Asianet News 'Dialogues': 'Influencers and celebrities can help turn the curve in war against drugs'
"Influencers and celebrities should be used as a voice to advocate for positive change. If we could convince them to advocate for the positive message, we will at least have opportunities to turn the curve," Billy Batware, Programming Officer of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said while taking part in a special edition of Asianet News 'Dialogues'.
One of the challenges to addressing the world drug problem is that the issues that lead to people getting into drug use are not reducing, Billy Batware, Programming Officer of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said while taking part in a special edition of Asianet News 'Dialogues'.
"These issues include lack of opportunities within the community, unemployment among young people, poverty within the communities... the problems are very interconnected with the usage of drugs. Until we address that, we are not going to be able to win the challenges that we face with the global drug problem. We have to address these issues to make progress," he said.
Asked about ways in which the war against drugs could be bolstered, Batware said: "One of the main challenges around the world, not just in India, is the prosecution of the organised crime is insufficient. Therefore, organised criminal groups continue to get away with the acts of drawing young people into using drugs, which leads to them becoming a part of the organised crime groups."
As to whether the decision by some countries to legalise drugs, mainly for recreational purposes, would reduce the problem, the UNODC official said: "We have seen a number of cases where governments have taken different approaches in the interest of their communities. In that case, UNODC is there to assist in implementing those policies and advise them on the likely risks and opportunities. We have seen very productive discussions as well with the commission of narcotics drugs."
Talking about ways in which the next generation can be made aware of the drug problem, he said, "Today's young people should be called 'screenagers', not teenagers, because of the amount of information, the time that they spend in front of the screens and phones. There is a lot that can be done to educate these children through social media. It is not easy to get reliable, sourced information. I think we can do more to educate these young children not just in school but outside the school as well. However, the social and economic issues within the community need to be addressed to successfully address the world drug poblem."
"I think the discussion on the global drug problem needed to start many years ago. We are quite late in discussing that. The discussion is happening at a very slow pace and, to be honest, not enough. So environmental movement is a good example of how successful one can be when you create a network in a community and a movement around a topic. It is high time that a similar approach is taken on the issue of drugs, especially among the youth. A public-private partnership approach is needed to address the drug problem," he added.
The UNODC Programming Officer also delved into the issue of organised drug crime operating from the Dark Net. He said, "Dark Net is difficult to monitor and control. It is a no-man's land. That's why organised criminal groups operate out of the Dark Net. There need to be more regulations. In the end, it is all about prevention. The Dark Net is a very dangerous place for the youth to be in. It is important to ensure that young people are not attracted to those things. That's where most of the effort should go. That required more funding or resources. At the moment, it is a drop in the ocean. It cannot get us where we want to go."
Influencers and celebrities have a role in addressing the drug problem too. "Influencers and celebrities should be used as a voice to advocate for positive change. If we could convince them to advocate for the positive message because many youngsters look up to them as role models, if they can positively play that role, we will at least have opportunities to turn the curve," he said.