Vienna (Austria), 5 March 2020 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) convened 45 youths and 27 parents and guardians from 33 countries for the Youth Forum 2020, to involve them in efforts to address the world drug problem and to strengthen their voices on the global level. The Forum was held from 2 to 4 March in the margins of the 63 rd Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna.
The world today is home to 1.8 billion youths, the largest generation of youth in history. The United Nations at large is committed to amplifying the voices of young people, to increasing their agency, reach and impact, as manifested in the United Nations Youth Strategy. The UNODC Youth Initiative is the umbrella under which UNODC aims to connect young people from around the world and empower them to promote evidence-based drug use prevention strategies.
Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC, opened the event and said: "We urgently have to act on the world drug problem. We have ten years left to achieve this and other targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. A Decade of Action, which is not much time, but I have confidence that with young people like yourselves we can make it."
During the three-day Forum, participants discussed and analysed scientific information on drug use and helped come up with feasible and tangible solutions to drug use problems locally.
They also delivered a message during the Plenary session of the CND. On 4 March, Hajibayli Bilgeyis from Azerbaijan and Muhammad Azhar Ibne Habib from Mauritius delivered the Youth Statement to the Plenary saying that "we call on Member States to provide opportunities for youth to become leaders and to find solutions that will lead to healthier communities. Youth need positive adult role models that will encourage them to think critically, respect diverse opinions and take action."
The interest in promoting youth and the attention given to their voices is growing worldwide, and the demand of young people to participate in this year's Youth Forum was higher than ever. The participants learned about important scientific principles of evidence-based prevention and discussed risk and protective factors potentially influencing the use of drugs by youth.
At this year's Youth Forum UNODC also held a session for the parents and guardians who accompanied their children, to learn about drug use prevention and parenting skills. This gives the adults an opportunity to have a better understanding of how to support their children to grow healthy and safe.
With the generous support of the Government of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, UNODC is able to support approximately 25 youth each year to participate in the Youth Forum. In addition, Member States themselves provide funding for another group of approximately 30 youth to participate. This however is only a small percentage of the youth voices that can be heard around the world promoting youth participation in drug use prevention activities. UNODC has worked with youth leaders to keep the "connections" active on such platforms as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.