Home > Drug policy advocacy organisations in Europe.

Pike, Brigid (2014) Drug policy advocacy organisations in Europe. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 49, Spring 2014, pp. 10-11.

[img] PDF (Drugnet Ireland 49) - Published Version

In December 2013 the EMCDDA published Drug policy advocacy organisations in Europe.1 Presenting the results of a mapping study of such bodies undertaken by Aileen O’Gorman of UCD, this paper describes how civil society organisations engaging in drug policy advocacy in Europe are today well organised, high-profile and impact-oriented. Their development has been driven by greater ease of communication (facilitated by new technologies) and the greater number of formal mechanisms through which policymakers can now be reached.

Advocacy is defined in the paper as ‘… activities and actions with the intention of influencing decision-makers and with the aim of developing, establishing or changing policies and practices and of establishing and sustaining programmes and services’.2 Three main categories of drug advocacy, all perceived to be following a transformative strategy for achieving social justice, are described in the paper (p.4):
-    self or peer advocacy undertaken by individuals and peer groups speaking out for themselves, and often associated with the rights-based agendas of disability and mental health activism;
-    professional advocacy undertaken by ‘helping professions’ speaking on behalf of a person or an issue, often seeking the removal of structural barriers hindering their constituency’s needs being met; and
-    public policy advocacy seeking to effect change mainly through legislation and resource allocation.
An additional distinction is drawn between case and cause advocacy, with case advocacy focusing on the needs of the individual and cause advocacy addressing social reform. Advocacy is also observed to intersect the realms of lobbying, interest groups and social movements, in terms of their shared aims of influencing public policy and resource allocation decisions, legislation, or both, though by different approaches.
Drug advocacy organisations are defined in the paper as bodies with a website-based internet presence that contains a clearly stated aim to influence drug policy. Of the 218 organisations identified across 30 countries, 69% operated on a national basis, around one-fifth (17%) had a local or regional remit and over one-tenth (14 %) had a European or international remit. The primary objectives of the organisations were found to be predominantly in the area of practice development and delivery (65%), with 26% advocating use reduction and 39% harm reduction approaches. Primary objectives in the field of legislative changes were pursued by the remainder, with 23% in favour of control reduction and 12% calling for control reinforcement.
The organisations included in the study, including 11 in Ireland (see box), were found to be engaged in targeted activities, aimed at influencing the attitudes and opinions of the public and policymakers on drug service provision, drug controls, or both. These activities are grounded in aspirations for an improvement in the well-being of the individuals, groups or societies affected by drug use. The paper concludes that changes in the nature, methods and impact of advocacy in the drugs area are evolving against a backdrop of economic crisis. As drug services and law enforcement agencies come under increased financial pressure, it is considered likely that the number and type of policy actors engaged in advocacy will grow.Equally, as communities affected by drug problems experience renewed difficulties in providing services, an increased impetus to engage in advocacy may emerge.

Drug policy advocacy organisations in Ireland
Ana Liffey Drug Project
Ballymun Youth Action Project
CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign
Family Support Network
ICON (Inner City Organisations Network)
INEF (Irish Needle Exchange Forum)
Irish Penal Reform Trust
Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice
Merchants Quay Ireland
SAOL Project
UISCE (Union for Improved Services, Communication and Education)

Drug policy advocacy organisations in Europe is one of four studies published by the EMCDDA  in its new series, ‘EMCDDA Papers’. Primarily targeting policymakers and specialists, the papers are designed as brief and timely web-based products on a variety of topics in the drugs field. To be published several times a year, the papers will cover all aspects of Europe’s drug phenomenon, from consumption and markets to health and social consequences as well as the responses of the EU and its member states to drug problems. 
1. European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2013) Drug policy advocacy organisations in Europe. EMCDDA Papers. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.www.drugsandalcohol.ie/21063
2. This definition was developed by the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs. This committee links non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with UN intergovernmental and international agencies involved in drug policy, strategy and control: the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). www.vngoc.org

Item Type
Issue Title
Issue 49, Spring 2014
April 2014
Page Range
pp. 10-11
Health Research Board
Issue 49, Spring 2014
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

Repository Staff Only: item control page