KOREA: The National Human Rights Commission of Korea: An assessment after one year — Professor Kwak Nohyun non-standing member, National Human Rights Commission of Korea In strictly legal terms, the difference between a modern state that may be called ‘civilized’ versus one that is ‘barbaric’ hinges on the presence or absence of a national human rights commission. Korea only became civilized in this sense with the advent of its National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2001. Late last November, the Korean NHRC celebrated its first anniversary. Its experiences of the last year warrant a critical introduction for international observers. The Commission at a glance The Korean NHRC features a broad mandate and diverse functions. It is an all-in-one human rights institution designed to protect and promote human rights across the spectrum and to fight and rectify discrimination. Its counterparts in other countries include commissions relating to prisons, the police and army, intelligence, privacy, information, and so on. Also included would be all types of anti-discrimination and equal opportunity commissions, such as those relating to gender, race, disability discrimination, equal employment opportunity, and the like. At another level, the Korean NHRC can be said to function like a combination of all the major United Nations human rights instruments, condensed to suit the one nation. The NHRC has both a policy advisory function and a complaint– resolving function. It is also endowed with research and education, and publicity and networking roles. This multiplicity of functions is a distinct feature of the Commission when compared with the traditional judiciary. Unlike a court, which should be an impartial and dispassionate adjudicator, the Commission is intended to serve as a monitor, inspector, advocate, advisor, educator, facilitator, promoter, mediator and adjudicator. Of all the Commission’s roles, the most important are advice and advocacy. Even when it adjudicates complaints of human rights violations in quasi-judicial manners, the Commission is different from a court, for the following reasons. First, in most cases the remedial package of the Commission includes legal and policy measures necessary for curbing or preventing a reoccurrence of the same or similar violations. Secondly, judgements by the Commission normally go beyond the respondent to include any superior agency with supervisory powers over the respondent. Thirdly, Commission decisions come as recommendations, because coercion is an alien and improper method for an advisor– advocate– educator. Fourthly, as its decisions are not binding, the Commission can be more progressive in selecting criteria for decisions. The NHRC is an independent and autonomous state agency answerable to none other, whether the Ministry of Justice, President, National Assembly or Supreme Court. Legally, the Commission enjoys absolutely independence, just as a court does. However when it comes to budgeting, recruiting, and rule-making procedures, its independence has been less assured. As a statutory body, the Commission lacks certain guarantees and safeguards conventionally reserved only for constitutional bodies. For instance, if the budget of a constitutional agency is due to be cut, its head must be consulted, whereas the Commission has been denied this protection. Although the Commission has been granted autonomy, it is not free from the danger of being mistaken for an administrative agency under government control. A recent episode involving overseas travel by the Commission’s president is a telling example. Upon his return from the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions in New Delhi, the Commission’s president unexpectedly received an official and open warning from the President’s Secretariat on two counts: first, for failing to comply with the legal requirement that international business trips by officials at ministerial rank be subject to the President’s approval; secondly, for failing to follow the President’s order that ministerial-level officials not make unnecessary foreign trips. The Commission quickly pointed out that legally the NHRC does not belong to the administration and therefore is not subject to presidential control. Instead of understanding this, the mass media simply enjoyed the apparent conflict between the Blue House (the President’s office) and the Commission, and it sided with the Blue House. The Commission’s clean image was tarnished as a result. In fact, the President’s Secretariat was acting after feeling uneasy with a number of principled decisions the Commission had made without considering their effects on power politics in general and the administration’s position in particular. It is noteworthy that human rights NGOs were unanimous in supporting the Commission’s interpretation. This episode vividly indicates the administrative threat to the NHRC’s independence. If the President is displeased with the Commission, he or she may have many means available to disrupt its activities. Composition The Korean NHRC is composed of eleven members and a secretariat. The eleven members comprise the president, three standing members, and seven non-standing members. Four, including the president and one standing member, are nominated by the President of Korea, another four, including two standing members, by the National Assembly, and the remaining three by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, though all members are eventually appointed by the President. Four or more members should be women. The Commission members were appointed on 9 October 2001 for a term of three years. No parliamentary hearings or public consultations preceded the nomination and appointment. Due to internal strife, human rights NGOs failed to actively participate in the nomination procedure. Consequently, NGO influence was virtually non-existent