ENCOD was invited to the third session of the Civil Society Forum on EU Drug Policy that will be held on March 3d and 4th 2009 in Brussels.
To the forum, 26 representatives of EU civil society->article891] organisations were invited, selected out of a [list of 77 organisations who applied to take part in this forum in 2007.
The official aim of this forum was to gather the input of civil society on the new EU Drug Action Plan 2009 – 2012.
In this Action Plan, elaborated under the French EU presidency in December 2008, the Commission has launched a completely new initiative, the so-called “European Alliance on Drugs”, which is supposed to “engage civil society towards the common objective of raising awareness, interest and concrete commitments on drug related risks”.
This initiative is taken by governments. It has never been consulted with the Civil Society Forum meetings that took place in May 2008 or December 2007, nor with the European Parliament (which in two occasions, in December 2004 and March 2008, called for a meaningful involvement of civil society in EU drug policy).
Our proposal to this European Alliance, whcih also received support of the Unión de Asociaciones y Entidades de Atención al Drogodependiente (UNAD, Spain)
European Alliance on Drugs. A proposal
From 1992, when the first conversations started on what a European Union policy on drugs should look like, participation of civil society organisations in the design and implementation of this policy has always been highlighted as a priority in policy documents. Nevertheless, it took the European Union 16 years to practically implement this in a first concrete experience: the Civil Society Forum on Drug Policy.
In December 2007 and May 2008, the first meetings of the CSF took place in Brussels. This Forum consisted of 26 organizations that the European Commission had carefully selected from a total of 76 organisations that applied to be part of this forum.
During the meeting of the Forum in May 2008, the Commission asked the representatives for suggestions for the next EU Drug Action Plan 2009 – 2012. Afterwards the Commission carefully selected the suggestions that were made during this meeting, leaving out those who “would probably be rejected by the Member States”, as one of the Commission’s spokesmen commented.
In September 2008, a draft of the new Drug Action Plan was published by the European Commission. This Plan not only ignored most of the recommendations of the CSF of May, but also introduced a completely new version of the concept of civil society participation. The Drugs Action Plan calls for a European Alliance on Drugs, a partnership between citizens and authorities in the fight against drugs, without specifying what this alliance will consist of and what its aims will be. The rest of the Action Plan is repeating the same measures as those in its former versions.
As a response to this sudden development, the ENCOD members who participated in the workshop on Drugs and Diplomacy, that took place in November 2008, decided to elaborate an alternative proposal for the Drug Action Plan. This alternative proposal was sent to the European Commission, the Member States and the European Parliament early December 2008. In March 2009, it will also be presented to the next session of the Civil Society Forum in Brussels, together with a proposal on how the dialogue with civil society should be structured.
OBJECTIVE: IMPROVE THE DIALOGUE WITH CIVIL SOCIETY
The EU Action Plan on Drugs 2009 – 2012 approved by the EU Council on 8 December 2008 and published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 20 December declares that ” it is time to put the people of Europe at the centre of policy in this field and to get Europe’s citizens more involved”.
Therefore, the establishment of a “European Alliance on Drugs” is proposed, which aims to mobilise a broad range of civil society structures that are active both within and outside the drug field. During 3 and 4 March, the proposals on how to structure this Alliance will be discussed. ENCOD would like to contribute with the following proposal to improve the dialogue between civil society and the EU institutions.
Admission of participants
As a first step to reinitiate the dialogue process that was initiated in 2006, the Commission should elaborate and publish a list of civil society organisations that work in the drug field in Europe, as was announced during the Conference on “Civil Society and Drugs in Europe” in January 2006.
All organisations who participated in the preparation phases of the dialogue process as it has been carried out so far (Conference on Civil Society and Drugs in Europe, January 2006; responses to the Green Paper of September 2006, and to the organisation of the first Civil Society Forum in 2007) should be mentioned on this list. These organisations should also be asked to nominate other organisations that should be invited to present their candidature as well. On the basis of this list a first selection can be made of organisations to participate in the dialogue.
The following selection criteria for the organisations that participate in the dialogue should be used:
· Priority should be given to representatives of European and national networks of citizens most affected by drug policies: users (of any kind of drugs) and their relatives.
· Secondly, networks of people with specific knowledge to the drug phenomenon, but who are not directly affected: health workers and experts.
· European networks should have member organisations in a significant number of EU Member States.
· Organisations should be able to prove that they have transparent rules on membership and decision-making structures.
The methodology should be designed to create an environment where all participants can feel confident. Civil society has long been ignored in the drug policy-making process, so the first expectation is to be allowed to speak and be listened to.
The dialogue should be oriented to producing recommendations in the various specific areas of competence. These recommendations should be published as an annex to the annual report of the EMCDDA.
It is important to show the level of consensus amongst civil society organisations behind the recommendations that they may wish to make, so that such recommendations can become clear signals to the institutions of the European Union.
The principal objective should be the dialogue between all participants, facilitating exchange of information and knowledge on the drug phenomenon in Europe and formulate evidence-based recommendations on drug policies.
The dialogue should aim to be an enlightening experience for all participants. Thus it will automatically have a positive impact on the process concerning drug policy in Europe. The concrete result could be formulated within regular recommendations towards European Institutions with regards to the current implementation of drug policies. Ideally, these recommendations would be shared by the largest possible number of civil society organisations.
The key criteria for developing the communication structure netween EU institutions and civil society should be:
· The detailed structure of the dialogue should be elaborated by both representatives of EU institutions and of civil society together.
· It should respect the diversity of all existing networks and organisations.
· Transparency and accessibility should be safeguarded during the entire process.
· Once the structure is established, it should be widely published.
A possible structure for a dialogue could consist of three instruments:
1. The civil society assembly.
An annual meeting should be organised with a group of at least 250 Civil Society Organisations that will be selected from the list mentioned above. The meeting should be moderated by a neutral actor that could be a consultancy specialised in moderating debates, or a neutral organisation.
This annual assembly should be organised prior to the annual meeting of the Horizontal Drugs Group where the EU Action Plan is evaluated, with the aim of discussing and including the input from civil society in this process.
The assembly will produce a list of proposals to discuss with EU authorities. These proposals will be followed up in national dialogues (which should be set up in every country) as well as in the dialogue with the European Commission that will take place in the civil society forum (see below).
The assembly will also produce an analysis on the state of drug policy in the European Union and recommendations for improvement, which will be added to the EMCDAA annual report. To facilitate this, working groups can be formed.
The Internet forum for dialogue between civil society and authorities on drug policy created by the European Commission in September 2008 should re-activated. This forum is open and accessible to all European citiziens, and could be oriented to gather all questions and suggestions on the specific themes dealt with by the Assembly and the Forum. This open communication will enable the dialogue to be transparent, inclusive and respected by all involved stakeholders.
2. The civil society forum
Twice a year the EU civil society forum will be organised, comprised of representatives of the civil society assembly on one hand, and representatives of the European Commission on the other. It should be moderated by an independent moderator.
The task of this forum is to follow up on the proposals that are presented by the Assembly to the European Commission and analyse together the ways in which European drug policies integrate the recommendations that have been made by the Assembly.
3. The Control Commission
An independent body, with equal representation from civil society and European authorities (Commission, Horizontal Drugs Group, EMCDDA, Europol), chaired by a representative of the European parliament, would supervise the dialogue process. On an annual meeting, this group will analyse if the objectives of the dialogue have been met by current structure and methodology or of they should be adapted.
Read also the Green Pepper, Encods official reaction to the proposal of the European Commission to start the dialogue with Civil Society on Drug Policy in 2006.
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