International Youth Day 2012: Young people can lead change to healthier societies
10 August 2012 - With International Youth Day being marked on 12 August, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has hailed the "unprecedented potential" of young people "to advance the well-being of the entire human family."
UNODC chief Yury Fedotov also commended the dedication and commitment of young people in speaking out against substance use in favour of promoting a healthy lifestyle : "On the day we celebrate young people, their energy, and their passion, I call on every young person to add their voices to those who reject drug use. But I ask older generations to work harder at understanding the challenges faced by young people when growing up. If we are to successfully respond to drug use appropriately, we need to recognize that every generation has a role to play in helping successive generations."
The Secretary-General warns of a "lost generation of squandered talent and dreams amid the current global economic crisis." Without viable prospects, young people can drift into drug use and delinquency. Community-wide support is needed to combat drug use, which can be prevented by providing young people with the opportunities, skills and information needed to shun risky behaviour. UNODC has created family skills training, which help youngsters to build self-esteem, say no to drugs and find a supportive environment.
Drug traffickers target the young, who are increasingly exposed to newer and ever-more dangerous synthetic 'party drugs'. With an estimated 210 million people affected by drug use each year resulting in some 200,000 deaths, young people are particularly vulnerable to drug use.
Acknowledging this susceptibility, UNODC launched the 'Youth Initiative' in early 2012. This campaign encourages young people, through the use of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, to be part of the solution by raising awareness on the impact of drugs, informing each other on the possibilities of prevention and treatment and encouraging their peers to live healthy lives.
The Youth Initiative echoes the Secretary-General's call for young men and women to be equal and effective partners in finding solutions to global problems: "We need to listen to and engage with young people. We need to establish more and stronger mechanisms for youth participation. The time has come to integrate youth voices more meaningfully into decision-making processes at all levels."
In March this year, 20 young people from seven countries attended the 55th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs as part of the Youth Initiative. During the meeting, they shared experiences and exchanged opinions on the prevention and treatment of drug use in their communities.