Description of the Forum activity

11 November 2018

    The Youth Initiative is an annual event organized by the UNODC Youth Initiative in the broader context of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) that started in 2012. Its main objective is to gather young people, nominated by Member States and active in the field of drugs use prevention, health promotion and youth empowerment from around the world. The UNODC Youth Forum started on 12th March 2018 and lasted for 3days and more than 30 youth from every region in the world gathered together to help solve the global drug problem!
    The UNODC expert Ms. Asma gave an overview of the forum, introduction of UNODC and the international prevention Standards on Drug use. She said that within the framework of the UNODC Youth Forum in Vienna, supported by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Sovereign Order of Malta, more than 250 international youth representatives had the unique opportunity to gather in Vienna in order to exchange information in the field of substance use prevention, which they then implemented in their home countries. Through individual support, information campaigns, youth events and social networking activities, millions of people can be reached every day. She also informed us that Prevent mainly looks at initiation and transition to drugs.
    Day one session was on the reasons and consequences of Drug abuse where we were divided into different groups to discuss and share experiences among the reasons and consequences outlined were: increasing vulnerability and lack of protective factors like life and social skills, increasing stressors like peer pressure and other environmental factors and media influence. Consequences: poor performance, social exclusion, health damage and effects and death. We later discussed solutions to the problem of drugs and among the suggested solution were: limit accessibility of drugs, parental skilling and educational programs on Drug abuse effects.

    Youth during the group discussions sessions
    The second day of the UNODC Youth Forum we gave out our ideas on how to address the global drug problem and how the Youth play a key role in preventing drug use among their peers. The youth gave their opinions on why they should be engaged in policy making and how? This was through group discussions and role plays.
    We were later invited for lunch by the Ambassador of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. “The Order was convinced that youth is the most valuable asset for the future and that investing in the safe and healthy development of young people is a contribution to a sustainable future of all of us,” Granser stated. Therefore, the Order of Malta promised to do its utmost to give the UNODC Youth Initiative a stronger voice in the CND and its continuous development in order to be able to use its connections to international policy makers to find practical solutions in combating the world drug problem.

    Youth people during Press interviews
    The Ambassador chose 6 young people to be interviewed by the Austrian Press and luckily I was chosen. We were asked about the about what were the reasons why of the youth use drugs in our countries to which I answered that “There can never be a single reason that suffices to explain why young people take drugs and alcohol but the reasons I have found quite popular in my community are: street and slum youth being homeless, unemployment, peer pressure, wanting to be violence and committing crimes, lack of awareness about drugs and their effects, gang culture, lack of confidence and misinformation and commercial sex work. Most teenagers and young people sometimes find themselves dropping out of school and sometimes even after performing well, being in the unemployment pool and having nothing to do. As a result, they resort to drugs as a way of relieving the boredom and stress. ”
    How has the forum helped me to which I responded “The Youth Forum is Informative, great learning experience and great time to connect with passionate young people, advocates and other change makers seeking to see a constructive transformation globally on issues concerning drug use.
    I depicted a lot from the diversity of the young people, cultures, countries represented as far as the drug problem is concerned and the most important thing to note was the mutuality of problems across the globe relating to Drug abuse and its consequences. This made it easy for me to gather learning points and notes on what happens to different people in different countries and helps me to think about what transpires in mine to amalgamate global efforts and take great strides in programming that leads to a progressive end of drug abuse especially among young people. Before Vienna, I thought I was an enthusiastic youth worker and a change agent but the experience I had stirred a greater passion in me to work harder knowing that at least am not the only one striving to help my fellow youth but there are others with the same vision as mine.
    I got a chance to participate in the youth art competition that involved poems, art drawings and articles about the youth forum and the winner’s piece would be given to the Ambassador of sovereign order of Malta but Afika’s Art piece won and it was presented to the Ambassador.

    L-Afika presenting her art piece to the Ambossador, R- selected youth for interviews with the Ambossador
    I wrote a poem that read as below:
    Elated and Hopeful
    More than the fluttery flutter of elated butterflies
    Breaking out of the cocoon
    More than the empowering cry of an eagle as it stretches its wings
    Charting the open sky
    Mine heart is flooded with gladness
    My mind in absolute readiness
    To engage and to embrace
    The exposure and experience…
    Joining with peace forces marching to the frontline,
    Declaring war against drugs and harmful substances,
    Against the inebriation of souls,
    And the wreckage of lives!
    Together we will wage war against self-intoxication!
    We will chase peer pressure all the way to the caves!
    We will shoot at the conscience of drug suppliers,
    And make sure everyone joins our annex and fights with us!
    We will make sure everyone knows;
    That drugs cost more than money,
    And waste lives away!
    That drug use is life abuse!
    That in dope there is no hope!
    That without dope and his gang people can cope,
    Achieve dreams, and live a life full of hope!
    We then had a participatory workshop of drafting the statement to be delivered to UN delegates in the plenary of the CND and later got the chance to hear the words of wisdom from the Executive Director of the UNODC Yury Fedotov.

