Alcohol Policy Youth Conference: Amsterdam 2014

Amsterdam

December 18th, 2014 by Harleigh Taylor

Hello I am Harleigh, I’m 21 and from North Devon. I recently went to an Alcohol Policy Youth Network (APYN) conference in Amsterdam.  September 2014.This was the second APYN conference which I have attended; the first one was in Slovenia in 2012. I gained so much knowledge from this one that I wanted to gain more to try and make a difference in my local area. 

After a long day travelling and getting lost numerous times, I finally arrived at the conference with over 30 other young people/young adults (aged between 18-35) from across the EU. Everyone had lots of different stories and knowledge to share from within our own countries!

Day 1-

This was the day in which we all got to know each other as well as each others’ background, knowledge and understanding. There were people from medical, voluntary, teaching and youth council backgrounds, which gave a huge variety of knowledge which we would all be able to share.

There were presentations on numerous of different points. One being “Why work on alcohol?” and “Should it be on the agenda for youth organisations?”

There were a number of opinions e.g.-

” Lots of people said that they know there is a problem, but just don’t care, as it’s socially acceptable”

” It varies from country to country based on cultural differences”

As a whole we decided that it may well be different and maybe lots of people do not see alcohol as a problem; however we do need to come together as one and try to make a positive change within our own countries. A number of really crazy and scary facts were highlighted throughout the different presentations, the two that really struck a chord with me.

  • If you start drinking under the age of 14, 47% of these people will later be addicted to alcohol!
  • Europe has double the amount of alcohol consumption per person than the East of the world!

After all the daunting statistics and overflow of information, it was time to have some tasty Netherlands dinner and go to bed for some well earned rest!

Day 2-

This was day 1 of the active workshops. We were divided into three groups and I found myself in a workshop concerning the training on alcohol policy and national consultations.

The main objective of the workshop was to give us an insight and the tools to go back to our own countries and understand how to achieve a successful advocacy consultation, which will be key to achieving a positive and effective change.

The main framework was to learn how to collect data, carry out a national consultation and achieve a successful stakeholder meeting.  The result of these will help establish who are you going to target, what is your aim, what do YOU want to change in YOUR country?

The best way to make a change is to first of all carry out a national survey, collecting the thoughts and ideas of real people, in particular the ideas of young people who want to make a difference, and who rarely get a chance to be listened to. This data is then taken to national consultations, a gathering of people from medical professionals to teachers, MPs to alcohol charity workers that aims to establish the changes that need to be made and the best way to implement them.

This discussion continued throughout the day to enhance our knowledge on how best to go about making a change!

Day 3 -

We continued on with the frame work from the day before and we put together some rough but well thought-out copies of surveys which then could be used within each individual country.

Below are a few of the ideas of changes that people had come up with, which I found incredibly interesting but yet at the same time I thought they could be rather controversial in some countries due to nature of varied culture and religion from different places:

  • Changing advertising laws, with limited advertising like France or Norway!  
  • Changing age of buying alcohol
  • Changing drink drive limits

Unfortunately, this was the day which I had to try and get back to the airport and not get lost (which I didn’t Hooray)! Therefore, I was not there to see the final presentation.

Nevertheless throughout my time at the conference it was a truly eye opening experience where I felt supplied me with a wealth of knowledge. Although we were all from the EU, all our countries were extremely different, with different problems relating to alcohol. I found learning about other countries’ laws and enforcement was extremely interesting! The main focus that we must try and achieve together as one is to create a strong framework which will work across the whole of the EU, and importantly that does platform the voices of young people in regards to alcohol related issues as any changes that will be made will effect our futures.