October 11, 2016 – Today the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, took part in the We Free Days international conference in Rimini, Italy, kicking off the event with a keynote speech on the issue of drug use among young people.


A yearly event joined by 2,500 young participants from all over Italy and Europe, the We Free Days gathers experts and practitioners to raise awareness on the drug problem, emphasizing the importance of community service in the rehabilitation process.

The UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, delivers the keynote address at the opening of the We Free Days conference.

The UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, delivers the keynote address at the opening of the We Free Days conference.

The conference is organized by San Patrignano, Europe’s largest rehabilitation community. Founded in 1978, the community helps young people from all walks of life to overcome histories of drug abuse and addiction. It hosts nearly 1,500 young people, and since its founding it has assisted over 30,000 people.



Young members of the community.

In his keynote address, Alhendawi praised the San Patrignano model and its emphasis on social and community values in the rehabilitation process. 


UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi with Ms. Letizia Moratti, Co-Founder of San Patrignano.

“The issue of drug use among young people is a real one, and the way San Patrignano is tackling it shows that when young people are given an opportunity, they can empower themselves and contribute to their communities,” Alhendawi said

Alhendawi also reflected on his tour of San Patrignano, where he met with the young residents and learnt about their work in the community.


The Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhindawi, with members of the San Patrignano community.

“Everywhere I stopped, I was amazed at the amount of energy and positivity of the young people here,” he said.


Earlier in the visit, Alhendawi joined the delegation of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the Vatican, where Mr. Ban took part in the first Global Conference on Faith and Sport.

Hosted by Pope Francis and the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, the conference sought to put “sport at the service of humanity,” by exploring ways in which sport and faith can benefit society.

[Sport and faith] are intertwined in people’s lives around the world, strengthening social bonds, creating memorable occasions and inspiring people to do better for themselves, and for each other,” the Secretary-General said in his remarks. “With principled leadership and vision, together, we can achieve great things. Let us summon the best from faith and sport to celebrate our common humanity.”

While in Rome, Alhendawi also met with Maria Cristina Pisani, President of Italy’s National Youth Council (Forum Nazionale dei Giovani – FNG), and with Lucio D’Amore of the Department of Youth in the Office of the Prime Minister (Dipartimento della Gioventu’ e del Servizio Civile Nazionale – DGSCN).

The FNG is Italy’s largest network of youth organizations, connecting more than 75 organizations and nearly four million young Italians. The DGSCN is the main government organ in charge of implementing and harmonizing Italian policies on youth—from education and scholarship opportunities to family support and health care.

During the meeting, Alhendawi discussed cooperation between the UN and the FNG on youth development, exchanging views on several issues, including youth employment, youth rights and the importance of increasing investments in the youth sector.