Our 2018 Best Nine And The Stories They Tell

Time for reflection

2018 has been a year of historic achievements for the global IOGT movement. And as we transition to a new year, I like to use the final days to reflect about the stories, people and moments that made all the difference for our work. We’ve highlighted some of the remarkable achievements in our Season’s Greetings video.

The stories (at least some of them) that made all the difference

As you all have surely noticed, the social media channels provide different services to help us remember and reflect. For Instagram, I actually like the “best nine” tool that compiles the nine most liked images posted during the last year. For all its shortcomings, I feel that it is still a nice way of looking back at the year.

In 2018, IOGT International published 266 posts on Instagram. 266 moments. 266 ocassions of teamwork and heart-driven efforts to make the world a better place. These photographs have received 10.353 Likes. Thank you all for your support, interest and contributions!

Choosing nine out of 266 means to leave out crucial events, brilliant people and beautiful moments. That’s the downside of the best nine service. And as I scrolled through our posts I felt tremendous happiness about our work, thankfulness for all the dedication, and pride for the impact our work had in 2018. It’s breathtaking to see and remember and to be part of it, to be part of a big team of talented and heart-driven people.

From past to present to future

We started the year in the United States, for events at the United Nations (see Pubudu’s story below) and for an event in Baltimore about alcohol and cancer. It was the second alcohol and cancer symposium we had sponsored and helped our dear friends at the US Alcohol Policy Alliance organize. Systematic work with a long-term vision is very important to us. And to advance the national conversation in the U.S. about the fact that alcohol causes cancer is a priority for us. It’s a social justice issue. To start the year with this event and topic is also symbolic because one of the highlights later on was the UNGA High-Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases.

I hope we will be able to look back at this event in a few years and know that this was the beginning of a movement to inform people about the real harm of alcohol.

Development through alcohol (and other drugs) prevention

Alcohol is a massive obstacle to development, and is included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Pubudu is a leading voice, not only in his home country Sri Lanka but on global level, in the conversation about alcohol harm and related policy solutions to eradicate poverty, promote health for all, achieve gender equality and boost socio-economic development in communities and countries.

Our side event at the United Nations about a comprehensive approach to alcohol and other drugs as obstacles to the Sustainable Development Goals was a big contribution to advancing this conversation and promote evidence-based solutions. It’s work that we will keep building on also in 2019 and onwards.

Making alcohol policy solutions the priority they should be

The High-Level Political Forum for Sustainable Development (HLPF) is one of the crucial advocacy and networking platforms for our global IOGT movement that we are part of since its inception in 2016. So in 2018 it was the third time we participated. We were a small, strong, and inspired delegation and together we made sure that alcohol as obstacle to development was addressed, discussed and solutions explored.

This time it was extra-special for me as I addressed my home country Slovakia directly in the UN, posing three questions to our deputy prime minister. But that’s by far not all we did and much of the work goes on behind the scenes, such as meeting with country delegations, participating in side events, networking with civil society partners and (increasingly important) working to curb and expose the interference of Big Alcohol at the HLPF.

We are a global social movement. We are democracy in action

When I think about our 69th World Congress, I’m still filled with warmth and amazement and gratefulness. In this instagram post, our World Congress delegates adopt the new constitution. Unanimously. After fruitful discussions. It shows that we are willing and able to modernize and come together around our vision to find new and innovative ways in achieving it.

And it shows that we are movement, from bottom-up. I loved to walk around the IOGT Exhibition of Promising Practices, for instance, and see all the amazing work that our members do in their communities. And I loved all the talks and late night discussions about new projects, new ideas, and new campaigns to advance our work in the coming years.

We have also adopted a new Strategic Plan, updated our alcohol and illict drugs policy programs and we adopted a new tobacco policy program. And our members elected a new International Board.

With all that, I feel we stand on a strong foundation for the coming years. As we said: future made here. Now, let’s win it.

A ground-breaking year, event, and initiative for global alcohol control

It takes real teamwork to make a difference. And like at the HLPF, we were a brilliant team at the UN General Assembly in September, too. I’m so thankful for that.

Together we arranged a groundbreaking high-level side event on alcohol policy. At the highest level of the United Nations!

Together we made sure that alcohol policy is made the priority it should be. We supported each other in our advocacy, in the practical aspects of navigating the UN, New York City, and the (very strict) security regulations, and in networking with government representatives from all around the world.

I’m sure that the fruits of this work, during very long and intense and all the more inspiring days at the UN, we will harvest in years to come.

FAKE FREE — the world’s most innovative approach to health promotion

Political work is our main focus but alcohol prevention is another important dimension of our global campaign. In 2018 we have made astonishing progress in advancing the understanding of alcohol as placebo and the awareness about the real effects of alcohol. Our FAKE FREE approach to evidence-based prevention and health promotion made it to Canada, Sri Lanka and Europe empowering young people to challenge alcohol myths, to question Big Alcohol and to reflect about the reasons why people use alcohol, actually.

I’m so proud of this work because it’s a beautiful example of the strength of our global movement: invented and refined in Sri Lanka, developed and adapted in Sweden, adopted in Serbia, Poland, Bosnia and now increasingly spread in Africa and North America, FAKE FREE is an exciting and innovative treasure of a prevention approach.

The soul of our global IOGT movement

2018 also was a year where had the privilege of exploring the soul of our global IOGT movement. I visited our members and saw their activities, programs, campaigns and the people who make it all happen. Heart-driven. I was with our members in Sweden, Germany, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Uganda, and Bosnia.

CEM in Travnik, Bosnia, celebrated its 20th anniversary. It was a proud moment and beautiful celebration. For me it represents the visits and meetings with all other members, too. IOGT International Member Organizations work to prevent and reduce harm from alcohol and other drugs — and this is work is bigger than addressing the harmful substances. It’s work that advances democracy, youth leadership, entrepreneurship, that protects and promotes Human Rights, and it’s work that boosts development on individual, community, societal and global level.

Future made here

When I look at our vision, as we did this summer at our World Congress, it sometimes feels daunting and unrealistic.

Our vision is a life for all human beings free to live up to their fullest potential, and free from harm caused by alcohol and other drugs. It’s a world of peace, democracy and justice where free and healthy citizens actively contribute in all levels of society.

But when I see what our members are doing, how they conduct their important (and sometimes life-saving) work, and what they accomplish in their communities, I can see with my own eyes that we are actually, really, achieving our vision in those communities we serve.

In the end, that’s the through-line of our best nine Instagram posts: global change by making a real difference locally; transformative change, by transforming the environments we work in.


Originally published at IOGT International.