Medical Student Perspectives

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, former resident of Basel once said: ‘One must have a good memory to be able to keep the promises one makes.’

Thus, with this introductory post, I am starting to fulfil the promise I made a couple of weeks ago to become a conference blogger, namely to report on the proceedings of the IPPNW Basel congress and my experiences thereof.

I’ve started the long journey from Durham, UK, to Basel, Switzerland and very much looking forward to my first trip to that country and my first IPPNW congress.

Though there will undoubtedly be a number of notable differences between my home and my destination, I also see similarities between both Durham and Basel: both are ancient cities full of historical significance, situated in the North of their respective countries with a picturesque river running through. Both localities are also home to old and prestigious universities; (Basel hosts Switzerland’s oldest university founded in 1459)

So, I am anticipating swapping the scenery of the river Wear for the Rhine and exchanging the shade of Durham Cathedral for the Basel Munster. Most of all, I am excited about meeting fellow doctors and medical students from all parts of the world, who have in common a desire to see a world free of nuclear weapons and other threats to global peace, health and security.

Basel, situated where the French, German and Swiss borders meet, seems to have a history of being host to a number of noteworthy peace promoting conventions throughout the centuries. The ‘Treaty of Basel’, signed on 1499 ended the conflict between the Old Swiss Confederacy and the House of Habsburg. The ‘Peace of Basel’ signed in 1795 heralded the end of the end of the war between the revolutionary French Republic and the Prussian-Spanish alliance. Other notable meetings to have taken place in Basel include a congress of the Second International (a worldwide coalition of Socialist and Labour parties)- at which the ‘Basel Manifesto’ was adopted. The manifesto called upon the working peoples of the world to conduct a campaign against war and those who foment it.

Let’s hope the 19th IPPNW World Congress proves to be momentous enough to earn its place in the chronicles of Basel and even world history.

Tomasz Pierscionek (UK)


IPPNW World Congress got off to an amazing start today with an opening plenary which showcased the incredible projects of IPPNW students around the world. It was so impressive. But last night the BAN bike riders came in from their 11 day 700km journey, making a triumphant entry into Basel, greeted by citizens and the Mayor of this fine city. Some photos of the arrival can be seen here, including the Target X demonstration which saw people dropping like flies all over the Marktplatz in central Basel!

The sun shines, the city is beautiful, the days are filled with enthusiastic engaged people from around the world, and the air of hope is intoxicating. Viva IPPNW!

by Ira Helfand

The 19th IPPNW World Congress got off to an energetic start this afternoon with the arrival here in Basel of the BAN (Biking Against Nukes) student bike tour.

More than 30 medical students from every continent except Antarctica arrived in the Marktplatz in front of the Basel City Hall at exactly 5:30 pm–this is Switzerland–after a 700 kilometer trip that started in Dusseldorf 10 days ago.

Along the way the students stopped in cities in the Rhine Valley, including Cologne and Bonn, meeting with local government officials and doing public education and media work about the need to abolish nuclear weapons.  They also held a rally near the nuclear base at Buchel.

Arriving in the  Marktplatz, the students were welcomed by the head of the Basel city government, Dr. Guy Morin, a physician and activist in PSR Switzerland.  And Alex Rosen, organizer of the Tour gave an impassioned speech about the need to eliminate nuclear weapons. The square was marked with a large red “X”, one of several “Target X” demonstrations the students did during their trip to dramatize the immediacy of the nuclear threat.

For a full account of the student tour, visit the Ban blog site.

The Student Congress begins in earnest tomorrow and the general Congress will start on Friday morning.