IOGT International together with the International Federation for Family Development used the opportunity to host a side event exploring a comprehensive approach to the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs…

CSocD56 Side Event Report: Comprehensive Approach To Alcohol In SDGs Era

The 56th Session of the UN Commission for Social Development (CSocD56) took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from January 29 to February 7, 2018.  The Commission is the advisory body responsible for the social development pillar of global development. The CSocD56 priority theme was “strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all”.

IOGT International together with the International Federation for Family Development used the opportunity to host a side event exploring a comprehensive approach to the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs.

Rationale for the event

Harmful substances – alcohol and other drugs – are obstacles to sustainable development – adversely affecting 13 of 17 SDGs and burdening individuals, families, communities, and societies . In fact, alcohol and other drugs are fueling the vicious cycle of poverty, ill-health and marginalization. 
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes this by including target 3.5, which stipulates to:

Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol.”

Harm caused by alcohol and other drugs is so pervasive worldwide that it puts a heavy burden on societies. But marginalized and vulnerable people, families, and communities are disproportionately burdened by the damage and costs associated with harmful substances:

  • Children from families with parental substance abuse;
  • Young people struggling to overcome addiction;
  • Women suffering from others’ alcohol use;
  • People in the poorest communities in the world who are often suffering from co-morbidities – the list of especially vulnerable populations burdened by harmful substances is long.

It is clear that there is an urgent need to respond to the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs comprehensively – including prevention, population level policy, awareness raising. Evidence-based measures, implemented in an integrated manner have the potential to help eradicate poverty and boost development.

Objective(s) of the event

Therefore it is imperative to empower civil society, governments and the UN system to respond to the global burden caused by harmful substances in an evidence-based, cost-effective and comprehensive manner.

The objectives of this side event are

  1. To inspire evidence-based action
  2. To help facilitate the scaling up of local best practices, and
  3. To discuss ways forward exploring synergies and effective ways to tackle the problem and contribute to sustainable development.

This side event is the most comprehensive conversation about SDG target 3.5 to date and will provide state-of-the-art knowledge and understanding of the subject matter:

  • How alcohol and other drugs impact sustainable development and poverty eradication 
on different levels and in different countries.
  • How different groups and communities within countries are affected.
  • What the solutions are to bring about transformative change.

Key messages & Poverty eradication strategies/social policy recommendations/commitments/initiatives:

WHO: Substance abuse and the Sustainable Development Goals

Substance use problems adversely affect 13 of 17 SDGs. The need to address substance use problems as obstacles to development is addressed in the 2030 Agenda by target 3.5 and two indicators 3.5.1 and 3.5.2.

3.5 – Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol

3.5.1 – Coverage of treatment interventions … for substance use disorders

3.5.2 – Harmful use of alcohol, defined according to the national context as alcohol per capita consumption (aged 15 years and older) within a calendar year in litres of pure alcohol

Best buy alcohol policy measures exist to reduce the harmful use of alcohol and thereby help achieve the SDGs but more political will is needed to implement and improve regulations and legislation.

YPR: Young people and addiction – the need for recovery ready communities

As societies like the United States are ravaged by harmful substances, people, including young people, can and do recover from substance use disorders. There are evidence-based and effective solutions and methods, as people enter into long-term recovery. Investing in recovery ready communities means investing in people and in socio-economic progress in communities and societies.

Recovery ready communities include prevention, treatment, putting the responsibility on communities to be ready to receive people who have substance use disorders, and communities’ responsibility and ability to lift up prevention and treatment, including housing and employment. There are huge co-benefits from investing in housing and employment, benefiting everyone, not only people in recovery.

SIPCW: How harmful substances affect women and what can be done

Women are particularly burdened by substance use disorders, experiencing damage at lower levels of use, greater cognitive impairment and developing dependence in shorter time; they are also more exposed to harm from others’ substance use problems, such as violence, infectious diseases, negative birth outcomes (FASD) and chronic diseases, such as cancer.

There is a spectrum of actions that are effective in protecting and helping women and focus must be alcohol as it is generally the substance women suffer most damage from: combine harm reduction, recovery, treatment and prevention.

IFFD: How alcohol and other drugs affect families and why that matters for sustainable development

It is important to highlight the role of families and the importance of investing in parental education to help prevent substance use problems. The closeness of the parental bond discourages substance use, and helps avoid more harmful practices. Investing in families for prevention means to equip parents with skills to develop family cohesion and with skills to address substance-related issues properly. Parents’ role is to set limits, set rules, establish that choices do have consequences, and provide positive examples.

