ANNUAL REPORT 2008
European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies
Lange Lozanastraat 14 – 2018 Antwerpen – Belgium
Tel. + 32 (0)3 293 0886 – Mob. + 32 (0)495 122644
E-mail: email@example.com / encod.org
ANNUAL REPORT 2008
Antwerpen, 3 April 2009
Herewith we present you the annual report on the year 2008 of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies. In this report, you will find a summary of the activities that were carried out in 2008 and the way ENCOD spent its money.
In 2008, Encod mobilised tens of activists around Europe to carry out lobby and information activities in support of just and effective drug policies. Both at UN and EU level, Encod interventions contributed substantially to opening up the debate on drug prohibition.
We supported the actions of local groups in presenting this issue on a national level. We further developed and increased the network of citizens organisations in- and outside Europe who are opposed to current drug policies, and collaborated with them in the creation of possible models for just and effective policies on drugs.
And finally we carried out research into ways in which organisations of drug consumers can be involved in the drug policy dialogue.
This work took place in a political climate that is becoming more conservative and repressive. Of course this situation is demotivating for our efforts, but it does not make them less valid, on the contrary.
While we focus on presenting reliable and valid arguments for a fundamental reform of drug policies, authorities make increasingly use of manipulated or untrue information, questionable arguments and sometimes plain arrogance to justify the continuation of current drug policies.
The fact is that the drug control apparatus is based on economic and personal interests of people who operate in the more powerful sectors of society, where manipulation or even repression can be used as a way to silence or discredit the voices of people who speak up against prohibition.
We are convinced that, in the end, rational thinking will prevail over irrational thinking. In view of the current economic crisis, the burden that drug prohibition implies for public expenditure might become a more important part of the debate in the coming years.
Speaking about crisis, the Encod secretariat was faced with an increased workload caused the constant growth of the network and diversity of issues that are dealt with within Encod.
In fact, surviving this extra workload was only possible thanks to a two months sabbatical leave of the coordinator during the summer. A lasting solution for the dilemma of how to delegate Encods work towards more, and more active, members has not been found yet.
We hope to make advances on this issue during the forthcoming General Assembly, from 19 to 21 June, in Barcelona.
Our work in mobilising and inspiring people around Europe to speak out and act against the prohibition of drugs remains useful. Only if enough of our fellow citizens start to realise that the real drug problem is prohibition, not the drugs themselves, can we expect a real change to happen
On behalf of the ENCOD Steering Committee,
Participants at the ENCOD GA, Vitoria, June 2008
1. On Encods organisation
On 1 January 2008, ENCOD had 163 members (organisations and individuals). Throughout the year this number increased to 174.
At the moment (April 2009) we have 180 members. For a current list of ENCOD members, see annex 1. Of these members, 46 are companies and/or shops, 34 are organisations of consumers of cannabis and/or other drugs, 28 are organisations involved in local drug policy reform work, 8 are organisations specialised in harm reduction and 64 are individual citizens.
The General Assembly of Members (which decides on the general work programme) took place in Vitoria, Spain, on 20, 21 and 22 June 2008 and was attended by 32 members.
The Steering Committee (which supervises the secretariat) met three times in 2008: in March, June and September. The SC consisted of Virginia Montañes (individual member, Spain), Marina Impallomeni (Forum Droghe, Italy, supported by Alberto Sciolari and Alessandra Viazzi, PIC, Italy), Joep Oomen (ENCOD-secretariat, Belgium), Fredrick Polak (Stichting Drugsbeleid, Netherlands), Jan Ludewig (individual member, Germany) and André Fürst (Chanvre-Info, Switzerland, mostly represented by Sylvia Weisskopf, Zum Hinkelstein, Switzerland).
The secretariat (which carries out the daily work) is run by a paid coordinator (Joep Oomen) with the help of several members from around Europe working on a voluntary basis. During the last months of the year, a free lance assistant was hired to support the coordinator.
2. On Encods Activities
In 2008, ENCOD developed lobby activities directed at the European Union as well as the United Nations, campaign and general activities.
1. At the European Union
In 2008 we followed up on the continuing “dialogue with civil society on drug policy” that the European Commission has initiated in 2006.
We participated in the second session of the Civil Society Forum where we presented a critical view on the progress report on EU drug policies and a call on the European Commission to intervene in the case of Aldo Bianzino, a cannabis grower who died under mysterious circumstances in a prison cell in Italy in October 2007.
