Author: Ganna Dovbakh, VNGOC Deputy Chair
The fourth edition of the WHO global Forum on Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviours (FADAB) held 27-30 June 2023 was organized by Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviors (ADA) Unit, within the Department of Mental Health and Substance Use at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The primary aim of FADAB is to foster strong partnerships and collaboration among public health-oriented organizations, networks and institutions to accelerate and sustain public health actions in our rapidly changing world.
The fourth FADAB took place soon after the COVID-19 pandemic, which not only presented new challenges to health systems around the world, but also accelerated some policy and programme developments that have the potential to bring lasting public health benefits beyond the pandemic. Progress with attaining target 3.5 (“Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol”) of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and new data were presented and discussed, also by representatives of other UN entities and intergovernmental organizations. The fourth Forum continued to serve as a platform for presenting and discussing international efforts in the implementation of operational recommendations of the UNGASS 2016 Outcome Document to effectively address the World Drug Problem, and two sessions were devoted to health consequences of non-medical cannabis use and current policy and programme responses.
During the event, delegates from around 50 countries discusses and shared knowledge and strategies on enhancing international collaboration among key stakeholders to prevent and reduce the burden caused by substance use and addictive behaviors with a focus on gambling and gaming. The fourth WHO FADAB served as a forum to discuss new opportunities, frameworks, activities and plans for intensified international collaboration on public health dimensions of alcohol, drugs and addictive behaviors.
The VNGOC as organisation was presented to the participants during a high-level segment on the first day of the FADAB. In the VNGOC statement and further questions/discussions during the meeting the following key topics were raised:
- Importance to support, promote and protect the engagement of civil society in international drug policy discussions and decision-making processes.
- Importance to build joint future actions in countries on lessons learned based on the scientific evidence and (equally important) practical experience, working with the most vulnerable populations, taking into account voices and needs of vulnerable people including youth, people who use drugs, those with drug use disorders, and those recovered from drug use disorders or other addictions from different regions and cultural contexts.
- Discussions on alcohol, other drugs and addictive behaviors need to be based on learnings from coping with refugee crises caused by wars (e.g., in Ukraine) and other violent conflicts in different parts of the world, and need to bear in mind the challenges we face, including too many barriers to evidence-based prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery services in many countries and communities, especially for youth, women, people of color and most vulnerable and marginalized groups of people who use or those with drug use disorders.
- Now more than ever before, strong partnerships between civil society, international organisations, governments and health care systems are the key to facing the increased needs and challenges in the period of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and growing political instability. Economical and social barriers to different services still remain, so the importance of strengthening collaboration with civil society organizations is even bigger nowadays.
- Involvement of civil society, and peer-councilors in the provision of drug prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services making these services more oriented to needs, and more effective.
- Civil society is able and willing to work with all of you to share data and best practices of community-based services, which are always more effective in close cooperation with professionals providing health care support. Together we are saving lives. Ultimately, this is the most important outcome of our joint efforts and investments.