Side event: New Initiatives in prevention: Strengthening the global prevention response

UNODC: If we address prevention properly we have gotten rid of the problem. Need to look to research for what is working and what is not working. At core is individual. I was impressed to read research that said that a key factor for prevention across the world was the children sit down once a day for a proper meal. There they get to talk and relieve some of the pressure that is out there on them to take drugs. This event compliments another side event which is about prevention in schools. How can we allow children to feel safe, and are away from harassment? How can we keep children from feeling like outcasts, feeling valuable? I want to thank you all for coming and sharing on a most important and central theme.

Giovanna Campello, Officer-in-Charge at Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section – UNODC: Your word means a lot to us.

UNODC: I am so happy to be sharing the floor with this group of people. I say so because my colleagues are in the health branch. With modesty and commitment we have tried to implement a programme of prevention. We are always tirelessly promoting an evidence based, effective drug policy response. We are just a small part of solution. We have looked at it top down and bottom up. Both talking to policy makers, and piloting adapted measures on the ground. We have given guidelines to developing family skills. UNODC has been piloting family skills programmes in asia, West Africa, Latin America etc. WE have been piloting life skills programmes, with equal success. WE have learned  great deal form science and urge policy makers to further listen to science. Science has many gaps, especially regarding vulnerable youth, refugees. We must be mindful of gender specific needs of people. This first event on new initiatives in prevention we will hear about Iceland and Singapore, and how this has been effective at prevention in their countries. We will cast a light on new initiatives that are filling a gap in science. We will hear from Qatar about their initiatives. We will hear about parenting skills, which is especially needed in context of refugee families. We will hear about partnerships between UNODC and development institutions.

We plan to release guide to prevention in school sector from UNODC, WHO and others. I think it have four messages: it works if it’s evidence based; policy makers believe this; science is getting better on this; we can make prevention work for sustainable development.

Cempello: We will hear from Singapore on targeting relevant groups.

Singapore: We will share our experience on preventative drug education. We are especially concerned about young people. WDR shows increase of heroin use in same views. We have seen many arrests. We think these trends are to do with what they see and read in the media, as well as what they see abroad. People use smart phones and broadband increasingly. They assume that cannabis is part of a glamourous lifestyle. They are curious and tech-savvy. They need to be sent a message through methods that will appeal to them.

Preventive Drug Education

–          We have a drug buster academy bus with interactive games on board.

–          We harness their energy during the month against drugs. In this month, Danceworks! asks young dance groups to compete to dance against drugs.

–          We have a Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat (@CNB.DrugFreeSG)

We work with many stakeholders – schools, families, self-help groups, NGOs, communities to engender drug free vision in our communities.

ASEAN countries came together to secure 10 year work plan against drugs. We adopted a green and white ribbon to show commitment to cause. Green and white signify health, vitality and strength. We invite all to use ribbon in drug prevention strategies. It reminds us to get high on life.

We believe in a comprehensive harm prevention approach. We invite all the visit our exhibition in the rotunda.

Norway: The more we succeed with preventive work, the less problematic drug use we will have. Many people have dedicated themselves to the field. It is not all good quality – sometimes the intentions are good but the practice is not.

Three challenges:

–          Give prevention higher priority.

–          Implement tactics that work.

–          End those which don’t work.

We have seen a huge success in Norway. There are standards being used in Norway which are tried and tested and freely available, I encourage everyone to go ahead and use them.

France: Our prime objective was to bring together experts and community around prevention. We wanted to change message dramatically away from hygiene or morality based ineffective messages, and listen properly to the youth. 52 countries in all continents have followed this initiative. All stakeholders involved. We reached 1.5m people. I would like to underline importance in change of paradigm. Attention of adults in first step for children being able to grow and blossom. There is an increasing impact of NPS, alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs. Prevention requires strengthening in listening. And we need to look at psycho-social response.

Campello: To build on what’s just been said – it’s not too late to join our campaign [PTRS is a part of France’s campaign].

