Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues! I am very pleased to be here for the seminar “Strategy on Drug Use Prevention: Policy and Practices” and welcome you on behalf of the United Nations Organization in Belarus.

First of all, I would like to thank the Ministry of International Affairs for coordinating organization of this seminar, in particular, the Head Office on Drug Control and Counteracting Trafficking in Human Beings and the International Cooperation Department.

The Republic of Belarus is one of the UN key partners in the region and a participant of major international legal documents in the field of drug control and drug policy. The country joined all three international treaties on drug substances (the treaties of 1961, 1972, and 1988). Belarus takes an active part in the work of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and in the year 2019 it acts as the chair of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

International cooperation has been developing on the territory of Belarus too. For more than 10 years, (since 2004) UN has been providing assistance to Belarus in implementation of projects supported by the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. Many front-rank results in drug use prevention have been achieved so far. For example, methadone maintenance therapy has been piloted; programs of syringe-exchange and support for people using drugs have been implemented. In the town of Soligorsk, a model of inter-agency cooperation aimed at supporting people released from places of detention initiated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs has been piloted. This model was considered the best in the region and will be spread to other municipalities of Belarus.

The issue of our today's discussion is prevention of drug use, which is an important and pressing issue for any state as well as for Belarus. The major part of registered drug addicts in the country are young people aged 20-40 years and the number of synthetic drugs users among young people aged 15-29 has grown in recent years. These figures demonstrate that teenagers and minors who become the victims of heavy addiction and related social and medical consequences constitute one of the most vulnerable groups.

Some time ago, prevention of drug abuse used to come down to publishing brochures warning young people about drug risks, which still did not change their behaviour. At present, scientific achievements help us use alternative measures.

Prevention strategies based on scientific evidence and aimed at work with families, schools, and communities allow to provide healthcare and safety for children and youth, in particular within the most vulnerable groups of population. The main purpose of drug abuse prevention is to help people including youth to avoid or delay early exposure to drugs or, in case, they have already started using drugs, to avoid development of various disorders (e.g. addiction). However the overall goal of drug abuse prevention is much wider: it is the provision of healthy and safe development of children and young people enabling them realize their talents and potential and contribute to the society.

It is necessary to note that modern strategy of drug abuse prevention does not only include approaches based on use of transparent, universal, and updated scientific data, but also a human rights based approach. The accumulated data should be used by the states for more effective observation of international human rights norms and standards when implementing drug policy.

Law-enforcement activities as part of the drug control efforts should be compliant with human rights obligations of the states.

Prevention of drug addiction is one of the elements of extensive and broad-scale joint work aimed at protection of vulnerable groups and elaboration of joint efforts aimed at decrease of vulnerability and support of sustainability among children and youth. This age group has not been selected by chance: teenagers are the ones who fall under harmful influence faster than anyone else due to their innocence, curiosity, and tendency to protest against common living principles and norms.

In this context the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the principle “leave no one behind” have the crucial significance as they imply careful work with vulnerable groups including people using drugs, teens and young people, through their active involvement into the community and socially important processes. It should be noted that this work makes a very important contribution to achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, namely Goal 3 (good health and well-being): Target 3.5 - strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse; Goal 5 (gender equality): Targets 5.1 and 5.2 - eliminating all forms of discrimination against women and girls; Goal 16 (peace, justice, and effective institutions): Target 16.1 (reducing all forms of violence) and 16.2 (eliminating violence against children).

I hope that today's seminar will help shape and describe the effective policy and interventions to prevent drug use, toxic substance abuse, and other risky behaviours among children, youth, and adults. Besides, it will allow to define the major components and features of an effective national drug prevention system that is a substantial part of the effective and balanced national drug policy.

In conclusion, I would like to express gratitude to the Republic of Belarus for effective cooperation with the United Nations Organization in implementing measures on drug demand reduction in the country.

It is also necessary to acknowledge the efforts taken by the Ministry of Healthcare in establishment of drug addiction treatment services, in particular, a system of long-term rehabilitation and re-socialization of people using drugs.

I would like to emphasize the efforts made by the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Education in organization of preventive activities.

Besides, I am very happy that today's seminar is a result of cooperation of several UN agencies: UNODC, UNICEF, UNAIDS, and UNFPA who provided their knowledge and resources for this common goal.

Let me express the hope for further expansion of cooperation between the ministries, UN and all concerned parties in the field of prevention and treatment of drug addiction, access to controlled drugs, and consolidation of joint efforts for achievement of Sustainable Development Goals in Belarus.

Thank you for your attention. I wish you a very successful discussion.