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Home > Assessment report & literature review - meaningful civil society involvement in the area of drug policy in Europe.

Sarosi, Peter and van Dam, Anke and Fulga, Valeria (2020) Assessment report & literature review - meaningful civil society involvement in the area of drug policy in Europe. Amsterdam: De Regenboog Groep; Correlation-European Harm Reduction Network.

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Civil society is considered an essential part of sustainable and inclusive development, good governance and responsible citizenship. The importance of civil society involvement in policy making, including the development and implementation of drug policies, is widely recognized. Many efforts are put into strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations (CSOs) to reach out to their constituencies, to collect evidence and to advocate for their causes. Similarly, mechanisms are established to facilitate dialogue between civil society organisations and policy makers at the local, national and international levels.

In 2018, the Civil Society Involvement in Drug Policy Project (CSIDP)1 conducted an assessment on existing civil society involvement structures in EU Member States. The assessment gives a better insight and understanding of the nature and extent of civil society involvement in drug policy at the national level. The CSIDP Road Map Report (2018) provides guidance for the development and implementation of effective and sustainable civil society structures in drug policy on the local, regional and national levels and provides practical examples for policy makers and civil society organisations. Both reports provide relevant information on what kind of resources, capacities and mechanisms are needed to ensure meaningful civil society involvement, including an overview of critical factors and processes which can facilitate or jeopardise the quality of participation and involvement. Understanding these issues can be an important step towards a more meaningful involvement process. However, can it also support the development of quality standards that can be used for monitoring and evaluation and thus improve civil society involvement?

To answer this question, a desk research was conducted to collect and assess relevant information about meaningful civil society involvement. The authors of this report identified and reviewed reports from a variety of international agencies, such as the European Commission, the United Nations, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and international networks of civil society organisations (CSOs) working in the areas of drug policy, harm reduction and health. Some national information from networks and national governments was also collated.

We conducted a systematic online search to identify scholarly articles and reports published by governmental and non-governmental organisations on why and how civil society should be involved in policy making processes. Our research aimed to identify and describe:
1) competing definitions of civil society;
2) the purpose and benefits of civil society involvement;
3) forms of, and steps in, civil society involvement;
4) principles, tools and recommendations on civil society involvement;
5) facilitators and barriers for the meaningful involvement of civil society;
6) positive examples of cooperation between government and civil society;
7) barriers and challenges in civil society involvement;
8) the risks and opportunities of funding.

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