International Conference On Drug Demand Reduction 2018 At The Kenyatta Internationation Convention Centre Nairobi

Theme; Thinking Globally Acting Locally

This document is a narration of the detailed events and proceedings of the training conducted at Hilton hotel Nairobi and later on at the International Conference on Drug Demand Reduction 2018 that took place at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre. In line with WSCF’s mission of empowering students in critical thinking and constructive transformation of our world as well as the vision to promote co-operation among young people in working and advocating for socio-economic justice, peace, human rights, responsible and accountable leadership in the world, The organization partnered with NACADA to send participants from the organization to represent it and participate in the annual international conference.

About participants
The participants of the five day conference were drawn from different organizations and professionals in the field of drugs prevention and use. Some of the major participants and representation included The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) The African Union Commission (AU), Government of the Republic of Kenya through The National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA), The United States’ Government through the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)  and the International Society of Substance Use Prevention and Treatment Professionals (ISSUP)  Also present was the Colombo Plan Drug advisory program (DAP), Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America (CADCA) among other nongovernmental organizations, stake holders  and students from universities and high schools from within Africa.


An opening ceremony was hosted by the government of Kenya through NACADA and the management of the KICC on the first day of the conference. The ceremony involved cultural dances from local dancers and other presentations.
This was later followed by a gathering at the amphitheatre where all the participants gathered for the Kenyan and East African anthems.  This was then followed by a couple of speeches from government officials and other key stakeholders who took great part in organizing the conference.

Some of the key note addresses and presentations included those from;  Ms. Kirsten D. Madison, Assistant Secretary Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) who began her statement by acknowledging and commending NACADA for hosting the conference noting that bringing together and organizing a conference of such magnitude is no easy task.

She also acknowledged the participants from more than80 countries with 40 0f them being from Africa for their dedication and willingness to come together and learn and improve on ways through which they can prevent and treat substance use disorders. “It’s really humbling to be in a room with such important people, indeed this is humanity” Ms. Kristen said.
She highlighted that her country is suffering from drug abuse like other countries saying that they are suffering from a drug use epidemic of unprecedented scale in their history with more than 72,000 people dying of drug abuse in 2017 alone.
She identified the legal and preventive measures the US government has partnered with the African Union and other stake holders in tackling the drug menace. She expressed optimism and high expectations of learning from this powerful conference of professionals on anti-drug efforts.

Dr. Gilberto Gerra, the head of UNODC drug prevention began his address by detailing very concerning statistics from the latest UN World Drug Report which indicates that more than 450,000 people died due to drug use in the year 2015. “That number when put in perspective translates to one of every ten people in the city of Nairobi or enough people to fill this convention centre nearly 100 times. And this was in a year alone, indeed very staggering.” Dr. Gerra said.

The report further indicates that 275 million people used a drug at least once in the year 2016. These shocking numbers therefore call for a joint multilateral effort to fight substance use disorders. He commended the participants for coming up together to deliberate on ways to deal with substance use disorders.
Ambassador Abdoulaye Diop, Special Advisor, Bureau of the Chairperson African Union Commission, on behalf of the African Union Deputy Chairperson, H.E Amb. Kwesi Quartey in his opening statement emphasized the commitment of AU in providing policy guidelines and requisite coordination to African states and beyond. “I urge all the stakeholders to take into consideration the huge unmet treatment demand as well as improving capacity and quality of existing treatment services for substance use disorders, forge ways of increasing data collection and monitoring and evaluation”, Amb. Diop said.
He thanked the US government for continued support through the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) to the African Union Drug Control Programme since 2015 expressing optimism and breakthrough in the near future through continued co-operation. He noted the significant milestones achieved under the project “strengthening research and data collection capacity for drug use prevention and treatment in Africa”,  
The Ambassador further stressed on the importance of having and increasing the numbers of well trained professionals such as the ones gathered in the conference, applying science and evidence so that people faced with challenges of drug use and abuse are well treated owing to the alarming fact that Africa is no longer a transit region for narcotic drugs but major consumption market posing serious health, economic, security and social challenges.

 The key note speaker of the event, Cabinet Secretary for Internal Security and Coordination of National Government on, Mr. Matiang’i in his address noted that the drugs problem is not a Kenyan problem but a global problem which needs to be addressed with urgency together and with unity. In his address he called on the delegates from across the continent to take action and ensure implementation of the recommendation of policies already established and those to be deliberated on rather than just of writing papers and doing presentations.  He observed that there is need for more to be done in order to curb this menace, “One thing that we must embrace is less talk. We need to act more,” Mr. Matiang'i said.
Several presentations made on the conference all revolved around the use of drugs and the effects they have on nations and particularly to the youth.  A case of Sustainable Development Goals was also frequently brought up. Goal number 10 that speaks on the inequalities around the world was used to portray the effects of substance use with regard to the affected individuals. It was noted that in the underdeveloped nations masses opt to substance use so as to cope with the difficult economic and social challenges. The youth have in particular resorted to substance use to find solace and destruct themselves from the challenges they face.

