The Central Asian region is at a critical demographic juncture. Young people under 30 years old constitute more than 50 percent of the population. In two decades, these young people will be the largest labor force the region has ever had. Data suggests that the age youth in the region try drugs of any kind dropped from 14 to 10 years old. This is a signal for the Central Asian Governments, encouraging them to pay more attention to the younger generation, engaging youth in policy dialogues, providing meaningful opportunities for youth to be involved in decision-making processes on issues that matter in their lives, such as substance use. Therefore, it is essential to prioritize scientific, evidence-based prevention of drug use and other risky behaviors, with a special focus on the development of life skills of children and young people, on parenting and family skills, and mental health services.
In 2021 to address above mentioned problems UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia (UNODC ROCA) with the financial support from the Government of the Russian Federationestablished a regional network of youth organizations to provide a platform and exchange ideas on how to protect the health and wellbeing of youth within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.
A series of national consultations with 130 representatives of different youth organizations including NGOs, universities, local youth networks, etc., in Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan jointly with national partners. These national meetings identified core areas for cooperation and explored the possibility of establishing a regional network of youth organizations to address the challenges youth face. As a result, the most active 25 young leaders from CA countries gathered in November 2021 in Samarkand, Uzbekistan to discuss the importance of evidence-based substance use prevention in the region and to launch a Regional Network of Youth Organizations and Youth Leaders for change in Central Asia for a drug- free, healthy, safe and secure societies. These leaders championed evidence-based prevention of substance use, organizing events that reached 500+ youth in the region. They fostered collaborations, developed projects, and supported initiatives against drug use.
In 2023, with aim to continue to support and further development of the Regional Network of Youth Organizations, the UNODC ROCA launched the Phase II of the Project “Regional Network of Youth Organizations and Youth Champions of Change in Central Asia for drug-free, healthy, safe, and secure societies” of the Regional Network for drug-free, healthy, safe, and secure societies. The project will mainly focus on following results:
- The Regional Youth Network is empowered to participate and voice out youth concerns on drug use to national and international bodies
- The International Standards and knowledge products on drug use prevention are promoted and widely disseminated among youth and other stakeholders in the region
- Capacity of youth and youth organizations, governments and NGO sector is strengthened to involve youth for drug use prevention policy making and implementation
The project activities will start with a series of national round table meetings to be held in September-October 2023. The main purpose of the meetings is to inform key national stakeholders on the project goals and discuss possible ways of collaboration in successful implementation of planned activities.
On 11 August 2023, UNODC ROCA conducted online meeting with active leaders of the Network to discuss issues related to preparation for upcoming national round tables.
UNODC CAYN Leader from Turkmenistan, Mr. Shukurgeldi Myradov: “I am very happy to be integral member of the UNODC CAYN Network and I hope to add meaningful contribution to the project goals in prevention of drug abuse among youth. I am very motivated by UNODC Team and believe that we have great potential to achieve a lot”. ///UNODC Central Asia, 25 August 2023
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