Welcome by Gábor Gombos, Chair or ENUSP PDF Print E-mail

July 17, 2004 - Official opening

Ladies and Gentlemen. My friends. Welcome!

When I was asked to give a short welcome speech in the opening ceremony of this Conference, I thought, it is an easy task. I can do this in one single word: 'Welcome'.

But then, my friends and colleagues from the European Network of (ex-)Users and Survivors of Psychiatry (ENUSP) advised me with important messages to speak out. And that made life more complex.

Prior to the opening event we were speaking in various groups and I was concerned if this historic event would be a success or not. And then, I understood that the mere fact, that you, we are here, together, from so many contintents and countries, already answers the question. This IS a success.

We are here from so different cultures, with so diverse languages, religions and personal attributes. Remember, my friends, what Gandhi said: Peace is unity in diversity. We have diversity here. Diversity is with us. I wish ourselves that the coming days will also bring peace.

ENUSP, in the very beginning adopted a principle: We agree that we CAN disagree. But I also share what Karl Bach brought to our attention, we do NOT NEED to disagree. What does not mean that we must agree in every single issue. This means, owever, that we shall focus on issues in which we CAN agree.

I have been thinking what is the context of my opening speech. Shall it be a welcome from the European (ex-)users/survivors to the 'rest of the world'? If yes, then I want you to be cautious. The gravest, most massive violations of human rights have taken place in this very continent in Europe. Europe is no way a model to be copied.

Participation in issues of public interest used to be a European idea. But then this right to participate was immediately taken away from certain groups of people. Including people with mental problems. Political abuses of psychiatry were not restricted to the former Soviet Union. And at present, if one goes deep enough, can find political psychiatry everywhere.

We, this wonderfully diverse group of (ex-)users/survivors have come together to network for OUR human rights and dignity. Nevertheless, I would like to remind all of us, that what is really happening, goes far further. When Martin Luther King Jr. said that he had a dream, in the original context he spoke on behalf of HIS peers. But not ONLY. His dreams are shared by many of us here and also by our movement. Similarly, our human rights activism is an organic part of the indivisible human rights struggle. We must not forget that anyone, at any time can be labelled by a mental disorder.

Europe is, rightly, very proud of its contribution to science and technology. But again, science and technology without citizen participation in public issues, can be either good or devastating. We live in an age of enormously advanced science and technology. We do have the tools to manipulate the human genome. We can prevent births of children with disabilities. Biotechnology makes all these possible. And we are told all the time, that this is a scientific qustion. My friends, this is NOT. This IS a human rights and also a moral competence. No bioethicists, no academics, no scientists have the right to decide on behalf of others.

After sharing some of my dark, threatening visions with you, I am concluding with nicer notions.

The fact that we can be here calls for acknowledgments. I would like to express my deepest gratitude, in particular, to all the local organisers, to WNUSP secretariat and especially to Eva Rassmussen. Without her engagement, this fabulous opportunity would have remained a dream. Thanks are also due to the Danish Government for their generous financial support. Thanks to Hamlet Trust, who supported ENUSP members from Romania and Russia to be able to participate. Thanks to our ENUSP secretariat for its part of preparation; without its special efforts in the last days and weeks before the conference probably no participants from Australia, Czech Republic, Iceland, Greece, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia would be here. Nevertheless, my ultimate thanks are to you all, you who had the dedication to join us.

Thank you!