The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the leading co-sponsor for HIV and injecting drug use, yet has not demonstrated strong leadership on scaling up harm reduction or reforming policies that criminalise people who use drugs leading to greater harms. The UNODC Youth Initiative is heavily prevention focused, ignoring the needs of many young people globally who use drugs and require information, education and services to reduce harms. UNODC engagement with civil society has also been very limited.
However positive steps were taken recently to address some of these concerns. As a result of sustained advocacy efforts from key drug policy and harm reduction NGOs, and under the new leadership of Aldo Lale-Demoz (UNODC Director, Division of Operations), civil society organisations were invited to UNODC head quarters to meet the UNODC HIV team and begin an important dialogue. The meeting was constructive and opened an important space for raising concerns and developing key actions for UNODC-civil society collaboration and engagement for 2013 and beyond.
Youth RISE has been engaged in advocacy around the UNODC Youth Initiative, and is interested in ensuring that the Initiative is evidence-based, includes representation of affected youth and harm reduction messaging. The meeting was a positive step forward, and we look forward to engaging further with UNODC in the future.
We welcome these positive developments, but proof of commitment shall be seen in the actions taken next.