The interview | Robert Roth
How would you present your organization in a few words? What entails your position? What is your goal?
The mission of the Association for the Prevention of Torture is to combat torture worldwide by helping to create conditions that make it much more difficult to use and easier to denounce. We do so by working closely with State and non-state institutions to help them adopt effective measures to prevent these practices.
Among the concentration of actors in Geneva (IOs, NGOs, permanent missions, academia, and the private sector), who do you work with and how?
APT works closely with international organizations that share our objectives, such as the United Nations Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, as well as NGOs, such as the World Organization Against Torture, which is also headquartered in Geneva. At the initiative of the European Union, the six main organizations working in torture prevention recently created a consortium to facilitate joint actions.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of Geneva with regards to the development of your activity?
Geneva has far more strengths than weaknesses. The large number of organizations and institutions represented here makes it easy to interact on a regular basis and share ideas and practices. More specifically, we meet regularly with members of the United Nations Committee and Subcommittee against Torture. We all know what Geneva’s weaknesses are: the high cost of housing – and of living more generally – and the difficulty of obtaining visas for non-European staff.
The model applied by APT in our area of expertise could be replicated on a larger scale: build relationships of mutual trust between NGOs and States that allow the former to advise and criticize the latter, with the aim of achieving shared objectives. NGOs can serve as a bridge between ideologically opposed governments. But there is no point in idealizing things; there is a very real risk that ideological, cultural, or economic differences become so deeply entrenched that the very idea of "global governance" will be moot.
What question would you like to have been asked? And what keeps you “awake at night”?
I sleep quite well, despite the state of the world, but I worry for my children. The return to favour of nuclear power, at every level, is deeply concerning. I never imagined that this could happen in my lifetime. The question I would have liked to be asked is: is torture prevention effective? I wish I had the time to convince you that the answer is yes!