The UNODC ‘Listen First’ Initiative Marks the World Day of Social Justice


Vienna (Austria), 19 February 2021 - On the 20th of February UNODC celebrates the World Day of Social Justice by launching the Science of Routines. Even in these challenging times, it is essential to maintain routines. The science shows that the predictability helps manage expectations, relieve stress and contributes to children feeling confident and safe.

The theme of the 2021 World Day of Social Justice is “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy”.

Over the past year, the world population has struggled to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect the health of billions. One of the consequences has been the creation of and increasing reliance on digital working and learning platforms.

The Listen First Initiative.

Reacting to the onset of the global pandemic, UNODC quickly identified the potential challenges associated with shifting to a remote digital experience, including the impact on health conditions like substance use and mental health disorders, and emphasized the importance of healthy social development. The Listen First initiative explicitly developed materials to support families and children in situations where routines have been disrupted and healthy social interactions curtailed.

UNODC recognizes the importance of making these materials highly accessible and easily understood so that people around the world with limited access to digital platforms can still benefit. Working with civil society partners and organizations devoted to promoting health literacy, the aim is to empower community health workers to use Listen First materials in some of the most remote areas of the globe.

The United Nations Commission for Social Development.

The importance of the Listen First initiative was recently highlighted during a side event at the 59th session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD59). Taking place from 8 to 17 February in New York, this year’s session focused on the role of digital technologies related to social development and well-being.

In this context, Elizabeth Mattfeld, Programme Officer with UNODC, presented the Listen First materials and discussed how to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” (SDG3), Member States could incorporate effective substance use prevention to promote a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable recovery post-COVID-19, in line with SDG 3.5: strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.

A fair and just world for everyone begins with children and parents who promote competence, mental health, social skills, learning and positive behaviors.


Since November 2020, UNODC has regularly rolled out materials around the Science of Care, including videos and science sheets to promote healthy development. The topics include: