Summary – CHILDREN MATTER Forum, Trivandrum, Kerala, India

Between November 16-18th, the Fourth Wave Foundation, UNODC, and WFAD organised the Children Matter Forum in Trivandrum, Kerala, India. The Forum promoted the Right of the Child to live in a drug-free environment and the need to collaborate on a local, regional, and international level with all stakeholders involved. The agenda of the Forum was diverse and included representatives from UNODC, civil society, governmental institutions, scholars, etc. from India and other parts of the world. The Forum was well attended in person as well as online with participants from 60 countries. The involvement of youth was at the core of the Forum. Not only did speakers speak on the child’s right to participate, but 150 youth also attended the final day of the conference and mingled with the other participants. Simultaneously, a youth Forum was organised during the three days where 50 youngsters got together, conducted workshops, and wrote a declaration to be given to politicians. Besides this, many young staff members and volunteers played an important role in the organisation of the Forum. For example, one staff member created an artwork that spelt Children Matter. However, the message could only be seen when you put in the effort to look at the artwork from the right perception. It showcased that efforts have to be put in place to see and respect children’s rights. The participants were also warmly welcomed with a traditional and auspicious performance.

A short recap from the International Forum:

Throughout the Forum, a large variety of areas in the context of prevention, treatment, and recovery with a particular focus on the child’s rights were focused on. It showcased that every aspect is of necessity and is often times intertwined. It highlighted that prevention is possible but parents and community involvement are necessary. Prevention is, however, a long-term process to be kept in mind. While prevention is important, other aspects should not be forgotten. For example, children/adolescents in their pathway of recovery or children whose parents/caregivers use substances. Stigma faced by them needs to be reduced on various levels to open up opportunities to access evidence-based, safe/trusting, and family-oriented programmes and services. Especially in a world with its current challenges challenging the safe environment for children, such as normalisation, commercialisation, and lack of accessibility, we have to put children first as they matter.

Overall, the core messages of the Forum can be summarised in a few overarching bullet points. The main message of the Forum was clear: the child has the right to a drug-free environment and this right should be enhanced.

  1. Prevention, protection, and participation is a right of the child. Without allowing the child to participate, their voices are not only ignored but their right is also being neglected.
  2. Children and Youth are the strongest voice in spreading the message of their rights and the need for change.
  3. There is a need for community, school, and parent involvement. These stakeholders are essential in the outreach to children, early detection, and offering a safe environment.
  4. Various levels of stakeholders should work together. This can be done through multi-disciplinary teams, a collaboration between civil society organisations and policymakers, and many more.
  5. Capacity and the number of problem-solving people should be increased on a large scale. Trainers should be trained as well as the community, parents, and others to communicate with the child and offer them the right space.
  6. Many good practices and programmes are out there and many comprehensive guidelines are written [by UNODC for example]. However, we have to continue to work together to close the gaps that are still existing. Together we will be stronger.
  7. Terminology/language needs to be changed while stigma and barriers need to be reduced.
  8. Awareness needs to be raised
  9. And many more…..

Core message of the Forum: Children are citizens and have the right to protection and self-determination. CHILDREN MATTER

The Forum has been well documented by the Press. Additionally, the presentation slides by speakers have been published online, videos and photos were shared, and the journal presented at the forum can now be found online!

A report on the Conference was shared also, which can now be accessed online.

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