As we continue to dive into the past decade to celebrate great initiatives by aspiring youth, the Handbook on Youth Participation in Drug Prevention Work cannot possibly go unmentioned. It is the epitome of positive, meaningful youth engagement that the UNODC Youth Initiative strives to bring about. Zealous youth participants from the Youth Forum 2019 came together, with experts and policy makers, to discuss ways to encourage and mobilize youth participation in substance use prevention. Their determination saw light in the form of this Handbook: a guidance developed to help policymakers and decision-makers at the local, regional, national and international levels on how to increase youth participation and harness the insights of young people in substance use prevention work.
The Handbook provides an overview of youth participation and what role young people might play in prevention. It seeks to convey the value of evidence-based prevention in building healthy communities and highlights the value of young people as important contributors in the development, implementation, and evaluation processes, as opposed to merely being ‘end receivers of interventions.
Involving youth in different levels and dimensions of participation requires a more well-thought-out strategy than one would hastily presume. The planned activities, settings, target populations must be considered, as should the organization’s readiness to meaningfully engage with youth. Self-directed questions such as, ‘Are there finances/human resources/time available to support youth?’ and ‘How can we also support youth during their participation?’ should be considered by organizations that are looking to engage with young people.
Effective substance use prevention and genuine youth participation have positive outcomes for all parties involved: the adult benefactor and implementors, youth participants, beneficiaries, and beyond. The glow of positive youth engagement is not extinguished after the completion of a programme or event; the youth may continue to exert positive influences (unbeknownst to him/herself) in the community. It is, as can be seen as a recurring theme of the Youth Initiative magazine, a flap of the wings that leads to a butterfly effect!
It’s important that we don’t just do it to youth, but rather with youth.
Made possible with the support of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Order of Malta