Urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteurs: the Russian Federation

17 June 2020, Russian Civil Society Mechanism for Monitoring of Drug Policy Reforms, together with the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (Russia) and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association appealed to the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

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Terms of Reference for a consultant to develop a set of practices of delivering harm reduction and other services for people who use drugs in emergency situations

COVID-19 crisis clearly showed that flexibility of harm reduction services during crisis can prevent social isolation instead of social distancing of people who use drugs, even in places where harsh drug policy environment exists.

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Author: Eliza Kurcevič

In 2017, Lithuanian legislators decided that the laws related to the possession of psychoactive substances needed to be tightened. And by taking such a step, they turned the “war against drugs” into a “war against the people”. Why did it become a war against the people?

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Request for quotes/offers: Editing and proofreading of various types of documents in English/Russian languages

The purpose of this request for proposals is to select a consultant (s) who will provide services for editing and proofreading of various types of documents, reports and publications in English and in Russian language.

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Small grants to promote community-led research

As part of the Eurasian Regional Consortium’s project “Thinking outside the box: overcoming challenges in community advocacy for sustainable and high-quality HIV services” supported by the Robert Carr Fund for civil society networks (RCF) within Community-led monitoring of quality of services cycle EHRA announces a call for applications for national organizations who conducted community-led research on the quality of services for people who use drugs.

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Extended! EHRA is looking for a consultant to conduct the assessment of the fulfillment of HIV related sustainability commitments in Georgia

Being a partner of the Alliance for Public Health, the All-Ukrainian Network of PLWH 100% Life and other regional and national partners in the implementation of the Global Fund funded regional HIV project “Sustainability of services for key populations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia” (#SoS_project), the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) is aimed at the improving the financial sustainability and allocative efficiency of HIV programs in EECA countries.

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Review of harm reduction programs in the situation of the COVID-19 crisis in 22 CEECA countries is published

In most countries of the CEECA region, opioid substitution therapy (OST) and sterile needle/syringe programmes (NSP) – key components of an evidence-based and comprehensive harm reduction (HR) programme – continue to operate under COVID-19 quarantine measures. Such work requires flexibility, readiness for mutual partnerships and strong advocacy by community and harm reduction activists. Unfortunately, the practice of amnesty of prisoners for drug-related crimes because of COVID-19 quarantine requirements has not been implemented in the region.

Key changes in harm reduction services include the following:

Provision of takehome OST. For many countries of the region, OST medications have been made available to take home for the first time, for periods of 5 to 14 days and sometimes up to one month. The opportunity to get take-home OST (both buprenorphine and methadone) became available to all clients in every country of the region except for Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Initially, there were difficulties in some countries in enrolling new clients onto such programmes. Some countries developed partnerships, such as mobile outpatient clinics, to deliver OST medications and, often, together with antiretroviral therapy (ART) drugs to clients in remote locations.

Harm reduction works remotely. In all countries of the region, organisations have managed to deliver a range of commodities such as– sterile needles and syringes, masks, disinfectant, hygiene materials, naloxone, tests, and information materials for people who use drugs (PWUD). As a result of the restriction in movement caused by COVID-19, such service providers have found it necessary to deliver sufficient supplies at one time to cover the needs of an individual for 1-2 weeks. Often, materials are provided by mobile outpatient clinics, including social workers delivering such assistance by use of their own car or through use of a courier. Organisations have arranged online counselling for clients and, wherever possible, HIV testing through self-test kits delivered to clients. In providing such remote services, social workers and psychologists have needed to urgently develop additional skills and the management of organisations have had to introduce a flexible system of monitoring for the new service modalities.

Providing the essentials – food and shelter. For a large number of problematic users of psychoactive substances, quarantine restrictions and curfews have restricted access to temporary accommodation and made it impossible for them to earn money to find drugs. Responding to such basic needs, some organisations have re-planned budgets (as has been the case, for example, for EHRA members in Czechia, Kazakhstan, Montenegro, and Slovakia), or organised crowdfunding campaigns to be able to feed those in need (as undertaken by the Pink House in Bulgaria). In some countries, partnerships have been established to make it possible to provide shelter to PWUD and women who are victims of violence. In Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, harm reduction organisations have helped their clients to receive specific assistance for unemployed people in connection with COVID-19.

Partnership in the integration of services. In most countries, the crisis situation has prompted medical centres and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) of various types to partner in the daily provision and delivery of necessary preventive materials, substitution therapy and ART drugs, and food supplies to clients, especially in remote areas.

