The content for this blog was written by Daniel Nii Ankrah, our International Working Group member from Ghana, who implemented this grant with Youth RISE Ghana.

This grant was used to facilitate a digital campaign on the new Narcotics Control Commission (NCC) Law in Ghana, to hold media discussions engaging the general public on the topic of the NCC Law, to plan and organize advocacy opportunities with partners both online and offline, and to conduct stakeholder mapping and selection in West Africa through drug policy networks, emails and phone calls.

Digital campaign on Narcotics Control Commission Law

In August 2020, young people and youth–led civil society organizations (CSOs) collaborated for a capacity building activity online. The exercise was part of a series of digital activities to draw attention to the NCC Law and to get the general public talking about drugs, drug policies and overdose. The digital campaign on the Narcotics Control Law was successfully ran with youth-led organizations and young people actively participated throughout. This digital campaign was organized on the sidelines of the commemorated International Overdose Awareness Day 2020 on Twitter. A brief digital training was conducted online to support the core training of participants in the campaign to understand the crux of the discussion. This inspired young people to open up and address issues of national drug policies, and learn about people who use drugs and overdose in Ghana. The capacity building activity was important because it created the platform for young people to campaign about the protection of the rights of people who use drugs and gave facts on overdose in Ghana, linking it to the recent NCC Law that had been passed. 

Media discussions engaging the general public on the NCC Law

In September, Youth RISE Ghana, together with their partner Community and Family Aid Foundation, held radio discussions about advocacy on the NCC Law and what it represents for young people in Ghana. The media engagement was mainly organized to explain the principles of the new law and to clear the air on cannabis being legalized for personal use in Ghana. Having such conversations on air can be challenging as it is a sensitive area and people could easily adopt a conservative position.

The radio discussion was significant as it allowed for easy communication of content from the NCC Law using context-specific examples. It also opened up the space for the media and civil society partners to discuss issues of drug use and drug policy, and explore the opportunity to collaborate in terms of network strengthening and leveraging the media space to advocate for drug policy reforms. One of the highlights of the engagements on air was the extensive discussion on overdose awareness in Ghana, acknowledging its existence, supporting people who use drugs and expanding civic spaces on this discussion.

Organizing advocacy consultations with partners online & offline

The Youth RISE project in Ghana has ambitious targets and activities developed to align with the goal of expanding and developing youth networks, as well as bringing together youth groups and youth organizations within regions for the common purpose of drug policy reform. In the face of COVID-19 and impending general elections in country, Youth RISE Ghana have been able to record milestones and successes through the use of innovation. They have facilitated and supported the interaction of civil society partners, duty-bearers and people who use drugs on issues of building partnerships and reforming drug policies in Ghana. Ultimately, Youth RISE Ghana engaged in the review of the NCC Bill and supported the advocacy of its passing into Law. They provided critical support in making contributions to consultations and joining strategic committees to strengthen the advocacy on the NCC Bill. Additionally, this was the first time that CSOs had collaborated to advance this Bill against all odds successfully, and on Friday, 20th March 2020, the Parliament of Ghana passed the Narcotics Control Commission bill into law. This meant that penalties for possession of drugs was reduced to a fine, additionally, it gave legitimacy for the production of non-psychoactive industrial hemp with regulated THC levels.

By seeking to work with partners and strengthen networks in Ghana to advance the course of drug policy reforms, partnerships with local youth organizations and regional platforms have been formed and access to regional drug policy reform spaces gained. This is demonstrated through Youth RISE being accepted as part of the West African Drug Policy Network – Ghana chapter, and working with other CSO partners to engage in drug law reforms in Ghana. Some of the partners Youth RISE Ghana have worked with include drug user communities, IDPC consultant – Maria-Goretti Ane, Hemp Association of Ghana, state agencies and individual experts.

Conducting stakeholder mapping and selection in West Africa

Finally, Youth RISE Ghana used their small grant to engage in mapping out and identifying strategic CSO partners who can support their advocacy work on drug policy reforms and promoting the rights of people who use drugs across local, national and regional levels in West Africa. They have worked together on national level issues and are now looking to expand across the region in order to consolidate their work on drug policy in West Africa.