Joint advocacy for access, sustainability, and quality of harm reduction services and for protection of human rights for people who use drugs in Eastern Europe and Central Asia region

For the last 2 decades, an informal network of harm reduction organizations and activists were housed as a part of the organization EHRN. However, during the 2017, this organization experienced a crisis and due to a unharmonized system of governance, the network could no longer continue to exercise its free decision-making power. Because of these developments in march 2017 a new organization – Eurasian Harm Reduction Association (EHRA) – was established. Therefore it was a juncture in time when building effective and transparent management structures and ensuring financial sustainability for regional and national advocacy efforts plays a crucial role for the network to remain active at the regional level.  Among key activities to target organization challenges, which EHRA could face are the following:
      – establishing regular general assembly, regional meetings and steering committee meetings for open and transparent decision-making process on strategic and management issue;
      – developing strategy of EHRA based on a broad participation of members;
      – development of operational procedures and management approaches;
      – start-up a new office and fundraising for financial sustainability.

The grant was crucial for rapid start-up of the organization and strengthening of EHRA governance. It helped EHRA to strengthen financial stability, fulfil ambitious organizational goals, build strategic partnerships, become a respected and knowledgeably strong player in drug policy debates as well as in regional advocacy for the sustainable funding of harm reduction programs.

  • Streamline governance and membership structure of the EHRA to ensure organizational sustainability, effective decision-making system and joint advocacy efforts;
  • Ensure sustainability and quality of harm reduction services in CEECA region;
  • Increase regional cooperation targeted at the promotion of non-punitive and human rights-based drug policies;
  • Strengthen regional and national-level advocacy for the sustainable funding of quality, evidence-based and good practice models of harm reduction and HIV-related programs for PWUD and other key populations by increasing leadership of civil society and people who use drugs (PWUD) community groups.

During 2018 EHRA was successfully implementing 14 regional advocacy and capacity building projects and ensured sustainable work for the Association in nearest year, leading in regional community campaign and organizing protest campaigns, building intense new partnerships and learning new approaches in advocacy. Institutional support from OSF was key for success and sustainability of the organization.

Key results of the project in 2017-2019 include:

  • EHRA membership grow from zero in March 2017 to 267 by the mid of 2020;
  • Annual General and 3 Regional Meetings of Members EHRA have been organised;
  • EHRA Advisory Board was established and composed from leading global experts and honorable leaders in harm reduction, drug policy, human rights and public health.
  • EHRA Steering Committee refreshed by 70% bringing diverse perspectives from PWUD activists and harm reduction advocates from different regions of CEECA.
  • The new position of the EHRA Treasurer appeared to monitor the financial health of the Association. Elected by SC EHRA treasurer Jurga Poshkevichute, Lithuania reviewed and approved EHRA financial reports for 2017, 2018 and 2019. The treasurer in 2019 took part in selection of EHRA auditor for the next 3 year period (2020-2022).
  • Annual face-to-face Steering Committee meetings together with Advisory Board members were organised in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
  • Broad discussion with EHRA members and partners has been organized to agree on EHRA drug policy position;
  • EHRA Secretariat team stabile and composed of 13 highly skilled professionals effectively manage regional advocacy and capacity building projects using updated and approved Operational manual with strong policies prohibiting discrimination against EHRA employees and an explicit Anti-fraud and Anti-harassment Policy. Training sessions for Secretariat staff on storytelling, planning, monitoring, evaluation, advocacy, and research were organised;
  • 13 ongoing regional projects that cover programme and financial needs of the organisation were implemented 2019.
  • EHRA Strategic Framework for 2018-2019 was developed, implemented and assessed by members through on-line evaluation form.
  • The EHRA Strategy for 2020-2024 has been developed by Steering Committee through active participation from EHRA members.
  • Exclusive content, such as a regular quarterly digest, blogs, interviews, methodology publications, research reports, and shadow reports developed and shared though the EHRA website and social networks.
  • Only in 2019 16 new project proposals have been developed, 4 of them were successful, 5 are awaiting a decision.
  • EHRA’s leadership was continuously engaged in policy and advocacy for sustainable financing of HIV responses on national and EU level, mobilising its members from joint advocacy campaigns and actions:
     – community-led advocacy for domestic funding of harm reduction programs in Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro was supported through sub-granting of South East Europe Drug Policy Network;
      – as a result of EHRA led advocacy for changes in eligibility criteria by Global Fund Board, joint statement was signed by 48 international, regional and national organizations and sent to the focal points of all GF Board Delegations as well as to GF Board Leadership and ED;
     – EHRA has mobilized more than 60 organizations worldwide to support Kazakhstan community activists in protecting OST program in country;
     – joint session with Lithuanian and Estonian governments and civil society from Norway at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) very successfully;
     – Advocacy campaign on sustainable funding in Romania, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania to the GF Board saw 42 CSOs participate from all around the region.