We have received a number of requests for information about the progress with the conference, following the recent political events in Lebanon and the wider region. To respond to these and any future enquiries it is our intention to provide regular updates here, addressing key concerns.
Some of you wishing to attend the conference have expressed some concerns prompted by travel advisories issued by various governments in response to the events in Lebanon and the wider region, as well as by media reports on developments. Obviously the current political situation is unclear, and these concerns are understandable. Harm Reduction International and the Conference Consortium, working closely with our partners locally, are monitoring events on an ongoing basis, and it is not our intention to place delegates, or conference staff, at risk.
Notwithstanding travel advisories and media coverage, the experience of Harm Reduction International and Consortium staff, and the view of our local partner organisations, remains that the situation on the ground in Beirut is unchanged. People go about their daily business as usual. Local harm reduction services continue to be busy. Business travellers and tourists come and go and life continues as normal. The conference Executive Programme Committee held a very productive meeting in Beirut for several days in mid-December and unanimously endorsed the decision to hold the event there.
Harm Reduction International is committed to supporting the establishment, development and promotion of harm reduction globally. Fulfilling this commitment means bringing the conference to countries that present logistical challenges, or where the political situation is difficult or unstable. Doing so is essential to supporting our colleagues who are working in difficult and sometimes hostile circumstances, and bringing the harm reduction message to all regions of the world. In this sense, the interest in, and support for, the Beirut conference from harm reductionists across the MENA region and around the world is very encouraging. Since the venue was decided and initial agreements were signed, besides the practical tasks involved, staff from both Harm Reduction International and the Conference Consortium have visited Beirut regularly and much work has been undertaken by our local partners to garner political support for the conference, which culminated in the patronage of the Minister of Health for Lebanon and financial support from local government.
The decision to attend the conference is obviously one that individuals must make for themselves. To assist you in this process Harm Reduction International, the Consortium and our partners locally can only undertake to provide accurate and timely information about the situation locally to be considered in conjunction with other information and advice from elsewhere. Interest in the conference remains strong – including from the MENA region – and we all look forward to welcoming you to an enjoyable, memorable and successful conference in April.
Rick Lines - Executive Director, Harm Reduction International
Paddy Costall – Managing Director, Conference Consortium