As 2015 is winding down and we are gearing up for another, new year – a significant one for IOGT International – I want to spend a moment or two and reflect about the IOGT year 2015.
For me, it was the first full year as President of IOGT International, working with my newly elected International Board and with our International Office. We surely had fun with one another, were able to quickly come together as a strong team and in that atmosphere and spirit had exciting, enriching and fruitful strategic discussions. I think the decisions we took have set us on a great path – some of the impact will only become clear in the future, but some results have already materialised in 2015.
In the IOGT year 2015 we have had policy victories, advocacy milestones and a few groundbreaking efforts together with our Member Organizations. It’s been a great year for our global movement, a year that took us around the world for meetings with decision-makers, with opinion leaders and with many of our fantastic Member Organizations.
Oslo, Norway – We started the year in Oslo together with our Member Organizations as we held the IOGT conference on the topic of innovative prevention methods, exchanging best practices, new approaches and sharing our common vision of what prevention work within the IOGT International movement is about. We are thankful to IOGT Norway for arranging the conference and providing this awesome platform to start the new year.
Geneva, Switzerland – We were able to send a delegation to Geneva to participate in the 136th Sessions of the WHO Executive Board. Our advocacy covered a number of issues, where we were working to highlight the role alcohol plays:
- WHO reform, including Framework of engagement with non-state actors
- NCDs global action plan follow-up and global coordination mechanism
- Violence and health, including the role of alcohol
- Health-related Millennium Development Goals and the process towards the new Sustainable Development Agenda
- Women’s, adolescent’s and children’s health
New York, USA – A few days after the trip to Geneva for the WHO Executive Board, we traveld to New York and the United Nations Headquarters to participate in the UN Commission for Social Development (CSocD). It’s an important forum for us to meet decision-makers and address the burden alcohol harm puts on children’s wellbeing. At the 53rd session of the Commission for Social Development, we were able to talk about alcohol harm within the larger topic of “Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world”.
New York/ Geneva – February was also the month when we commenced collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in their joint program entitled “Strengthening and integrating national policies and programmes addressing gender-based violence, harmful use of alcohol and infectious diseases.” We had been involved in that program already since 2013, when I was invited to participate in a workshop in Chisinau, Moldova and gave a presentation about alcohol and gender-based violence.
Vienna, Austria – In 2015 we have also stepped up our advocacy in the policy area of narcotic drugs. In February, a number of IOGT International members got selected for the Civil Society Task Force, showing that within the global IOGT network there’s high-level expertise concerning alcohol and other drugs.
Vienna, Austria – At the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) we had a lot going on this year: We had many of our Member Organizations at CND57; we held a successful and impactful Side Event; we participated in high-level panels and made our advocacy positions known. We have also produced new booklets dealing with the topic of Child Rights and the world drug problem.
New York, USA – At the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) we had a lot going on this year: We had a little delegation from different Member Organizations at CSW59, and we held our first-ever and very successful Side Event.
Beyond the success of the Side Event, we did important advocacy work highlighting the need to address alcohol-related violence and to address alcohol as obstacle to development within the negotiations for the new development agenda.
We submitted a written statement to the leaders of the world, that you can read here.
New York, USA – We were back in New York for a landmark event that we helped sponsor to boost the alcohol policy conversation in the United States: the alcohol and cancer symposium. We supported US Alcohol Policy Alliance and New York Alcohol Policy Alliance in organising the symposium. Alcohol and cancer is an important topic and one that should help get going an evidence-based conversation about alcohol policy measures to reduce and prevent harm in the USA.
Geneva, Switzerland – IOGT International participated at the World Health Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organisation, with a delegation consisting of International President, Vice President, Executive Director, Board Member and Chair of the IOGT International Rehab Core Group and our Director of Strategy and Advocacy.
We continued our advocacy on a number of issues such as WHO reform, including Framework of engagement with non-state actors, NCDs global action plan follow-up and global coordination mechanism, violence and health, including the role of alcohol, health-related Millennium Development Goals and the process towards the new Sustainable Development Agenda Women’s, adolescent’s and children’s health. And we were able to meet decision-makers and discuss important alcohol policy and narcotic drugs policy issues with them.
London, UK – Going to London – like going to New York – feels always like coming home because the IOGT International office was situated in London for many years. We went on a study and advocacy trip to London to meet with Sober Grid, Soberistas, the Institute for Alcohol Studies and others – discussing common issues and potential for collaboration. In hindsight this proved to be a successful trip.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – The 3rd International Conference on financing for development (FfD3) took place in Addis Ababa and IOGT International was represented to advocate for making use of alcohol taxation as powerful tool to raise revenue and finance the new sustainable development agenda.
Stockholm, Sweden & Boston, USA – We announced our collaboration and partnership with Sober Grid.
New Delhi, India – We took part in the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office workshop on Noncommunicable disease (NCDs), and our Vice President also presented about alcohol policy as part of the response to controlling and presenting NCDs. It was also a great opportunity to meet our local members in New Delhi.
Bran, Romania – Our European youth movement Active – sobriety, friendship and peace held its annual sumer camp and celebrated its 25th anniversary. A proud moment in the history of Active and our global movement.
Like March, the month of September tends to be a busy month – both in terms of political processes around the world and internal processes in our organisation.
