Brunei Darussalam as it is locally known, is situated on the picturesque island of Borneo amid rainforests and tropical beaches, facing the South China Sea. Brunei has a population of 300,000. It boasts of impressive mosques, evidence of a strong belief in the Islamic religion. Brunei shares a border with Sarawak, an east Malaysian state. Brunei's cultural traditions can be traced to Hinduism, Islam and the West. However, it was Islam that flourished and grew deep roots, flowering into a rich culture. Islam was embraced becoming the state's ideology and philosophy.
Over the years, Brunei has witnessed a significant rise in drug abuse cases in the country, which is a worrying trend. According to The
Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) statistics there is a 30% jump in drug related crimes in the country in 2002 compared to the previous year. In the year 2002 the NCB arrested 713 people involved in drug-related crimes. Brunei was ranked fifth in terms of amphetamine abuse in East, South and Southeast Asian regions in 2008. As compared to other South East Asian countries, the problem of drug abuse in Brunei is not serious.
The Brunei times states that of the entire population in the Sultanate only 0.02% use cannabis and 0.01% use opiates. In comparison countries that have an acute problem with amphetamine abuse are Philippines at 6% followed by Thailand at 0.8%, Laos at 0.7%, Cambodia, Taiwan and Malaysia at 0.6 %.
Globally drug abuse is becoming trendy and there is a rising trend across the board. So even these figures should be further reduced by using a multilateral approach that not only targets international organisations but mainly the youth of Brunei. In this background, The Commonwealth Asia Regional Workshop on Drug and Substance Abuse was organised by the Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP) Asia Centre and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Brunei Darussalam in collaboration with UNODC in Brunei Darussalam from 12 th-17 th March 2009. Eight commonwealth countries, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh were represented by 38 participants . Dr. Suruchi Pant, Project Coordinator and Kunal Kishore, Project Officer from UNODC ROSA were resource persons for this important 5 day workshop.
Mass awareness events and campaigns against drug abuse, may not be the most effective way of addressing the problem of drug abuse. Youth have to be targeted and made aware of the effects of drug abuse through streamlined training programmes and workshops. Since youth are more susceptible to experimenting with drugs as compared to the older generation, it is a priority for the Government of Brunei in collaboration with international organizations like UNODC ROSA, to address this problem head on and
develop preventive measures against drug abuse.
A workshop such as this provides a regional platform for youth to share best practices and experiences. It strengthens the knowledge base and understanding of participants on the problem of drug/substance use and enhances their skills to deal with the problem. This workshop also facilitates coordination between government, non-governmental stakeholders and international organizations to come together and develop an effective strategy for prevention, treatment and care.
e workshop Dr. Pant rightly pointed out that, "
Brunei should focus more on preventing drug abuse since the number of drug abuse cases in the Sultanate is still low compared to other countries and Brunei can expect to achieve tangible results". She further explained that since the local youth of Brunei showed much enthusiasm and zeal to deal with drug related problems, transnational terrorism and drug abuse prevention, their interest must be sustained by frequent training programmes and workshops. Dr. Pant also suggested that since Islam is central to Brunei, faith-based organizations could play a key role, through motivational talks and workshops for youth, to help them say 'No to Drugs'.
However, this is a not an easy task. Working with young people in this field is challenging because people o
ften ignore the deep psychological and socio-cultural setting which influences their behavior. Youth are prone to experimentation and succumb easily to peer pressure. "But these factors alone do not explain why they resort to drug use. Societal factors such as poverty, migration, unemployment, domestic discord, crime and violence also contribute to young people taking drugs ", said Kunal Kishore. According to him these aspects need to be understood and dealt with in order to tackle the problem. In conclusion, there is a need to adopt approaches which are comprehensive, multifaceted but integrated. These approaches must include
policy makers because they influence positive decision making that will translate into national policies.
Dr. Suruchi Pant, Project Coordinator, UNODC ROSA
Organising and participating in such workshops is the first crucial step to initiate a larger, more responsive ripple effect targetting drug abuse not only among international organizations, government and the media but mainly among the young. It is they who are our future leaders and with them lies the responsibility to make Brunei a safe and proud country. The real success for Brunei in fighting drug abuse, is when the youth unite with the Sultanate and collectively join the fight against drug abuse and trafficking.
Kunal Kishore, Project Offier, UNODC ROSA giving a presentation at the Workshop