The Youth Voice at UNGASS 2016

What is UNGASS?

The UNGASS is the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World’s Drug Problem, of which the current 2016 session is the third (previous sessions in 1990 and 1998) with all United Nations member states. The meeting, initially scheduled for 2019, has been specifically requested by the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia, thereby voicing their great concern over the many detrimental unintended effects that the implementations of current national and international drug policies have on societies. SSDP UK hereby wishes to stress the importance of including civil society organisations, and especially youth-oriented organisations, in the UNGASS process.

A Better Tomorrow for the World’s Youth

The official slogan of UNGASS 2016 is “Achieving the 2019 Goals: A better tomorrow for the world’s youth”. SSDP UK considers the emphasis on youth during this UNGASS especially important for a variety of reasons:

  • It is vital that the voice of young people is included in the international decision-making process regarding the future of national and international drug policies;
  • Youth should be encouraged and assisted in representing themselves in the global drug policy debate through youth-oriented organisations such as ours, by attending events like UNGASS 2016;
  • The influence of youth is necessary to influence and reform drug policies that negatively and disproportionately impact their health and future prospects;
  • The prevalence of drug use is highest among young people; they are therefore the largest ‘target audience’ of drug policies worldwide, and therefore have the right to be included and thoroughly heard in the decision-making processes;
  • As reported by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, “drug use is one of the major causes of avoidable mortality among young people in Europe”;
  • As reported by the World Health Organisation, “drug policies that inhibit the access of young people to harm reduction services fuel the public health crisis of HIV”;
  • Conclusions from the Global Youth Coalition Consultation with several international youth-led organisations, express how young people feel that the “current drug control regime not only impedes the development of young people, but also interferes with their full enjoyment of basic human rights”.

SSDP UK aims to utilise the 2016 Special Session as an opportunity to learn, engage and share with other youth organisations; represent UK youth, unite, and make a stand with global youth towards “achieving the 2019 goals: a better tomorrow for the world’s youth” through evidence-based drug policies that actually protects young people from the harms of decades of counteractive drug policy decision-making.

Nadine Van Gelder is our International Officer @SSDPUK

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