On October 13–14, the UNODC project office in Belarus and the Ministry of Internal Affairs organized a 2–day sensitization workshop at the “Silitchi” National Sport Centre, aimed at law enforcement officials and Civil Society Organization (CSO) representatives. The topic of the workshop was “Enhancing Partnerships between Law Enforcement Agencies and Civil Society Organizations in the context of Drug Use and HIV”.

On October 13–14, the UNODC project office in Belarus and the Ministry of Internal Affairs organized a 2–day sensitization workshop at the “Silitchi” National Sport Centre, aimed at law enforcement officials and Civil Society Organization (CSO) representatives. The topic of the workshop was “Enhancing Partnerships between Law Enforcement Agencies and Civil Society Organizations in the context of Drug Use and HIV”.

The workshop gathered participants from the regions of Belarus and its capital city. Delegates represented organizations including: the Department for Drugs Counteraction and Prevention of Human Trafficking, the Department for Corrections and the Department for Surveillance of the Ministry of Interior; Minsk oblast and Minsk city narcological dispensaries; the Department for HIV/AIDS Prevention of the Republican Centre for Hygiene and Epidemiology; and CSOs which work with drug dependent people and people living with HIV such as  “Positive Movement” and “Mothers against Drugs”.

The very saturated and rich agenda highlighted such important issues as: the historical background and modern patterns of the spread of drug use in the Eastern European and Central Asian countries; contemporary approaches to drug policy; principles of harm reduction; justifications for the necessity of cooperation between law enforcement structures and CSOs working in this field; regional specifics of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its connection with intravenous drug use; notions of tolerance, and compliance with human rights standards; experiences in the field of international cooperation and the engagement of the police in counteracting HIV/AIDS and drug use. All of these issues kept the close attention of the participants throughout the workshop.

The participants worked together to elaborate a joint approach to cooperation at the national and regional levels and discussed many practical issues in addressing the needs of Belarusian society, which faces a growing problem of drug abuse, including newly evolved drugs as well as traditional ones. Particular attention was paid to the problems of HIV and drug use in the penitentiary system and the reintegration of former convicts into society.

The trainer, international expert Alexander Zelitchenko, who is himself a police colonel, appealed to many practical examples of the changing attitudes and increasing awareness of law enforcement officers in many countries of the world. He pointed to the establishment of the international network of Law Enforcement and HIV (LEAHN, www.leahn.org), which promotes values of cooperation and mutual trust between the police, healthcare and civil society organizations, as an important culmination of these gradual changes.

The participants of the workshop were enthusiastic about its proceedings and results, and stated, in particular, that the primary prevention of drug use in the country should be considerably enhanced with respect to human rights and the needs of those who experience drug dependence. This would contribute to reaching better public health standards for society as a whole.

The workshop effectively examined the opportunities and key ingredients for enhancing partnerships between law enforcement agencies and CSOs in order to increase access to harm reduction services and public safety.

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