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Surviving and Thriving: Lessons in Successful Advocacy from Drug User-Led Networks

1 April 2022

Surviving and Thriving: Lessons in Successful Advocacy from Drug-User Led Networks showcases what local and regional drug user-led networks can do when they have adequate resources through accessible and sustainable donor funding. The networks featured in these case studies took on projects that confront the most pressing issues of our time, such as COVID-19, government crackdowns on human rights activists and gender power imbalances. Having directly experienced and survived harms that include discrimination, incarceration, police violence and overdose, people who use drugs and their advocacy networks are uniquely positioned and motivated to implement community-response work. These projects have restored dignity and purpose to the lives they have saved.

Despite their power and achievements, drug user-led networks are not well-funded or valued. This report aims to show how and why peer-led networks should be given primacy by donors and recognised for their work. It demonstrates how peer-led drug user networks have strategised and mobilised to leverage limited resources to positive
effect, and how they are thriving in adversity and crisis, in the context of insufficient
and unstable resources. Highly restrictive funding, underfunding – and unsustainable
funding for drug user-led networks – undermine their ability to do transformative work,
are anathema to the universally-held value of the meaningful involvement of key populations, and detrimental to social justice and human rights.

Featured case studies include:

South Africa Network of People Who Use Drugs – Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre, Durban, South Africa

Eurasian Network of People Who Use Drugs – Gains in OAT Access in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Peers as Experts

Urban Survivors Union (United States) – Narcofeminism Storyshare Project: Developing Alternative Narratives, Producing New Knowledge, and Ensuring More Responsive Advocacy

Indian Drug Users’ Forum – Budget Advocacy leading to $10 million dollars for key populations through C19RM

Below please also find two infographics detailing the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre and NarcoFeminist Story Sharing case studies, to further visualise the powerful impact these projects have had.