Looking to the future from the top of the world

Humanists from around the globe gather for meetings in Reykjavik, Iceland - and approve the Reykjavik Declaration on the Climate Change Conference

  • post Type / Conferences
  • Date / 2 June 2019

Representatives from Humanists International, Young Humanists International and the European Humanist Federation converged on Iceland this weekend for a series of events hosted by Siðmennt, the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association.

Humanists were welcomed this weekend to Iceland by the President of Iceland Mr. Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

The General Assemblies of Humanists International, Young Humanists International, and the European Humanist Federation were held alongside a conference by the Icelandic humanists.

In a fraternal address to the European Humanist Federation General Assembly on Friday, Humanists International president Andrew Copson spoke of the need for the European movement to connect with the rest of the world, adding: “We all know that the attitudes and ideas of humanism have co-originated and recurred throughout history and across the world in different times and places. It was in Europe that the modern organized humanist movement was founded, but for Humanists International it’s long been important to show that humanism is universal. So, Humanists International has been working very hard in recent years to broaden the international membership… And this work is paying off! We’re on track to have doubled our membership numbers from across those regions in that timeframe. A remarkable achievement on our staff.”

A conference by the Icelandic humanists on Saturday asked “What are the ethical questions of the 21st century”.

(Click the link to see all live-tweets by Humanists International from the conference.)

Sunday saw the General Assembly of Humanists International itself.

Delegates from around the world discussed and approved a new Reykjavik Declaration on the Climate Change Crisis, and approved changes to the Humanists International membership structure designed to increase democratic participation from newer humanist organizations.

The Reykjavik Declaration on the Climate Change Crisis

Read more

The new name, visual identity and corresponding website for Humanists International was demonstrated and welcomed by Board and delegates.

(Click the link to see all live-tweets by Humanists International from the General Assembly.)

There was a special mention for Ineke de Vries, former director of Humanistisch Verbond, the Dutch Humanist Association, who has fought back from a serious health concern in recent years, and whose commitment to the humanist movement has been unfailing. She now serves on the board of the European Humanist Federation.

In elections to the Board of Humanists International, Andrew Copson was returned in the role of President, Uttam Niraula (Nepal) was returned to the Board, and Roslyn Mould (Ghana), who has worked with Young Humanists International since 2014 was elected to the Board for the first time.

You can download the Annual Report of Humanists International (PDF).

Read President Andrew Copson’s opening address to the General Assembly

“At the opening of last year’s General Assembly, I started by saying it was the last time we would gather together under the old name for our organization, because by the next General Assembly we would be “Humanists International”…

And this is a pledge fulfilled!

I don’t know about you but I’m already very used to the new name and the new branding for our organization. And I think that is a testimony to how well the new designs fit our voice and our values, and how the staff have made the implementation so smooth and consistent. So here we are: welcome to the General Assembly of Humanists International!

I am sure that the new name and the new branding, along with the new website and new printed materials and everything else that comes along with such a change, is a huge boost for our work. We present now as a more modern, more connected organization, the name is easier to say(!), I think we are perceived as more welcoming and more energetic; and that’s all going to help us, whether it’s delivering advocacy, reaching new supporters, campaigning, recruiting new member organizations, and so on.

And indeed we have another record intake of new Member Organizations to ratify this year. The Growth & Development programme was focusing last year on Africa and this year on Asia and you’ll see that reflected in the list of new Member Organizations, once again showing how committed we are to making Humanists International truly international, and representative of humanists wherever in the world they are from.

There’s also been a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes, including some pretty radical revision of our financial arrangements. The chief executive will talk to you about that in more detail later, however I’ll say for now that the Board believes that the changes we’re making to our banking arrangements and our investment strategy mean that we’ll be more accountable — and most-importantly that we’re likely to have a significant boost to our annual income from investments going forwards.

As you should have seen in the months leading up to this meeting, we have also been consulting with Member Organizations on changes to our membership structure. Those of you at last year’s meeting will recall this that we presented a paper, and discussed together, the kinds of challenges presented by our membership structure. The last big revisions to the membership structure were made eight years ago. That’s not all that long on the timescale of an organization of our esteemed vintage! However, times changes and the balance of membership types shifts and the way we calculate fees and votes gets tested… So the Board thinks it’s only right that any democratic organization continually monitors and reviews its structure and pre-empts the structural issues. So thank you for discussing those issues with us last year, thanks to those of you who made comments during consultation on the proposals, and we’ll be having the discussion on that later, to see if you, the membership, feel the proposed changes address the concerns we identified and whether the proposals should be adopted today.

Thank you to everyone who is here and thank you to all the Member Organizations who have nominated proxies if they couldn’t be here to vote.”

I think you’ll agree that it’s been a busy period – especially taking into account that we’ve had a shorter gap than usual between General Assemblies this past year. So with all this to discuss it’s a busy General Assembly, we’d better get started!

Welcome to the Humanists International General Assembly 2019.”

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