New Board members elected, and awards presented, at first ever online General Assembly

  • post Type / Conferences
  • Date / 16 October 2020

Almost 100 representatives of humanist organizations around the world participated in Humanists International’s first ever online General Assembly.

Humanists International staff prepare for the online General Assembly in London, October 2020

The online meeting came after the cancellation of the 2020 World Humanist Congress, which was due to have taken place in Miami in August.

At the General Assembly Anne-France Ketelaer was re-elected as the Vice-President of Humanists International, and Anya Overmann was elected as the President of Young Humanists International. They will be joined on the Board by Dr Leo Igwe and Debbie Goddard who join the Board for the first time as general members.

Marieke Prien, former President of Young Humanists International

Marieke Prien, the outgoing President of Young Humanists International received a commendation for her work leading the international humanist youth section since her election in 2016. In particular the President noted her work to lead “the process of integrating Young Humanists International as a part of Humanists International, radically reducing the bureaucracy, and finding and engaging new volunteers all over the world” and also noted that she would leave a lasting legacy in the organisation, saying: “It will be a lasting tribute to Marieke’s diligence and hard work, that the President of Young Humanists International is to be made into a permanent Board position. Marieke has convinced us that the need for a dedicated youth perspective is invaluable for the organisation as we move forward.”

The following three people were awarded the 2020 Distinguished Service to Humanism Award:

  • Dr. Sudesh Ghoderao for his hard work and dedication as both the National General Secretary of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, and the Secretary of the Maharashtra Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith. Last year Sudesh helped MANS celebrate its 30 year anniversary by organising a conference on the theme of “Rationalism for Humanity” with hundreds of national and international delegates. The General Assembly noted that “On top of his leadership duties in the Indian humanist movement, Sudesh is also an Associate Professor of Chemistry with an impressive career in teaching and research, and has also been a delegate to many Humanists International events in the past.”
  • Bert Gasenbeek the outgoing director of the Humanist History Centre, which for many years contained the archives of Humanists International. Bert was recognised for his work to record, study, and preserve the rich humanist tradition – in both its corporate and its social manifestations. Remarking on Bert’s achievements, the President Andrew Copson commented: “I would like to thank him for his many years of dedicated service to humanism. He has surely earned his own place in the history books of our global movement!”
  • Becky Hale, a retiring member of the Board was noted for her particular contribution to the work of the organisation since 2017. Becky is a committed humanist, and a former president of the American Humanist Association. Commenting on Becky’s hard work and determination, Andrew Copson said “Becky has also earned her reputation as a hard worker. Being part of an international organization brings its challenges, the 5am zoom calls, the long layovers, and trying to maintain your focus during an 8 hour board meeting with jetlag! Becky has well and truly earned her stripes, and along with it the respect and admiration of her colleagues. “

The online General Assembly was well reviewed by participants, and seemed to go off without any significant technical difficulties.

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, said in his opening address:

“It has been heartening to see how the global humanist community has responded to these unprecedented challenges. The response has been awe inspiring. From the Uganda Humanist Association raising public awareness of the worrying rise in domestic violence during the lockdown, to the Humanist Society of Peru’s campaign to promote proper scientific information in the face of harmful falsehoods, to the Humanist Society of Singapore which quickly moved to develop a range of ‘Humanism at home’ resources for its members. These responses should give us heart, in these difficult times.”


Dr. Leo Igwe, Board Member of Humanists International

Commenting after his election to the Board, Dr Leo Igwe commented:

“Humanists International exists to promote humanism worldwide and has continued to further this goal since it was founded in 1952. Becoming a board member is an opportunity to serve and contribute to this mission. In the coming years, I look forward to working with other board members to ensure that the humanist umbrella extends to include humanists in some forgotten corners of the world, to protect humanists at risk and highlight those human rights abuses that are too often committed or to often ignored in the name of religion and superstition. I will work to ensure that Humanists International continues to grow in strength, number and influence”.


Anya Overmann, President of Young Humanists International

Commenting on her election to as President of Young Humanists International, Anya Overmann said:

“Thanks to all the members who supported my election. I am honoured to take on the legacy of former Young Humanists International President Marieke Prien and look forward to bringing a strong voice representing youth interests to the Board!”


Anne France Ketelaer, Vice-President of Humanists International

In her closing remarks to the General Assembly, newly re-elected Vice-President Anne-France Ketelaer said:

“I want to express my sincere gratitude for renewing my mandate to serve as your Vice-President. It’s an honour and a privilege to work alongside such a great team of dedicated people.

“Challenging times lay ahead of us. But we know that humanist values, and human solidarity, are the bedrock of our vision for a renewed world. We will build back, and we will build back better.”


Debbie Goddard, Board Member of Humanists International

Debbie Goddard was elected as Board Member of Humanists International. She said on her election:

“It is truly an honour to have the opportunity to serve on the Board of Humanists International. In a time when humanity faces new existential threats – including climate change, a global pandemic, growing authoritarianism, and profound attacks on free expression – the work of Humanists International has never been more important.

“As an organizer, I believe that people have more power to effect change, whether locally or on a global scale, when they work with others. It has been encouraging to see the growing number of humanists worldwide who are engaging in courageous activism, fostering supportive communities, and educating the public about humanism. It’s also exciting to see the successes of recent campaigns and programs by Humanists International that translate humanist values into effective actions.

“I appreciate the opportunity to further turn some of my own values into action by serving on the Board. I look forward to working with the board, staff, and members to continue to strengthen the humanist community, promote humanist values, and contribute to a better world together.”


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