On 14 April 2008, the deadline expired for presenting applications to the call for proposals for the budget line on Drug Prevention and Information, which was established to support the role of civil society organisations in EU drug policy. ENCOD has decided not to apply to this call for proposals. In the following statement, we explain why.
To: Carel Edwards
Head of Anti-Drug Coordination Unit
Copy to: European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
Antwerpen, 14 april 2008
Dear Carel Edwards,
After 15 years of efforts by civil society organisations to obtain a transparent and serious dialogue with EU authorities concerning the current and future policy on drugs, the European Commission still does not show any signs of willingness to start such a dialogue.
Today, the deadline expires for applications to the budget line on “Drug Prevention and Information 2007-2013’. This budget line was originally created to facilitate ways in which European citizens who are daily affected by the drug issue could have their say in decision-making processes. Instead, the European Commission has converted it into a tool to ensure their voices will be excluded from these processes.
The history of this budget line shows clearly what the priorities of the Commission are.
Since the first steps were made towards a common EU drug policy on drugs, EU authorities have made official commitments to strengthen co-operation with civil society in this field. These commitments were never implemented.
During the past 15 years, ENCOD has been operating as a European network of organisations representing citizens affected by or concerned with drug policies. After years of political lobbying inside the European Parliament, a report was adopted in December 2004 that, among other recommendations, proposed that the Commission to “create a specific budget line in order to facilitate an ongoing process of consultation with affected civil society organisations and independent professional experts about the impact of drug policies at the level of citizens” (P6_TA(2004)0101).
In January 2006, the Commission invited 60 representatives of civil society organisations to a Conference in Brussels to express their views on how such a consultation should be organised. Among other problems the conference concluded that the main obstacles for civil society involvement are the result of time-consuming bureaucratic procedures and the lack of transparency and sincerity in the way that the European Commission communicates with citizens.
It took one and a half year before the second step was taken. In June 2007, the Commission organised a call for civil society organisations to apply for participation in the first session of the so-called Civil Society Forum on EU Drug Policy, which would take place in December 2007. 75 organisations applied to the call, 50% of which consisted of citizens groups, operating without support from state or local authorities, while the other half were so-called “service providers”, organisations working mainly with public funding to carry out prevention, treatment or harm reduction activities in the drug field. In October, the Commission finally published a list of 26 organisations that will be invited to the forum in December. The reasons why they were selected and others rejected were never made public.
Of the 26 organisations invited, 17 are “service providers”, 7 are organisations formed by concerned citizens and two are representing local authorities and therefore do not fit to the definition used by the Commission with regards to “civil society”.
The first Civil Society Forum on EU Drug Policy took place on 13 & 14 December 2007 in an extremely chaotic way. Participants received the necessary documents (94 pages) less than two days before the meeting started. Some participants could not attend since they did not receive their travel documents on time. Someone who lives in London was sent a return ticket Helsinki Brussels.
The agenda and the content of the meeting was entirely decided by the European Commission. Participants to the CSF had no possibilities to propose any modifications to the agenda. Their suggestions to discuss other issues of relevance were simply eliminated from consideration by the Commission.
During this meeting the Commission announced that it would present a call for proposals to the Drug Prevention and Information Programme Budget Line 2007-2013 in January 2008, with a deadline of two months after the publication for organisations to react. In reality, the call for proposals for this budget line was launched on the 10th of March, with the deadline for responses set for April 14.
The necessary documents, guidelines and forms for these proposals are only available in English, German and French. Applicant organisations have to fill in the application form (consisting of 15 pages of questions about the project proposal, its expected results and challenges) as well 10 other forms some of which need to be signed by third entities such as the organisation’s bank, statutes and signed certificates as well as the CV’s of the persons who will be employed in the project.
While the European Commission has taken years to set up a poorly prepared and managed dialogue with civil society organisations on drug policy, the organisations that want to participate in it are given 20 work days to complete an extremely detailed and exhaustive application that is the work of fundraising professionals.
This is not a systematic procedure in the EU funding system. There are more flexible processes of calls for proposals, like those that require a first concept note with the description of the project and, only after the evaluation of the concept notes is presented, do they require the full application to those organisations that have been selected during the evaluation process. Some examples of this system are the following calls:
Investing in People. Youth & Children. Support to actions aimed at preventing harm to children affected by armed conflicts and at fighting against child trafficking and rehabilitating victims. Restricted Call for Proposals 2007. Reference: EuropeAid/126646/C/ACT/Multi.
It goes without saying that the procedures used in the Drug Prevention and Information Budget Line undermine the participation of organisations which lack the infrastructure or a paid “fundraising specialist” to prepare these kinds of applications in such little time. Therefore, there is little doubt that the organisations that benefit from the grants will be those organisations that are already accustomed to working with public funding: the so-called “service providers”. The great majority of organisations representing “service users”, or those citizens who are not connected to the health apparatus at all but still wish to be consulted in the decision-making process on the policies that directly concern them, will not benefit at all from this call for proposals.
It is sad to see that while the way that the Commission has dealt with the dialogue itself has left much to be desired, it has applied great dedication to establishing a complicated grant application process for organisations that wish to take part in the dialogue, to which only professional grantseekers can respond. The result is that the critical voices of citizens are silenced, and consultation with civil society on EU drug policy becomes just another token gesture.
ENCOD will not apply to the Drug Prevention and Information budget line. Instead we propose that you invest the money in developing a serious attempt to involve European civil society in drug policies.
We propose you to organise a conference where all 75 organisations that applied to the CSF in 2007 are invited. For this conference, each one of the 75 organisations should prove that they fulfil reasonable criteria concerning representativeness, transparency and expertise. With the organisations that fulfil these criteria, a workable structure can be developed in which regular consultations on the EU drug policy programme can be organised, using both Internet and physical encounters. The organisation of these consultations, the agenda and reporting should be carried out using a participative approach, in which the interest of all participants is taken into account, not only that of the European Commission. And when issuing calls for proposals, these should operate with the system of a first concept note and then the full application for those that have been selected after the evaluation.
Best wishes, on behalf of the ENCOD Steering Committee
Virginia Montañes, Marina Impallomeni, André Fürst, Jan Ludewig, Joep Oomen, Fredrick Polak
EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES – ENCOD
Lange Lozanastraat 14, 2018 Antwerpen, Belgium
Telephone: +32 (0) 3 293 0886 / Mobile : +32 (0) 495 122 644