Hope and Beyond: Rights-based rehabilitation in the poorest communities

In Uganda, alcohol use disorders are pervasive, with 10% of people suffering an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol availability, including informally produced alcohol as well as aggressive tactics of the alcohol industry, lack of evidence-based alcohol laws and policies are reasons for the high burden of alcohol harm.

In the case of Uganda, alcohol is a massive obstacle to development causing traffic fatalities, violence, infectious diseases, academic failures, high household expenditures, children who need to live on the streets, poverty and premature mortality. Especially in low-income and deprived settings, providing holistic care to individuals and family suffering from addictive illnesses is key, as well as offering capacity building for service providers to address co-morbidities and identify substance use disorders. Treatment works and recovery is possible. This needs to be complemented with advocacy for alcohol policy measures and community mobilization to raise awareness of the real effects of alcohol and other drugs.

ADIC: State of the art in prevention – community-based and evidence-based prevention

Also in Sri Lanka, like in the USA and Uganda, alcohol is an obstacle to development. It burdens economic progress as 1/3 of household income is spent on alcohol, tobacco and other harmful substances. 22% of the public health budget is spent on illnesses caused by alcohol, tobacco and other harmful substances. The social harm is pervasive affecting families, women and children and creating and perpetuating poverty.

‘Prevention works’ means it is effective in changing behavior, not only attitudes. Effective and innovative prevention also is exposing the strategies of the alcohol industry to glamorize and misinform about their products. Prevention needs to be evidence-based and holistic by mobilizing every single structure in the community, engaging all groups in the community (children, youth, women, men, users, sellers) formally and informally, making prevention activities fun and simple for youth, integrating prevention in to the daily life of people and allowing the community as a whole to celebrate the successes.

US Alcohol Policy Alliance: Societies of addiction, commercial drivers and population-level solutions

In 2016, there were 63,600 drug overdose deaths in the United States. Every year, alcohol kills 88,000 people in the US. Yet, only the drug overdose deaths are described as “epidemic”, “crisis”, and “national tragedy”. On the other hand, all levels of government largely ignore the problems alcohol causes. Even worse, there’s high-profile executive action to promote alcohol products and industry interests.

Therefore, it is crucial to address the role of the alcohol industry as commercial determinant of health and development. The alcohol industry works systematically to oppose, undermine and erode public health policies to protect and promote its own profits.

Addictive consumptions generate financial surpluses over-and-above non-addictive consumptions because of the excessive consumption of addicted consumers.” [Adams & Livingstone 2014].

The rise of non-communicable diseases is a manifestation of a global economic system that currently prioritizes wealth creation over health creation.“ [Kickbusch, Allen, & Franz, 2016].

But population level policy options exist: the so called three best buys – increase alcohol taxation, ban alcohol advertising and restrict availability – and additionally the so-called two good buys – addressing driving under the influence of alcohol and screening and brief interventions for people with alcohol problems

Substance abuse in the sustainable development era. Addiction prevention, treatment and recovery as tools to eradicate poverty and boost development. That’s the topic of the side event at #CSocD56 and the theme for our advocacy work overall. Promoting the most integrated and comprehensive approach to tackling harmful substances and help achieve the SDGs. @kristin_sperkova moderated the panel. @who Werner Obermeyer gave the key note, setting the scene. @justinlukeriley explored the youth dimension of substance use disorders and recovery and talked about the need to invest in recovery ready communities. @adrienneabbate explored how women are affected by harmful substances and how the community can respond using prevention, policy, recovery and harm reduction. @kalemadavid talked about evidence-based treatment work in Uganda. @adicsrilanka ‘s Pubudu Sumanasekara presented on evidence-based prevention work in the communities, challenging Alcohol myths. Robert Pezzolesi talked about societies of addiction and the question of what works to address harmful substances on a population level. We are honored to co-organize the event together with IFFD, the International Federation for Family Development. Families are the building blocks of society and are often ravaged by alcohol harm. Children can be protected from harmful substances by investing into families and parenting skills. #SDGs #socialdevelopment #sustainabledevelopment #2030Agenda #prevention #treatment #recovery #harmreduction #policy #pivottoprevention #healthpromotion #heartdriven #alcpol #sdg3 #sdg3.5 #unitednations

A post shared by IOGT International (@iogtint) on

For more information:

IOGT International CSocD56 Statement (PDF)

Side Event information

Side event presentations (Dropbox folder)

Event photo gallery

Source Website: IOGT International