Harm reduction in Europe: a framework for civil society-led monitoring

Harm Reduction Journal (2021)

Rafaella Rigoni , Tuukka Tammi , Daan van der Gouwe , Eberhard Schatz

Background: Civil society organisations (CSOs) play a vital role in developing and implementing efective measures to reduce the harms of drug use. They are also fundamental actors to monitor and evaluate programmes and policies for improvement. While harm reduction services are subject to monitoring, and international and European indicators exist, a framework for civil society-led monitoring does not exist. This paper analyses the challenges and added values of developing such a framework for the European region. 

Methods: Since 2018, a technical working group within Correlation-European Harm Reduction Network (C-EHRN) is developing and revising a monitoring framework, collecting—through National Focal Points—the experience of harm reduction service providers and service users in 34 European countries. The frst round of data collection, in 2019, focused on hepatitis C, overdose prevention, new drug trends and civil society involvement in drug policies. Results: Developing CSO-based harm reduction monitoring is a learning by doing process. Assuring reliability and national representativeness of the data was a central challenge. As most CSOs have little or no experience with monitoring and research and work in a local-based context, the monitoring approach and its indicators were adjusted to the local context in the second round, bringing more in-depth information and helping to improve results’ reliability. While this implied shifting from the initial focus on comparing responses at a national level, the change to collecting qualitative data refecting local realities of service policies and delivery provides the foundations for a critical appraisal of these realities against European policy goals. This allowed to map discrepancies between ofcial policies and their implementation, as well as identify gaps in and complement data collection from national-level agencies.

Conclusions: By focusing on local experiences regarding the delivery of global and European policy targets, C-EHRN monitoring uses the unique strengths of its CSOs network and generates information that complements the reporting by other monitoring agencies. Data refecting the CSOs perspective is essential for optimising local planning of service provision and development of efective and respectful drug policies at national and European level. If data quality issues, as well as the sustainability of reporting, are adequately addressed, civil society monitoring can provide excellent added value for the monitoring of harm reduction in Europe. 

Keywords: Monitoring and evaluation, Civil society organisations, Harm reduction, Overdose prevention, Europe

Harm reduction in Europe: a framework for civil society-led monitoring

Harm reduction in Europe: a framework for civil society-led monitoring

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