UNODC released its World Drug Report on June 27th for World Drug Day. Were there any new findings that you find particularly important?
Yes, there were several. First, the gap between people who need services and people who have access to services continues perniciously to persist and is much worse for women than for men. Second, the world collectively does not seem to be providing substantially more drug prevention, treatment, care, and rehabilitation than ten years ago. Without exaggeration, this is a tragedy for the people at risk and their families, especially those that lose their healthy years of life to co-morbid health disorders, such as HIV, Hep C, other mental health disorders and drug-related deaths. This is especially so in the context of what this year's theme of World Drug Day reminds us: humanitarian and health crises put people at higher risk of drug use, drug use disorders, and their negative health and social consequences.
How does 'Listen First' fit into the overall vision and work of UNODC PTRS? How can this material help prevent substance use?
At PTRS, we realized a long time ago that science tells us that effective prevention is based less on providing information about the dangers of drugs (necessary, but by no means sufficient!) and more on supporting the health and safe development of children and youth. So that's where the basic idea of 'Listen First' comes from—creating something that highlights this fact in a fun way and inspires the adults in children's and youth's lives with fun and positive ways to support their development.
As one of the key founders of 'Listen First,' why does this initiative matter to you?
As a professional in the prevention of drug use and other risky behaviors, 'Listen First' matters to me because it is another way in which we at UNODC PTRS try to promote effective scientific evidence-based prevention. As a mother myself, 'Listen First' has helped me reflect on how to become a better parent: every day is a new day to listen more!
Partners worldwide often ask, "How can we use Listen First?" What would you say to them?
I think that the best benefits can come from the use of the materials to inspire people to develop and participate in prevention programs. 'Listen First' is not a prevention program in itself. For example, with 'Science of Care', we cannot hope that, just by watching the videos and reading the fact sheets, all parents will be able to put into practice these parenting skills. A few will and that will be great. But most parents will need a safe place to practice, such as one of the evidence-based prevention programs that are implemented globally, similar to the UNODC programs 'Family UNited' and 'Strong Families.' In this context, 'Listen First' can be used to inspire parents to participate in the programs that are offered and to reinforce their message. The same goes for 'The Science of Skills.' We are also hoping that the videos might inspire parents, teachers, and youth workers to demand the kind of evidence-based programs that are necessary.
This month, we're focusing on the Super Skills "empathy" and "compassion." Why are these two 'skills' important, and how do they relate to substance use prevention?
That's what listening is based on! There is no real listening without empathy and compassion, without that basic understanding that other people might be experiencing things from a very different place than yours and one that might imply difficulties or pain, and it is something that we all need to work on every single day of our lives.
What are your hopes for the future of 'Listen First'?
In the short term, I would like to see 'Listen First' used more and more in local contexts. I am very proud that the efforts of the team at UNODC PTRS have meant that so many organizations in so many countries have translated the materials and are using them … but we want more! So we will be concentrating our efforts there. In the long term, we are discussing with the team some plans. We would like to work more with adolescents. But it is still early days; you will need to stay connected to us to see how things develop, and we hope you do! In the meantime, please do connect with us if you would like to use or translate the current 'Listen First' materials!
Giovanna Campello has more than 20 years of experience with the UNODC in supporting Member States and stakeholders in improving their drug prevention response, applying and contributing to scientific evidence. She has led the publication of the International Standards of Drug Use Prevention in 2013 and the UNODC/WHO second updated edition in 2018. Since 2016, she has been leading the Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Section of the UNODC. She is also one of the original founders of ‘Listen First.’
Made possible with the generous support of France.