and those with the legal power to nominate— namely the President, political parties and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court— were able to appoint people they preferred without difficulty. That said, the outcome was not bad. The president is a respected human rights lawyer and former president of the Korean Bar Association. The three standing members consist of a former director of the World Council of Churches in Asia, a former appellate court judge, and a schoolteacher turned writer. The seven non-standing members consist of three law professors specializing in criminal law, family law, and labour law respectively, three lawyers— including two former judges— one former prosecutor, and one feminist NGO leader. Five members, including the president and two standing members, have past or current NGO affiliations. One standing member and three non-standing members are women. This profile appears rather diverse compared to other Korean commissions, though legal professionals are over– represented at the expense of people from backgrounds in fields such as religion, labour and journalism. Despite their solid legal knowledge, the present members have been criticized as lacking proper expertise in human rights. Given that this requires more than legal expertise, even members with legal training cannot be called human rights specialists in the proper sense. Lack of human rights experience leads to a lack of timely initiatives and significant contributions, especially in policy matters of strategic importance. As members become more experienced, however, this problem is sure to diminish. From the perspective of this writer, three members are politically progressive, three are centrist, and five are conservative. This implies that without pressure the Commission is likely to make right-of-center decisions on politically sensitive human rights issues. Its rather conservative makeup has been a serious cause of concern and skepticism among most NGO activists, and it is generally regarded as being responsible for the Commission’s passive, reluctant, and sluggish responses to highly divisive matters such as conscientious objection, migrant workers, and the National Security Law. The NHRC is authorized to recruit up to 215 staff members. Under the relevant Presidential Decree, about 40% of its staff can be recruited from outside the bureaucracy, which is unprecedented in any other state agency. In particular, more of the higher posts in the Commission have been reserved for civilians than for career bureaucrats, including the secretary general, four out of five bureau directors, and nine out of nineteen section chiefs. The first secretary general is in fact a former NGO leader famous for her campaigns against sexual violence. The Commission began to recruit staff members last March and has filled about 170 posts to date. Nearly 60% of all the staff members are women. The recruitment process is still under way and will take a couple of months to finish. Due to excessive delays in personnel recruitment, however, the Commission lost public confidence in its first few months. From 25 November 2001, the day it started operating, to early April 2002, when the first recruitment began, the Commission had to confine its duties to the mere compilation of complaints and ad hoc interventions in pressing policy matters. While individual complaints and policy issues were simply piled up unexamined, initial public expectations faded away and human rights NGOs became impatient. It should be stressed, however, that the delays were caused by the shortage of personnel rather than a lack of will, and are currently being kept at a tolerable minimum mainly thanks to the hard work of devoted and competent staffers. Issues confronted by the Commission Under the Commission Act, the NHRC has nine specific duties. They involve the investigation and remedy of complaints of human rights violations or discrimination; consultation and advice to the relevant state agencies as to the improvement of human rights related bills, statutes, institutions, policies, and practices under their control; investigative surveys of human rights conditions, advocacy for ratification of international human rights treaties and human rights education. Though diverse, these duties complement and reinforce each other. Certainly it takes both time and experience to understand fully the characteristics and potential of the Commission. In order to speed up understanding and minimize trial-and-error, the Commission should encourage strategic discussions to develop goals and tasks so that it will not operate on an ad hoc basis and be engulfed by routine matters. In my opinion, the Commission failed to do this during its first formative year, though it worked very hard. Some aspects of the Commission’s work in its first year are as follows. Complaints– handling 1) Complaints statistics As of 1 November 2002, a total of 2937 complaints had been filed with the Commission. Of these, at least 70% fell outside of its jurisdiction. They were mostly complaints regarding police investigations, prosecutions, judicial judgements, parliamentary legislation and property disputes. Among valid complaints, human rights abuses by state agencies, local governments and welfare facilities occupy 80% or more. Fewer than 200 complaints were of discrimination, and among these, the majority consisted of complaints about the infringement of the right to equality by state agencies, local governments or welfare facilities. Complaints of discrimination in the private sphere— such as in employment, education, vocational training, use or provision of goods and services, for instance, housing and transportation— have accounted for less than a hundred so far. The relative paucity of discrimination cases is attributable to the fact that gender discrimination in general and in employment in particular is effectively addressed elsewhere, and also because social sensitivity to discrimination is still rather underdeveloped. The largest number of complaints has so far related to violations of detainee rights, as the Commission Act has for the first time given inmates a right to make face-to-face complaints. Lately, face-to-face complaints involving prison matters alone have exceeded 150 per month. Members or staff of the Commission should visit detaining facilities to receive complaints face-to-face when internees request it. The Commission has received over 700 such requests, nearly all from prison inmates. Only a handful of such requests have been filed so far from internees in welfare facilities or army prisons, which implies that the Commission has failed to reach out to them. The Commission should make efforts to publicize this new right to all internees, wherever they are detained. 