The UNODC Youth Forum, a starting point for youth to build safer and healthier societies

Vienna (Austria), 29 March 2021 - Substance abuse can have devastating consequences, especially for young people, potentially affecting their cognitive and emotional development as well as their relationships with their family, friends and community. Fortunately, given the right tools and the right platform, youth can also be a strong positive force for preventing drug abuse in communities and around the world.

This is precisely the purpose of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Youth Forum 2021 which opened today. Organized virtually by the UNODC Youth Initiative, the Youth Forum brings together 62 young leaders from 41 countries to address the world drug problem and empower them to protect the health and wellbeing of their peers.

“Creating such connections and building a network for common action and mutual support is particularly important at a time when the world, and young people, are suffering from the effects of the COVID pandemic,” said Ms. Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UNODC. She added “I believe that your engagement is essential for the world to recover better from the pandemic and develop greater resilience against future crises.”

From 29 March to 2 April 2021, the young leaders nominated by their Member States will have the opportunity to connect with other youths active in the field of drug use prevention, health promotion and youth empowerment, helping to build a global community of empowered young people dedicated to improving their communities.

Participants will increase their knowledge about evidence-based substance use prevention through thematic discussions facilitated by UNODC experts, as well as by exchanging ideas, visions and perspectives with youths from all over the world. This will enable them to communicate positive, non-stigmatizing messages that are based on facts within their communities to help respond to the world drug problem.

Through their discussions, participants will also craft and deliver a joint statement during the 64th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the United Nations’ principal policy-making body in drug-related matters. This represents a real opportunity for young people to make their voices heard by global level policy makers and actively make a difference.

The first ever virtual Forum, this year’s edition of the UNODC Youth Forum demonstrates UNODC’s commitment to expanding the reach and impact of young people – even in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. UNODC is determined to harness the potential of the largest generation of youth in history and has made advancing youth participation one of the three cross-cutting commitments of its new Strategy.

As Jianing Cai, a participant from China explains: For me, the Youth Forum not only represents an international platform for the Youth around the globe but also a starting point for me to actively make a difference in this constantly changing world!” Through this Forum, but also through the regular events it organizes each month, the UNODC Youth Initiative will continue to connect young people worldwide, provide them with technical assistance, and ultimately empower them to become positive agents of change to build safer and healthier societies.              

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The UNODC Youth Forum is organized with the generous support of the Government of the Russian Federation and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.