From 9 - 11 March 2015, during the fifty-eighth Commission on Narcotic Drugs, an international group of 28 young people from 11 different countries and from the Vienna International School participated in the 4th annual Youth Forum.
The group consisted of youth leaders active in substance use prevention in their home communities, schools, and organizations. During the days spent together, the participants learned from the work they are all doing in their home communities, from the perspectives and opinions they as young people share despite coming from the different regions of the world, as well as on the global policy-making structures and discussion.
Furthermore, through participator exercises and discussions they created a joint statement with which they pledged the policymakers to invest in prevention for the well-being and safety of future generations and to treat people affected by drug addiction rather than punish them. The statement was well received by the delegates who gave standing ovations and a lot of positive attention to the youth and their cause.
Excellences, distinguished delegates, dear ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our experiences and thoughts with you today.
We, as a youth, acknowledge that there is not only one single reason why some of our peers start to experiment with harmful substances. Both our experience and scientific evidence tell us that many factors can, unfortunately, make people vulnerable to start using drugs. This can be due to difficulties in the family, poor or marginalized communities, easy accessibility of substances, genetics, lack of accurate scientific information available to young people, or even social norms that are favorable towards drug use. Furthermore, some people start using substances as an escape from stress, pressures, or mental health issues.
We, the participants of the youth forum 2015, have spent two days sharing our experiences with one another. It is clear that there is a lot we CAN do and that we ARE already doing to support our conviction and impact these factors of vulnerability. Therefore, we kindly ask you to support our efforts.
We need you, as policymakers, to invest in prevention. We urge you, for the well-being and safety of our future generations, to base your policies on scientific evidence and not on popular opinion.
We need to strengthen our common efforts to PREVENT substance abuse ensuring that these efforts are based on scientific understanding. It is crucial to support the development of emotional and social skills of the children and youth, to provide them with a sustainable future perspective. Enabling them to have educational, professional, and career possibilities, a life project.
It is understood that the availability of substances needs to be restricted. In addition, as a global community, we need to become more accepting of the people who may partake in drug use and take action to support the members of our communities who have already suffered. We NEED to care for them! Treatment, not punishment. Support, not exclusion.
We need to provide opportunities to openly discuss this seemingly complicated matter, where we simplify and explain scientific aspects to young people. In addition, safe spaces for the struggling youth to seek advice must be established, to aid and support those in need. To ensure that drugs are not seen as the solution to personal issues. We need to create "CIRCLES OF TRUST" within the family, the peers, the schools, the community, to provide youth with confidence and skills to overcome these vulnerabilities. The services that will be provided need to be easily accessible within the society including our disadvantaged communities.
The Youth Forum has been a tremendous opportunity to learn from other engaged young people. However, such opportunities
need to be expanded to other youths around the world, empowering them in their creative efforts to educate their peers, to
support their health and to advocate with different stakeholders. Without a doubt, it is this kind of capacity building that
will sustain prevention efforts in the long term.
Although we already have a lot of capacity and experience, we call upon you to work with us, to share our passion and commitment to this important cause. Help us, give us the tools, the roles, and the opportunities for us to become meaningful participants.
Together we CAN and we WILL change the situation in our communities and truly support the health and wellbeing of our peers. We are your future.
Thanks to the generous support of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Order of Malta