On November 12-13 2014, in Abuja, Nigeria, UNODC conducted a two day workshop on "Enhancing Partnerships between Law Enforcement and Civil Society Organizations in the context of Drug Use and HIV". The workshop aimed to sensitize law enforcement officials about harm reduction services in the context of HIV and at building the capacity of civil society organizations, particularly CSOs to advocate with law enforcement agencies (LEA) to ensure greater access of people who inject drugs to harm reduction services and also create a space for the LEA and CSOs to share respective views, concerns and ideas.
In the context of scaling up access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support there is increasing global recognition of the importance of multi-sector partnerships. One of the most important of these partnerships is between the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) working on the ground. LEAs can play a positive role in protecting the individual and public health, especially of diverse and vulnerable communities. In the context of people who use/inject drugs, LEAs have an important role in ensuring that people who use drugs have uncompromised access to essential social and health services.
UNODC in partnership with National AIDS Control Agency and UNAIDS brought together civil society organisations and Law enforcement agencies. The meeting was attended by law enforcement officials from Police, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, Prison services, Legal aid council, Federal Road safety Corps, Immigration services, Armed forces, National Emergency Management Agency and by Representatives from civil society organizations including Population Council, YouthRISE, Centre for Right to Health, Heartland Alliance and Society for Family Health.
The two day workshop witnessed vibrant discussions and debates between law enforcement and civil society organizations. A key conclusion from the workshop emphasised the need for long term partnerships between civil society organizations and law enforcement officers especially at the level of the states. Both felt the need for more regular engagement and collaboration on a regular basis. Capacity building and training needs were identified as an important step in providing access to harm reduction services in addition to advocacy with senior LEA officials to creating an enabling environment.