A Happy New Year Chronicle
After one day comes another... This happens every week, month and year in everyone’s life.
Is it not strange therefore that when the next day is the first one of a new year, we look a year ahead and make promises, and have certain expectations, and hopes! I do not expect the year 2010 to be the one when we get a drug free Europe or even drug free cities.
However, I do hope that we will get more people and cities engaged and involved in this very important task. This would be an important step towards fewer drugs and in the end maybe drug-free cities.
It is obvious that local politicians in every city have a lot of important issues to deal with; care of the elderly and youngsters, unemployment, schools and the financial crisis, to mention a few. Criminality and social stigmatisation are other important responsibilities. We have to realise that illicit drugs and the ways of dealing with this problem are embedded in the social welfare sector of most cities and are only few of many tasks that our decision makers handle. Raising common awareness regarding illicit drugs and placing this issue on the top of political agenda may be one of the most important tasks for ECAD in the future.
No politician in Europe wants people to be abusers and very few, if any, want to legalise drugs because they do not care about the effects. Too many are nevertheless unaware of the huge costs illicit drugs cause for a single tax payer and society all in all. There is no doubt that drugs lead to gigantic problems in our cities, human suffering, enormous expenses and nuisance. Knowing this, we simply choose to act.
Being a member of ECAD is a statement you actually make, that is to deal with the drug problem. Methods or models used are of less importance, as long as they are knowledge-based. Some member cities have got very good prevention work; others have not. Some members are very engaged in giving professional treatment to abusers, which actually helps them being free from drugs; others are less engaged. How much cities prioritise our task differs a lot. To get as many cities acting against this problem as possible is, as I see it, ECAD`s biggest challenge.
I do hope that in 2010 we will get ECAD`s Advisory Network in function. This will help us in many ways, one of them is getting the issue higher up on the political agenda. Another contribution from the Advisory Network would be more interesting and better prepared conferences in the future.
ECAD plan to have four conferences a year and we will of course send out invitations for these occasions, but make it a habit to regularly check out ECAD`s website for news on this and other issues. We will make sure the website is informative, easier to use and a day-to-day instrument for you during 2010. You could still help us by giving comments on what you miss or send us your suggestions.
As you notice, I have some hopes and expectations for 2010, some of them are mentioned above.
Last but not least, I hope that you will all have a really fruitful and happy new year!
Summer thoughts and strategy highlights
Let me admit right away: I really enjoy the leisure and calmness of thoughts that keep my mind preoccupied during the relaxing summer weeks… These thoughts could concern gardening, rebuilding, and temperature in the nearest lake or protection from mosquitoes. Besides these meditations, I also like to reflect upon my profession. Is my work meaningful? Do efforts which I put into my performance bring expected results? What can we improve in the set up of our daily duties to be even more efficient and contributing?
Today I have been in charge of the organisation for one year. How to evaluate this year? Is it at all possible? The restless part of me thinks it is, the more reflective part says no; growth and strengthening take time, especially when the whole world faces a financial crisis. To take one example, I strongly believe that ECAD has to, with the maintenance of a restrictive goal, be an organisation that is built on knowledge. An important support for this is the creation of a Scientific Committee. Yet we do not have such a Committee today, although we have started to create a more knowledge-based organisation and we have more activities than before, with conferences in various places. It is going to take some time but it is definitively worth the struggle to create an even better ECAD.
It has been an eventful and encouraging year for ECAD. Let me name some of the highpoints: The First World Forum Against Drugs, The Second World Mayors’ Conference on Drugs (16th ECAD Mayors’ Conference), 52 Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna which we have actively participated in the preparations for.
Our common objective will only gain if we could keep the drug issue high up on the political agenda as we have seen it in 2009, and if we would inspire cities to actively engage in both our activities and in the issue of drug prevention, treatment and rehabilitation on an everyday basis.
The priority of knowledge is already seen in the outline of ECAD’s autumn seminars and conferences. It saddens me though that we have not seen an increase in city-to-city activities as we constantly urge our members to do. This type of study visits and joined actions does not imply increased spending. On the contrary, it could improve both efficiency of anti-drug fieldwork and its cost-effectiveness. We will lift up examples of such cooperation more on this web site and in our Newsletter to inspire ECAD members to search for each other’s experiences.
Last but not least, we have to affiliate more cities, especially from regions in Europe where we are too few today. With arguments based on facts we can attract new cities and with more cities our standpoint and our network will grow stronger.
Thus, even though things have not been going as fast as I had wanted to, ECAD is moving in the right direction. We are today to some extent more than earlier considered to be a pragmatic organisation and our work will continue, with spread and exchange of knowledge, creating of networks for experts and practitioners etc. Our task – creating a future without drugs for the citizens of our cities - is one of the most important ones for democracy and well-being of our societies. Together we can make a huge difference. Let us never forget this!