2) The ‘rejection first’ policy Having begun recruitment in late March, the Secretariat started to review and investigate complaints from early April. By this time early complainants had become frustrated and discontent. Burdened by the sheer number of pending complaints, the Commission president decided to give priority to those complaints that could be rejected at first sight. For the subsequent four months, the two complaints– handling subcommittees were preoccupied with rejecting more than 700 cases, but meanwhile new complaints were being filed, leaving them hundreds still to reject. The greatest frustration is that so far less than 30 cases have been remedied, though in most cases they are milestones. The ‘rejection first’ policy is partly responsible for causing unnecessary disappointment and suspicion among complainants and observers. 3) The burden of proof The Commission is worried that following the hundreds of rejections there may now be a sequence of dismissals due to lack of evidence. In particular, complaints involving prisons, the police and army are believed to be very difficult to prove because witnesses are few and tend to keep silent— in the case of inmates out of fear of reprisal, and in the case of colleagues out of false loyalty to their organization and comrades. To cope with the problem of evidence in cases of human rights violations, the Commission is now seriously considering transferring the burden of proof to the respondent, that is, state agencies such as the police and correctional services. State agencies or local governments exercising public power have a constitutional duty to respect and ensure human rights. They are also bound by law to prevent their officials from violating the human rights of those under their custody or protection, be they facility inmates or criminal suspects. It follows therefore that such public agencies may be required to prove that they have done their best to fulfill their duties. If they do not do so they cannot claim their innocence or immunity. If this strategy fails for any reason, the future of complaints– handling is bleak, because complaints involving prison, police, or army officers can hardly be proven. In that case, inmate expectations would change into disappointment. 4) Remedial measures Three questions have been raised regarding remedial measures. The first was whether the Commission may recommend remedial measures which victims do not want. This question was brought up because both the victim and the complainant of a disability discrimination case stated at a hearing that their goal was to obtain official apologies and reliable preventive measures rather than monetary compensation. The Commission decided in the affirmative on the ground that its procedure is more inquisitorial than adversarial. The second issue raised was whether the Commission may recommend compensation for damages without specifying the amount. This was also resolved in the affirmative, however the wisdom of this decision is highly questionable, as it is likely to lead to new disputes over the proper amounts of compensation until a court intervenes. This decision appears without precedent in comparable complaints– resolving commissions at home and abroad. The Commission should give it second thought. The third issue raised was whether the Commission may include among its remedial recommendations one that apologies be published in the mass media. The Constitutional Court has held that it is unconstitutional for courts or state agencies to order public apologies, on the ground that apologies, being moral by nature, should not be coerced. In other words, compulsory apologies have been prohibited as violating the constitutionally protected freedom of conscience. Because the Commission cannot issue orders but only recommendations that the respondent is free to accept or refuse, it may be argued that mere recommendations to apologize should be acceptable. According to the Commission Act, however, the respondent should seriously endeavour to implement recommendations and in case it cannot, it should provide reasons for its failure. Based on this provision, the majority of members in the Commission found that recommendations for public apologies would be semi-coercive and therefore also prohibited them. Again, this is a questionable decision, because the Commission has as a result lost a useful tool for remedies. Surveys of human rights conditions In early July 2002, the Commission invited NGOs and experts to bid for nine survey projects on human rights in Korea, including one on prison conditions and one on the army. Two problems passed unnoticed in this matter. First, prison and army conditions are unsuitable for surveys conducted entirely by outside contractors, because neither NGOs nor experts have legal access to prisons or army camps. Unlike literature surveys or research projects, field surveys need to be conducted under the authority of the Commission. Secondly, the results of these surveys need to be published under the name of the Commission so that they can carry public authority. However, at present the Commission must attach the usual copyright disclaimer on the cover page of the survey report, which reads, “The analysis and contents of this report are not necessarily those of the Commission”. Certainly more authoritative accounts and analyses of human rights conditions are needed. The Commission’s authority to conduct human rights surveys should serve that purpose. Policy advisory functions The NHRC has the legal power to initiate consultations or express opinions on the human rights aspects of any bill, statute, institution, policy and practice. It has effectively intervened in such diverse areas as an anti-terrorism bill, the driver’s law and the nationality law, as circumstances have required. In the future, policy interventions need be more planned than reactive to outside pressures. The Commission’s opinions of a recommendatory nature are likely to prevail in most cases, even though they lack binding force, because state agencies normally respect the rational judgments of other state agencies, unless they have convincing counter– arguments or their vital interests are at stake. It is important in the latter case that the Commission shows its commitment to having its opinions respected by doing the necessary lobbying and allying itself with concerned NGOs. Public hearings The NHRC may hold public hearings to receive testimony from a wide variety of persons and agencies, including victims and experts. The Commission has to date arranged just one public hearing, which lasted only a few hours because it heard opinions rather than facts. The public hearing function needs be activated more frequently to obtain information. Public hearings are useful for a balanced view of sensitive human rights issues. Sometimes they could continue for weeks or months, and in fact such large-scale public hearings should precede strategic policy interventions. It is also important to remember that large-scale public hearings are natural companions to research and surveys of complicated human rights situations. Submission of opinions to the courts The NHRC is authorized to submit written opinions to courts trying a human rights case without its permission. Courts are also empowered to request the Commission to submit an expert opinion. To exercise this power judiciously, the Commission has to know, above all, what cases are in the court dockets and then carefully select a manageable number of representative cases. Until now, however, the full list of human rights cases pending in lower courts and the Constitutional Court has been unavailable to the Commission. As a result, it failed to intervene in three important human rights cases decided by the Constitutional Court. They questioned, respectively, the constitutionality of statutory censorship of “unsound” content in cyberspace, the strip search practice of the police, and the law-abiding oath required of national security criminals as a prerequisite to conditional release. The Commission has discussed whether it can officially express opinions or comment on decisions of the Constitutional Court, and concluded in the negative. Arguments in favour of the Commission’s announcement of reasoned regrets were twofold: first, because the Commission has the power to submit an expert opinion to the Constitutional Court it is natural that it would make a critical statement in cases where its opinion is ignored; secondly, because the Commission is expected to speak for international as well as domestic human rights law, it may occasionally be the duty of the Commission to publicly criticize the Constitutional Court in relation to a human rights issue. However, such arguments were rejected on the grounds that all state agencies are legally bound by the decisions of the Constitutional Court. It is noteworthy that whereas members from the bench or the bar unanimously supported the negative position, members representing NGOs warned of the danger of accepting the unconditional supremacy of the Constitutional Court. Problematic decisions by the Commission Conscientious objection The very first day the Commission started to perform its duties, it received a complaint about the discrimination of conscientious objectors in penal administration. The complainant argued that Jehovah’s Witnesses inmates serving sentences for conscientious objection were discriminated against in conditional release. Every year, over 500 Witnesses in Korea are imprisoned for their refusal to take up arms during military service. Because they are generally sentenced to three years imprisonment— the maximum punishment prescribed for disobeying orders under the Military Criminal Code— the total number of Witnesses in Korean prisons has always exceeded 1500. Both the militarist Korean state and the intolerant society have closed their eyes and ears for decades to the collective plight of these religious pacifists. It was in the spring of 2000 that this old issue at last succeeded in drawing the attention and dedication of a number of human rights attorneys and advocates. They argued before a military court that criminal punishment of conscientious objection violates the freedom of conscience and faith, and demanded that the practice be stopped. The military court seemed to be moved and hesitated for weeks but finally adhered to its usual sentencing practice. Abandoning hopes of influencing the military court, the attorneys changed their strategy and urged conscripted Jehovah’s Witnesses to reject military service from the start— rather than to disobey orders during military service— so that they could be tried by civilian courts. The change in litigation strategy worked, with two significant results. First, the courts lowered the sentence to 18 months, which is the minimum period. Secondly, one of the trial judges involved was convinced of the