Opportunities and challenges for countries in transition to overcome barriers to evidence-based policies and interventions
The session aims to discuss the challenges that governmental institutions and non-governmental organisations in countries in transition face and the tools and opportunities they have when aiming at implementing a more evidence-based approach. In May 2021, the EMCDDA launched a two-year bilateral technical cooperation project with Georgia (EMCDDA4GE), which has as the overall objective to strengthen the work of the National Drug Observatory (NDO) and to enhance national responses on drug-related health and security threats in Georgia. Over the last decade, Georgia has shifted substantially towards a more evidence-based drug policy approach, built on solid data collection. An NDO was established in 2020, which is responsible for drug monitoring at national level. Surveys following European standards have resulted in more reliable estimates for substance use among the general population, teenagers, recreational drug users and people who inject drugs, and have given a good insight into the consequences of substance use in Georgia, for instance regarding drug-related harms and the needs for evidence-based prevention and treatment. In many countries that are in transition, like Georgia, drug policies and interventions are shifting towards a more evidence-based approach. However, changing the culture at system level often proves to be difficult in a context where in the past a different approach was in place. Experiences will be shared on how to convince policymakers in countries in transition about the importance of systematic data collection, how to prepare and facilitate system level changes towards evidence-based approaches and how to boost the uptake of effective prevention and treatment interventions. After each presentation, a Georgian expert will focus briefly on the challenges within the specific Georgian context. The last presentation on policy will summarise the different elements presented and will be followed by a discussion with the audience.