Director General/Executive Director
Statement of the Executive Director UNODC on International Youth Day
12 August 2012
On International Youth Day 2012, I offer my warmest congratulations to young people all over the world who, through their dedication and commitment, are speaking out against substance abuse, while also promoting a healthy lifestyle against drugs.
Illicit drugs are a multi-billion dollar industry that, every year, kills around 200,000 people. But, the impact of substance abuse goes much further; illicit drugs destroy families and communities, as well as encouraging criminality and spreading HIV/AIDS.
The Youth Initiative launched in early 2012 is one of UNODC's key activities in this area. By offering young people a leadership role, the Youth Initiative calls on them to connect with each other through social media and to encourage a healthy life.
Through awareness raising activities, such as rallies for local treatment centres, the use of Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, young people now have a better understanding about the impact of drugs on their communities. UNODC's work is helping young people to overcome stereotypes about drug abuse. In doing so, youth are helping to communicate the message that drug abuse is a medical condition, and that problem drug users deserve treatment.
Young people from the Youth Initiative attended the 55th Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March this year. During the meeting, they shared experiences and exchanged opinions on the prevention and treatment of drug use in their communities. Their overall message was simple: "Think ahead, act in longer terms, and let us not fail".
We need to appreciate the risks for young people who live in areas where drugs are sold, or where they spend time with peers already drifting into drugs and delinquency. Such experiences increase the likelihood of drug abuse.
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.