Asia Pacific Forum Against Drug Abuse (APFAD) 2023

On 26 May 2023, the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association (SANA) co-organised an international forum – the Asia Pacific Forum Against Drugs (APFAD) 2023 – in collaboration with the National Council Against Drug Abuse (NCADA). The event was graced by Guest-of-Honour, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information & Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mrs Josephine Teo.

To set the theme of the forum – “From Prevention to Aftercare – Integrated Community Action for a Drug-Free Society” – an opening video was screened, featuring three SANA Peer Leaders – persons-in-recovery who volunteer with SANA as anti-drug advocates – Mr Azahari, Mr David Chong and Mr Gopal Mahey, who spoke about their experiences with addiction and recovery, including the support they received from the community and elements of the throughcare approach which aided their rehabilitation and reintegration.

The video was followed by presentations from international and local speakers who addressed 3 key areas: prevention, in-care and aftercare; which make up the various stages of Singapore’s throughcare approach.

The keynote speaker for the forum was Mr Rogers Kasirye, Vice-president of the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) representing Africa and Executive Director of the Uganda Youth Development Link (UYDEL). His presentation touched on evidence-based prevention, recovery and reintegration interventions that can make a difference in the lives of populations at risk for substance use world-wide. Mr Kasirye was also invited by Singapore’s local media, ChannelNews Asia (CNA) to a live interview, where he shared about the challenges faced in drug prevention and rehabilitation efforts. The interview can be viewed here.

Watch the interview

The other international speaker was Mr Augusto Nogueira, President of the International Federation of Non-Governmental Organizations for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse (IFNGO) and President of the Association of Rehabilitation of Drug Abusers of Macau (ARTM). He is also the Deputy Treasurer of VNGOC. Mr Nogueira focused on the importance of looking at the problem of drugs as a whole and tackling it as a whole, as all services are important to achieve the main goal of recovering the person, which include prevention, recovery, treatment, law enforcement, continuum care of services, community and stakeholders.

The two local speakers were Dr Sandor Heng, Clinical psychologist and SANA Board member and Ms Karen Lee, Director (Community Corrections Command) of the Singapore Prison Service (SPS). Dr Sandor provided a psychologist’s perspective on the journey from drug addiction to recovery while Ms Lee shared more on Singapore’s throughcare approach.

To complement these presentations, the forum also saw two SANA Peer Leaders – Ms Nur Azlinda Zulkifli and Mr Simon Khung – sharing their testimonials live with the 150-strong audience. Today, Ms Azlinda has authored a book, attained a Master’s degree and holds a job as an assistant project manager, while Mr Khung is a full-time content creator with over 100,000 followers on his social media platforms – both proving that meaningful recovery is possible.

Exchanging of Best Practices: (From left to right) Mr Nogueira and keynote speaker Mr Kasirye during the first panel discussion of the day entitled “Where is the ‘war on drugs’ headed and how can the wider community be activated to prevent a worsening drug situation?”
Drawing from Lived Experiences: (From left to right) Dr Heng, Mr Khung, Ms Azlinda and Ms Lee during the second panel discussion “What are the benefits and challenges of a holistic, throughcare approach?”

Following the forum, nearly 20 international delegates participated in a tour – known as Triad Trails -which brings participants around parts of Singapore once home to some of the most notorious gangs, gambling houses and drug cartels – guided by a person with experience. The tour was wrapped up with dinner and up close and personal sharing sessions with volunteers who used to be offenders.

Getting into the Spirit: Delegates during the Triad Trails tour wearing the tattoo sleeves provided as they listen to the sharing by tour guide Mr Alvin Chiong (extreme right with mic) – a person-in-recovery, SANA Peer Leader and volunteer with Architects of Life (AOL) which manages the programme.

It was our honour to welcome over 20 organisations from over 11 countries across the Southeast-Asian region, many of which are WFAD and/or Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) members. We would also like to express our thanks to WFAD for facilitating invitations sent to their members, contributing to a highly successful forum which has been effective in setting the foundation for future collaborations between Singapore and our neighbouring countries in the areas of Preventive Drug Education (PDE) and rehabilitation.

Presentations and slides from the forum can be found here, while the opening video screened at the forum is available for viewing on SANA’s social platforms (namely Facebook and Instagram) where all event photos have been uploaded. 

Written by Jean Bailey, SANA.

Leave a Reply