SSDP at the Vilnius E-network Summit – What you need to know about SSDP in the International Youth Advocacy Scene in 2019

SSDP at the Vilnius E-network Summit – What you need to know about SSDP in the International Youth Advocacy Scene in 2019

SSDP’s international organising and relations is funded through the International Activities Fund. If you wish to donate please do so here

On the 19th and 20th of July, our international allies at YouthRise hosted the  Vilnius E-network Summit in Lithuania- the first of its kind. This international gathering of youth organizations working in harm reduction was an invaluable opportunity for SSDP to consult various youth organizations in our field on how we can work more effectively digitally, how to organize and share our online resources, and to identify common goals and objectives for working together on and offline. Since the participants covered the entire Globe, we spent the coffee breaks and evenings tirelessly brainstorming how to partner together more efficiently internationally for a better future for young people everywhere.

SSDP Global was represented by our new International Program Coordinator, Róisín Downes ‘15, who gave our peers the rundown of SSDP’s work, recent achievements and offered her brilliant insights on best practices as well as areas in which we can improve with the help of our international allies. European Global Fellow, Orsi Feher ‘16, gave a presentation on our Just Say Know peer-education program with practical examples that laid ground for possible future collaborations and expansion of the program with the involvement of our colleagues in the Asia-Pacific region. 

The two-day Summit was packed with inspiring presentations from participants from all habitable continents. The first day started with SSDP alumna, Ailish Brennan ‘17, who caught us up on her commendable work on YR’s communication strategy, followed by Seyi Kehinde from YouthRise Nigeria who offered us an overview of the dynamic development space in Nigeria. Seyi’s work has been extremely relevant to our Global mission as West-Africa is by far our fastest expanding region and saw our two organizations evolving hand-in-hand.

The first days were also a wonderful opportunity for us to learn more about DanceSafe and SSDP Australia’s very impressive recent organizational developments. Notably, SSDP Australia is transitioning into a national Company Ltd. – Nick Kent presented the organization’s upscaled use of a range of new tools for online communication, project management, database management, email campaigning and social media. They are currently in the process of adopting the local teams’ structures to facilitate both coordinated and independent campaigning at the local, state, and national levels using a range of technologies. 

Our afternoon focused on the use of various multimedia tools by our colleagues in South-East Asia and South America. We got to learn from the geniuses behind YouthLEAD’s media advocacy collaboration with UNICEF ROSA, we witnessed the brilliant use of modern technology to empower and connect young people who live with HIV by READY, YPEER and the paulistano mastermind behind Girls in Green shared her valuable experiences on running successful social media campaigns and prospering in a male-dominated culture despite censorship and stigma.

The second day focused on peer-to-peer work and e-resources, be it focused on empowerment (READY), education (En Plenas Facultades, Just Say Know, DanceSafe) but also creating networks (Yoda) and network of networks (Paradigma). 

In the afternoon hours of Saturday, CSSDP’s Alex Betsos facilitated our most powerful discussion yet about our global alignment. As we all operate at the local, national, and regional levels toward a new paradigm in drug policy, we need to effectively collaborate internationally to ensure young people’s voices are represented in intergovernmental decision making. Hence the creation of the coalition of our organizations under the aegis of Paradigma. Paradigma members have agreed that it is of highest priority for us to take advantage of our privilege and do our absolute best towards equalizing the representation of organizations and individuals across continents, specifically increasing representation of global south countries at the 63rd Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2020.

With the progress made in Vilnius, not only do we hope for Paradigma to be a tool to ensure the usually underrepresented communities have their voices heard, it is and has been a platform to connect young drug policy advocates to educate and empower each other with the ultimate goal of amplifying youth presence and influence on high-level decision-making spaces.

SSDP has played a key role since the inception of Paradigma and we are inviting all of our students to learn more about the ongoings in global drug policy, international relations, correlations and the USA’s crucial role and delicate position in shaping them. 

Orsi and Róisín are grateful beyond words to the organizers for this opportunity to engage with our wider network working with young key populations, to learn from our fellow youth activists and for the generousness of our hosts from YouthRise. The weekend had many opportunities to celebrate our successes and bond over our shared challenges both as young people who use drugs, activists, advocates and also as people who are dedicated to build systems that serve its members and can achieve lasting change.

Orsi and Róisín can’t wait to share their experiences in more detail at our upcoming IOC call.

SSDP’s international organising and relations is funded through the International Activities Fund. If you wish to donate please do so here.