Youth RISE (Resources, Information, Support and Education) mobilizes youth to be engaged in full-spectrum harm reduction and drug policy reform to promote health and human rights.
We were founded in 2006 with the help of IHRA (now known as Harm Reduction International), and officially launched at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Vancouver, Canada. Youth RISE was started by two visionary, young people who recognized the absence of youth having a voice and a seat at the table in the drug policy and harm reduction arena, so they led the charge to fill the gap.
Since launching, the network has coordinated youth participation and activities in major international conferences, participated in numerous committees, meetings and advisories, and ran training sessions around the world while producing resources focusing on drug policy/harm reduction and young people. Youth RISE now assumes a leadership role in advocating for the empowerment of young people who use drugs and their meaningful engagement in drug policy discussions and decisions and the reform of drug policies for the best interests of young people globally.
Youth RISE envisions a world in which young people benefit from drug policies and practices based on evidence and
human rights, as well as being valued, active partners in the political process on the local, regional, and international levels.
Our work aims to amplify, maximise, and centre priorities of young people who use drugs and young people affected by drug policies and full-spectrum harm reduction at local, regional and international levels through coalition building, advocacy, and evidence gathering.
Our mission is grounded in an understanding of Youth RISE’s comparative advantage. We draw upon a wealth of diverse and intersectional youth experiences and narratives through its international working group members in different regions worldwide. Youth RISE brings a rich legacy of amplifying these voices at various forums – whether at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, high-level discussions, or working groups for technical guidelines affecting young people who use drugs. At all of these forums and more, Youth RISE has centred issues related to age-related barriers to accessing healthcare and harm reduction services, the non-existence of youth-friendly harm reduction services, poor access to objective information on drugs and drug use, and the multilayered harms of criminalisation, leading the way for future advocates and activists on drug policy and inequality.
YouthRISE finds it important to engage with young people who use drugs when discussing harm reduction or drug policy reform. This is particularly because young people, and particularly young people from marginalized backgrounds, are more likely to engage in risky drug-taking and sexual activity that may lead to a number of harms. Young people are often discriminated against by law enforcement, and young people who use drugs are often discriminated against in wider society. We aim to mobilize youth from across the world by involving global youth leaders in our endeavours and creating initiative groups with the aim of reaching a wide number of young people who would previously have not been engaged in drug policy advocacy or harm reduction.
YouthRISE builds capacity in two distinct ways. We focus specifically on young people, across the globe, from a variety of different backgrounds to enable people who may not previously have had access to crucial resources and harm reduction services, as well as provide advocacy opportunities for young people to become further involved in political activism and drug policy reform. On top of this, we also engage in capacity building with law enforcement, media and other stakeholders in order to educate them on the issues facing young people and people who use drugs, and develop resources for them to use moving forward. This work helps us to expand our YouthRISE network to reach a large number of people and helps to create a better and safer environment for us all to live in through the spreading of full-spectrum harm reduction practices and reducing stigma surrounding people who use drugs and sexual activity.
YouthRISE engages in regular advocacy work at a number of conferences as well as attending sessions of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. This advocacy work is done to voice the issues young people who use drugs face worldwide, such as barriers to healthcare, human rights violations, absence of objective information and education on drugs and other risks and harms caused by the war on drugs. We do this by taking people who have been working with us through youth engagement to represent their region and the young people who use drugs within their region, in the international arena. Through our involvement in the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, we are a member of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Civil Society Task Force, a network of Civil Society groups which aims to increase the involvement of NGOs and Civil Society Groups in International advocacy, particularly relating to drug policy and UNODC’s thematic areas of work.
YouthRISE, both on our own and in conjunction with other groups, work to produce tools and resources relating to drug policy and harm reduction for use by a wide range of people from young people who use drugs, youth advocates and leaders, as well as other stakeholders, such as media, law enforcement, educators etc. We apply our first-hand experience and knowledge of the issues facing young people who use drugs and combine it with our expertise in drug policy and harm reduction to produce harm reduction materials, from guidelines, articles and other papers to flyers, posters and stickers. Our aim is for these resources to positively impact, either directly or indirectly, the health and well-being of young people who use drugs, through aiding them in advocacy work, local community mobilisation, education of stakeholders, and these resources directed towards them and the people they interact with.