INTL Youth Convening Day Two: Full Spectrum Harm Reduction

Written by Kelly Parra-Alba, a Convening participant and Communications Director for SSDP UK

After an enthusiastic start to the week, Day 2 began with a 3 part session on Full Spectrum Harm Reduction and what this could entail for our Global Youth Coalition.

The first session included a simple definition of Harm reduction to get us thinking: ‘’Harm Reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.’’ (Harm Reduction Coalition). Although this provided a clear starting point for the activities that followed, we soon realised that harm reduction is a broad, complex and fluid concept that we as a Global Youth Coalition can define in many ways.

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Michelle Laclé of Costa Rica shares her group’s findings during the workshop

In the first activity, we divided into regional groups and came up with three lists: the top 5 substances used amongst young people, the negative social issues that stem from these substances, and the harm reduction activities/services available to combat these negative effects. It was challenging working as a region, as some substances and social issues were country-specific, but we managed to eventually come to a consensus amongst groups.

We then moved onto the second activity where we mixed regional groups and discussed the differences we could notice between the different regions and identified where there were overlapping situations or commonalities. Surprisingly we found many commonalities and of course differences amongst regions and individual countries. The two activities in tandem were a great way to discuss and identify differences and similarities amongst our respective regions. Overall it demonstrated to us, as a Global Youth Coalition, that we share many similar challenges and that we can work together (even across regions) to address and overcome them.

In the final activity, we were asked to come up with our own definition of harm reduction, which varied amongst groups. Phrases such as ‘’Human Rights’’, ‘’harms of prohibition’’ and ‘’services’’ came up, showing the diverse concepts we as young people value and feel we should be addressing. We also discussed ways in which we could implement our definitions of harm reduction.

Facilitator Brun González then delivered a very well thought out presentation about Full Spectrum Harm Reduction from the Global South and raised several points, such as;

  • Taking into consideration ways in which we can and should respect cultural/traditional practices around drugs and drug use, i.e Mushrooms in indigenous Mexican Communities
  • Harms to the political system and the economy

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    Brun González from Mexico facilitated the day’s sessions.

  • Implications of drug trade on local places beyond violence to include over-harvesting and the impact this has on local communities

We were reminded that Harm reduction comes from the community itself and is user led, community driven and evidence-based. Most significantly, we discussed the need for youth-friendly tools and resources that take into account all of our lived experiences.

After lunch, we had a final optional session to discuss illicit substance testing initiatives and the various ways in which we could carry this out, the benefits and the risks to this harm reduction approach. As this final session ended on day 2, many of us felt a sense of a shared and common goal to achieve harm reduction for our peers and global youth; regardless of our different experiences, challenges, and motivations, our common aim gives us an opportunity to learn and work together to achieve it.