A highlight of the recently held 2022 International Conference in Abu Dhabi was the 2-day National Chapter Meeting. The meeting took place at the headquarters of the National Rehabilitation Centre (NRC), Abu Dhabi, who were our esteemed hosts and partner for this year’s conference.
The serenity that accompanied the NRC facility was a perfect setting to welcome our National Chapter delegates and created the perfect ambience for information sharing and strategy-building whilst offering a sense of warmth, encouraging camaraderie amongst the meeting delegates. The meeting brought together approximately 64 participants representing 26 out of a total of 28 established Chapters around the globe.
The regional updates of the various National Chapter clusters formed part of the introductory phase and was led by Livia Edegger, the Deputy Director of ISSUP and the National Chapter Lead. This session enabled a holistic visualisation of ISSUP-inspired activities across the world. It was rewarding to witness the sense of pride expressed by the delegates upon realising the impact they rendered within their various local settings.
Amidst the series of presentations, breakout sessions served as focal group discussions that provided data relevant to the operation and future development of National Chapters. The deliberations explored topical areas such as joint research, webinars, events, and trainings. These highlighted the diverse expertise in the room and gave credence to the future development of a National Chapter Expertise Directory. Barbara Correa, ISSUP’s Regional National Chapter Coordinator, presented on this ongoing pilot in the Americas. She explained that the directory aims to promote the transfer of technology and knowledge amongst National Chapters whilst enhancing networking opportunities.
ISSUP Brazil and ISSUP Uganda led a session on local sustainability initiatives which form part of their organisational efforts to encourage sharing of best practices. This generated an interesting discussion on the challenges of operating a National Chapter and the way forward for ISSUP. Speaking on ISSUP membership, ISSUP’s role as an “enabler” was reiterated by James Harvey who heads the communications and publicity desk. He spoke extensively about the benefits offered across the varying categories of member classification. He outlined benefits such as exclusive access to a wide array of networking opportunities and tailor-made resources for building professional capacity.
The forum on funding also proved essential and equipped delegates with knowledge of sources of funding available within the ecosystem of international organisations working on drug demand reduction. Joanna Travis-Roberts, the Chief Executive of ISSUP, expressed the readiness of ISSUP to assist the National Chapters in pursuing any of such funding opportunities; thus, offering a classic example of ISSUP as an “enabler”.
The impact of stigma on the health seeking behaviour of substance users was also explored as a key issue in addressing substance use and substance use disorders. The ISSUP Scientific Support team offered an in-depth understanding of the need to build sensitivity in how we discuss and communicate drug demand reduction.
After a series of presentations including an overview on the Humphrey Fellowship and updates on the Addictology Journal, as well as a presentation from the ISSUP Board and presentations on training providers, credentialing and certification, the two-day meeting was concluded with a talk on Prevention Projects in the Americas. This presentation was delivered by ISSUP partner agency: the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) of the Organization of American States (OAS). Ambassador Adam Namm, the Executive Secretary of CICAD, graced the occasion with his presence and provided welcome remarks.
Indeed, the 2022 National Chapter global meeting was a remarkable success and provided delegates with a welcome return to in-person events. The meetings did not only enable the optimal environment for strategy building and networking but equally afforded participants a taste of the cultural experience, thrills, and wonders of the United Arab Emirates. The trip to the Desert was an exhilarating and adrenaline-packed experience which offered delegates a perfect introduction to the deserts of the Middle East. The tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque left us in awe of its design complexities and architectural magnificence.
In summary, the knowledge shared, contacts made, and strategies outlined have successfully fuelled the delegates with the necessary momentum to not only continue but improve upon their invaluable role in the delivery of ISSUP’s mission.