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The Way to Villingen

May 29, 2013

I wanted to write this blog about a week ago. See, we had the idea in the Berlin IPPNW office that we should write about what it was like to be part of the organisation of a congress like “Human Target“, starting on Thursday in Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany. And now here I am on the train with eight long hours, at last, to spare. Before today there was no time at all to write blogs.

Of all of us in the Berlin office, I had perhaps the least to do for this Congress. Mainly because I had the brainwave early on in the proceedings and told Frank – our Executive Director – that he should take on Elena to help out. Which he did, thank God, and also Isa. Although the local group in V-S, under Helmut’s fantastic leadership, have been working round the clock getting all the logistics set up, we really needed Elena’s and Isa’s help. I was very busy with ICAN and the preparations for the big action at the German nuclear weapons base at Büchel in August, so I knew I couldn’t take on the usual load that I’d take for other congresses we’ve done in the past.

My job was to help structure the planning of the congress organisation using a project structure plan that we have refined over several congresses. In this plan we’re able to quickly check through all the different tasks, assign responsibilities, make a timetable and set deadlines. So Frank and Helmut had the job of running the show as project managers and the rest of the team divided up the rest of the work. In essence there were actually three teams working on the Congress: the local team, the Berlin team and the Boston team.

Angelika and Samantha worked on advertising the Congress through setting up a website, a facebook event and writing to the press. Flyers and posters were designed, printed and distributed. Helmut worked on the programme with Maria in Boston and Frank in Berlin, mostly late in the evening or well into the night because of his work as a busy GP and the time difference. Hours were spent on the telephone to embassies in Africa and other parts of the world, trying to persuade the staff to give people visas – who sometimes had travelled hundreds of kilometres just to find out they had changed the whole application system. Speakers cancelled and new speakers had to be found. Everything had to be translated into English for the website and the programme and then also proofread. Registration had to be set up, name tags printed, confirmations sent out. While I am writing this blog, Jens-Peter and Lale are loading up the van with materials to drive down tomorrow to Southern Germany and begin setting up for the Congress.

That’s just a brief sketch of what has been done and doesn’t do justice to the (probably) thousands of e-mails, telephone calls, faxes, letters, photocopies, skype conferences and meetings over a year, involving hundreds of people. It doesn’t say anything about the planning of the action at Heckler & Koch in Oberndorf or the bike tour from Ulm, visiting and choosing hotels and venues, organising transport and all the rest of it.

And from only doing my little part – mostly translation and correction, sometimes brainstorming with Frank or helping him with international communication – the main thing that strikes me most about all of this is the substance of what we are doing. Bringing people from all over the world to this little corner of Germany where the weapons are made that kill people in the countries those people are coming from. Especially the doctors that treat patients wounded by bullets from those guns, with their stories of those people and their communities. For the community living in the shadow of Heckler & Koch that never talk about the killing that is being exported from the town just down the road, it is an opportunity to witness the effects of those exports. For those visiting Oberndorf, it is an opportunity to make their feelings and the suffering in their countries known. Most of all, it is a chance to make a mark on the landscape of suffering caused by small arms by calling for an end to the export of death and terror.

I, for one, am looking forward to this.

Xanthe Hall is international campaigner for IPPNW Germany

  1. BILL WILLIAMS permalink
    May 29, 2013 6:02 pm

    great work all you mob – and best of luck for all who meet in Villingen. Bill Williams

  2. May 29, 2013 9:45 am

    Excellent write up, Xanthe ! – Ogebe Onazi

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