UNODC Provides Youth of Central Asia a Platform for Drug Prevention Discussion

Central Asian region is at a critical demographic juncture. Young people under 30 years old constitute more than 50 per cent of the population. In two decades, these young people will be the largest labour force the region has ever had. Data suggests that the age that youth in the region try drugs of any kind dropped from 14 to 10 years old.  This is a signal for the Governments, encouraging them to pay more attention to younger generation, engaging youth in policy dialogues, providing meaningful opportunities for youth to be involved in decision-making processes on issues that matter in their lives, such as substance use. 

To provide a platform and exchange ideas on how to protect the health and wellbeing of youth within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) convened 25 young leaders from five Central Asian countries on 24-26 November 2021 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan to discuss the importance of evidence-based substance use prevention in the region and to launch a Regional Network of Youth Organizations and Youth Leaders for change in Central Asia for a drug free, healthy, safe and secure societies.

During three-day regional meeting of youth, participants discussed and developed a regional youth vision statement, drafted a Youth Network charter, committed to an action plan to prevent drug use. Youth leaders from five countries in the region worked together to craft a call to action related to safe and healthy communities and built upon the UNODC/WHO International Standard on Drug Use Prevention to create a plan of action for the region. 

Ms. Ghada Waly, UNODC Executive Director, Mr. Vladimir Tarabrin, Director of the Department on New Challenges and Threats of the Russian MFA, Mr. Ayubhon Radjiev, Director of the Research Institute for the Study of Problems and Determination of the Prospects of Public Education named after Avloniy, Mr. Olim Narzullaev, Director of the National Information-Analytical Center on Drug Control, Mr. Khurshid Ochilov, Deputy governor of the Samarkand region, and Ms. Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative to Central Asia addressed the participants at the official launch of the youth network held on 25 November 2021.

Ms. Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC, opened the launch event and said: “I count on the enthusiasm, commitment, and creativity of the members of the new Youth Network to share facts on drugs, bridge perception gaps, and help ensure that their peers are well equipped to choose health”.

“We are convinced that the most effective strategy for countering drug addiction is to involve young people themselves in anti-drug efforts, who can better convey to their peers in schools and local communities the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The well-being and prosperity of society in the future depend on your active position against drugs and crime”, noted Mr. Vladimir Tarabrin, Director of the Department on New Challenges and Threats of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in his address to youth. 

“We work together in areas such as effective primary drug use prevention, prevention of crime and delinquency in general education students, crime and delinquency prevention among general education students, through drug use prevention, and evidence-based, cost-effective life skills training programs for families”. stated Mr. Aubhon Radjiev, Director of the Research Institute for the Study of Problems and Determination of the Prospects of Public Education named after Avloniy on behalf of the Ministry of Public Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan.


Youth also addressed participants of the launch ceremony, saying that the regional network is a platform that will provide opportunities not only for young people themselves, but also for all segments of society to have an active and fruitful discussion on the prevention of drug use, the promotion and implementation of evidence-based innovative ideas, to combat one of the most pressing problems of society today.

“We believe that youth associations can ignite a new spark towards building a healthy society. We believe that education is an integral part of the development of the country's economy. We are convinced that young people who have knowledge and take an active civil position are not inherent in the manifestation of crime and delinquency”.


The Regional Network of Youth Organizations is the umbrella under which UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia (ROCA) intends to continue connecting young people from Central Asia and empowers them for evidence-based drug use prevention which can contribute to the prevention of crime, corruption, and terrorism. With funding from the Government of the Russian Federation, UNODC initiated country level meetings to discuss evidence-based substance use prevention. A series of national consultations with representatives of youth organizations in Turkmenistan (35 participants), Kyrgyzstan (37 participants), Kazakhstan (43 participants), and Uzbekistan (47 participants) during October, and in Tajikistan (20) in November 2021.

The Regional Youth Network grew out of these sessions and is envisioned to address issues related to UNODC mandate areas including prevention of drug use as well as crime prevention. This work also takes on a strong gender dimension.

Since 2009 countries in Central Asia have been committed to evidence-based drug use prevention. Working with the global initiatives of the UNODC Drug Prevention and Health Branch, Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Section (PTRS) Central Asian countries have piloted a number of family skills training programmes: Families and Schools Together (FAST), Strengthening Families Programme for Youth between 10-14 and their parents (SFP 10-14) and Strong Family Programme. UNODC’s offices in the region have facilitated science-based actions on the prevention of drug use, supported policy makers to gain knowledge and skills for the development of comprehensive evidence-based drug use prevention policies, strategies and programmes, and developed the capacities of the national drug prevention professionals. At regional level more than 1,000,000 families benefited from above mentioned programmes delivered by more than 6,500 facilitators trained by UNODC. Outreach and informational campaigns reached over 3 mln people across the region.

The Regional Youth Initiative is being implemented as part of the Sub-Programme 3 "Drug Prevention, Treatment and reintegration and HIV Prevention" of the UNODC Programme for Central Asia 2015-2021 in collaboration with UNODC global project GLOK01 “Prevention of drug use, HIV/AIDS and crime among young people through family skills training programmes” with financial support from the Government of the Russian Federation.


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