ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
NR. 51 MAY 2009
RITES OF PASSAGE
During the 24th and 25th of April, 26 representatives of 13 associations and federations from Spain, as well as 7 representatives of the Drugs Department of the Basque government met in Murgia, close to the Basque capital of Vitoria, to analyse the results of the report on Drugs and Diplomacy.
After two days of debate and collective reflections it became clear that the report is a useful tool to strengthen the movement for drug policy reform and improve its impact on the political debate. However, the essential underlying question remained: and what do we do now?
One of the objectives of the meeting was to consolidate the experience of the associations on three concrete issues: their participation in the political debate, the application of the gender perspective, and harm reduction. The exchange put in evidence the potential and level of knowledge that we share, the points that are still lacking and the need to exchange this knowledge in order to strengthen our capacities.
The valuable contributions of those who work in the public administration gave us ideas on how to improve our participation in the political debate and apply formal and informal strategies to intervene in drug policies, both on a practical and a theoretical level.
Concerning this issue, we agreed that we need to continue working in two ways: internal training and the development of a common position with concrete proposals for changing the paradigm of the prohibitionist regime. The next step is the formation of a working group that will elaborate a consensus document during the coming months and organise a meeting in the coming year, where all Spanish federations and organisations will be invited, and that will consist of practical workshops and political debates. The organization of this event will constitute a large step forward not only concerning our political and media impact but also towards a major cohesion as a social movement. The great challenge will be to unite the organisations working on all types of drugs and drug use along different lines and with different proposals for action within an athmosphere of harmony and respect.
As became clear already from the report, the inclusion of the gender perspective represents a huge lack in the anti-prohibitionist movement. Few organizations incorporate it in their organizational practice and political proposals. However, several steps are being taken to start working in this area, and in Murgia a working group was formed that will gather the experiences and concerns about this issue and will start a collective reflection on what it means to apply the gender perspective in our strategies and practices.
We still have to clarify how we will put into practice the recommendations and conclusions of the report in our own organisations. The report is not only a tool to improve our capacity to participate in the political debate, it is also an instrument that suggests ways to improve our own internal functioning, both in each member organisation as well as in Encod as a European network.
After 16 years, Encod has entered the period of adolescence. Born as a group of NGOs working with the European Commission during the time when the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction was created (EMCDDA), it very soon became the bastard child of both of these institutions. Ignored and even abandoned by some of its creators, with the passage of years Encod learned to walk alone in the world, fed itself with the anger of those who are oppressed by drug policies and managed to convert the protest into proposals for change towards a more just and effective society.
However, as happens with children whose bones are aching when they grow, Encod is suffering from having grown spectacularly during the past years, going from 7 to 175 organizations and individuals who are currently members of the network.
Adolescence is a period of rebellion against the parents, of the search for identity and independence, of fusion with peers, of the need for referents, creativity and courage. Closer to maturity then to childhood, adolescence dares to show the parents a mirror in which their fears and challenges are reflected. This is the role that Encod should play in the field of drug policies. Therefore it is necessary that we become mature and present coherent proposals based on consensus to the “adults”, but without losing the freshness and capacity for transgression that is characteristic of adolescence.
The General Assembly in Barcelona that will be held between 19 and 21 June will be a great opportunity to unify our arguments and proposals. Therefore we must control our internal fights, transcend our individual interests and concentrate on the collective goal: the fight for a change of the prohibitionist paradigm.
By: Virginia Montañes Sánchez