Flexibility of services in response to changes in the drug scene. Due to the closure of international borders as a result of COVID-19, the drug scene has changed in many countries, with access to some drugs becoming more difficult, resulting in people having to use everything that they can find, including various prescription drugs mixed with alcohol. Many clients need advice to reduce harm in using new psychoactive substances (NPS), as well as help to prevent overdose. In some countries, such as Kazakhstan, Lithuania, and Serbia, such consultations are already under development. In Prague, because crystal methamphetamine is less available, community organisations have pushed for the introduction of substitution therapy for stimulant users.

Risk of service interruption due to deficiencies in the supply chain. The closure of international borders has also led to a disruption in the supply of substitution therapy medications in Moldova; similar risks exist in other countries. In addition, government authorities responsible for OST and other harm reduction programmes in several countries have not issued a tender for the purchase of medications from public organisations providing harm reduction services; this is particularly critical in Bulgaria and Montenegro.

As Ala Iatco, the EHRA Steering Committee member from Moldova, has noted: “Now we need to transform the harm reduction system. In different countries, the situation is different and depends on many factors, but the pandemic is not only a crisis but also a chance to move new services forward.” Online discussions organised by the Steering Committee of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) were held between April 14 and April 23, 2020[1], with 51 members of the Association in seven sub-regional groups concerning the state of harm reduction programmes during the COVID-19 pandemic in 22 countries of the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (CEECA) region. During discussions, members of the Association identified the main tasks of national and regional advocacy to overcome the crisis at the national and regional levels.

[1] Information was also updated as of 19 May 2020.

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Results of the EHRA General Meeting 2020

On 11-24 May, 2020 the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) conducted the online General meeting of its 287 members.

According to the Statute of EHRA, no less than 1/3 (33,33%) of members shall participate in the General meeting, which means that at least 96 members should participate in the voting procedure. 141 participants took part in the online General meeting of EHRA members. 139 individual and organizational members’ votes are considered eligible for voting in the online General meeting. 2 votes were not counted as valid, because they didn’t have a right to vote in the EHRA online General meeting (not official representative of the organization, not an individual member of EHRA). Thus, quorum was reached, as 48,43% of members participated in the General meeting.

As a result, the online General meeting approved seven announced by EHRA issues:

  1. Approval of EHRA strategy for 2020-2024 (Confirmed – 134; didn’t confirm – 1; abstained – 4).
  2. Approval of EHRA financial report for 2019 year (Confirmed – 127; didn’t confirm – 0; abstained – 12).
  3. Approval of the changes in EHRA Statute:

          3.1. Approval of the change of mission, Art. 1 of EHRA Statute (Confirmed – 130; didn’t confirm – 2; abstained – 7). Confirmed EHRA mission is to actively unite and support communities and civil societies to ensure the rights and freedoms, health, and well-being of people who use psychoactive substances in the CEECA region.

          3.2. Approval of the change of admission of new members to EHRA Art. 14 (c) of EHRA Statute (Confirmed – 126; didn’t confirm – 3; abstained – 10). Within 14 days, members of the Steering Committee will consider the application and decide on behalf of the Steering Committee whether to grant membership. The decision is made by a qualified majority of votes.

          3.3. Approval of the amendment of Art. 20 (Termination of membership) of EHRA Statute with part 5 on procedure of revision of membership (Confirmed – 119; didn’t confirm – 6; abstained – 14). General Meeting decided to add one more case when membership terminates. Membership can be terminated in case of no participation in Association decision making processes: a) Association member, who is not participating in two in line General and/or Regional Meetings, gets an official notification letter on possible termination of Association membership from the Secretariat; b) If a member, once getting the notification letter, still does not participate in the next General/Regional Meeting, after relevant communication from Secretariat, by decision of the Steering Committee a member is excluded from the Association membership.

         3.4. Approval of the change of Art. 53 of EHRA Statute on number of experts in the Oversight Advisory Board (Confirmed – 120; didn’t confirm – 4; abstained – 15). The Oversight Advisory Board consists of minimum 3 experts. Number of Advisory Board members is unlimited and regulated by the Steering Committee in accordance with the Association needs in external support and expertise.

  1. Approval of EHRA Advisory Board candidates (Confirmed both candidates – 116; didn’t confirm both candidates – 3; confirmed only Peter Sarosi – 15; confirmed only Monique Middelhoff – 5). In total, Peter Sarosi received 131 votes and Monique Middelhoff – 121 votes.

EHRA is looking for consultants to develop an online training course on sustainability of civil society and community-based organisations

The Eurasian Harm Reduction Association is looking for qualified firms or team of consultants to develop an online training course on sustainability of civil society and community-based organisations.

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