Global humanist community meets to discuss their role in “building better democracies”

  • post Type / Conferences
  • Date / 14 August 2023

From 3rd to 6th August 2023, over 400 delegates from 43 countries took part in the World Humanist Congress, the first in-person Congress to take place since 2014.

During an energizing Congress organized by the Danish Humanist Society (Humanistisk Samfund) in collaboration with other Nordic humanist organizations – namely Norwegian Humanist Association (Human-Etisk Forbund), the Union of Freethinkers of Finland (Vapaa ajattelijat), Humanists Sweden (Humanisterna), the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association (Sidmennt) – on the theme of “building better democracies,” delegates shared experiences and learning on a range of issues from ‘Challenges to democracy in Africa’ to ‘The threat to democracy from conspiracy thinking’. Speakers included Sandi Toksvig, Andrew Copson, Nicole Carr, CEO of the American Humanist Association, artist Victoria Gugenheim, Leo Igwe, philosopher Lars Fredrik Svendsen, and Remus Cernea, journalist reporting from Ukraine.

During the Congress, the delegates discussed and adopted a new declaration on “Democracy: a humanist value”, which was later adopted by the General Assembly. The General Assembly also passed a more timely resolution, referring to the challenges to democracy around the world at the present time. During the General Assembly, an emergency resolution was proposed by Humanists UK, in conjunction with several Indian delegates, on the restoration of armed protection for Prof. Narendra Nayak. This final resolution was adopted unanimously. You can read them below.

Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International

During the Congress’ Gala Dinner, Andrew Copson, President of Humanists International, presented the 2023 Distinguished Service to Humanism Award to retiring Board member Kristin Mile. During the presentation, he said:

“Kristin Mile’s achievements are not confined to her organizational roles alone. She has been a tireless advocate for human rights, tirelessly working to ensure that the principles of humanism are upheld in society. Her voice has resonated in countless debates, conferences, and public forums, as she fearlessly championed the rights of the marginalized, fought against discrimination, and tirelessly worked towards a more inclusive and compassionate world.”

“Kristin’s impact as a leader, advocate, and ambassador for humanism is immeasurable. Her work has touched the lives of countless individuals, offering solace, support, and a sense of belonging to those who have felt marginalized or ignored. Her compassion knows no bounds, and her commitment to promoting humanist values remains unwavering.”

At the democratic heart of the Congress, Humanists International’s General Assembly 2023 was also held, counting on the participation of 130 delegates from 27 countries; among them representatives of Members and Associates, staff and Board Members of Humanists International.

Sadly, Anne-France Ketelaer, Vice-President of Humanists International was unable to attend the Congress. In her absence she was awarded with the 2023 Distinguished Service to Humanism Award. As she was retiring from the Board, the President, Andrew Copson, gave this testimonial in her absence:

“As Anne-France prepares to step down from her role as Vice President of Humanists International, we take this moment to reflect upon her extraordinary achievements and the profound impact she has had on our collective efforts to build a better world. Through her visionary leadership and unwavering dedication, she has elevated the cause of humanism to new heights.”

“Anne-France, your contributions to the advancement of humanism are immeasurable. Your passion, empathy, and commitment to the principles of humanism have inspired us all to continue the fight for a more just and humane world. Today, as we present you with the 2023 Distinguished Services to Humanism Award, we honor not only your incredible work but also the hope and inspiration you have instilled in all of us.”

The Award was collected by Yvan Dheur in her absence.

During his opening remarks, President of Humanists International, Andrew Copson, stated:

“The theme of this Congress reminds us that humanist values have the power to overcome the challenges of our time. We believe in the inherent potential of humanity to create positive change, to forge inclusive societies that respect individual freedoms and uphold human rights. We have the tools, the knowledge, and the collective will to confront the pressing issues of our era and shape a brighter future.”

“Together, we can address the climate crisis, economic inequalities, and the persistent threat of bigotry and discrimination. By celebrating diversity, promoting education, and supporting the marginalized, we can build societies that thrive on compassion, reason, and evidence-based decision-making.”

Uttam Niraula

Uttam Niraula, Ambassador of Humanists International

Uttam Niraula, Ambassador of Humanists International, also gave a welcome speech to the General Assembly, during which he said:

“In today’s world, where populist narratives and divisive rhetoric seem to dominate political landscapes, our responsibility as humanists becomes all the more crucial. We must stand as a beacon of reason, challenging dogma and superstition, and advocating for evidence-based decision-making. By championing critical thinking, rationality, and science, we can counter the spread of misinformation and ensure that policies are grounded in truth and compassion.”

During the General Assembly Board elections, Apara Karki (nominated by Society for Humanism Nepal) was elected for the first time, following her co-option by the Board in 2022. Debbie Goddard (nominated by American Atheists), and Leo Igwe (nominated by the Humanist Association of Nigeria) were both re-elected to the Board again. Alavari Jeevathol (AJ – nominated by Humanists UK), Maggie Ardiente (nominated by American Humanist Association), and Nina Fjeldheim (nominated by Norwegian Humanist Association) were all elected for the first time to the Board. All the elected Board members will serve a three year term from 2023 to 2026.

Roslyn Mould was elected as the new Vice-President of Humanists International. In her closing remarks as Vice-President-Elect, Roslyn paid tribute to her predecessor:

“Before we proceed, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to an exceptional individual who has been a guiding light for our organization. Anne-France Ketelaer, our outgoing Vice-President, is an inspiration to us all. Her unwavering dedication to the humanist cause has left an indelible mark on Humanists International and the global humanist community. Unfortunately, Anne-France is unable to be present at this General Assembly, but her legacy and the impact of her work continue to resonate within the very fabric of our organization. Let us give her a heartfelt round of applause for her selfless service and unwavering commitment.”

She then went on to say:

“As we move forward, let us be reminded that the path towards progress is often challenging, but it is our shared commitment and determination that will drive us forward. Together, we have the power to create positive change and advocate for the causes we hold dear. It is up to us to be the change we wish to see in the world.”

“Humanists International is more than just an organization; it is a collective force for good. Our global network of humanist organizations and individuals has the potential to be a transformative force in shaping a brighter future for humanity.”

The General Assembly ratified the application of the following new Members:
Ethical Society of Zambia
Free Thought Association (Namibia)
Kenya Humanists
Czech Humanists

And the following new Associates:
Chanan Development Association
Stockport Humanists
Humanist Association of Toronto
Ruhiira Humanist Initiative For Community Development
Accra Atheists
Secular Coalition for America

Also, during the General Assembly, changes were approved to the bylaws of the organization.

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