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ID: 643

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Practice

Topics: Human Rights and Harm Reduction; Innovative Harm Reduction Programmes

Presenting author: Mikhail Golichenko

Presenting author biography:

Mikhail leads drug policy research and advocacy work of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network in Russian-speaking countries. He has also worked for the UN and the Russian police service in different positions, including as an instructor.He has been a member of the Russian Bar Association since 2007.

The role of legal technical assistance in community empowerment and removing legal barriers

Mikhail Golichenko, Asya Bidordinova

In Russia, people who use drugs, sex workers and men who have sex with men experience stigma and human rights violations. In 2015, the Global Fund supported an NGO-led program that adopted an innovative learning-by-doing approach providing HIV and harm reduction services and focusing on human rights and legal protection of key populations. These projects are encouraged to seek cases of human rights violations and help community members protect their rights. A key element of this program is the ongoing technical assistance provided by a team of community experts and professional lawyers.
More than one million HIV cases were recorded in Russia in 2015 — a statistic that is increasing by more than 11% annually. People who use drugs, sex workers and men who have sex with men remain the most affected and vulnerable populations largely due to discriminatory laws and practices.
Outreach workers, in partnershp with clients, were trained to identify human rights violations and provide legal support. The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network retained eight lawyers and four community coordinators who provided training and 24/7 online support to these outreach workers. The technical assistance aims to equip projects and key populations with the knowledge about human rights and legal mechanisms.
Between January–October 2016, professional lawyers and community coordinators trained 160 outreach workers and provided ongoing technical support. Requests for assistance increased ten-fold. All projects documented and acted on human rights violations, including 10 high-profile legal cases. Best practices were documented and shared. The project evaluation shows that the innovative learning-by-doing approach had been instrumental in community empowerment. This joint effort of key populations, service projects and lawyers demonstrates the importance of being bold and proactive in protecting human rights. This easy-to-replicate approach is well-documented and can be adapted for use in other EECA countries.