February 2009: 16th ECAD Mayors' Conference:
New Challenges, The Same Goals
After the encouraging and stimulating 16th ECAD Mayors’ Conference in Göteborg, with inspirational lecturers and fruitful discussions, I feel new energy and reinforced ambitions! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all conference participants for making it such a successful event.
ECAD started in 1994 as a reaction to some larger cities in Europe wanting to liberalise international drug policy and legalise some illicit drugs. There is no such movement today so the question might be asked: Is there a need for ECAD then? Yes indeed! We may not have the same movement among cities like in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but we have an extensive propaganda on the Internet along with the fact that several organisations and even political parties in European governments are pledging for a more liberal policy. Besides that: even if there were no such movement at all – and therefore no need for a strong voice for a restrictive policy – there would still be a need for inspirations on what is best practice in our field. In order to fight drugs efficiently, we need each others’ help with commitment, influences and examples.
We can be sure that we are going to face challenges in the year to come, mostly because of the never ending trends’ fluctuations in policy making on illicit drugs in Europe. A lot can be said about that; some of it can be regarded as good, other as bad. It has always been this way but my hope is that we will see more of the positive trends and less of the negative ones in the future. In 2008, we noticed renewed discussions on injection rooms and legal prescription of heroin in some countries. These sort of solutions are as quick as heroin itself, i.e. not so humane and not that good in the long run. We saw also a rather positive development in other countries, for instance that cannabis is – again – regarded more seriously in United Kingdom or that many cities in the Netherlands are reducing the number of, or even closing down all, coffee shops.
The discussions we have within ECAD are both productive and necessary. It is important with a strong voice in Europe against legalisation and liberalisation, but this is not enough. As I see it, membership in ECAD should not only be a statement, you should also gain from it. In this sense, we need to develop. This could also be a successful way to recruit new cities, which would make our voice even stronger. Several speakers, if not everyone who took the floor in Göteborg, talked about the necessity of knowledge-based policies, methods and programmes. ECAD strives to strengthen this part of our activities and to advance our efforts in supporting member cities with best practice, regardless of the trends. This, with continuous support to the UN Conventions and restrictive drug policy.
A great responsibility for developing of ECAD lies on me as an executive and on my office, but also on the member cities. ECAD requires active contributions from its members in regard to delivering constructive experiences and best practice, which can and should in a more systematic way be spread through ECAD’s information channels and meetings. We have high ambitions but in order to reach them ECAD as organisation needs more engaged, active members burning for the sake of drug-free Europe. It should not, for instance, be too high of a demand for each member city to recruit at least one neighbour city to ECAD. By doing this, we will double the number of members to over 500 cities!
In the end of 2009 we will evaluate how long we have come in our task of strengthening and expanding ECAD.
November 2008: ECAD in the World of Today
ECAD today, 16 years since its start, is a well established organisation in the anti-drug field. We have some 270 member cities and we are well-known around Europe. For our future development it is important to analyse how we can further support our members in their anti-drug everyday work.
ECAD stands at a crossroad. Can we continue working the same way as we have done it during the past 16 years? I think not. We have to contribute more and deliver a merit value to our member cities.
ECAD member cities get access to a broad, useful network of decision makers throughout Europe. It is of great importance that these people have an arena where they can meet, share experiences and get impressions. It is also vital to represent a common standpoint from leading politicians throughout Europe that manifests a united front against illicit drugs. This is offered by ECAD today and is of course a merit value for ECAD’s members. ECAD is the voice of our member cities on the international arena, within United Nations and European Union. ECAD, within its frameworks, should become an organization STRONGLY associated with KNOWLEDGE. ECAD is an organisation that takes its starting point in facts and data, not opinions. When ECAD as an organisation has an opinion in any specific issue, it is based on available evidence.
We know that it is not easy for decision makers to get sufficient information about evaluated methods or best practice. Nobody expects them to be experts on what is going on around the world in anti-drug field, but you can expect that ECAD - with its broad and established network - is! Researchers are often accused for being poor in spreading their results. This gap is bridged by ECAD and we will become even better in doing that. ECAD stimulates and updates decision makers in the cities to learn more about what is useful in the fight against illicit drugs on the municipal level. This role is not taken by any other organisation Europe, EU nor UN.
I am aware that this is easier said than done, but we work hard to make it happen. We are in the process of improving our website. We are preparing stimulating seminars and conferences. We are thinking of creating a council of researchers in order to help us with both new knowledge and evaluation. We are appreciating input and active engagement from our member cities.
However, ECAD will enjoy even greater participation from YOU – ECAD member!