About Listen First

'Listen First' is an initiative to increase support for prevention of drug use that is based on science and is thus an effective investment in the well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities. Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe.

History of the Project

Listen First was launched in 2016 during the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. It began as a campaign on science-based drug prevention to raise awareness around listening to children and youth as the first step to help them grow healthy and safe. The campaign targets parents, teachers, policy makers, health worker and prevention workers particularly, as well as the wider public.

The global campaign - using the hashtag #ListenFirst - aims to increasing support for science-based drug use prevention. In order to illustrate this important issue to a diverse audience, public service announcements, video’s and fact sheets have been developed.

The campaign began as a joint effort between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Health Organization, the French Interministerial Mission for Combating Drugs and Addictive Behaviours (MILDECA), and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden.

Both, the campaign and the video, were launched during a high-level side event at the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem at the UN Headquarters in New York that was attended by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan, and UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, among others.

During his remarks at the high-level event, UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, noted: "Prevention of substance abuse is a key target under the Sustainable Development Goals. However, despite good intentions, drug prevention efforts too often consist of isolated initiatives to raise awareness about the danger of drugs among young people and the general public. The campaign that we are launching today, 'Listen First', seeks to build on these successes and raise awareness of the fact that drug use prevention based on science is an effective investment in the wellbeing of our children and youth, families and communities. At the core of science-based prevention is a very simple concept, something we all know how to do but perhaps spend too little time doing: listening."

The materials associated with Listen First have expanded over the years and include Fact Sheets for key stakeholders involved in science-based prevention:

  • Health workers
  • Parents
  • Teachers
  • Prevention workers
  • Policy makers

During the global pandemic in 2020, UNODC has now focused the Listen First materials to increase support for prevention of drug use that is based on science and is thus an effective investment in the well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities.

Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe.

Made possible with the generous support of France.