Part 1: Help prevent drug use among children and young people

Between 19-21st of April, the United General Assembly is holding a Special Session on the World Drug Problem. This is the most important discussion on the global drug policy in the past 20 years. While there are different directions that can be taken when creating effective drug policies, it is undeniable that preventive measures play a significant role, especially when it comes to protecting children and young people. To support this process, two important initiatives were launched during UNGASS 2016.

Part 1: Listen First!

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Health Organisation and the governments of France and Sweden jointly launched the campaign ‘Listen First’.

Listen First is an initiative that aims to increase the support for prevention of drug use that is based on science and thus makes an effective investment in the wellbeing of children, youth, families and communities.

The rationale for the campaign lies in the simple fact that science-based prevention of drug use is one of the basic pillars of the drug control system. It is effective, cost-effective and essential for building resilience and empowering young people to be more aware about their health. The key challenge is to ensure that the methods adopted are genuinely science based. Simply, ‘prevention’ activities that are not science-based will not produce the desired results, but while there are examples of good practice, analysis of too many national drug policies reveal that they do not entail evidence-based prevention strategies.

Vulnerabilities beyond their control

“Most children and adolescents will never use drugs, and those who do are often affected by vulnerabilities beyond their control, such as poverty and exposure to violence, not benefiting from warm and supportive parenting or engaging with peers who themselves are at risk. The earlier a child starts to experiment with drugs, the more likely they are to develop drug dependence later in life “ – explains part of the campaign material.

The campaign is open to Member States, institutions and civil society organisations and is already being endorsed by many partners.

From its launch at UNGASS in April, the campaign should last until mid-June, with the results to be presented at a follow up to the special session.

More information about the campaign and the promotional video are available here:

Author: Vasilka Lalevska

Photo Credit: Photo by Laith Abuabdu (

Author: Vasilka Lalevska

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