Peer involvement is part of inclusive policies

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{simplepopup link="video28"}{/simplepopup}{simplepopup popup="false" name="video28"}“There is no way that the government can develop a fair policy on drugs and health without consulting and involving us:  people using drugs.  We are the one and only real experts.”

Berne Stahlenkranz, drug activist, Swedish Drug Users Union, Sweden.






There are various reasons why peer involvement is crucial for inclusive policies:

  • First and foremost, involvement of the final beneficiaries of a policy, service or initiative is the foundation of basic ethical and human rights principles and it is imperative for health and social policy development.  It is GIPA (Greater Involvement of People who Use Drugs) par excellence. See: WHAT IS…..?/HISTORY/Greater involvement

    Peer involvement is a fundamental requirement and cornerstone of transparent and accountable policies.  Engagement of the targeted communities is beyond argument and should simply be common practice.

Peers (and the initiatives they might be engaged in) have specialised skills and knowledge that enrich the policy debate, as follows:

  • Peer organisations have access to information, experiences and perspectives that are different to those that policymakers bring to the discussion.  In addition, the involvement of peer-based local and national organisations increases the legitimacy of those organisations.
  • Peer involvement enhances democratic and transparent decision-making.  Engaging peer initiatives and peers themselves in policymaking widens the debate.
  • Peer organisations have the independence necessary to raise issues and questions that other civil society actors or governments will not and, in doing so, can act as the ‘conscience’ and the ‘watchdogs’ of the process.


The commitment made by governments in 2001 and 2006 when they endorsed the UN General Assembly’s Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS calls for the greater involvement of people living with HIV and of people from marginalised communities.
This means that governments and organisations cannot claim that they involve members or representatives of the target communities adequately in their work unless they do so meaningfully, in a formal, structured manner.

An excellent description of the ethical imperative of anchoring user involvement in policies and regulations can be found in the publication from the Canadian Aids Legal Network, Nothing about us without us

In Europe, the EU Drug Strategy 2005-2012 and the EU Drug Action Plan 2009-2012 invites the Member States to improve access to drug services by  developing alliances between citizens and institutions.

These EU  documents have no specific reference to drug user empowerment and involvement.  However, the Council Recommendation of 18 June 2003, on the prevention and reduction of health-related harm associated with drug dependence invites Member States to “encourage, when appropriate, the involvement of, and promote training for, peers and volunteers in outreach work, including measures to reduce drug-related deaths, first aid and early involvement of the emergency services”.;id=2603&lang=en&T=2