HR19 Porto 28 April - 1 May 2019

Call for Tenders: Harm Reduction International Conference 2021 (HR21)


Harm Reduction International received tenders from capable, local partners with the capacity and enthusiasm to co-host the next Harm Reduction International Conference.

The Harm Reduction International Conference began in 1990 in Liverpool, England. The city was one of the first to open needle and syringe programmes, and attracted hundreds of visitors each year who wanted to learn about the 'Mersey Harm Reduction Model'.  The success of this first conference led to its establishment as an annual event held in major cities around the world. The conference helped to spread the principles behind harm reduction, share knowledge and experience and build networks of harm reduction practitioners and activists, to broaden the response to HIV related to unsafe injecting practices, HCV, bacterial infections and overdose. The conference also became the primary international meeting and networking point for drug user activists and organisations.  Over the past three decades, the conference has been staged in Europe, Eurasia, North and South America, Asia and Australasia. The most recent conference was held in Porto, Portugal in April 2019.

Note: Bids from North America and Europe will be considered, but HRI would like to note that it is unlikely that the conference will return to these continents for HR21.

I. Conference Size and Structure

HR21 will bring together more than 1000 delegates from over 70 countries. The event will include high profile keynote speakers, over 60 sessions of various sizes (plenary sessions, major sessions, concurrent sessions and small workshops), film screenings, a poster display, an exhibition zone and a Dialogue Space, as well as numerous side meetings, events and satellite sessions.

II. Identifying a Conference Partner

In order to stage the event in cities and countries around the world, Harm Reduction International works with a local partner organisation with the willingness and capacity to co-host the event with us. It should be emphasised that co-hosting the international conference means much more than simply putting your logo on the event.

Although the co-host is not necessarily expected to make a direct financial contribution to the conference, agreeing to act as the main conference partner requires a significant commitment of your staff time, energy and ideas over a 12-14-month planning period.

Examples of tasks and responsibilities that the co-host will be expected to deliver include:

  • Liaising with local and national government authorities on behalf of the conference
  • Assisting with fundraising for the event’s core costs, and for scholarships for conference delegates
  • Establishing and coordinating the Local Organising Committee, holding and hosting regular meetings to arrange any local participation in the conference and its various activities
  • Assisting in organising the provision of harm reduction services at the conference
  • Assisting HRI’s International Review Committee with the online review of abstracts, and participating in the Programme Committee Meeting, a three-day event which takes place in London five to six months prior to the conference, during which members meet to further review abstracts and finalise the programme for HR21
  • A large amount of administrative work, including assisting conference delegates in obtaining visas for travel
  • Promoting the conference via various methods
  • Assisting in local and national media work
  • Assisting with local logistics

III. Preparing the Tender

In submitting a tender to Harm Reduction International, you are formally expressing your interest in co-hosting the 2021 conference, and all that this commitment entails. The purpose of the tender is to explain how your organisation, city and country best meet the requirements necessary to stage the harm reduction conference in an accessible and cost effective manner.  The tender should detail your ideas about the 2021 conference and the impact it would have on your country/region, and should be an accurate representation of your organisation, your city/country and the capacity of both to stage HR21.

The tender must clearly address the following questions (which may even be used as headings to structure the document):

  • Who are you, and what does your organisation do?
  • Why do you want to co-host HR21?
  • What experience do you have in organising other conferences or events?
  • Who are the key local/national partners and community organisations with whom you plan to collaborate for the logistical, fundraising and thematic/programmatic tasks?
  • What would hosting the harm reduction conference mean for the harm reduction movement in your city, country and/or region?  What would be the medium- and long-term benefits for harm reduction advocacy work before, during and after the event? How do you plan to use the event to advance certain local/national/regional agendas?
  • How will your organisation ensure the delivery of the responsibilities and tasks outlined in Section II over the 12-14-month conference planning and delivery process? Provide as much detail as necessary to demonstrate how your organisation has the required staff capacity, experience and capabilities to deliver this event.
  • How does your organisation and proposed host city/country meet the criteria below, which will be used by Harm Reduction International to assess proposals?

Required elements for a successful host city/country include:

  • Access to legal harm reduction services - including needle and syringe programmes, opioid substitution therapy and naloxone for both residents and visitors
  • Cost-effective conference facilities suitable to house a conference of at least 1000 delegates (full venue requirements in Section VI)
  • Accessible international air travel
  • A strong hotel accommodation infrastructure to house delegates with a variety of different needs and budgets
  • Political and/or financial support from the city/municipality
  • No major national travel/entry restrictions

Desirable elements for a successful host city/country include:

  • Political support from national/state government(s)
  • Financial support from the host city, state and/or national government(s)
  • Reasonably easy visa application processes
  • Strong local networks of people who use drugs, and/or other civil society allies
  • Options for the satellite provision of legal harm reduction and health services in the conference venue itself
  • Strong media capacity, ideally including the potential for support from local high-profile personalities and key journalists

IV. Venue

Please include a minimum of two venue options and estimated costs in your proposal.

The venue must be of an adequate size to hold the following sessions:


  • Plenary room to seat 1,000
  • Five concurrent sessions (four major sessions and one workshop)


  • Six concurrent sessions (five concurrent sessions and one workshop)


  • Exhibition space (as central and hub-like as possible) with space for 20-30 stands (mix of shell scheme and less formal)
  • Open space for double poster boards x 50
  • Open but somewhat insulated space for ‘Dialogue Space’
  • Film screenings (can be in plenary room)
  • HRI office
  • Speakers’ room
  • Meeting rooms (x3 minimum)


  • HRI prefers not to use the plenary space for concurrent or major sessions
  • Subdivision of rooms is acceptable, but not with free-standing boards. Dividers should be soundproofed
  • Please check that the venues you have selected have current availability in May/June 2021 (Saturday-Wednesday); the period of the conference must not include any Public/Bank Holidays. Note: If there is a compelling climate-based reason to hold the conference later in 2021, please highlight this in your bid

V. Deadlines and Process

There is no set template for the tenders, although they should not exceed 15 pages.

Once received, tenders will be reviewed and assessed by Harm Reduction International.  Depending on the number of high quality bids, we may request additional information, and perhaps arrange phone or in-person meetings with the candidate organisations, before making a final decision.

The final decision will be made in January 2020.

The deadline for submission of tenders is 31 July 2019.

Please submit tenders by email to:

Lucy O'Hare/Maddie O'Hare

Conference Managers

Harm Reduction International


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