‘Listen First’: UNODC launches international prevention campaign

UNODC has launched 'Listen First', an international campaign for science-based drug prevention which aims to raise awareness around listening to children and youth as the first step to help them grow into healthy and safe adults.

24 May 2016 | News

Mentor is pleased to see the UNODC’s Listen First campaign encourage a holistic and science-based approach to drug prevention.

During a high-profile side event at the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem at the UN Headquarters in New York last April, a campaign for science-based drug prevention was launched to raise awareness of the importance of listening to those we wish to help.

According to their website, “‘Listen First’ is an initiative to increase support for prevention of drug use that is based on science and is therefore an effective investment in the well-being of children and youth, their families and their communities.”

Using the hashtag #ListenFirst, the campaign targets parents, teachers, policy makers, health workers and prevention workers particularly, as well as the wider public, and it aims to increase support for science-based drug use prevention.

The campaign is a joint effort between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Health Organization, the French Interministerial Mission for Combating Drugs and Addictive Behaviours (MILDECA), and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden. The launch was attended by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, the President of the General Assembly and the founder of Mentor Foundation, Mogens Lykketoft, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Margaret Chan, and UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, among others.

During his remarks, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted:

“Prevention of substance abuse is a key target under the Sustainable Development Goals. However, despite good intentions, drug prevention efforts too often consist of isolated initiatives to raise awareness about the danger of drugs among young people and the general public. The campaign that we are launching today, ‘Listen First’, seeks to build on these successes and raise awareness of the fact that drug use prevention based on science is an effective investment in the wellbeing of our children and youth, families and communities. At the core of science-based prevention is a very simple concept, something we all know how to do but perhaps spend too little time doing: listening.”

Much of the above is reflected in Mentor’s work: we provide children and young people with age-appropriate knowledge and skills, through free education resources and evidence-based prevention programmes, helping them develop the life skills they need in order to negotiate challenging situations. Our work draws on the best international scientific evidence, supporting young people to help them develop healthy, informed attitudes and behaviour to alcohol and drugs. We also aim to engage young people in education, training, volunteering and work, all of which serve as protective factors against a range of risks, including substance misuse and criminal activity. This includes placing a greater emphasis on building resilience and confidence among our young people, in line with the latest international evidence, to tackle the range of risks they face by empowering them to make informed and positive choices for their health and wellbeing.

Some examples of how we involve young people and place them at the forefront of research, design and delivery are, among others:

Breaking Out is a 3-year project that aims to reduce offending behaviour and harm caused by alcohol misuse through a sustainable peer education programme. This programme is being delivered at HM Youth Offending Institute in Polmont, Scotland.

The Bottle Project is a peer-led programme that aims to build resilience to risks – particularly alcohol misuse and offending behaviour – and to foster healthy ambition, determination and a sense of community among participants.

Youth Insight was a two-year project aimed at offering practical support for London-based policy organisations to help them more effectively involve young people in policy development and implementation.

Young People Advisory Panel – two panels of young people (one for Scotland and one for England) which aim to improve the effectiveness and impact of our work and programmes. The panels help Mentor to “youth-proof” and inform all areas of our work and approach as an organisation, including programme design and delivery and shaping the policy landscape, from a youth perspective.

Learn more about Listen First in the video below: