Ambassador Alicia Buentorstro Massieu, Chair of the CND. It is important to have this event on the implementation of the joint commitment of states to effectively address and counter the world drug problem from a human rights perspective. This forum signals the existing cooperation between existing UN agencies to effectively address the world drug problem from the perspective of human rights. This event is therefore a collaborative example of how the UNGASS outcome document recognises and reaffirms the need to strengthen cooperation between UNODC and other specialised agencies in the fulfilment of international commitments on human rights and drug policy. The Outcome Document articulated 103 operational recommendations in seven thematic areas, including one on cross cutting issues on drugs, human rights, youth, children, women and communities. It indicates that human rights and drug control commitments are mutually reinforcing. This should lead to placing human rights at the centre of drug policies. I also welcome the Human Rights Council resolution on human rights and related cross-cutting issues within the UNGASS outcome document.
Ms. Peggy Hicks, OHCHR Thematic Engagement, Special Procedure and the Right to Development Division. We have a packed agenda, and are excited to put in as much substance as we can in today’s session. Thanks to all the co-sponsors for their support for this event. Without further ado I will turn to all of our speakers.
Gerhard Doujak, Head of the Department for Human Rights, Austria. I am grateful to address this important discussion and welcome our new Ambassador. We also thank the OHCHR, the EU and many of the governments who have co-sponsored this event. I also thank the Mexican Ambassador for all her work throughout the year, in particular at the intersessional meetings. UNODC’s central role should include unity of purpose and action. Austria recognises the 3 UN drug conventions and human rights as the cornerstone of the drug response. This is translated into treatment and therapy, instead of criminal sanctions. We welcome the efforts to ensure the focus on human rights in drug policy and welcome the participation of OHCHR, and the HRC resolution resulting in the OHCHR report published in September. We need to support further cooperation between OHCHR and UNODC. Human rights and health considerations are guiding principles in drug policy, and we should focus on progress achieved in UNGASS implementation. This is critical for the ongoing cooperation and discussions in March 2019. I look forward to fruitful discussions.
Ambassador Kjersti E Andersen, Norway. I welcome the OHCHR report on human rights and drugs. Human rights inspire all our efforts on drugs. We would have liked to see stronger language on several issues, including the death penalty. Drug related offences do not meet the threshold of most serious crimes. The INCB calls on states to commute sentences and consider abolishing the death penalty for drug offences. Norway opposes the death penalty for all offences. We also attach importance to the dignity and respect of people who use drugs and drug offenders, they should receive fair trials and sentences should be proportionate. Extrajudicial killings are never justified. Drug policies should reflect human rights and fundamental principles. We have ample documentation of the serious human rights gaps in drug policy. Access to healthcare is often denied, with suffering for individuals and society. PWUD are at high risk of HIV and other issues. We need to focus on women, including HIV transmission from mother to child. This requires a change of mindset on drug dependency. Norway is in the process of changing the policies on drug use from punishment to support and treatment, recognising that this is a health challenge. Criminalisation has contributed to stigma, marginalisation and social exclusion and may have prevented access to customised health services and follow up. Recommendations will be proposed by a special commission in December 2019. I also want to recognise the role of civil society. Thank you.
OHCHR. Thank you for your statement. We look forward to hearing more within this discussion.
John Brandolino, UNODC Treaty Division. It is always a pleasure to work with OHCHR and its staff and we value your contribution. Human rights are one of the key pillars of the UN and the UN Charter and it is part of UNODC’s work and all other UN agencies. But it is also something that member states are recognising. It was recently mentioned in the UNGASS outcome document and other aspects of our work and important documents such as norms and standards on crime, criminal justice and drug use, issues that relate to the work of the UNODC. The UN and member states should pay attention to human rights. What we need is more discussion on what this practically means in day to day work around the world in countries, localities. We hope this panel will be able to elaborate on that. In the meantime, I take this opportunity to say that UNODC takes its responsibility seriously, we have a human rights approach integrated in our programmes, with technical assistance. I am the chair of the human rights advisory group in UNODC and we do a few things on this regard. First, many of our technical assistance programmes are geared towards ensuring legal safeguards to provide health and treatment interventions, the implementation of the Mandela Rules, alternatives to punishment and imprisonment, and much more. Many of our programmes are designed with a human rights component in mind. Most of our work is on the ground in more than 70 countries. We found in our experience with member states is that technical assistance on the ground is useful to translate human rights issues with practical support. We very much value that constructive engagement. All our programmes are independently evaluated, with human rights and gender being two issues valued and evaluated. We focus on human rights due diligence policies, and ensure that we do not contribute to human rights violations. We will add a link to our website on human rights. We hope to have this available as of 10th December and have more information and links on our website to this important issue. We are committed to supporting member states in the UN context and we value the contributions of OHCHR and others. Thanks for organising this event today.