CEO of Icelandic Centre, Ingur Dora: Substance use in Icelandic youth has decreased dramatically since 1998. In Europe this has risen. In Iceland there were problems but not because there weren’t prevention strategies. The strategies were not based on evidence however. We tried out a new approach in 1998.

Youth in Iceland

–          Evidence – we need to understand world of youth

–          Community-based approach – we need to understand the specifics of communities, research them individually

–          Dialogue between researchers, policy makers and practitioners. Two months after research, the community will have a report to work with.

The outcome was a group of small and large projects. This is when tide began to change.

We have been asked Why and so now we are trying to pass on our knowledge. The model is easily transferable and has been used in other European countries. We would like to see this implemented globally. It is only through joining forces and learning from each other and basing our work on research will we get anywhere. Prevention needs to be consistent and comprehensive.

Gilberto Gerra, Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch – UNODC: We asked yesterday whether a person who was abused as a child should be punished at end of career as small time dealer and drug user? We were glad to see no-one thought yes.

We know now that if there is an undermined child-parent attachment, the whole capacity of control and reward functioning is undermined. We can see that in the brain the ability to cope with stress is undermined if you have difficult attachment. There is evidence through work with drug using youths that these youths have an overexcited stress response, feeling stress for no reason. This is the same with heroin users we have spoken to. You can see that if you receive certain genes, you will not be vulnerable to substance abuse because of your emotional makeup and your emotional responses, whereas another set of genes, makes you vulnerable to substance abuse.

Therefore, prevention goals are these:

–          Support, attachment and bonding in the family

–          Appreciation is a powerful tool

–          Parents/teachers told how to work with different temperaments

–          Social protection of stress mitigation

–          Dealing with negative emotions: listening, warm style

–          Inhibitory control: impulsiveness modulation, rules

We are working with hard evidence of what effects the brain of the new generation.

Campello: We are implementing a holistic approach to prevention in Qatar. We do not know whether sport works, but we are trying to see whether it may work as a platform for education. We do not know evidentially how to support children in gangs. We do not have science to back up these programmes, many programmes without research. We have taken an evidence based programme and adapted it to sports setting. It is ten sessions, delivered by coaches, and builds on a range of personal and social skills. Coach will create an activity where the youth is pushed to break a rule, and following this there is a discussion of why and how and prevention. This is then extrapolated out to real life examples of engaging in risky behaviours. It is based on current standards of evidence based working, but it has not yet been trialled.

Aala El-Khani (University of Manchester and UNODC Strong Families Programme): We are facing the largest refugee crisis yet. 10% of children will face trauma that will affect their entire life of emotional functioning, just because their parents will not be able to be such warm and loving parents in war zones and highly stressful situations. We need to support parents. We have conducted much support in camps and conflict areas. The parents themselves are often widows of war, do not know whether their partners are dead or alive. They attempt to access support but there often is none available. There is an identified gap in family support. UNODC are developing a family support programme.

We produced leaflets which gave basic parenting tips to normalise families to what their children might be experiencing. I delivered a TED talk on the findings of the leaflets when we go them back.

The next level is a seminar on parenting and their own wellbeing. It is two hours. Families in the West Bank were highly engaged.

We need to provide families with ‘Teaching Recovery Techniques plus Parenting’. I trained facilitators in Turkey.

Children will continue to be displaced until we stop war. In the meantime, these children need to be parented well to prevent them developing emotional patterns which lead them to engage in risky behaviours like drugs and crime.

Wadih Maalouf (UNODC Strong Families Programme): We have evidence for good prevention programmes. They are being used in different countries worldwide. It is known that family skills are preventative. We need evidence informed, open source because they need to be affordable. They do not have national ownership, so they need adaptation. They need to be specific to sub-population in some cases, like a programme for refugees.

The programme is for low-income groups facing challenges. They will share challenges. This programme is being implemented in 22 countries. By the end of the year we should have a programme for all families in low-income settings.

In different contexts, the same standards may mean something totally different. We need clear criteria in different contexts. We need to put red/yellow/green on map showing how much different countries are rising to standards to have some competition between the countries.

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