Our comments played a role in the overall conclusion of the forum that measures to apply harm reduction in European drug policies are hindered by current policies based on law enforcement. However, the European Commission did not present this conclusion to the level of the EU Council, where the Member States representatives drew up a new Action Plan on Drugs in September.
Workshop on “Drugs and Diplomacy”, Murguia, November 2008
We also followed the discussion in the European Parliament on the dialogue with civil society on drug policy. This discussion ended with the approval of a report that is very favourable for the involvement of citizens in the drug policy debate. However the impact of this report is symbolical: in the past 5 years, neither the European Commission nor the Member States have respected any of the European Parliament’s fundamental recommendations on drug policy.
In the last months of 2008, Encod carried out the Drugs and Diplomacy project: a research into the possibilities of drug consumer organisations to participate in the debate on drug policy (see below). The project included a workshop with approx. 25 Encod members in Spain, where we discussed the Encod response to the new EU Drugs Action Plan that was proposed by the European Commission in September. We sent a letter containing this response to the Commission in December.
2. At the United Nations
In March 2008 the United Nations were supposed to present an evaluation of the strategy of 10 years that was agreed at the UNGASS in 1998 to “eliminate or significantly reduce” the supply and demand of illicit drugs.
Encod organised the Drug Peace Days, a 3 days event prior to the meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna. On Friday 7 March, some 500 people marched towards the UN building in Vienna, and on Saturday and Sunday, around 200 people attended the Conference that was held in the University of Vienna. The conference counted with a long list of speakers from in- and outside Europe, on the origins of the war on drugs, on the positive applications of prohibited substances, and on alternatives to replace drug prohibition. See the video report.
After this event, an Encod delegation consisting of Fredrick Polak and Clifford Thornton attended the CND meeting in the UN building in Vienna. During this meeting Fredrick Polak questioned UNODC Director Antonio Maria Costa on the explanation for the fact that the Netherlands has lower cannabis use rates than other countries, where cannabis is completely prohibited. This question was filmed and put on You Tube, where it has been watched over 45.000 times, and initiated an interesting exchange between Polak and Costa, that has become famous in drug policy reform circles worldwide.
Encod participated in the NGO consultation process with regards to the 2008 deadline, called “Beyond 2008”. Both in the regional meeting for Europe in Budapest and in the general “Beyond 2008” NGO Forum in Vienna, Fredrick Polak played a decisive role in promoting the case for reform. Furthermore Encod supported the participation of a representative of Andean coca producers, one of the only representatives of illicit crop producers at the Beyond 2008 Forum.
Drug Peace March, Vienna, March 2008
The spread of the Freedom to Farm campaign (and the promotion of Cannabis Social Clubs) took place through the establishment of stands on the Hemp Fairs in Barcelona (Spannabis), Bern (Cannatrade), Bologna (Cannabis Tipo Forte), London (UK Hemp Expo), Porto (Feira do Canhamo) and Vienna (Cultiva). At these fairs, flyers, posters, stickers, T-shirts, badges and money boxes were actively used to mobilise and engage people for the CSC and general Encod aims.
Likewise, the ENCOD secretariat was strongly involved in the actions around the CSC of Trekt Uw Plant in Belgium, around the case of Aldo Bianzino in Italy, the protests against the mushroom ban in the Netherlands, against the renewed drugs war in Thailand, among others.
During the final months of 2008, Encod carried out a research on the participation of organisations representing drug consumers in the political debate.
This research was decided upon by the Encod General Assembly of June 2008, and made possible by a grant of the regional government of the Basque country. The participation of citizens in the drug debate has been the core business of Encod since it was founded in 1993. In recent years, local, national and European administrations have also started to understand the importance of giving a voice to the population who is living the daily reality of the drug phenomenon. However, the research showed that much work has still to be done in order to make this dialogue useful for both parts.
The research concluded in the publication of a report (available in English, Spanish and Basque) as well as a video documentary. It will be followed up by an evaluation meeting on the recommendations of the report that will take place in April 2009.
From september onwards, Encod was asked to coordinate the organisation of a Cannabis Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where speakers in favour of and against cannabis prohibition would try to convince an independent judge of the rightness of their arguments. An amount of 200.000 euro was offered to the political party that would be able to convince the court of the positive effects of a ban on cannabis.
The organisers had difficulties in finding people in favour of the ban. It turned out to be impossible the find a doctor in the Netherlands who is willing to maintain that cannabis is a major public health danger and a ban has any positive effect at all.
