Youth representatives with Executive Director Waly at the forum. Photo: UNODC.
Vienna, 15 March 2023 — With COVID-19 slowly subsiding, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Vienna International Center welcomed delegations from all over the world to the 66th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). This included the youthful presence of participants of the Youth Forum 2023 (13 – 15 March 2023), held in-person for the first time since 2019.
Ms. Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UNODC, warmly welcomed 34 youth leaders from 28 countries and urged the youth to capitalize on the opportunity to learn about evidence-based drug use prevention and connect and share ideas with each other. “Your voices have the power to reach your peers and your communities more than anyone else. You can raise awareness and show young people like yourselves that they are supported,” she said.
Over the three days, youths actively engaged in participatory thematic discussions and reflected on how youth can contribute to supporting drug use prevention in their schools and communities. Lauren Anzarouth from Canada reflected: “It’s important to emphasise the impact that we can have on society; we have the potential to shape our future in a way that encourages more progressive and inclusive views, something that can really benefit everyone… We are the future of society and definitely have a lot to contribute.”
Affirming UNODC’s commitment in empowering youth, the young leaders were given the floor during the Plenary of the CND to deliver their jointly developed Youth Statement. “Young people offer unique insight into constantly evolving substance use issues, foster borderless interconnected awareness, and ensure long-term sustainability,” they said. “We should strive to achieve a healthy, equal, and sustainable society through commitment, perseverance, and strategic evidence-based programmes. By laying the foundations of prevention through education, social programmes, and policies, we can stop substance use before it starts.” In the statement, delivered by Vinayak Menon and Yulia Pozdnukhova, youths urged Member States to continue investing in evidence-based substance use prevention and provide youth with more opportunities to be more engaged in drug prevention work.
On the ten-year milestone of the Youth Initiative in 2022, UNODC renewed its commitment in supporting youth empowerment and reinforcing their resilience in substance use prevention. Throughout the decade, the annual Youth Forum enabled young people from diverse backgrounds to come together and collectively think of the importance of investing in prevention, and allowed for a global community of youth to actively engage and learn evidence-based prevention techniques.
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The Commission on Narcotic Drugs