Across the world, COVID-19 has changed all aspects of our daily lives. The closure of schools; the loss of employment; the social distancing measures - these, and more, have had has vast consequences on all members of society, including those children and their families who were already living in precarious situations.
In a bid to tackle the negative longer-term impact on social and behavioural development in youth, UNODC has been working in Tajikistan to help young people better cope with new realities. Over the past months, a series of training events for teachers, parents and youth have both been rolled out to promote an understanding of the benefits of sport in building life skills and pro-social behaviour.
Recognizing the value of sports in advancing peace and development, UNODC's Regional Office for Central Asia (ROCA) this week launched a new outreach campaign designed to build youth resilience towards drugs, crime and violence. Developed in partnership with Uzbekistan's National Olympic Committee as well as Government authorities and other UN entities, the new campaign - 'I Choose Sport' - is centred around a series of social-focussed videos and features several Uzbek sports champions as positive role models for the country's youth.
Young people are particularly vulnerable to the disruptions the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, with many at risk of being left behind in education, economic opportunities, and health and wellbeing during a crucial stage of their life development. Over one billion children and youth, or 60 per cent of all enrolled learners, are affected by school closures, and poverty and unemployment rates due to COVID-19 have increased dramatically.
Many of these hardships are also known risk factors associated with crime, violence, and drug use, and may expose youth to increased victimization and involvement with crime during and after the pandemic.
Not a day passes without stories of organized crime making their way to the front pages of newspapers around the world. Despite copious legislation and strong law enforcement measures in most countries, criminal groups find ways to operate outside the rule of law across borders, causing immense physical, psychological, and financial damage to their victims.
Governments have since long joined efforts in combatting organized crime even as it continues to become more emboldened. With the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), signed in Palermo, Italy in 2000, they devised an international instrument enabling their collective fight against transnational organized crime.
This high-level side event aims to underline the importance of prevention programmes for vulnerable youth as part of comprehensive strategies to counter gang violence and organised crime. Panellists will share experiences from Latin America on the use of innovative approaches, such as through sport, to reach young people at risk of victimization and involvement in crime. Specifically, and building on the work of UNODC, the event will highlight the use of sport as a tool to build youth and community resilience by strengthening key personal and social life skills, and by generating safe public spaces that facilitate positive youth engagement in marginalised communities.