Ambassador David Hall, United Kingdom. I thank OHCHR and UNODC for convening this important event that the UK is co-sponsoring. I address my thanks to the Chair of the CND and the Secretariat. We are discussing inter-agency cooperation between ONUDC and other UN agencies. In the UNGASS outcome document, member states reaffirmed that drug policy should be implemented in full conformity with human rights obligations. The UK has a proud history of upholding human rights with access to treatment and proportionate criminal justice systems, access to essential medicines. The UK is clear in its opposition to the death penalty as ineffective and undermining human dignity. We are a strong supporter of the HRC resolution on the moratorium of the death penalty. The CND Ministerial Segment will be a timely opportunity to ensure that drug policies uphold human rights, health, development and peace and security.
Peggy Hicks. I now have the joy of welcoming our second panel. We are happy to present a panel of experts this afternoon, who are very experienced in engaging with human rights in the UN system, including current members of UN treaty bodies. We are also fortunate to have a Commissioner on Human Rights from the Philippines who will bring in the perspective on national human rights there. I am now giving the floor to Hon Justice Michael Kirby from Australia.
Hon Justice Michael Kirby, UNAIDS Reference Group on AIDS and Human Rights. I am probably the only person in this room who has sentenced many people to prison for drug offences. I have done this for many years as a judge in Australia. I did this in accordance with the law, this is what judges do. I don’t want you to think I did this without reflection to prisoners and their families and communities, also thinking of proportionality, effectiveness and utility to the social problems. In recent years, large numbers of judges and officials have begun to consider ways in which we should respond to the problems related to the health and welfare of people who use drugs. My long experience as a judge has told me that you cannot interpret any law instrument such as the 1988 Convention in isolation. These have to be applied in combination with many other laws, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the 2 great international covenants, CEDAW and other health instruments. One has to look at the 1961, 1971 and 1988 conventions in the context of these human rights instruments, but also the fact that human rights is one of the established pillars of the UN. This is being recognised increasingly by international resolutions of the UN, and most recently by the UN Secretary General’s Common Ground document published on behalf of the Chief Executive Board. This morning, I had the pleasure to read the Omnibus Resolution for 2018, I read all 22 pages of it, and every passage on human rights was expressed alongside a passage on reference to obligations contained in the 1988 convention. The document is full of important reminders of the other factors that are contextual and have to be understood with regards to the conventions: health, treatment, balanced and integrated approach, the SDGs, evidence, proportionality and some. There is something in it for everybody. It is the very thing that makes people rather defective about politics generally, and the UN in particular. But three things should be reflected upon. The first are the many developments happening in the health area. In the early days of the UN response, there was an attempt to introduce a harm minimisation principle like NSPs, drug injecting rooms and other interventions designed to save lives. Secondly, in many countries exceptions began to be seen, with constitutional principles being recognised in the application of the UN drug conventions, medicinal cannabis started to be recognised, indigenous people’s rights, and increasingly the recreational use of cannabis. These developments are happening and the UN system should ask why, where and what is actually happening. The third development is the move from Geneva to Vienna, with the recognition of the principles of human rights. I congratulate the OHCHR on this progress. This meeting should address various programmatic issues. We have to be increasingly serious about human rights, not just as a passing mention of the SDGs and human rights. Second, we have to look to guidelines that can assist countries in applying the principles of human rights in practice. This is what happened early on in the HIV epidemic. Thirdly, we should protect civil society space to have freedom of speech, loud voices must be raised to indicate what is happening in the world. Fourthly, we must ask, is there a tight geist in Vienna? Many communities are taking steps by the will of the people such as in Utah, Florida, etc., from people who have lost their human rights because of drug policy. Finally, I am pleased to hear the UNODC’s steps in promoting alternatives to punishment. UNODC has the obligation to be a leader in human rights and drug policy.
Hilary Gbedemah, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. My function this afternoon will be to present the CEDAW jurisprudence on drug control. The CEDAW’s jurisprudence rests on article 1 of the convention. A programmatic approach is not sufficient to achieve equality with men. It addresses all the differences between men and women. Non-identical treatment between men and women must be addressed to achieve this equality of outcome. We must take affirmative actions. Our jurisprudence is in part developed on conclusions achieved after constructive dialogue. Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention focus on ending discrimination against women. This means that states should recognise the disadvantages faced by women in drug policy. We have recommended that in addressing issues of drugs these women should be looked at with particular attention and in their particular environments. In this category, we have also singled out the issues faced by pregnant women. The main area we looked at is the health area, although it is not the only one from CEDAW’s perspective. A human rights approach should be used in respect to drug abuse in relation to harm reduction and evidence based treatment strategies. We asked all states to stop extrajudicial killings against people suspected of drug use. The fight against drug trafficking should not have a disproportionate impact on poor and marginalised communities. We have called for a preventative action, asking governments to adopt a prevention and treatment approach towards drug consumption. We have also focused on the weak enforcement of drug and alcohol laws among children and adolescents, especially in street situations. This was shared with the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Another issue is resource allocation towards mental health services for women and girls, with a focus on preventative measures. We have emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation. We ask for the development of therapies for HIV, and for the implementation of strategies to combat HIV. We call on member states to focus on gender sensitivity with evidence based treatment drug programmes for women. When you look at substantive equality, gender sensitiveness is something that has to be looked at more closely. Drug users also face barriers to services because of stigma and punitive approaches. When you consider the backdrop of patriarchal societies, it is very difficult for women to seek services. We asked that the consequences of discrimination against women should be addressed in a public health approach and focusing on harm reduction. We have also looked at violence against women. We have found high levels of gender-based violence among women who use drugs, including domestic violence, but also on grounds of power because women are compelled by their partners to engage in drug use or aspects of the drug trade. We have seen that there is a connection between prostitution and the coercion of women into the drug trade. This is in particular among migrant women. In looking at the effect of drugs on communities, we have had occasion to also recommend the right of rural women and the working conditions which they are subject to in the drug trade. We have also focused on women with detention. We have focused on equal power relations, we have seen the significant increase of women in detention for transporting drugs. Not detached from this issue is the fact that women tend to be over represented in large numbers at the lowest levels of the drug chain. We have asked that this imbalance be looked at. The precarious conditions in detention, fair trials, should be improved. I will now just talk about data. We have asked for evidence based data collection among all these fields, and that strategies and programmes be implemented based on science and evidence.
Ilze Brands Kehris, UN Human Rights Committee. I am very happy to be here. This is one of the dialogues that we have been missing so far. We often operate in siloes and we must make sure that human rights policies are implemented across the board. I am happy to see the recognition of human rights in drug policy in agreed documents. I want to say a few words about the positions on drug policy within the Human Rights Committee. All the treaty bodies deal with aspects of drug policies. This is something worth remembering. We also have the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. For the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, there is a longstanding practice of focusing on specific areas of work with regards to drug use and this issue has come in regularly in our work. The most well known issue is looking at article 6 on the right to life and the death penalty. This was already mentioned in the first panel. There are situations where the death penalty is still temporarily accepted in the current context, although we have a general comment just released on the right to life. We are moving in a direction for the death penalty to be fully abolished. Right now, the death penalty can only be applied for most serious crimes, for intentional killings, and only under strict situations. The death penalty for drug offences goes against this comment. This means that where the death penalty has been given, these sentences should be commuted. No death penalty sentence should be mandatory. Beyond that, the Committee has dealt with drug policies and victims in many situations of the application of drug policies, such as torture and ill treatment in article 7, extrajudicial killings. We see situations where persons can face ill treatment to extract confessions, this is a serious violation of the covenant. Arbitrary detention sometimes targets drug users, this has to change. We also focus on prisons. There was a mention already of the Mandela Rules today, we also focus on the Mandela Rules in relation to our Covenant. It includes aspects that would not explicitly be included there: right to access to healthcare for example. We also have cases of withholding treatment in detention and withdrawal as a form of torture. We also focus on sentencing for non-violent drug crimes, which contributes to poor detention conditions because of overcrowding, and situations of violence among prisoners. The issues of non-discrimination are also relevant. We already heard comments on stigmatisation and the treatment of drug users. This is something that we have not explicitly focused on, but we have brought out dialogues with stigmatised people living with HIV, and drug users are one of the groups not explicitly listed, but they would be considered under the ‘other groups’ umbrella, which allows the Committee to look into the stigma they are facing. I also want to mention a few more words on General Comment 36 on the right to life. This was serious and long work. It is where states parties have commented on. It is based on jurisprudence and inputs from governments and civil society. The General Comment focuses on the broad concept of protecting the right to life. We say that states are under the obligation of looking into situations in life that put people under threat to their right to life. This is a reminder that these are binding obligations for member states. The Committee has the mandate to assess the implementation of the Covenant and ensure that practices on the ground do not violate the Covenant.
Leah Tanodra-Armamento, Commission on Human Rights, Philippines. I will share with you the Philippines war on drugs. President Duterte, when taking the role of president, fulfilled his campaign promise of conducting a war on drugs. The police implements the President’s war on drugs, which sets the guidelines, procedures and tasks of the police to clear of illegal drugs, and neutralise illegal drug personalities. This includes a ‘polite request’ to stop drug use. This is the basis of police operations which resulted in police operations and killings. This created a confusing classification: death during police operations, and death under investigation. According to The Rappler, over 4,000 people were killed under police operations. The police recorded 6,225 drug related deaths. 2,290 were deaths under investigation. A total of 20,000 people were killed under the war on drugs over the past 2 years, 2 months. The Commission covered only 1,416 drug related killings. With a variance in statistics, we aim to investigate all drug war killings. The survivors, victims and families do not come forward, they get support from the government for not speaking out, or they are threatened by the police. The government asked the police not to provide a record of the killings, in contravention of the constitution. Documentation is very important, it provides a face, a story of the victims, their profiles and their background. This has been analysed by our unit, to determine a pattern, a causal relationship between the President’s speeches and the police operations. We believe this is important in the quest for justice. The president says it is best to kill people, and the next day we have 30 deaths in one town. The president offers rewards for the killings, and pardons which undermine human rights and the rule of law. The President’s continuous ranting against human rights also includes a disregard for international human rights obligations, with uproars on social media. This gives the president a justification to disregard due process to favour swift justice. Only cases that go to social media reach the poor. We have strengthened our individual and institutional capacities, focusing on the Church and other human rights groups, our engagement with the media and social media to reach public awareness. We have partnered with human rights groups to monitor killings and human rights abuses. We have been persistent and patient, even if we are not invited to key meetings. We continue to advocate a personal level to have our human rights agenda reach their consciousness. We saw some progress, when the national police force said on national TV that human rights was embedded in their work.
Jose Guevara, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. I am happy to be here with you today, by video. The Working Group attaches importance to the fact that criminal and administrative detention has a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups including PWUD. We expressed our concern on the use of administrative detention that hampers fundamental rights, as a means of controlling PWUD, especially when this is framed as health interventions. There is a perceived notion that drug use threatens the life of the user and that of others, and justifies detention on health grounds, including compulsory drug treatment which is condemned by human rights law. Compulsory detention for rehab, confinement and forced labour is inherently arbitrary. It is not justifiable. Involuntary confinement of PWUD should be avoided. For this reason, as the OHCHR stated, PWUD should be treated with dignity and humanity. Harm reduction and treatment should be available and only delivered by trained health personnel, with monitoring available to ensure that this is voluntary with informed consent, and people are not confined against their will. Any allegation of torture should be investigated. Any treatment centre not meeting human rights standards should be closed. Minimal procedural guarantees should be established for all, including for drug offences. Criminalisation of PWUD raises questions of proportionality and the presumption of innocence. Guarantees of equal protection in the law, and exceptionality of pre-trial detention, promptness of judicial review, should be ensured, including for people detained for drug related crimes. People should be able to challenge their detention. Law enforcement in drug control efforts should be consistent with human rights obligations, including on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement. There should be a focus on prison overcrowding and overincarceration.
Peggy Hicks. This working group is set up by the Human Rights Council and it’s interesting to see the many points of interface with the world drug problem. Several states have indicated their willingness to speak.
Canada. Thank you very much. This discussion about the nexus between human rights and drug policy is a particularly important one, so I thank you all for these interesting presentations. I want to highlight Canada’s appreciation of the OHCHR report. The report provides a valuable contribution to the CND and the 2019 Ministerial Segment. The protection of human rights should be a fundamental element of the CND and we therefore are very pleased to co-sponsor this side event. In the 2016 UNGASS outcome document, we committed to upholding human rights. But has we have heard today, we must ensure that human rights considerations are integrated into all national drug policies. The OHCHR report highlights that there are serious gaps in doing so, including the global lack of access to prevention, harm reduction and services, the war on drugs, and the continued stigma faced by people who use drugs. These challenges directly undermine the implementation of the UNGASS outcome document and the UN drug conventions. We also want to welcome the recent statement of the INCB on human rights violations in the implementation of the UN drug conventions. State actions which violate human rights in the name of drug control are inconsistent with the goals of the UN drug conventions. Canada therefore aims to focus on prevention, harm reduction and treatment, while responding to the need of vulnerable groups. We also oppose the death penalty. We remain committed to respecting human rights. We thank the OHCHR for its work and its support. We support its participation in the CND.
Switzerland. As one of the co-sponsors, I want to thank OHCHR and other co-sponsors for making this event possible to link different UN views on this drug policy issue. I also want to thank the OHCHR for its report, which will be important for the months to come. Switzerland believes that drug control efforts should fully respect human rights, including on access to health services and controlled medicines. The UN drug conventions have not always been interpreted to be implemented according to human rights. The statement of the INCB which stated that violations to the drug conventions also violates the UN drug conventions is very important. I also want to link drug policies with human rights, and mention the human rights and drug policy guidelines being drafted by UNDP and the University of Essex, which provide a legal analysis of the links between the UN drug conventions and international human rights law.
New Zealand. Thank you all, including OHCHR and UNODC for this panel, we are delighted to co-sponsor this event. I find it so hard to speak after the delegate from the Philippines. I have behind me a young NZ lawyer who worked as a probation officer. I bring this up because it’s important we have youth in this room and can hear from all of you about the jurisprudence and human rights issues. We also heard about the marginal utility of imprisonment. I won’t go into the NZ policy, it aligns with the views of Norway, Canada and Switzerland. I also welcome the INCB statement. I have a question: the international drug control treaties are clear, the INCB’s statement is clear, but there is an elephant in the room. There is a gap between these positions and the way governments interpret their human rights treaties. It is not enough for me to ask member states to respect their human rights treaties. So what can we do to fill that gap? I heard John say that capacity building and dialogue with governments was effective, I am glad to hear that. But I want to hear from you about how to fill this gap.
European Union. Thank you for this crucial event today. We want to thank the OHCHR for organising this event. The EU special representative on human rights couldn’t attend this event, but he is with us in thought. We want to recall basic principles, which are surprisingly necessary to be reiterated. Experience shows that a purely punitive approach is not sufficient. Fighting crime and trafficking is important but not enough. Some countries punish drug policies with the death penalty. It has no deterrent effect, we all know that. We know that drug mules are prosecuted as if they were heads of drug cartels. We deeply regret that the death penalty was not mentioned in the UNGASS outcome document. We reaffirm today that the EU holds a strong position against the death penalty in all cases. Recently we have renewed our engagement to alternatives to coercive sanctions and to proportionate measures. Health oriented policies are crucial if we want to make progress. We also need to link back with the Sustainable Development Goals. We need a comprehensive response to drug problems. The EU is advocating for the concrete implementation of the UNGASS outcome document, because we are deeply convinced that the 7 chapters of the document should be implemented if we want progress. We should make strong efforts to improve the situation, we cannot accept the situation as it stands today. I hope that in the mid-term review in 2024, we won’t need such panels anymore. We must apply what is written now.
Aleksi, Finnish Association for Humane Drug Policy. How can the UN system access the issue of shrinking space for civil society, and support for human rights defenders working on drug policies at national level.
Ann Fordham, IDPC. Thank you for this excellent panel. From the perspective of civil society, the presence of the OHCHR in Vienna is very much welcome. There has been a lot of work being done over the years on the nexus between drug policies and human rights obligations. How can treaty bodies share their findings and recommendations on drug policies more systematically and regularly to the CND in Vienna and to the INCB? Perhaps there could be conference room papers, and more formal and systematic feedback.
Gloria Lai, IDPC. The engagement of the human rights architecture is very much welcome. In terms of the special procedures and treaty bodies, are there ways in which we can support the increased engagement of treaty bodies on drugs issues?
Justice Kirby. Thanks to you all for being present and for asking questions. I was reminded during the Swiss intervention of a moment when I was presiding in a court in Australia. And a judge led his decision with a statement of disgust. And then his grandson was caught, and his attitude changed overnight. He then applied the law, but as gently as the law allowed. You have to sleep at night and have to get on with it. But officials have moral obligations to stand up and speak when you have a platform, on the human rights impacts of policies on human lives. I do think it is important to address the practical things that are going on, in terms of the elephant in the room (NZ intervention). We must develop guidelines, like we did for the HIV response. We developed these guidelines, and they were very influential for member states in terms of upholding the human rights of people living with HIV. The human rights and drug policy guidelines will be incredibly important in this regard. The second thing is speaking out. Within this forum, those countries who are changing their drug policies are surprisingly silent at the CND. It would be a good thing if countries changing laws at home can share those changes with the CND. Number three, on civil society space, I remember in the earliest days of HIV that we should never have a debate about HIV without a person living with HIV present in the room. This became a rule at UNAIDS. Don’t just think of and at them, speak with them. It is rare in this area of discourse to have somebody in the room saying ‘I am a drug user and this is what I want you to know about me, as a citizen and a human being’. I also think it was very powerful today to hear the report of the Philippines. Yesterday, I was hearing reports of South East Asia and the inhumane, cruel beatings against drug offenders. It is important we should hear the voice of the Philippines and see the Human Rights Commission on hear through. Finally, on the issue of the UN system, the special rapporteurs are doing a great work, there is also the Universal Periodic Review. The country representatives have to sit and respond to the questions asked to them on human rights commitments. This is how we can build a just and fairer system.
Hilary Gbedemah. I want to focus on how treaty bodies can share more visibly their positions and on civil society space. On civil society space, unless documentation is brought to us in a comprehensive way, it gets lost. In the past, CEDAW was issuing position papers. These have to align with the position of CEDAW. These briefings would help us tremendously. The phenomenon now has a human face. You can also make a submission to the Committee on which countries should be a focus for CEDAW. This would help us. Civil society should also know that sessions are webcast. If you want further details and see how we engage in dialogue, it is useful to watch the proceedings, and you can comment and react to them.
Ilza Brands Kehris. The gap on how to bridge the practice and between various member states: the treaty bodies have a limited mandated role. But we have a dialogue with member states. These are opportunities to provide assistance to member states on better implementing the Covenant. From that framework, this is an important aspect for bridging that gap, making sure that all stakeholders are there, including civil society. Both civil society at national level and human rights institutions are important at feeding into this process. Civil society is also important in formulating the questions to member states. This is where grassroots knowledge is essential, so that we are given the tools to follow up. The issue is also at the national level how the connection with human rights and drug policy is not taking place. It is important that civil society can mobilise around that as well. We also need to communicate better.
Leah Tanodra-Armamento. The gap between the treaties and implementation by member states in the Philippines: it is the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights to do so, with support from civil society organisations, who are so passionate about their work. The government becomes cautious when civil society reports back to treaty bodies on how the government is implementing its human rights obligations.
Peggy Hicks. We will conclude. But before I do so, on the threat to civil society and civic space, we are looking concretely on how the UN can do better in ensuring the voice of civil society in the debate. I will also add by saying that raising visibility of these issues is very important. In closing, I want to thank the UN office in Vienna for their assistance, to our long list of co-sponsors: Austria, Canada, EU, NZ, Norway, Switzerland, UK, Mexico and UNODC, all of whom have been instrumental in setting this up. I also want to thank Zaved Mahmood who had the vision to bring us all here today. There are many other questions but I hope this is the start of further discussions.