  • Developed countries are equally being affected with children of the rich and those individuals exposed to wealth trying more drugs in what was characterized as experimental ceremonial use.  Two patterns are therefore witnessed; Addiction as attention disorder and Substance Use Disorder. As such UNGA 2016 made several resolutions to combat the menace of substance use among them being;
  • Promote the well-being of society as a whole through the elaboration of effective scientific evidence-based prevention strategies centered on and tailored to the needs of individuals, families and communities as part of comprehensive and balanced national drug policies, on a non-discriminatory basis.
  • Also take effective and practical measures to prevent progression to severe drug use disorders through appropriately targeted early interventions for people at risk of such progression.
  • Consider enhancing cooperation between public health, education and law enforcement authorities when developing prevention initiatives.
  • Develop and improve recreational facilities and provide access for children and youth to regular sports and cultural activities, with a view to promoting healthy lives and lifestyles, including through the recovery and improvement of public spaces, and promote the exchange of experiences and good practices in this field to further enhance effective preventive interventions.

The first day of the conference ended with an open forum engaging some of the local influential youth leaders who highlighted the problems they have witnessed and the initiatives they have put into place. They noted reasonably that approaching young people on such issues is rather difficult as they don’t like being talked to and  prefer being talked with and engaged. As such a smart approach is needed. They also raised an issue that young people take such matters for granted and that their participation is minimal, they argued that it is very difficult for example for youths to sit through a five day conference a sentiment that was unwelcome with the youth participants who were showing that they can do what it takes to help in drug reduction even sitting through a five day conference.


On the second day of the conference, policy makers and stake holders engaged on discussions on how substance use is affecting young people from all over, bearing in mind that the youth are the young blood who should be championing development in economic and social avenues. Concerns were raised that while the youth are the most affected, their place in policy shaping and development has been completely neglected, a sentiment that was backed by the majority youth present. The participation of young people is indeed very concerning.

It was also agreed that for sustainable development to be achieved especially in Africa and Latin America there is dire need to protect the future of our youth for the future is not safe with addiction. The sustainable development goals require an environment that is stable and conducive hence to actualize them, there is need to focus on the challenges facing the youth beginning with the goals that are directly connected to substance use.

The numerous statistics and case studies given at the conference indicated that in most cases of substance use, most users are mostly ignorant of the effects of such substances. In deed there is an urgent need to educate and inform the youth about the devastating effects of substance use.

Ceremonial use and addiction as an attention disorder of drugs was highlighted as the risk factors leading to substance use by nearly 85%.  This calls for campaigns and awareness programs to help the youth avoid this evil. There is need to sell hope to the youth who majorly feel disappointed by their governments and fall to substance disorders in attempts to try and find solace while in reality they are destroying their lives. It was noted and highly agreed upon that just as the Cabinet Secretary had said earlier that time for talks is over, the time has come when we should all go to the ground and engage those suffering from substance use disorders directly and help bring them back to better ways and promote healthy nations.

The presence of youths at the summit who are willing to come and learn new knowledge about drug reduction and are ready to go back to their communities and help in dealing with these problems was indeed very encouraging and a sign of a better future. The day ended on a rather high note when the youth united together unanimously and refuted claims by the adults claiming the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. They refused this claim and unanimously told the adults that they are the leaders of today and not future nor tomorrow.

DAY 3 and 4

The youth leaders were on this day introduced to the Strategic Prevention Framework and the logic model through which they would learn new skills on how to identify and specifically deal with substance use cases in their respective environments. The trainers emphasized that Change takes Leadership which is what was being shown by all the participants.
For this leadership to be achieved there are some co-values to be mastered too which include;

  • Vision; that the youth must be visionary and be able to envision the future of their prospective projects
  • Determination; have what it takes to carry out the activities that come with their line of duty
  • Integrity; honesty and accountability should also be key in the leadership ladder for the to effectively function
  • Altruism: leadership and in particular that leaning towards drug reduction programs requires selflessness
  • Courage; should be motivational to their teams as well as being able to inspire
  • Collaboration: this line of leadership requires collaborations and partnerships with as many stakeholders as possible. Coalitions are very key in achieving success.



