27th World Conference of the World Federation of Therapeutic Communities brings practitioners and beneficiaries of Therapeutic Communities from 29 countries to Bangkok, Thailand
By Saionara König-Reis – The World Federation of Therapeutic Communities (WFTC) hosted its 27th World Conference in Bangkok, from October 27 till November 1st. Around 250 people from 29 countries, in a mix of Therapeutic Communities’ (TCs) professionals and beneficiaries, gathered in Thailand to strengthen a human rights and health-based approach for drug policy and treatment and to find better ways to empower and provide adequate support to persons in need.
In the course of intense 6 days, a series of plenary and working group discussions as well as a training, awards, Board meetings, and a visit to an important Thai Therapeutic Community kept participants busy and collectively addressing key issues to advance TCs’ work. With the participation of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the local government, the event was opened with discussions on the international and regional development in the field.
Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and Gilberto Gerra, UNODC Chief of the Drug Prevention and Health Branch, set the tone for the debates by calling for a health-focused approach on policies and treatment as a way to reduce the health and social consequences of drug use and dependence for people, their families and the broader societies.
In the sequence, professionals working with harm reduction and drug treatment stressed the benefits of bringing these two aspects of services closer together when addressing drug and HIV/AIDS challenges. Speakers demystified the traditional conflicts and reinforced the need for a closer approach between the two, to ensure that people have access to the kind of help they may need, in whichever stage they are in their struggle with substance use and abuse.
Acknowledging that addiction is not a linear process but rather a multifactorial disorder which requires a multidisciplinary response, participants also exchanged on best practices in their countries and TCs, and presented evidence base and lessons learned that help us understand the people we serve and improve the work we do at TCs.
Beyond the richness of content shared during these few days in Bangkok, in the closing ceremony participants expressed that they were leaving the Conference with a stronger sense of community, understanding that “connection is our strength and our survival”, and that truly caring, serving and uniting will help us all move farther with helping others help themselves.
As said the WFTC President when ending the event, for the way forward, let’s let our imagination lead the future of the work we do and let us work together as the community that we are!