International Harm Reduction Conference 2010

Sunday 25th April Opening ceremony.

As the smoldering ash cloud over Europe began to clear, the resulting aeronautical traffic jam that had accumulated in the worlds airports all week, finally flew our weary travelers onwards to their destinations.

INPUD members, welcome to Liverpool England!

It was upsetting to lose some members in the flight cancellations that occurred but as I looked around the conference crowd during the opening ceremony on Sunday it seemed most of us got here safely in the end.

This was brought to life when at the opening ceremony of plenary speakers, INPUDs Project Manager Mat Southwell concluded his speech with a powerful visual statement.

He looked to the audience and asked them to thank the Danish Drug Users Union for their support as INPUD lurched forward from its shakey beginnings , to the inspiring event held in Copenhagen on International Drug Users Day in 2007 which really helped to resurrect INPUD from the ashes of Barcelona. Asking them to stand up to receive thanks in the way of applause and acknowledgment from the audience, he then continued and did the same with INPUDs hard working board members who have steered INPUD forward on the Global stage during the last 3 years. Well done! Soon to join them in standing he asked everyone to then thank INPUDs regional and working groups who also have been working hard in their respective roles too also rise and receive a public acknowldgemnt and applause adding to what was now a rather large and growing crowd of INPUD members!

However, the real moment came when he looked across the IHRA audience of 1000 plus people and asked ALL of INPUD’s members to now stand, and then All of INPUDs would be members to also rise (i.e those who planned to sign up to INPUD over the coming few days) which was to deliver the message and its stunning visual impact.

Over ¼ to a 1/3 of the audience was now standing up; which was an amazing sight in itself but it beautifully confirmed just how far the Users Movment has traveled over the years and underlined their important role in both IHRAs and the Harm Reductions movements evolution.

We, you – the Drug User Activists, have been an critical and vociferous part of the conference since its inception inLiverpool 20 years ago and this day was a powerful reminder of who INPUD was, is and could be in the future. It was a statement no one could miss. Nice one!

I would however like to add the lack of women yet again to appear on the opening plenary, it felt even more acute as INWUD (International Network of Women who Use Drugs) was scheduled to have one of its first meetings as an affiliated /integrated arm of INPUD global. We have some exceptional women in the international movement and not enough of them appear on our plenarys.

NOTE: Gerry Stimson received the Rolleston award for services to HR and just in time as he moves on to new pastures (or ‘out to pasture’ he joked), and we naturally wish him well. Although the relationship with the International movement of drug users has been tricky at times, the work he has initiated, completed and supported has helped to make harm reduction no longer such a dirty word.

Welcome to Liverpool!



About Erin

Freelance writer and journalist for the global drug user press
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