Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries

Regional webinar on Listen First Initiative, 31 May 2021

Drug use prevention efforts seek to raise awareness about the importance of skills development and the use of science to prevent substance use. “Listen First” like many other drug use prevention programmes and initiatives supports awareness raising of evidence-based and science-based drug use prevention programmes within existing prevention strategies at the national and local levels.  The focus is on securing the wellbeing of youth, families and communities, and “listening” to children and youth to assist as they grow healthy.

Based on the successful outcomes from disseminating "Listen First" materials in other regions, the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries (Regional Programme) took the initiative to support "Listen First" in West and Central Asia. To this end, the Regional Programme in partnership with the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section (PTRS) of UNODC Headquarters convened a regional webinar on “Listen First Initiative”, on the 31st of May 2021.

The webinar sought to explore effective means by which “Listen First” materials could be utilized within the context of the UNODC/WHO International Standards on Drug Use Prevention in the region. Sixty eight participants (36 female), including policymakers and drug use prevention experts from the education and health sectors in the West and Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan attended the webinar.

During the opening ceremony, Jeremy Milsom, Senior Programme Coordinator for the Regional Programme, started by expressing appreciation to UNODC donors for supporting the Regional Programme in organizing this event. He also highlighted the significant role of science-based drug prevention programmes/campaigns in supporting families and youth to avoid drug abuse and risky behaviours. Giovanna Campello, chief of the PTRS, commended the Regional Programme for the close cooperation with the PTRS on introducing and implementing different drug use prevention programmes in the West and Central Asia. She also reiterated that “Listen First” should be considered as an effective means of communication with parents to listen to the children and youth as the first step to help them grow healthy and safe.

Elizabeth Mattfeld, the Global Programme Coordinator and the envoy of the Listen First initiative in the UNODC Headquarters, Vienna, facilitated the webinar. Ms Mattfeld provided the participants with valuable information on the origins of “Listen First” and how the materials have been developed from science. She also shared some living examples of implementation modalities in line with International Standards. Among Listen First materials, Ms Mattfeld presented a film made by the UN Action Film ( illustrating how UNODC family skills programmes have been successful in supporting parents and youth in the Kyrgyz Republic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The very positive feedback from the participants demonstrated the effectiveness of the webinar. For instance, the delegation from the I.R. of Pakistan announced the readiness to disseminate the Listen First materials along with other family skills programme such as SFP 10-14, among Pakistani youth and children.

Thanks to the government of Finland and the European Union for supporting this webinar.


About: Listen First was launched in 2016 during the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. Listen First began as a joint effort between UNODC, WHO, the French Inter-ministerial Mission for Combating Drugs and Addictive Behaviours (MILDECA), and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden. It began as a campaign on science-based drug prevention to raise awareness around listening to children and youth. Listen First was developed to echo the fact that adults not only need to listen first to the children, hear about their expectations, desires, dreams, but also need to understand suffering, frustration, social isolation, and loneliness that young people experience, if they wish to support their youth in avoiding drug abuse.