Cannabis Tribunal, The Hague, December 2008
Of all political parties only the Christian Democrat Appel (CDA) was willing to accept the challenge. Both mayor Leonard Geluk of Rotterdam as well as Member of Parliament Cisca Joldersma proposed to reduce the number of coffeeshops. But argumentation expert and law philosopher Hendrik Kaptein, chairman of the independent court that was created for this purpose, called their arguments ‘fallacies’ and ‘absolutely worthless’.
The Cannabis Tribunal brought together a large group of Dutch cannabis activists who then followed up on this initiative with the creation of a new association, VOC (Vereniging voor Opheffing van het Cannabisverbod) that is planning to initiate new actions in 2009.
3. On international cooperation
During 2008 we had ongoing conversations on the possibility to organise the legal import of traditional coca leaf products in collaboration with organisations of coca producers in Bolivia. These converstaions led to the signature of an agreement meant to promote a model for commercialisation of coca products directly from producer to consumer, based on a fair trade scheme.
On the other hand, Encod established collaboration with a Human Rights Association in the Rif Region of Morocco, whose president, Chakib El Khayari, carried out a succesfull press campaign to start debating the proposal for legalisation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal purposes in the media in Morocco. Unfortunately, in February 2009, Chakib El Khayari was arrested and currently held in custody for speaking out against the corruption of Moroccan authorities in the fight against drugs.
Encod press conference, Vienna, March 2008
4. On Communication
The Encod website saw an increase in the number of daily visits from approx. 500 to 1500 a day. More people use Encod as a regular source for information on drug policies.
The monthly bulletin on European drug policy and the activities of ENCOD was produced in English, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and French. Most members are also subscribed to the various mailing lists: “eurodrug” (in English) or “hispadrug” (in Spanish) electronic mailing lists, where news on relevant issues is shared and discussed.
In January 2008, the system of the mailing lists was partially replaced by the ENCOD Internet forum. During the year approx. 120 members inscribed to this forum but no real discussion took place. Currently this forum is suspended.
In relation to the General Assembly in Vitoria, a questionnaire was sent out, which was answered by 38 members. According to the responses to the questionnaire, our
members think that we are fulfilling between
regular and sufficiently our objectives.
The main weakness is that there is no or very little national coordination
among the members. When asked about the decisionmaking structure of ENCOD, most respondents don’t think there
is a need to change it.
In 2008, ENCOD representatives took part in several meetings and conferences, among others:
Civil Society Consultation on UNGASS 2008, Budapest
ALDE Meeting on Drug Policy in the European Parliament, Brussels
Worldwide Marijunana March Antwerp
International Harm Reduction Conference, Barcelona
Civil Society Forum on EU Drug Policy, Brussels
AGORA on Climate Change, European Parliament, Brussels
Summer School on Harm Reduction, San Sebastian
Beyond 2008 NGO Forum, Vienna
IDUD Conference, Copenhagen
Cannabis Tribunal, The Hague
Throughout the year, the ENCOD co-ordinator wrote articles in magazines such as Fuoriluogo (Italy) and Cañamo (Spain), served as a consultant for students and journalists from various countries working on a thesis on the drugs phenomenon, had radio interviews with Belgian, Dutch, Spanish and European press.
5. Financial report (see Annex 2)
The income is formed by membership fees and donations, sponsoring grants for specific projects or revenue proceeding from the sale of merchandising products and the membership fees of TREKT UW PLANT, the Antwerp Cannabis Social Club (as Belgian banks are refusing to open an account for this association, the account has been hosted by ENCOD).
The expenses are formed by salary costs of the coordinator, the overhead costs of the Antwerp office, travel costs in relation to meetings and events and campaign costs. Finally Trekt Uw Plant spends some money as well.
In March 2008 the European Commission presented a call for proposals for NGOs to apply for support to the Drugs Information and Prevention Budget Line. As applicants were given less than a month to prepare such a proposal, Encod decided not to apply and presented a comment on this situation.
6. Thank you very much
Finally, it should be mentioned that ENCODs work in 2008 could never have been possible without the support of all members and the active and excellent engagement of the following people. Sorry if we forgot someone…….
Alun Buffry and LCA
Fernanda de la Figuera
Gaspar Fraga y Cañamo
Iker Giraldo Cuadrado
José de la Maca
Eduardo Lopez Arriero
Inma de Pando
Jean Michel Rodriguez