    The Executive Director of the UNODC Yury Fedotov addressing the youth forum participants
    The third day of the UNODC Youth Forum was concluded by the youth drafting our final statement and received some training from former youth forum (Marcelo Martinez) on how to start up a youth project or campaign. Over 30 youth leaders from over 25 countries gave their points of views and told the policy makers how important it is for youth to engage in the drug prevention strategies! We rehearsed the statement and made panel bits to the statement which we later delivered in front of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) policy makers and the representatives of the United Nations Member States, make decisions that to a large extend influence countries and their laws. We expressed our hope to be included in drug prevention activities and decision-making positions because we don’t only demonstrate their work now, but need to learn how to make the right decisions tomorrow! This was delivered to the youth mainly presented by Katarina Rozman from Slovakia and Asutosh Paudyai from Nepal.
    Young people during the delivering of their statement to CND
    Youth Statement 2018.
    Excellences, influential representatives, ladies and gentlemen,
    We would you like express how honored we are to be given the floor to speak on behalf of all the young, engaged people, that have come here today to challenge the past and change the future. We have worked to develop and share our ideas on the ever growing and complex challenges posed by substance use endangering our future.
    We, 34 passionate young leaders from 26 different countries, all unique in language, culture, and experience, believe that substance use consequences are manifested and experienced differently by everyone affected. We place our confidence in the fact that the most effective solution will only come if we combine our innovative, and your experienced minds together. Therefore we urge you to follow our recommendations and work with us to accomplish them.

    No one chooses to be dependent on drugs. Youth are influenced by a complex interaction between predispositions and various risk factors, such as peer pressure, social norms reinforced by harmful media messages, mental health issues paired with the lack of protective factors in the school or family environment, making them more vulnerable to initiative substance use or transition dependency.

    We would like to draw your attention to implement evidence based prevention as outlined in the UNODC/WHO International Standards on Drug Use Prevention emphasizing life
    Skills and parenting skills preventions to strengthen protective environment for youth in order to grow healthy and safe.

    We strongly believe that engaging youth in the development and adoption of policy and regulatory frameworks that are supportive of evidence based prevention strategies will increase your nations outreach. To counter the challenges presented, it is vital to ensure, that our current young leaders gain the experience to be your future policymakers. Furthermore, youth are not just tomorrow’s policymakers, but key contributors to today’s society.

    With our unique insight we can provide new approaches to tackling the drug problem emphasizing how to effectively engage with policymakers, in the development, delivery, and evaluation of drug prevention initiatives. We need an official engagement framework and a platform for exchanging key information and resources to collaborative conduct evidence based prevention in a comprehensive manner. This would indeed empower us! You, the policymakers, should follow an inclusive approach where youth are NOT left behind. How many times have you heard our statements? Six! How many times have you actually listened? And how many times do we have to say the same thing?
    We are the current activists and as we are on a quest to represent this generation’s voice, we need your mobilization and your support. We share the same vision, so in order for us to create the best possible future together, mutual trust and cooperation are necessities !Accept our invitation before it is too later. Remember, “You do not inherit the earth from your ancestors, you borrow it from your children!”

    Conclusion
    The core part of the forum is more than about being overheard or being given a voice a representative of the youth at the United Nations Forum but it is more now about being contributory, serving, helping, bringing positive change to those that I formerly thought myself to represent. It is now more of ‘being change’! The experience was so much more than an event, so much more than being part of a forum setting out to create a statement to present to high class delegates, it was simply the implanting of a seed of empowerment. So, this is to say thank you to the Uganda Government, Ministry of Gender, Labor and social Development, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Uganda Youth Development Link, the Youth Initiative Forum, all of the organizers and fellow youth participants who made this prestigious and everlasting impact on my life! Words can certainly not be enough to express my gratitude. Hopefully I can be part of the next conferences and programs to empower and build capacity of other youths from across the globe most especially those from Africa.

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