These blog posts are made in collaboration between CSSDP, SSDP and Youth RISE as part of our joint effort to provide youth with information about the Commission of Narcotic Drugs. We are the Paradigma Coalition.

Written by Ailish Brennan.

The Second Day of the 63rd Session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs started bright and early with the Paradigma-led side-event, hosted by Students for Sensible Drug Policy and entitled ‘Young People Use Drugs – Bridging the Gap Between Human Rights and Key Affected Populations’. The panel had representation from Youth RISE, SSDP, Youth RISE Nigeria and CSSDP

The event was well attended, especially given that it started at 8AM, and discussed the human rights issues we are seeing affecting Young Key Affected Populations in our respective regions. One of the main goals of Paradigma is to improve youth advocacy at all levels of drug policy, especially ensuring greater involvement of youth from the Global South at CND and in international drug policy. Often issues arise in the Visa application process for youth from the Global South that prevent their attendance at CND. 

The issues facing young people who use drugs in Nigeria, Barcelona, and Ghana were discussed, while an overview of the Paradigma coalition was provided. Our Mission and Vision were read out and the work done by our member organizations and activists presented. The diversity of contexts across each region was evident to see.The issues faced by our member organizations and the opportunities for change in each country varied wildly, while the presentation discussing harm reduction in Barcelona was focused specifically on women and gender non-conforming people.

Paradigma’s Vision and Mission

The ‘Trippin’ Through Nightlife: Innovative Approaches Preventing Harms and Risks of Drug Use in Recreational Settings’ side-event, organized by the Lithuanian and French governments, and focused on  cooperation between different stakeholders in providing information about the effects and risks of psychoactive substances, sexually transmitted infections and professional psychological help during festivals. The side-event brought an interesting discussion about drug checking and challenges related to it. Participants with best practices in drug checking shared how these services can be implemented in Lithuania. We are hopeful that Lithuania will implement these changes and that our Youth RISE International Working Group (IWG) members in Young Wave can be at the heart of this.

The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs organized an informal dialogue with the World Health Organization providing an opportunity for civil society to ask questions. Youth RISE IWG Eliza raised a question on the WHO response to new psychoactive substances and the challenges posed by mental health issues faced by people who use NPS. The representative of the WHO responded by stating that the WHO is aware of the mental health issues related to NPS use, but, at the moment it is not a high priority.

Eliza Kurcevic speaks at the WHO Informal Dialogue

The National Rehabilitation Center of Abu Dhabi (UAE) gave a side-event presentation on the recent Youth Forums they held for young people in the UAE. Jacob Chagnon of SSDP NYU Abu Dhabi was in attendance at the side-event, entitled ‘Engaging Youth in Drug Use Prevention Work’, and was able to provide a regional perspective and insight into what was discussed. The side-event followed a similar theme to many of the youth-focused documents and events this week. Much talk was made about “engaging” youth and making young people the protagonists of these drug prevention efforts without any actual youth representation being shown. After launching a global drug forum in 2014 with 40+ youth from a variety of countries, the NRC launched their local forums involving students aged 14-16 with the overarching aim of curbing addiction in youth and raising awareness about provided services.

Despite good feedback reported from students who attended the forums – along with positive feedback from the Malawi and Ghanaian delegates – the substance of the program remained unclear. No indication of the intended takeaways of the programs were given; is the message solely abstinence based or is there more nuance to it? While the NRC’s on-site rehabilitation services for adults are impressive, especially given the regional context, their youth-engagement efforts remain more ambiguous leaving questions of the methodology, intent, and target audience unanswered, despite their positive intentions.

A similarly titled side-event without any youth involvement ‘Beyond Prevention: Empowering Youth to Build up their Future’, was organized by the Government of Italy and Drug Free America Foundation among others. The moderator of the event apologized for the lack of youth representation on the panel, saying that there was planned to be a youth representative but they were preoccupied with Youth Forum commitments. Another prime case of tokenism when discussing youth representation.

The controversial resolution L5 today had its second reading in the Commission of the Whole today – yet another example of UN delegations discussing youth engagement without actually engaging any youth (for more information about L5 see our blog post from yesterday here, or see our response to L5 here). As the resolution received pushback from Canada and Switzerland among others, it will be interesting to see where the resolution heads.Canada has been pushing for a broadening of the language in the resolution, including scope for a gendered perspective. Meanwhile, Russia has been at-pains to maintain the one-sided prevention narrative of the resolution, attempting to shut down any talk of treatment, let alone harm reduction or anything similar. 

It remains to be seen how much of the language will actually remain come the end of the week.