By Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, ECPM Executive Director – France
Welcome to the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty! The struggle for abolition of the death penalty transcends political divides and goes beyond both continents and cultures: it brings together what has been dispersed. That is why it is so unique and necessary!
Yes, our History is testament to a desire for vengeance and surges in violence but those societies which have abolished the death penalty have definitively set in stone their desire to develop calmly in a spirit of tolerance.
Further, they never go back because they know that its restoration would be a mistake for future generations. The abolitionist struggle, nailed onto the foundation of human rights, is simply an expression of what the world’s population has been moving towards for several centuries: an end to attacks on the inalienable right to life. Harming that right means harming humanity itself and our own personal humanity. This self-evident fact has been grasped by most States and citizens: 2/3 of UN countries voted in favour of the last UN resolution calling for a moratorium on executions – 4/5 if abstentions and absences are included. The World Congress takes its essence from this universal aspiration.
The private sector and Africa in the spotlight
Last time it was Oslo, today it’s Brussels. The World Congresses keep on coming to witness the ferment of the abolitionist forces. We would like to provide a forum for those who see the torment of the death penalty on a daily basis (former death row prisoners, families, lawyers, etc.); to those who, every day, fight for its abolition (governmental representatives, parliamentarians and human rights activists). For 18 years, the World Congresses have enabled all abolitionist actors to come together to prepare for the next stage of the struggle.
We introduce innovations at each World Congress so that new audiences can take ownership of the issue of the death penalty.
In Madrid in 2013, the role of parliamentarians was given top billing; in Oslo in 2016, the National Human Rights Institutions were involved for the first time.
Now we are appealing to the private sector and business. The first plenary session of this Congress aims to open up dialogue with this high-profile economic group. There is immense potential for commitment and the creation of ties with the abolitionist family which could provide strategies and hope for the future.
We also wanted to highlight Africa whose progress and obstacles are sizeable issues. Might it be the next abolitionist continent? We certainly hope so. Before the Brussels Congress, we organised a preparatory conference in Abidjan in April 2018 to ensure substantial mobilisation in those States. The increased presence of Africa in Brussels is even more opportune as negotiations are underway to review the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the ACP States.
Engage in the fight for the next three years
This World Congress will be a success if you get involved. Please circulate the key moments of these 4 days by passing on the information from our Twitter account (@AssoECPM) using the hashtags #7CongressECPM and #AbolitionNow. You can also support the strategies and commitments set out in the final declaration over the next three years.
We are counting on each and every one of you to keep us informed of the direct and indirect impacts of the Congress in your country and in your work.
Finally, you will find on our website all the information you need about the packed programme ECPM’s team has created for you: an academic programme whose debates and workshops could feed your educational and awareness projects; cultural and artistic events which will give you an overview of the issues connected to the death penalty; discussions, focus groups, gatherings and side events which illustrate the breadth and depth of abolitionist NGOs, as well as their commitment. Your experience as a Congress delegate will stem from your choices! André Gide may have declared that every choice entails the rejection of what might have been better, but in our opinion making a choice is about taking a position. Taking a position about our convictions with only one requirement: making abolition self-evident.