Friday, 9 March 2012

Ask not what SSDP UK can do for you...but fill in a survey!

Now is a vital time for the drug law reform movement, as increasingly we see the orthodoxy of prohibition challenged by the stark realities of drug addiction, gang violence, disproportionate policing and the erosion of human rights in myriad ways. There are thousands of reasons to be angry that this stupid state of affairs is still the status quo, but getting angry is not enough. We have to have our voices heard.

I am a passionate believer in the power of a group of people, democratically organised and dedicated to the pursuit of their cause, to effect change. I am proud to tell my family, my friends and my work colleagues that I am part of the group charged with helping run the largest UK student-led organisation campaigning to end the war on drugs. A drugs policy based on evidence and compassion should naturally come from places of education, research and learning in our society, and from the voices of young people who often bear the brunt of prohibition.

For most of us our contact with SSDP UK may have started from a chance meeting at a Freshers fayre, or perhaps through seeing an event and turning up with half an idea in mind about what drugs law reform was about. Perhaps then you came to a social, or a larger event like our day school in 2009 or two national conferences subsequently. Hopefully you're on the facebook group, and maybe perhaps you follow us on twitter.

But; how will you make sure that in years to come SSDP UK is successful in having our voices heard?

For the next two weeks you have the opportunity to fill in a members survey, and after that, to come to our conference in April and share your thoughts about how to ensure the future success of the organisation.

Filling in a survey or joining a discussion group probably doesn't sound very exciting, but out there in our membership is a teeming pool of talent, activism and enthusiasm. Taking a moment to share your thoughts now may well provide the spark lead to the organisation that delivers a fairer drug law reform in the UK within a generation.

So, take five minutes, fill out the survey; tell us what you know we can do more of, and the best way to do it. We promise that we'll be listening.

The deadline for filling in the survey is Saturday the 24th of March.

Follow SSDP UK on Twitter and add us on Facebook. If you are interested in writing for the blog, drop us a message.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Activism across Europe

SSDP UK boardmember Katherine Bavage reports back from a visit to Poland to meet with other youth and student drug law reform activists.

I'm writing this in the offices of the Polish Drug Policy Network in Warsaw, Poland. Me and Levent Akbulut, both members of SSDP UK's national executive board have been here since Tuesday morning meeting with our European counterparts.

I first met Jan Stola, Bjarke Jørgensen and Luca Stefenelli at the first European Youth and Student Drug Policy Reform Conference, held in Manchester last year by SSDP UK. At the time I was impressed with the depth of knowledge and activist organisation already present in youth groups across Europe, and as we catch up nearly a year later its clear that progress has continued.

Studencka Inicjatywa Narkopolitiyki - or SIN, as my lack of Polish speaking ability prefers! - have been doing some exciting work. They've recently held a well attended activist training session in Warsaw, and are looking to work to deliver harm reduction advice during the European Football Championship as part of the 'Safer Games' campaign many organisations are involved in.

Meanwhile, Bjarke is working on developing a youth advocacy organisation in Denmark. Based in Copenhagen the intention is to build on existing meetings with danish street lawyers and activists to raise the profile of drug law reform issues in the public policy sphere - this week they've launched their website and are looking to get the word out there and get supporters on board.

Finally, Luca is based in the University of Trento and has worked to set up Dipendenza Alternativa in the area. Just this week they are too launching a website, and are really keen to raise public awareness in Italy of the problems caused by prohibition to the Italian people - including severe prison overcrowding.

It's been a fascinating few days of learning about how other organisations across Europe are striving in their different ways to achieve the same things as SSDP UK. Myself and Lev will report back to the UK board and I hope continue to learn from and support our European counterparts. Its a potentially very exciting idea to look at trying to achieve out aims on a European scale, and I am hopeful that our members will have a chance to meet and discuss the issues with European delegates at our conference in April.

- If you would like to find out more about SSDP's annual conference in london in April 2012, please visit the facebook event or take a look at the call for papers
- If you are interested in finding out more about other European groups and their work please email Katherine at

Follow SSDP on Facebook and Twitter. If you are interested in writing for the SSDP UK blog,please get in touch.