Strategic Prevention Framework

The first step to identifying and defining problems is community assessment. This is a method used to collect data and gather information that is supposed to help coalitions draw conclusions about the state of affairs in the community. This allows for proper understanding and familiarization with the problem at hand.
This process involves physical description of the environment and in particular the affected community. This includes information such as the name of your community on newsprint (Nairobi County, Ward 6, school, Muja estate etc) and its history as well. This is then followed by drawings of the map that represents the community. (Incase the area is unknown, create your own hypothetical shape of your gathered information about the area).   After the drawings the next step is to define resources assessment and characteristics that describe your community such as Rural, forestry, known for coffee etc.
The next process is needs assessment which may include information such as naming a very specific substance abuse or other social problems affecting the youth in your community that your coalition and/or team are addressing. It may also inform on the most prevalent problem that needs urgent solutions.

The next phase of community assessment is selecting one problem that you have decided to focus on. While selecting a problem statement it is important that one considers the six criteria for effective problem statements namely;

  • Name one problem at a time to avoid ambiguity
  • Defining the problem in terms of behaviors or conditions
  • Always avoid blaming anyone for the problem it is important that one remains impartial
  • Ensure that the problem statements selected are measurable
  • Avoid proposing solutions to the named problems yet
  • Ensure that the problems reflect the community’s concerns

After community assessment it is important to carry out a capacity check and come up with a proper capacity utilization model that will ensure proper productivity. Under capacity utilization strategies it is prudent that one increases participation and membership, build leadership, enhance cultural competence and improve organizational management and development .

Arguably the most important and crucial of any project and activities action planning requires that one comes up with proper plans of how they shall administer the project. Strategic planning allows for a proper flow of events and activities leading to success. This includes plans such as responsibilities and timelines. In the case of  intervention planning for substance use disorders for example, it is important that one combines multiple components and elements in their comprehensive intervention plan so as to produce changes and outcomes valued by the group or coalition. Such a plan is a ‘complete package’; a multi-component effort of programs, policies and practices through which an intended result is achieved. There are seven strategies that are necessary to develop the comprehensive intervention plan namely

  • Providing information; this includes educational presentations, workshops, seminars or other presentations of data. Examples would include billboards.
  • Enhancing skills; workshops and seminars or activities designed to increase the skills of participants, members and staff needed to achieve population level outcomes
  • Providing support; creating opportunities to support those who participate in activities aimed at reducing risk or enhancing protection. This would include mentorships, supporting clubs or groups among others
  • Reducing barriers/enhancing access; improving systems and processes to increase the ease, ability and opportunity to utilize those systems and services such as ensuring healthcare, cultural language sensitivity and safety among others.
  • Changing consequences (Incentives and Disincentives); increasing or decreasing the probability of a specific behavior that reduces or enhances protection by altering the consequences of performing that behavior.
  • Changing physical designs; changing the physical design or structure of the environment to reduce risk or enhance protection
  • Modifying policies; formal change in written procedures, by-laws, proclamations, laws with written documentation and/ or voting procedures.

At the implementation stage the plans made are implemented. This stage calls for intervention developments, advocating for change, influencing policy development and administration as well as writing grant applications for funding.

The final stage of the strategic prevention framework, is conducting comprehensive evaluations of initiatives and project administered to understand their effectiveness and further find and learn from loop holes if any. Sustainability of projects and initiatives is also crucial.


‘We Must Step-up the Fight against Substance Abuse in the Continent’ Stakeholders declared at the closing ceremony of the African Union - ISSUP-NACADA International Conference on Drug Demand Reduction 2018

 The 5 day conference came to a successful end and the delegates expressed optimism and high regard for the meeting. The conference included several training tracks and events that were held concurrently, one such event is the African Union Continental Experts’ Consultation on Drug
Demand Reduction and Drug Epidemiology.
This year’s consultation incorporated an Africa-Latin America Policy dialogue that enabled the stakeholders to share best practices and experiences in developing and implementing robust evidence-informed policies for drug use prevention, treatment and care.

The experts discussed the promotion of inter-continental dialogue on the establishment and actualization of national drug epidemiology networks. They also reviewed a new draft framework to guide drug policy development on the continent, the “African Union Plan of Action of Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2019-2023)”, to be considered and adopted by African Ministers of Health, Population and Drug Control in their Specialized Technical Committee (STC) meeting scheduled to take place March/April 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is a clear indicator that indeed the African Continent is arising and taking substance use disorders head on.

The youth forum was also highly commended at the closing ceremony for the power and enthusiasm shown by the youths. Youth leaders who were taken through the training expressed high hopes and optimism of change in their societies by use of the new knowledge they had acquired during the training sessions. The youth read out aloud a UNODC declaration document aloud to the conference reiterating the key role and importance of youth participation in tackling substance use.
The youth proclaimed that time has come for them to take up leadership roles. “Time has come for the youth to arise from the sidelines and actively engage policy makers, stakeholders and other partners in drug demand reduction plans. We are not leaders of tomorrow but leaders of today” said the youth.

Indeed the future of the African youth is very bright and hopeful as portrayed by the energy and enthusiasm displayed during the conference.

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