Strengthening the ties that bind us together

In his second month as IRCT Secretary-General Joost Martens writes about his experiences in meeting representatives from the membership and of the importance of continuous development for torture rehabilitation centres.

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to meet with representatives from across the IRCT’s membership at a meeting of the IRCT Executive Committee (ExCom) here in Copenhagen. There was a lot to be discussed in the two days of meetings, around the challenges the movement is facing, with a special focus on the development of its membership.

Secretary-General Joost Martens, following the meeting of the IRCT ExCom

The 8 ExCom members and the IRCT President are elected by the 29 members of the IRCT Council who, in turn, are elected by the 146 member centres of the IRCT. They sit at the pinnacle of our democratic structure. This ExCom meeting was in effect their last meeting. A new three-year Council was elected over the summer and will meet in November, to elect the new President and the new ExCom.

As I said in my previous editorial last month, the IRCT exists because of its members; they provide the legitimacy for the Secretariat to speak out and act in representation of the global movement. And, it is at this time of year, during the northern autumn and southern spring, when not only the executive governance bodies of the IRCT meet, but, that the membership gets the opportunity to meet with one another and with staff from the Secretariat, in a series of regional meetings and seminars. The importance of these meetings and the possibilities that they offer for exchanges and learning cannot be overestimated.

In this regard, I was very pleased to hear back from colleagues in the Secretariat who had attended and led workshops at the first of this year’s regional meetings – that for the Middle East and North Africa region held in Jordan. Central to the gathering was a training session on how to better serve torture survivors through standardised data collection, which, while it may sound simple at first mention, is crucial in enabling health professionals to better advocate on behalf of torture survivors. You can read more about this in the blog pieces from Lars, a member of the Secretariat staff who helped organise and facilitate the meeting.

During the last week of September, I am joining our colleagues from the regional network of rehabilitation centres in Latin America for their regional meeting. I look forward on that occasion to seeing more of this exchange and learning in action. This will be an excellent opportunity for me to get to know many of the people working on torture rehabilitation in Latin America. One of the issues we will be talking about is related to the hiring of an IRCT regional coordinator for Latin America. This coordinator will be one of five regional posts that IRCT is in the process of recruiting; their positioning and activities in the different regions are expected to greatly enhance the interaction with the member centres.

I am looking forward to hearing about developments in Latin America, a region that has been working on torture rehabilitation since the start of the movement, and that has a lot to offer to the world in terms of innovation and learning about rehabilitation. In general, there is a wealth of knowledge among our members and the regional meetings and seminars provide good opportunities for this knowledge to be elevated, and subsequently be shared beyond the regions and across cultural and linguistic boundaries.


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