Youth and young people are essential to accomplish UNODC’s mandates, enhance the rule of law, improve human security, and pursue justice, integrity, and health priorities. Youth can uphold human rights for future generations and instil in them a sense of their significance and worth.
UNODC has the mandate to support Member States in engaging youth in crime prevention efforts and in evidence-based drug use prevention, as well as ensuring that youth and children are better served and protected by the justice systems, and that they are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to act as agents of positive change in their communities.
Youth are advocating for change, advancing inclusive practices and working as peacebuilders in their local communities. Youth-led and youth focused civil society organizations play a critical role, providing essential services and tools for local communities enhancing justice and health. Therefore, the meaningful engagement of youth in crime prevention and criminal justice efforts serves as a crucial tool in upholding fundamental human rights.
In the UNODC Strategy 2021-2025, the Office made a series of cross-cutting commitments on ensuring human rights, promoting gender equality and empowering youth and protecting children. Strengthening the role of youth is imperative to support future generations by uplifting their voices in decision-making processes and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.
To better address the needs of young people, UNODC launched the Youth Empowerment Accelerator Framework – or the YEA! Framework – which maps UNODC’s youth-focused initiatives and puts forward key youth mainstreaming actions to accelerate the meaningful participation of youth at the Office. To further enhance the engagement of youth-led and youth focused civil society organizations in intergovernmental processes, and accelerate the implementation of joint UNODC initiated on the ground, “UNODC Youth Civil Society: Acting with Youth CSOs to Combat Drugs and Crime” was launched in December 2022.
In 2021, UNODC launched STRIVE Juvenile, a project funded by the European Union that aims to address child association with terrorist and violent extremist groups and its consequences for the lives of children and society at large. STRIVE includes implementation of initiatives at the global level and in three partner countries: Indonesia, Iraq and Nigeria. The project aims to support the governments of these countries and the professionals within them who deal with these children to carry out their dual responsibilities for the preservation of public safety and the protection of children from exposure to violence involved in association with terrorist and violent extremist groups. STRIVE Juvenile has four pillars of intervention, which include research, legal and policy advice, capacity-building as well as the participation of children and their environment.
Furthermore, we are also working to address multifaceted socioeconomic, security, political, and health challenges posed to young generations. The right to health, education and protection from harm are all supported through UNODC’s interventions by enhancing the rule of law, improving human security, and pursuing justice, integrity and health priorities. These efforts contribute to the realization of the SDGs, particularly Goal 16 on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.
UNODC is also mandated to promote the right to access fair treatment and justice for vulnerable youth and children as well as prevent and respond to the exploitation and abuse of young people. Activities such as organized crime and violence, including sexual exploitation, abuse and trafficking all impact human rights. By promoting evidence- and human rights-based youth crime prevention and offering policy advice and training, UNODC helps Member States to reduce crime and violence and strengthen community resilience. By strengthening the rule of law and protecting the rights of children and youth who are vulnerable to criminal exploitation, UNODC ensures improved access to justice for children and youth through its advocacy as well as training and technical assistance to the law enforcement and justice systems.
UNODC also uses the power of sport in its work with youth, while applying systematically a human rights based approach in all its activities. Its sport initiative works with and for youth through sport and sport-based interventions, to strengthen youth resilience to violence and crime and build their knowledge and skills in order to help them realizing their potentials as agents of positive change in their communities and society as a whole.
Specific programmes include:
In working with youth in the area of drug prevention, UNODC Youth Initiative aims to connect young people from around the globe and empower them to become active in their schools, communities and youth groups for substance use prevention and health promotion. It provides a platform for youth to share their experiences, ideas and creativity, and to get support for creating their own substance use prevention and health promotion activities. It is linked to a Youth Forum which is an annual event in the broader context of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). It is also linked to a DAPC from Youth, to Youth, for Youth grant programme awarding small grants to youth organizations working in low and middle-income countries.
UNODC published a variety of publications that focused on the value and importance of supporting caregiving in conflict and humanitarian contexts to support children and caregivers’ well-being, and has developed a caregiving resource pyramid that addresses a variety of needs families in vulnerable situations are facing. Such tools were published as an interagency collaboration support (together with WHO Violence Prevention Unit and University of Manchester and University of Oxford) in high calibre scientific journals.