unconstitutionality of the current system of compulsory military service, in which no alternative means of military service is offered to conscientious objectors, and officially applied for the judgment of the Constitutional Court. Under these new developments, those Jehovah’s Witnesses still serving three-year sentences began to sense injustice. It was particularly painful for their parents to see latecomers conditionally released in advance, because of the sentence differences. Upon close examination, it was found that Jehovah’s Witnesses had been granted conditional release upon serving 27 months, on the grounds that those convicts who disobeyed military orders should be imprisoned for a period one month longer than the compulsory military service period, which is currently 26 months. It turned out that Witnesses were not discriminated against in conditional releases. While conscientious objectors are conditionally released without exception after serving 75% of their sentence, 80% or more of other convicts with a three year sentence have been conditionally released after serving more than 80% of their sentence. In other words, Jehovah’s Witnesses or conscientious objectors have been favoured in the administration of conditional releases. Most members of the Commission lost confidence before these statistics. Nevertheless, conscientious objectors are discriminated against in one important respect. The basic criterion for conditional release is the percentage of the sentenced period served, which differs depending on the crime type, past criminal records, prison behaviour ratings, and so on. In the case of conscientious objectors, however, release has come after the obligatory service period plus one month more. In other words, the government has applied a unique criterion to conscientious objectors in its administration of conditional release. It is nonsense, however, to equate the military service period with the imprisonment period, and the veteran soldier with the convicted criminal. Nevertheless, the majority of Commission members were inclined to dismiss the case. Lest such a decision should adversely affect the ongoing campaign for the introduction of a substitute service system, however, they agreed to postpone making a final decision. The Commission was recently freed from an obligation to decide on this case because the complainant dropped the complaint, having sensed the adverse atmosphere. Nevertheless, the Commission needs to establish a taskforce or special subcommittee to address this matter in a comprehensive and responsible manner. It would be a grave mistake if the Commission thinks it has dispensed with this thorny issue by bypassing this one complaint. Consecutive segregation periods while imprisoned Most complaints from prisoners involve abuses of disciplinary power and tools of restraint, as illustrated by a typical case that took place in Busan Penitentiary last May. An inmate allegedly committed suicide in a disciplinary segregation cell. He was in his mid-thirties, had already served over four years, and was only eight months away from release. Normally no sane inmate would attempt suicide in this situation. However, according to the story later related by his brother, the prisoner was in extraordinarily dire circumstances. First of all, he was disciplined as many as 15 times during his 52 months in jail. Rumour has it that after blowing the whistle on intramural drug trafficking he became unpopular among ward officials and was frequently locked in the segregation cells. Secondly, by the time he killed himself, he had been kept under disciplinary segregation for four months and would have had to endure another four months there, because he had been prescribed a total of eight months for four different accounts of bad behaviour. Thirdly, at the time of his death, he had been kept handcuffed and chained for four days. That he could not even help but eat like a dog must have damaged his dignity beyond repair. Apparently these triple factors compelled him to suicide. Once placed into disciplinary cells, Korean inmates are prohibited from going out for physical exercise, meeting family and friends, reading books and newspapers, writing letters or petitions, watching television, and purchasing goods from canteens. In short, disciplinary segregation cells are the highest security confinement within prisons. The maximum period of disciplinary segregation under Korean law is two months. But the law is silent as to what should happen if an inmate is subject to a second, third or fourth two-month period of disciplinary segregation. This issue is of utmost practical importance in Korean prisons, where segregation is the most frequently utilized means of discipline. Prison authorities routinely enforce consecutive periods of disciplinary segregation regardless of the total time that may elapse. This unrestricted practice of consecutive segregation periods results in extreme cases of indefinite deprivation of sunlight and speech, amounting to slow murder. Consecutive enforcement of disciplinary segregation is also incompatible with the legal provision limiting the maximum length of disciplinary isolation to two months, because its rationale must be that these things are the most basic necessities of life, and deprivation of them should never exceed that period. It was a grave mistake of the Committee of Standing Members, therefore, when— while entrusted with emergency relief power— it voted last February against granting emergency relief to an inmate who had been under disciplinary segregation for more than six consecutive months. Relying on the legality of consecutive enforcement of multiple sentences of imprisonment, the Committee effectively ruled that consecutive enforcement is legally acceptable if each disciplinary measure is lawful. The Committee failed to distinguish between consecutive imprisonment, which allows a