In the margins of the 61st session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, a group of young youth leaders gathered in Vienna from 12 – 14 March 2018 to address global policymakers.
Three very eventful and exciting days have passed and this year's Youth Forum was a great success. Looking back at it, we are proud to announce that almost all the participants had the chance to speak and present in front of their peers during these three days. This was not only a great experience for them but also for the committee who in the end chose two candidates who were able to deliver the statement in the plenary of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
Overall, we are thrilled that 34 passionate youth leaders from 26 different countries have participated in this year's Youth Forum and have taken part in numerous lively and extremely interesting discussions and workshops. During these workshops, the youth were able to come up with the most important aspects that in their opinion ought to be addressed in their final statement.
On Wednesday, March 14th, 2018, Katarina Rozman from Slovenia and Asutosh Paudyal from Nepal presented the final statement that the youth has come up with in the plenary in front of high-level delegations. During the past three days, the team of 34 youth leaders from all over the world had worked in unity in order to come up with a thorough statement that would really make one think about how to foster youth engagement in the effective prevention of substance abuse.
There is no doubt that the participants from the UNODC Youth Forum 2018 achieved exactly this goal and hopefully reached policymakers worldwide because "How many times have they heard their statement? 6! How many times have they actually listened? And how many times do they have to say the same thing?"
"Excellences, influential representatives, ladies, and gentlemen, we would like to express how honoured we are to be given the floor to speak on behalf of all the young, engaged people, that have come here today to challenge the past and change the future. We have worked to develop and share our ideas on the ever-growing and complex challenges posed by substance use endangering our future.
We, 34 passionate youth leaders from 26 different countries, all unique in language, culture, and experience, believe that substance use consequences are manifested and experienced differently by everyone affected. We place our confidence in the fact that the most effective solution will only come if we combine our innovative, and experienced minds together. Therefore, we urge you to follow our recommendations and work with us to accomplish them.
No one chooses to be dependent on drugs. Youth are influenced by a complex interaction between predispositions and various risk factors, such as peer pressure, social norms reinforced by harmful media messages, mental health issues paired with the lack of protective factors in the school or family environment, making them more vulnerable to initiate substance use or transition to dependency.
We would like to draw your attention to implement evidence-based prevention as outlined in the UNODC WHO International Standards on Drug Use Prevention emphasizing life skills and parenting skills interventions to strengthen the protective environment for youth in order to grow healthy and safe.
We strongly believe that engaging youth in the development and adoption of policy and regulatory frameworks that are supportive of evidence-based prevention strategies will increase your nation's outreach. To counter the challenges presented, it is vital to ensure, that our current youth leaders gain the experience to be your future policymakers. Furthermore, youth are not just tomorrow's policymakers, but key contributors to today's society.
With our unique insight, we can provide new approaches to tackling the drug problem emphasizing how to effectively engage with policymakers, in the development, delivery, and evaluation of drug prevention initiatives. We need an official engagement framework and a platform for exchanging key information and resources to collaboratively conduct evidence-based prevention in a comprehensive manner. This would indeed empower us! You, the policymakers, should follow an inclusive approach where youth are not left behind.
How many times have you heard our statements? Six! How many times have you actually listened? And how many times do we have to say the same thing?
We are the current activists and as we are on a quest to represent this generation's voice, we need your mobilization and your support. We share the same vision, so in order for us to create the best possible future together, mutual trust and cooperation are necessities!
Accept our invitation before it is too late. Remember, "You do not inherit the earth from your ancestors, you borrow it from your children!"
Thanks to the generous support of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Order of Malta