As part of the UNODC Youth Initiative, the annual Youth Forum aims to connect young people from around the globe and empower youth to become active in their communities for substance use prevention and health promotion. It provides a platform for youth to exchange ideas, visions, and different perspectives on how to better protect the health and wellbeing of their peers within the framework of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.5.
In efforts to keep youths safe from increased risk and exposure to COVID-19, yet still, carry on with expanding the youth community built from previous years, the Youth Forum in 2021 was decided to be held virtually on 29 March - 2 April.
UNODC would like to take this opportunity to extend its gratitude to the Government of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Order of Malta for their support in funding the UNODC Youth Initiative. With their continued support, we have been able to connect youths from around the globe and empower them to become active leaders in drug use prevention.
We would like to thank Permanent Missions that have nominated youths to participate in this year’s Youth Forum. We appreciate your support in identifying such outstanding young leaders and making it your priority to do so despite challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNODC would like to thank the following countries for their nominations for this year’s event: Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bhutan, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, India, Israel, Jamaica, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, and Venezuela.
We are looking forward to continued support and nominations from Member States in the coming years, to provide youths with a stage and voice in health and drug policy, and to empower youth leaders in countering the world drug problem.
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Excellencies, influential representatives, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant day to all.
In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, we call on Member States to continue to implement evidence-based substance prevention, especially for children and youth that include safe spaces, effective caregiving, and continuous support.
Prevention strategies must be multifaceted with many factors. No one single, stand-alone program will be effective in isolation. Prevention should be inclusive. No matter the age, situation, thoughts, or abilities everyone in our society deserves the chance to benefit from science-based prevention programs. Prevention should also follow a humanitarian approach, not stigmatizing or labeling people based on their circumstances.
We call on Member States to focus on community-based multi-component initiatives that address prevention at the micro and macro levels, especially concerning the lasting impact COVID-19 will have at local and international levels. We need Member States to devote adequate attention toward solving the problems of poverty, lack of access to healthcare or education, and issues of inequality and discrimination at the largest scale at the same time as supporting programs that train caregivers, support social services, retain young people in schools and enhance skill development and positive mental health.
Effective substance use prevention strategically meets the needs of all people based on developmental stages, delivered across various settings. It must be voluntary. It should be interactive and fun for the participants. It should create safe environments for children in schools, homes, and the community. It must include effective communication campaigns and the development of strong support networks and friendships.
We ask Member States to pay attention to health literacy. In particular, it is critical to analyze the impact of social media, how it may be harmful to young people by promoting risky behaviors, and how it might be used to increase effective substance use prevention messages.
Increased funding and political support are crucial for prevention worldwide because even when considerable funding is spent on treatment, only one in eight people worldwide have access to this treatment. If we invest more diligently in prevention, we can save as much as 10 dollars for every dollar spent and reduce substance use worldwide.
Youth empowerment is the key, we call on Member States to include at least 2 youth members on a national level committee that decides how prevention initiatives are researched, developed, implemented, and evaluated. We believe that everyone has a role in drug prevention and that for us to succeed in this goal, we must do it together by creating opportunities for success and empowering youth in a meaningful way. You must include youth as part of the process, raise youth voices and provide more platforms, opportunities, and positions for youth to actively contribute to policy-making decisions, supportive services, and drug prevention strategies. Using our shared effort and passion, we will create a drug-free environment for children and the generations to come.
The COVID-19 pandemic shall not affect our progress. We implore Member States to support effective, evidence-based prevention. We can all work together to build safe, compassionate communities not only for us but also for future generations to come.
Our voices are strong, and we must be heard in the present and remain impactful in the future.
We greet youth participants of the Youth Forum 2021! They are also welcomed by youth participants from 2020, who have graciously provided their past experience and feedback to inquiries from our new participants.
Our youth participants are very active in building their community. They are introducing themselves, finding buddies, and getting to know each other better. In particular, they are also sharing why they want to take part in the Youth Forum, and why this is meaningful to them.
We are slowly introducing youth to substance use prevention through light-weight reading materials, and they seem very interested already! Youths are asking questions, and commenting on new points they didn’t know before. Way to go team!
We introduce a fundamental resource that will guide the youth throughout and beyond the 5-day event of the Youth Forum: International Standards on Drug Use Prevention. Take a look at some of the key messages.
Thanks to the generous support of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Order of Malta