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On the Ground in Basel: Initial Reflections
August 25, 2010
The first day of the World Congress in Basel begins with a palpable energy in the room. The first two days are devoted to the students and workshops oriented around building their capacity to be leaders when they return to their home countries. Some had been at the last World Congress in Delhi and greet fellow student activists that they had not seen in two years. Many, new to this conference, start meeting students around the room to begin their first introduction to the international nuclear disarmament community. Over 700 people registered for this week's conference; one of the largest in recent history. The organizers ask everyone to find their seat. The 19th IPPNW World Congress is about to begin.
This is my first IPPNW World Congress. As I was arriving to the conference location by train, I wondered what I should expect. My experience working with PSR activists and leaders led me to believe that I would find a group of uncommonly dedicated people ready to tackle nuclear abolition in the Swiss city of Basel. I was not surprised. There is a casual, almost irreverent, atmosphere here that belies the seriousness of purpose that is clear that people feel on this issue.
The student congress had a full first day with over 15 different workshops being held on various topics ranging from media training; learning about "the inconvenient truth about Chernobyl"; to finding out more about Anthroposophy and how it applies to conflict areas. Speakers raised controversial topics like possible uses for missile defense in nuclear disarmament and the balance between holding true to nuclear abolition while negotiating the treaties that lead us there.
The day is now ending with a cultural carnival where students brought food, displays, and slogans from their home countries. While American garb is unlikely to turn many heads - PSR students have donned the 1 more 4 zero buttons and they are starting to filter out to other attendees.
A good beginning.