STATEMENT FOR THE “CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM ON DRUGS IN THE EUROPEAN UNION”
ORGANISED BY THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
BRUSSELS, 13 / 14 December 2007
Brussels, 13 december 2007
Since the early 1990s, several official engagements have been made to involve civil society in the design and implementation of drug policies in the European Union. The issue was included as a matter of priority in the former EU Strategy on Drugs (2000 – 2004), the Mid-term evaluation on this Strategy (published in 2002), the EU Strategy on Drugs (2005-2012), the EU Action Plan on Drugs (2005-2009), as well as in various verbal and written communications made by the European Commission in the past years.
In spite of these engagements, EU authorities have yet to formally commit themselves to a mechanism to strengthen cooperation with civil society organisations in this field.
With the publication of a “Green Paper on the role of civil society in EU drug policy”, released on 30 June 2006, the European Commission started a process that was meant to establish this mechanism. EU citizens and their organisations could comment on the proposals made in this document to organise the dialogue between civil society and authorities. The Commission published these comments on 21 June 2007
Together with the release of the comments to the Green Paper, the Commission announced the organisation of the first meeting of a “Civil Society Forum on Drug Policy” before the end of 2007. Interested organisations were invited to apply for this forum before 17 August 2007. On 31 October 2007, the Commission published a list of 26 organisations that were selected to participate in this meeting.
We believe the way the Commission has organised this first meeting of the Civil Society Forum on Drugs does not meet the criteria mentioned in the conclusions of the Green Paper consultation as they were formulated by the Commission in its letter of 21 June.
1. The Forum should represent a wide spectrum of views in a balanced way
In the letter of 31 October 2007, the Commission announced that it would publish the list of all 75 organisations that had applied for the CSF. No such list has been published yet. Therefore, it is impossible to say if the organisations that were selected represent a wide spectrum of views in a balanced way.
2. The Forum should be inclusive rather than exclusive, with transparent selection criteria.
In the Green Paper, the Commission used the following definition of “civil society” as a criteria to select organisations for the dialogue: “associational life operating between the state and the market, including individual participation and the activities of non-governmental, voluntary and community organisations”. Organisations representing local authorities do not fulfil with this definition, yet two of the selected participants to the CSF do represent local authorities (ECAD and EFUS).
On the other hand, at least four organisations that do fulfil all criteria mentioned by the Commission (FAUDAS, FORUM DROGHE, LCA, PIC and SDB) have not been invited. Among them are organisations representing drug consumers, an important stakeholder in the debate on drug policies, who is currently not (enough) represented in the forum.
3. The Forum should have a clear mandate, well defined agendas, transparent procedures and achievable agendas with real input into the policymaking process.
At least two of the 26 organisations (IHRA and Drugscope) did not receive the letter from the Commission that they had been invited. When they were notified by others, they contacted the Commission to ask for details about dates, venue and background documents for the meeting, but did not receive a reply in sufficient time. In view of the fact that they had other commitments on 13 & 14 December, they were forced to cancel their presence at this meeting.
The agenda for the meeting was sent on 6 December, mentioning issues that had never come up as a specific topic for dialogue before (like the situation of drug use in prisons). No background documents were made available until 11 December, less than 48 hours before the meeting. One of these background documents contains the Progress Review on the EU Action Plan on Drugs, a document of 90 pages, which was only officially adopted on 10 December 2007.
In this way, it is virtually impossible for anybody to engage in a genuinely interactive dialogue. This forum does not facilitate the participation of all legitimate representatives of European civil society affected by drug issues (regardless of whether or not they are able to send representatives to the conference itself). Therefore, this forum cannot be considered a legitimate instrument of dialogue.
The Civil Society Forum on Drug Policy should not become yet another addition to a long litany of failures. We propose to postpone this first meeting of the Civil Society Forum to a new date within the next 3 months, and use the two days in Brussels to discuss the way in which it should be organised next time.
EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD)
INTERNATIONAL HARM REDUCTION ASSOCIATION (IHRA)