UN Special Session on Drugs to be held next year.
On September 23rd, over 100 members of the EU parliament, researchers and NGO representatives gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss the forthcoming UNGASS. The debates were opened by Michal Boni, member of the EU parliament, who later on played a key role in ensuring friendly and democratic debates.
On behalf of Dianova International, Ms. Elena Goti, made a presentation focused on the process undertaken by the Dianova network member organizations to review their stance on drug policies and the addiction problem.
Dianova is a three-decade old network of grassroot NGOs; it operates in 11 countries of Europe and the Americas and develops initiatives and programs in the fields of education, community development and drug treatment and prevention. Dianova's primary objective is to help at-risk and vulnerable populations through activities and programs designed to promote personal self-reliance and social progress.
As Ms Goti explained it, the Dianova network has been active in drug treatment and rehabilitation services for over three decades. Nevertheless, from the drug culture of the 1970's when heroin use began to take hold, to nowadays' synthetic psychoactive substances, from peer-based, drug-free programs to a professional approach to treatment that may utilize substitution and harm reduction techniques, our intervention models have changed greatly in order to meet the needs and expectations of those concerned.
Evolution of our Official Corporate Stance
As a network of grassroot organizations, Dianova’s stance on drugs has evolved through a sometimes laborious process resulting from the integration of cultural and methodological differences in the countries where we operate.
A turning point occurred in 2012 after the decision of the Uruguayan government to regulate production, sale and use of cannabis, a decision which prompted the Dianova Network, upon demand from our colleagues from Uruguay and other Latin American countries, to engage an overall reflection on the evolution of drug policies. That decision concurred with the preparatory process of UNGASS 2016, which we felt demanded a balanced and inclusive engagement from civil society organizations, such as the Dianova network.
After a year-long process starting with a general brainstorming across the Dianova network and a broad consultation of collaborators, experts and researchers, an initial draft document was produced and submitted to the Dianova’s General Assembly member organizations for its endorsement which was done after some modifications.
The Positioning of Dianova
Dianova considers that the overall situation of substance abusers has developed positively in the countries where the organization operates. In the latter countries, the general public as well as administration services generally regard drug users as people in need of help and assistance. In addition, public health measures and instruments have been implemented to provide them with the assistance they need, including a diversity of treatment initiatives and programs (therapeutic communities, self-help groups, Minnesota programs, state-run facilities, etc.), opioid replacement therapies and other harm reduction methods.
These developments are in line with a necessary change in the paradigm of the international drug control regime. We believe it is essential to stop criminalizing drug users and focus on balanced and complementary public health approaches, based on proven methodologies. Some approaches to treatment and rehabilitation, such as professionalized therapeutic communities, are part of these methods.
Harm reduction policies are effective and inexpensive, but they cannot meet the needs of all addicts. Residential or outpatient rehabilitation programs are comparatively more expensive, but in the long term, they represent a profitable investment in terms of reducing health costs, crime and absenteeism at work, in particular. This is why we urge governments to implement a series of complementary approaches without favoring an approach over another.
Dianova's Institutional Positioning is the fruit of the ideas, opinions and expertise of the Dianova network's 466 employees and collaborators. It was never our goal to reach unanimous consensus on all issues; our efforts have rather been focused on building this common stance through a step-by-step process, while reckoning with the specific nature of each country where the Dianova network operates. In the end, the document contains various requisites, makes a few requests and leaves some elements open pending new information and developments.