Joost Martens appointed Secretary-General of the IRCT

ImageJoost Martens recently took up his post as the new Secretary-General of the IRCT. Here, he describes why he took the role on and what he sees as the challenges of the future.

I feel privileged and honoured to have been appointed to the position of Secretary-General for the IRCT. I look forward to helping to shape the development of this dynamic movement over the years ahead, building on strong foundations laid in the past.

While being from Holland and an economist by training, I have in fact lived and worked most of my professional life outside of my country, engaged in the areas of development, humanitarian work and consumer protection. My wish to contribute to the struggle against poverty and injustice has led me to work in many different countries, from Zambia to Chile and Nicaragua, from Mexico to Vietnam and El Salvador for a range of organizations, like ILO, UNHCR, Oxfam and Consumers International. The common thread in these assignments of working for justice and equity has been the issue of rights; be it labour rights and standards, rights of refugees and migrants, the rights-based approach to development or the fulfillment of consumer rights. Over the years I evolved from the economist I was “meant” to be, taking on increasing responsibilities as a general manager and leader of people.

Thus I see my leadership of the IRCT Secretariat in Copenhagen as the logical next step. On the one hand, because the organisation is focused on the issue of justice and rights: the right to health, the right to rehabilitation, the right to a world free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. On the other hand, because the IRCT is working on this as a truly global movement, with strength and legitimacy based on the work of its member organisations from all over the world.

From my predecessor, I am taking over the leadership of an organisation with a sound international reputation, a solid democratic structure and a stable funding base. My challenges are to build on this; to increase the breadth and depth of the work of the IRCT; to further increase and diversify the income of the organisation ; and, above all to support and strengthen the members, both individually and in their regional groupings.

The IRCT exists because of its members. The global membership provides the legitimacy to the Secretariat, as representative of a worldwide movement, to advocate and campaign for the right to rehabilitation, to fight impunity and to influence international policy in regards of prevention.

Of course, at the level of the member organisations the IRCT best reaches its ultimate beneficiaries, torture survivors and those at risk of torture. Everything that the movement does should be geared – directly or indirectly – towards this.

And the effectiveness of our work – the results of rehabilitation – aren’t something we should keep quiet about. We must remind the world not only that rehabilitation is a right, but, that it is effective. That it is not only effective at the individual level, but, it helps families and communities, and is an essential building block for whole societies coming out of a post-conflict situation.

Our work is essential to the functioning of stable, transparent, accountable, and democratic societies.

I am looking forward to working together with their representatives in the IRCT’s governance bodies to contribute to the impact and effectiveness of IRCT as a membership organisation, and to strengthen the individual members and IRCT as a global movement. I am looking forward to helping bring about the IRCTs vision: a world without torture.


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