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USP Hosts Dialogue on Substance Abuse

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William Parkinson, Chairperson Leadership Fiji giving the welcoming remarks at the National Dialogue on Substance Abuse.

The University of the South Pacific (USP) hosted an informative National Dialogue on Substance Abuse on 13 November at the AusAid Lecture Theatre, USP.

Leadership Fiji in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and National Security held the National Dialogue to address and raise awareness on issues surrounding drugs and substance abuse. The event titled “Substance Abuse- Let’s Talk About it! Finding a Fijian Solution!” brought together various stakeholders who are involved in trying to combat drugs and its abuse.

The exciting three plenary sessions was focused on the theme on ‘Finding Solutions’ and convened around 100 various stakeholders from Government Ministries, Private Sector, Civil Societies, Communities and Young People to participate in raising their concerns as well as finding solutions on how to combat such an issue that lies prevalent in our society.

The whole day dialogue began with the welcoming remarks by William Parkinson, Chairperson Leadership Fiji, followed by opening address by Honourable Inia Seruiratu, Fiji’s Minister for Defence and National Security and keynote address delivered by H.E Jonathan Curr, New Zealand High Commissioner.

Mr Parkinson said that “We know we as Fijians have a problem. It’s time we got together to talk about this and come up with a Fijian solution to drug and substance abuse.” 

He said that the objective for the event is to use the space for us ‘AS FIJIANS’ to engage in conversation at a national level on the negative impacts of substance abuse, especially in light of the rise in reported cases of illicit drugs.

Parkinson said that we know that we have got a problem and it is time for us to talk about this issue as a community.

“It will bring to the forefront voices from across our community. We need to look at this as a much wider issue then just seeing the victims as the addict themselves. Every day we read and listen to stories about substance abuse and the fact that it is accelerated to harder drugs,” he said.

Mr Parkinson mentioned that without partners, this event would not be possible.

“We are grateful that the New Zealand High Commission has agreed to be our funding partner and the University of the South Pacific is providing the venue for this Dialogue.”

Honourable Seruiratu said it is a pleasure to be here in a room filled with committed individuals and a community who have come together to dialogue and have conversations – “Talanoa” to help find solutions to this growing problem of drug and substance abuse in Fiji.
 
“As Minister responsible for law and order, it bothers me as a parent and responsible citizen of this country to see the indulgence of drug abuse in schools and our youths. The Ministry therefore has consulted on the draft Narcotic strategy to be adopted through whole of Government approach to combat the illicit use of hard drugs. Equally important is the establishment of a Task Force comprising of Permanent Secretaries to oversee the national implementation of the national Strategy in view of resource allocation and commitment towards curbing illegal drug trade,” he said.
 
“The involvement of experts like Drugs Freeworld, Volatabu Trust and other Civil Societies such as the Salvation Army is a testament of this noble pursuit to put in place a workable government machinery to prevent, prosecute and rehabilitate users and addicts. The United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has mandated States to adopt and align their policies towards the three (3) Pillars namely Supply Reduction, Demand Reduction and Harm Reduction.”
 
He said that the streamlining of government processes in strengthening the three (3) key  pillars paves the way forward to tackling drugs in various ways of heightening border security, enhance law enforcement capabilities, and strengthening legislations including the proposal to establish a separate court for narcotics to address this issue of hard drugs.

Hon Seruiratu acknowledged the proposed mobile app currently being designed by USP in conjunction with the Ministry as a reporting tool and awareness by members of the public.   
 
He said that awareness is very critical, and people need to be made aware and we need a whole of nation approach to this problem.

Honourable Inia Seruiratu, Fiji’s Minister for Defence and National Security and H.E Jonathan Curr, New Zealand High Commissioner at the National Dialogue on Substance Abuse.

“The idea to convene key stakeholders and the community in conversation to find solutions to Fiji’s drug problem is the very essence of what Leadership Fiji drives, and that is “Leadership is action, not a position,” said Mr Seruiratu.

He added that the increase in lawlessness and recent attacks on our police officers and recent deaths of women through family violence is likely linked to drugs. “This is an opportune time to reset and review our national objective in tackling the root courses of the illegal trade in hard drugs. I look forward to the constructive, productive discussions in today’s dialogue.”

Hon Seruiratu thanked the New Zealand High Commission, who are one of the founding partners of Leadership Fiji for helping support this Dialogue, and USP for providing the venue to convene this and the speakers who have pledged their time to be part of the conversation.

He looks forward to seeing the outcomes and commit to ensuring that the suggestions will be taken forward into formulating national policies and strategies to eradicate this drug and substance abuse problem.

H.E Curr said Fiji is far from being alone in dealing with drug and substance abuse problems.

“Whenever I turn the pages of local newspapers, I am confronted with stories of the impact of substance abuse on Fijians. Much like Fiji, New Zealand sees the value in taking a cross nation approach to limiting the harm of drug use,” he said.

“Drug use takes enormous toll on an individual user, their family and a wider community. There is more work that we need to do together to support harm and demand reduction, to support those whose lives have been harmed by drugs and help build resilience in the community so that the demand for drugs is reduced. Combating the issue involves the health care system, non-government and community organisations that provide counselling and addiction treatment, the education system, individual families and the community. ”

He said that it is important to take evidence based approach to tackling harm from illicit drugs. “We are in the process of designing a major new initiative between Fiji and New Zealand Police to develop a new Policing Cooperation programme.”

H.E Curr said that in combating drugs and the impact, they will need everyone’s cooperation.

“We need to understand the problem we facing. New Zealand has recently taken a scientific approach to testing waste water. This is to understand the extend of drug use within our towns and cities. Communities support this initiatives because they see value in being able to understand their environment and therefore help their own people,” he said.

“There is already tremendous and highly successful cooperation which takes place between New Zealand and Fiji across police forces, customs and board agencies, immigration departments, intelligences unit, public and crime prosecution agencies, defense forces and security agencies.”

Finally H.E Curr added that a simple and cooperative example of cooperation is New Zealand’s support to Fiji’s Dog detective Unit.
 


This news item was published on 15 Nov 2019 11:24:19 am. For more information or any High-Res Images, please contact us on email communications@usp.ac.fj


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