Kerala capital to host three-day global meet on ‘drug-free childhood’

• UN-backed conclave commences on Nov 16
Trivandrum / November 9, 2022

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov. 9: A three-day international meet on ‘Right to Drug-free Childhood’, organised by Fourth Wave Foundation in partnership with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD), will commence here on November 16.

Top international experts on the subject will share their insights and perspectives at the conclave to work out a concrete action plan to root out the menace of substance abuse to create a safe world for children.

‘Children Matter- Right to a Drug-Free Childhood’ is the theme of the meet which will take forward Fourth Wave Foundation’s ‘Project-VENDA’ to build a substance abuse free world.

“It is significant to note that this international forum is happening at a time when the country is grappling with a steady spike in drug abuse among children. The conclave brings together top experts from across the world and representatives of global institutions and civil society organisations to shed light on the causes that lead to substance abuse among children and work out policies and protocols that could be adopted by governments,” Mr. CC Joseph, Director, Fourth Wave Foundation, told a press conference here today.

Kerala is one of the Indian states that is waging a relentless battle against drug abuse with the government taking the awareness drive down to the grass roots, he said.

Mr Swarup BR, Advisory Board Member, Fourth Wave Foundation, and Mr Rohit Chelat, Catalyst, Fourth Wave Foundation, were also present.

The plenary sessions of the forum will have speakers like Ms Amy Ronshausen, International President, WFAD, USA, civil society members, policymakers, national and state commissions on child rights, government representatives, prevention-treatment-recovery professionals and youth leaders from across the globe.

Joint Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt of India, Smt Radhika Chakravarthy and Founder and Former CEO of Infosys Shri SD Shibulal, former CEO, Infosys, who is also Founder, Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiative-India, will address the inaugural session of the meet.

The deliberations at the meet will focus on the increased relevance of primary prevention in national drug policies to protect children and domesticating the recommendations of United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS, 2016.)

More than 300 participants from around 60 countries will attend the event, the first such being organised in the country on this topic.

The sessions at the forum will discuss topics related to educating and empowering youth to advocate for their rights, rehabilitation and social cohesion of children, the role of family and school in working with children, and Project Venda, a project of the Fourth Wave Foundation.

The members of the forum will work towards facilitating practical and regional solutions to protect the rights of children to a drug-free childhood.  

As per the World Drug Report, there will be an 11% increase in drug use by 2030. The surge will mostly appear in lower-income nations, estimated to encompass 40% of the total increase.

Though Article 33 of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) calls for appropriate measures to protect children from the use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, it lacks proper implementation, popularity and understanding among the common mass.

In an increasingly challenging global environment, today’s children are exposed to severe threats to their rights.

The studies show children aged between 11 - 14 are vulnerable to exposure to substance abuse. In India 253 million children in the age group of 10-19 years are found to be vulnerable to substance use. According to latest reports, in the last five years, there has been an alarming rise of 125% in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance cases in Kerala.

The propagation of hybrid lab-bred drugs that are widely prevalent across the globe is a major cause for concern.

Opioid users also increased from 2 million to 22 million. Now heroin has replaced natural opioids as the most commonly abused variety. Also, there is rampant use of synthetic drugs and cocaine.

The World Drug Report 2020 shows that the global trend of substance use among youth is along the same lines as India. According to the report, there are 192 million cannabis users, 27 million amphetamines and prescription stimulant users, 58 million opioid users, 21 million ecstasy users and 19 million cocaine users globally.

Despite the implementation of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) against the use of cannabis passed by the Indian government on Nov 14, 1985, substance and narcotic abuse continues to be the main threat faced by our children.

The UN General Assembly Special Session in 2016 on the world drug problem acknowledged the immediate need to address the global drug problem and actively promote a drug-free society.

But the vulnerabilities and challenges faced by our children are even more severe. Over two million children lacking proper shelter live on the streets. Children from families affected by drug abuse, in need of care and in conflict with the law often struggle to receive protection granted by Article 33 of UNCRC.

The mental care and treatment for children addicted to substance use are inadequate. 54% of child care institutions lack adequate and trained caregivers. The National Mental Health Survey says only 5% of people with illicit drug use receive inpatient care.

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