prisoner his or her rights to sunlight, physical exercise, and conversation, and consecutive segregation, which should be disallowed because sunlight, exercise and all forms of communication are denied. The plenary Commission is expected to deal with the issue of consecutive segregation soon, because of the suicide case. It should recommend to the Ministry of Justice to stop the correctional practice of consecutive segregation exceeding two months in total. The Commission should do everything in its power to intervene with a view to reforming prisons by guaranteeing prisoners rights, including conducting public hearings, prison conditions surveys, inspection visits and complaints– handling. A task force or a special subcommittee is also required in this case. Discrimination in repatriation to North Korea From time to time, the Commission has to deal with politically sensitive complaints. One such case involved government policy towards converted former long-term prisoners. The complainant, a former spy dispatched from North Korea, was captured and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment. In 1985, he yielded to tenacious and terrible conversion methods and signed a document called a ‘letter of conversion’ renouncing the pro-North communist ideology. As a result, he was released in 1987. In 1999, he publicly revoked the conversion in the hope of returning to North Korea, but in 2000 the government rejected his application for repatriation on the grounds that he did not fall under the category of unconverted long-term ex-prisoners because he converted while he was serving his sentence. Citing the case of another long-term ex-prisoner who was allowed to return to North Korea despite having revoked an earlier conversion, the complainant argued that the government had discriminated against him and thereby violated his right to equal protection under the law. Upon close examination, it turned out that the repatriated convert in the earlier case had signed an official conversion document while he was detained in a security surveillance camp, after being released from prison. The Ministry of Justice’s position was that he was qualified to return to North Korea because he remained unconverted during the entire period of his sentence. The fact that he later converted at a security surveillance camp should not have affected his status as an unconverted ex-prisoner because surveillance camps are not prisons, at least in theory. But looking at the facts of the case, this person had converted in 1982 and reneged in 1999. He lived in South Korea after his conversion for three more years than the complainant in the recent case. The reasons and motives for their conversions and revocations were identical. They converted out of fear and despair. In most cases, ideological conversions were the result of physical and psychological torture; shameful violations of the freedom of thought. The prisoners revoked these conversions to recover their self-esteem and be reunited with their families. Moreover, the general conditions of security surveillance camps were worse than ordinary prisons because the former were specially designed to detain unconverted, pro-North communists. Security surveillance camps were regarded to be beyond the reach of the rule of law. Considering these facts, it seems groundless to distinguish between those who converted while in prisons and those in post– prison surveillance camps for repatriation. Before making the forced conversion, the complainant had already served in prison for long enough to be eligible for the status of unconverted long-term ex-prisoner. If the state regretted having violated his freedom of conscience and thought, it should have helped him return to his family and live a normal life in North Korea. Instead, it made an extremely formal and bizarre distinction between the two converts and discriminated against those who converted while in prison regardless of the actual period served. The Commission rejected the case on the formal ground that the complaint was filed two months after the statutory deadline, which is prescribed as within one year after the cause of the complaint occurred, with certain exceptions. This was an unfortunate decision, as the Commission should have taken the human rights aspects of the issue seriously. Those who are separated from their beloved families and homeland have a right to return to them, whether they are converts or non-converts. Conclusion The Korean NHRC was received enthusiastically by the mass media and NGO community as an essential part of a liberal and democratic state in this age of international human rights law. With less than 20 billion Won (approximately US$ 16 million) in budget, it endeavors to inspire the spirit of human rights into all state agencies in Korea. Without the Commission, human rights complaints would be less heard, more dispersed, and more costly to resolve. Now that all human rights issues and complaints sooner or later find their way to the Commission, both experience and expertise can rapidly develop and accumulate inside the single state agency. It has already dealt with dozens of interesting cases otherwise likely to be scattered and skipped over. Considering that it is a new and relatively small organization, the Commission has already made remarkable achievements. However, the Commission has failed to reach its full potential. Given its very competent and devoted staff, it would perform excellently if its organizational culture were changed to be more horizontal and cooperative. What is most needed at this point is an environment in which lively reflective and strategic discussions are encouraged to flourish. Above all, such discussions should prevail during the plenary meetings of the Commission so that its members can develop and share a heightened sense of direction. This is the key to the future success of the Commission.