Stockholm, Sweden – We launched our brand new, beautiful website. Our website is now the most comprehensive hub for news, stories, evidence, tools and inspiration for everyone interested in promoting Human Rights, democracy and sustainable development through preventing and reducing harm caused by alcohol and other drugs.
Arusha, Tanzania – Together with the East African Alcohol Policy Alliance we held a press conference and launched our joint report: “Alcohol taxation – A win-win measure for financing development“. While in Arusha, we also held a workshop for our East African partner organizations (hosted by the Swedish IOGT-NTO movement’s regional office in East Africa) about alcohol policy and alcohol as a major risk factor for Noncommunicable diseases.
Vienna, Austria – Our Executive Director got elected as Chairman of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC).
New York, USA – We were part of a historic moment: the United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development, where world leaders adopted the new sustainable development agenda (Agenda 2030). After years of advocacy, we were in New York to accompany the final steps on the way to a visionary agenda to comprehensively address the biggest problems of the world. Our advocacy work helped to ensure that alcohol policy measures would be part of the Agenda 2030, despite the aggressive lobbying of the alcohol industry. Kristina shared her impressions live from New York through her blog on the SDGs Summit.
Düsseldorf, Germany – IOGT International relaunched our Rehabilitation Core Group with this upstart meeting in Düsseldorf. The new Chair of the Rehab Core Group is IOGT International Board Member Christian Bölckow.
Brussels, Belgium – In the beginning of the month, we had the honor of being founding member of a visionary new organization: the Health and Trade Network, with the mission of sharing news and information about the impact on health from trade agreements around the world.
Edinburgh, UK – IOGT International had a strong presence and was proud supporter of the Global Alcohol Policy Conference (GAPC). One of our Board members was part of a panel during the main session. In the parallel sessions our movement contributed with all in all 23 presenters and moderators.
And the members of our global movement feature in this film, made for GAPC2015.
Udine, Italy – We conducted a study visit to meet with and learn from our Member Organisation European School of Alcohology and Ecological Psychiatry in Italy about how family clubs work. The study visit was a highlight of our strengthened focus on rehabilitation, treatment and social work and helped to better understand the family club approach.
Many IOGT International Member Organisation use the family club approach, as a cost-effective, impactful and successful method and we have been spreading the method around the world for decades.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Together with our Member Organisation PDP-Center we participated in the workshop on alcohol regulation through evidence-based measures in the Cambodian parliament. In 2015, thanks to the efforts of PDP and IOGT International, the draft alcohol bill has been moving forward.
Ha Noi, Viet Nam – Another important step was taken towards an alcohol control law in Viet Nam, when we held a workshop together with academia to discuss alcohol policy issues, along with issues of independent science, alcohol industry interference and how we can work with civil society to help translate evidence into advocacy messages, for legislative actions.
Mexico City, Mexico – CIJ, our Member Organisation in Mexico organised the 17th International Congress on Addictions, where I had the pleasure to attend, which was a massive event with more than a thousand participants. It was an honor for me to give a presentation there, too. And of course, I used the opportunity for a study visit and learn more in detail about the heart-driven work that CIJ is doing.
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates – The first ever Global NCD Alliance Forum took place this November and we were honoured to be invited to participate in this landmark event.
Bangkok, Thailand – The International Seminar Workshop on the Implementation of United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development – UNGPs on AD / International Conference on Alternative Development 2 (ICAD2) took place with a high-level conference segment in November and we were participating to share the expertise of our global network in terms of prevention, rehabilitation and advocacy programs that contribute to a world free from drugs.
Geneva, Switzerland – We took part in the WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on the Prevention and Control of NCDs (GCM/NCD) that organized its second dialogue which addressed the issue of how to strengthen international cooperation on the prevention and control of NCDs within the framework of North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.
The level of discussion and significant engagement from both speakers and audience participants was very encouraging. The meeting involved over 200 participants including representatives from 90 Member States, 18 Ambassadors, 11 UN organisations, 90 NGOs, and 10 WHO collaborating centres.
16 Days of Activism – We took part as a global network in the United Nations Secretary General’s initiative 16 Days of Activism to help end violence against women and girls. I’m proud that we were able to provide our Member Organisations with template open letters and press releases – to empower their advocacy initiatives highlighting the need to orange the world through alcohol policy.
2015 was a busy year. It was a remarkable year. And it was a year where we have done things that will help shape the future of both our global IOGT International movement and of society in general.
A real team effort
We were glad to welcome five new Member Organizations, which means that our organization keeps growing.
For me and the IOGT International Board it is a crucial part of our work that we do meet our Member Organizations – and in 2015 we have done a great job of doing so. We – and it’s a real team effort – have met 30 Member Organizations this year.
When it comes to the big picture, to our vision of a life for all human beings free to live up to their fullest potential, and free from harm caused by alcohol and other drugs in a world of peace, democracy and justice where free and healthy citizens actively contribute in all levels of society – I think that our advocacy is helping, sometimes just a little bit, to put us on track. The new Sustainable Development Goals are a great example, but there are other examples, too.
And so, I look back at this year cherishing the moments of meeting our members, appreciating all the heart-driven work that is being done in communities around the world; I look back at our policy victories and advocacy milestones in excitement and I feel deep inspiration to turn the view towards 2016.
The new year is a special year. It’s special because we are set to build on all the work done in 2015 and it is special because we celebrate our 165th anniversary. See you in 2016!