Diana Joseph Vincent, Director of Fourth Wave Foundation, India and a Board Member of WFAD, speech during the cross-cutting session during the Intersessionals with the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, Vienna 25-28 September 2018.

"Thanking the UNODC, the WFAD and everybody who thought this case would make some relevance here at this discussion. I represent a practical case on the map of the world, that is struggling with the similar problems that we are discussing here, but has managed to engage the communities to take ownership. Problem of dealing with drugs and addiction is not an abstract in the country of India. Kerala is a tourism state, the reality on the ground is that we are not ready for a crisis like this. We don’t have the facilities to deal with the numbers that’s being brought to our tables. We as a NGO work with children between the ages of 12 and young adults, 22, and when I say its alarming that we have epidemic numbers coming out of age groups of 10 and 12 year olds using narcotics, it is a classic case for the world to consider the other areas which are more exposed to this problem. As much as we work on high level discussions on policy at the country level, we fail miserably when it comes to actually enforcing the law to take control of our communities where this is being pushed.

And a classic number is out of a typical batch of 100 children we train we get 8 to 10 children coming back home or to our desk or to our counselling centres asking for help. 8 to 10% is high, and the forecast the next five years to come this number is going to multiply. What have we done? We have We teach them to take ownership of the problem by standing up for the issue. We talk to all cross sections of people, all stake holder groups in the community. Though we focus on only young children, we work only with the teens and young adults but the society has to take ownership. This important for us because the way its being discussed at young adult levels in the country, where they are exposed to internet, we are taking about an economy that is actually booming because of its start-ups and because of its IT connectivity but here is this problem that we are ignoring with having narcotics delivered to the door to youngsters.

So what we have done is got this entire district in Kerala mapped for places that we call high risk/ red flagged areas. When we say high risk areas we are taking about kids between the age of 12 and 22 who will either be exposed to this, they mule/delivering drugs to tourists and other bunch of people who will have a demand for this, or they use it. High risk would mean that if you went around the community and asked common folk, if they knew anybody who is using drugs, your feedback is that everyone in the community would either know a family member, a relative, or a close friend who either suffered or who has succumbed or struggling with the problem, this is becoming like a problem of the entire state and the state is failing to address it because we run the revenue of tourism. This is one case, we are insignificant on the map but this is the case elsewhere in the world.

Our community analogy of putting up fences is very simple:
1) Process is to measure the problem: So we teach them to deal the denial, initially everybody is in denial starting from the government to the families of the victims or the people who peddle they are all in denial with the problem that this is looming large. So we teach them to handle that.

2) We give them the tools to actually put up these fences. What are we doing, we are actually teaching common man about the policies you all are discussing here in these rooms. About the right to treatment, the right to fair trial, the right to access for safe schools. All that you discuss here, is being delivered to common man in a language they can understand and they can use. What it is to go to a police station with your case and how to ensure that they take it up and not rub it down. We teach community at very grassroot levels. The challenge is when we set out, we did not find ready models for us to work with. We really didn’t have any reference from across the globe to take home as best practice cases to deal with contextually for us. We did look at the UNODC, the human rights commission and we are very happy with the high level discussions but to
contextualize for nations like ours I think we also need help. I am hoping that you will have some commissions somewhere which will deal with contextualizing what you are speaking to nations.

3) Thirdly we actually bring them the material. The material is basically we put all the stake holders together in the community, we bring them at meetings together. We teach them to broach the problem and discuss this. We empower them to go out and take this up at their own levels. To broach the topic, to talk about it and talk about it in ways that they know that they are empowering the person and not push the drug.

4) The fourth process is to actually put up the fence. As much we empower these communities to do it, it all fails in the face of mafia or the people who are actually pushing drugs. So how do we do it? We have five departments in the state like ours which has a mandate to work around it. The department of education, The department of women and child. The department of social justice, the department of narcotics and excise, all of them has these mandates because there is a problem. But all of them work in isolation, there is no convergence when this issue is discussed. So, we have been successful in actually brining these five departments together. And when they come together they realize that they have funds image to rebuild, they have power that can exceed what they do in isolation and it is actually effectively working now.

The challenge: Beyond the room here there is a whole world of communication happening on pro legalisation lobbies. Youngsters who don’t even know that the dynamics of how this roles out in the economics for countries and nations but discuss this as the future of their living or lifestyle. What are we doing in terms of actually communicating to the youngsters. I am looking at the room and I find less of the youth here, youngsters are very less in terms of representation in this room, we need to have people like that in our big conversations while we have this because they are the future and we need to leave the message for them.

So quoting G K Chesterton, we are putting fences in our communities, trying to broach the problems, trying to plug it where it matters, trying to teach people to keep their schools and environments safe. I think we also need to share to the next generation about why we are putting up these fences. They should know that when they remove these fences and embrace a lifestyle, there was a reason it was put up. I am requesting the audience here and elsewhere who are actually working sincerely to protect the lives of the future children and communities. To crack the problem of messaging, in terms of telling the future that we did try to leave a safer world. We need to get these small communities to work together and voice for the next generation, if not they won’t know we fought.

Thank you, I am hoping that in few years we will have a case for you here.
Diana Joseph