This is the first year YODA can celebrate attending the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs with ECOSOC status – we got our own passes! At least most of us did. A big thank you to all the other organizations who kindly allowed us to attend using one of their allocated passes and to IDPC who helped us do this through their network.
Why is the CND important?
Attending the CND, bringing together representatives from major international institutions and governments, is a valuable opportunity to share our opinions and viewpoints on the drug policy situation. It is one of the most important ways real voices from the ground can be heard at the highest levels of drug policy making. This mix of voices from governments, international institutions and civil society organisations (that’s organisations like YODA) come together to shape drug policy and how it is implemented across the world. Here it is also possible to meet with your country’s delegates, or speak with other major institutions such as the World Health Organisation, to discuss drug policy.
United Youth Voice
We believe in strength in numbers, not only by supporting the work of other youth organisations but also other allies in the drug policy reform world. The CND is a key point where all of our allies can come together and present a united front as the voice of the global youth.
At an informal session with the UNODC director Yuri Fedotov YODA head Jan Stola and SSDP Australia representative Penny Hill were able to submit and ask the UNODC a few questions. They asked about greater transparency in the selection process of the UNODC youth forum and for better inclusion of youth organisations into international decision making processes.
You can see the full video of the questions and the response- a little disappointing to be honest- here (starting around 4 minutes 30 seconds in).
YODA side event!
Ready for action, YODA members from UK, Serbia, Poland, Albania and Macedonia prepared a presentation for a side event at the CND this year.
As representatives of the YODA network, and the voice of young people, we hosted a side event alongside the Pompidou group of the Council of Europe. There are many side events that take place along side the main sessions on topics related to drug policy. With such an amazing variety of sessions with experts from all around the world it can be difficult to chose which to attend. However, we had a great turnout and all of our speakers did an incredible job of highlighting the real difficulties young people face under current drug policies. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though! We want to see a positive change and help shape our future by being involved in the decision making processes which affect our lives. We made recommendations on how governments and other institutions can work with us to ensure the rights of young people are protected.
Why work with young people to shape drug policy?
- We are cheap and efficient!
- We can provide effective services for low costs where governments cannot.
- Our expertise puts in in a unique position to help identify rapid changing trends in drug use to help facilitate rapid harm reduction responses.
- Young people listen to other young people!! We are probably in the best position to provide peer to peer support and education that other young people will listen to.
- We provide valuable training and skills development. This not only protects our peers but also contributes to the rest of society by supporting community improvements on a daily basis.
The Pompidou Group short document on ‚Government interaction with Civil Society’ is available to download here.
Check us out!
Challenging authorities misguided attempts at protecting young people
It is easy for governments and institutions to use the rhetoric of ‚saving the children’ to enact policies which in fact harm young people, or do not address the real issues they face. At one side event hosted by the UK and New Zealand Government, the EMCDDA and the World Health Organisation, on the problem of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) we saw how their attempts to respond to the evolution of drug use is failing under current mechanisms. A big push is being made towards utilising a more effective globally integrated Early Warning System but this is still not good enough.
UK and New Zealand having a greatly differing approach to NPS -UK implementing a punitive blanket ban on almost ALL psychoactive substances, whereas New Zealand have taken a more progressive approach by trying to ensure producers make low risk products by regulating sale and manufacture. The biggest problem fro governments lies in identifying new NPS and then regulating or banning them quickly enough. It was taking far too long under existing legislative mechanisms, with hundreds more, ever more dangerous, untested chemicals rapidly replacing the few that are banned. All representatives of this panel accepted that their current attempts are far from perfect and that the trends are just evolving too quickly.
Here, we as young people, wanted to make some key points.
1. Why are governments putting such an emphasis (and money!), whether through blanket bans or regulation, on NPS when the biggest proportion of consumed drugs are still the traditional ones (eg Cannabis and amphetamines)?
2. Young people, and others who use NPS, would prefer to use the traditional drugs wherever possible- because they know what the effects are and how to manage them. Poor drug policy which affects availability, price and purity is what results in increase in NPS use.
3. Why are governments and institutions not utilising young persons organisations on the ground? We are in the best position to provide evidence for rapidly changing trends in drug availability and consumption amongst the people who use them!
Of course we tried to challenge these authorities but were left with a rather lacklustre response.
It was a short but sweet CND this year. Great to get together and work towards a better future for drug policy. Next year we will be back and ready to make an even bigger impact!
Our friends at INPUD also made a great statement about the need for people who use drugs to be involved in the process of making policies that directly affect them. Check out Executive Director Judy Chang giving her statement here.
There were a few youth focused side events this year, including this one from fellow youth organisations at Students for Sensible Drug Policy entitled ‚Are Drug Policies Protecting Youth?’
CND blog- detailed information on all the main sessions and side events
UNODC CND website