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This is one of several documents that are part of the IHEU Bylaws structure, supplementing the Bylaws and the Internal Rules.

This version was adopted by the Executive Committee in August 2009.

1 Introduction

1.1 An international Congress shall be convened by the General Assembly not less than once in five years. (Bylaw 7). However, IHEU usually holds Congresses every three years in different parts of the world.

1.2 Each Congress is organised by one or more host Member Organisations(s) in cooperation with the IHEU Executive Committee (EC).(IR No 7.2)

1.3 Notice of the date and city of the Congress shall be given to all Member Organizations and individual supporters at least one year in advance (IR No 7.1) but chapter 8 of this document sets out a timetable.

2 Aims and purposes of IHEU Congresses

2.1 IHEU Congresses aim to:

  • Bring together members of IHEU’s Member Organisations and individual supporters to discuss matters of concern, to learn and to draw inspiration from each other
  • Focus global humanist attention on selected issues, so that an IHEU position on the issue can be formulated
  • Showcase the role and aims of IHEU and promoting knowledge and understanding of IHEU among other NGOs in the region
  • Create increased visibility for IHEU and humanism in the media, thereby achieving a generally raised profile for Humanism and humanist concerns in the region.
  • Help build a network of international contacts among Congress participants
  • Create opportunities for IHEU-kindred organisations to participate in our activities and meetings, on a reciprocal basis

3 Hosting a Congress

3.1 Congresses are hosted by (one or more) Member Organisation(s). The host is responsible for making all arrangements, setting the budget for the congress, and takes any profit, but also the financial risk of hosting the congress. IHEU is not liable for any costs of the congress.

3.2 Any Member Organisation(s) may bid to host a Congress. The process for becoming a host organisation is as follows:

3.2.1 IHEU’s EC will send out a call to MOs for bids for the next Congress, at least 9 months before the General Assembly four years before the Congress year. Bids must be submitted to the EC 60 days before the GA.

3.2.2 Bids to host a congress must include sufficient information for the EC to make a decision, including the proposed city (or information on the process of choosing the city), a suggested theme, likely cost for participants and any early thoughts on possible participant/tourist trips that could be organised either before or after the congress.

3.2.3 If there is more than one bid, the EC will evaluate the bids and select a host, and seek the General Assembly’s ratification. The host will then have a year to prepare a presentation for the Congress in the following year.

3.2.4 In entering a bid, the host Member Organisation(s) is agreeing to carry out their task on behalf of IHEU under these Regulations, and with the understanding that IHEU will not be responsible for any financial undertaking in connection with the Congress.

3.2.5 When a host has been chosen and ratified by the GA, the host will sign an agreement with IHEU setting out the agreement in the paragraph above and a timetable leading to the Congress.

4 Organising a Congress

4.1 The host should set up an Organising Committee to make all the arrangements and to formulate the programme. IHEU will appoint an EC Congress Liaison Person who needs to be kept informed of the progress of the organisation of the Congress and who will report back to the EC. The Chair of the organising committee and the IHEU Liaison person will need to be in regular contact. There may also be an Organiser (often a staff member of the host organisation) to deal with all the practical arrangements.

4.2 The Congress is usually scheduled to last for a minimum two-and-a-half days, ideally over a weekend in order to maximize attendance.

4.3 The host’s Organising Committee is responsible for choosing a venue, a theme and creating a varied and interesting programme for humanists around the world, and agreeing that programme with IHEU. That programme should contain a mixture of plenary sessions, participatory workshops, discussion groups and cultural activities. IHEU will help and assist in anyway in terms of ideas, support and invitations, and will also arrange for a call for papers, workshops or sessions to be sent to Member Organisations and individual supporters.

4.4 The theme (and the whole programme) should be international rather than specific to the host country. The theme must be agreed withIHEU EC before any announcement.

4.5 The programme must contain:

  • Inaugural session (half a day): which consists of welcome addresses from the President of IHEU and the host organisation, messages of welcome (if possible) from the host country’s leaders etc. keynote address(es) (a general exposition of the congress theme) No discussion
  • Dinner: ideally the evening before the end of Congress during which IHEU Awards are presented and IHEU is given an opportunity to raise funds from the Congress participants. The dinner venue must be suitable for speeches and presentations.
  • Final Plenum (half a day): where resolutions put forward by Member Organisations before Congress and/or by Congress participants in workshops etc are proposed and discussed, if accepted by the Resolutions Committee. Final summing up of the congress and a closing ceremony.
  • The remaining one-and-a-half days normally comprise parallel sessions and workshops. In recent Congresses, one half-day has been allocated to three parallel sessions and two half-days to four workshops in each half-day. However, IHEU is open to other suggestions from the organising committee.
  • Cultural event(s) that showcase the host nation’s culture.

4.6 Whilst IHEU congresses bring IHEU closer to IHEU Member Organisations (and to potential members) in the region, it is expected that there will be an appropriate mixture of regional and international content. IHEU Congresses will ideally reflect the colour and variety of the Humanist spectrum around the world, and enable humanists of the region and international visitors to learn about each other’s concerns and activities. The programme must also be relevant to young people.

4.7 Ensuring a good participation from countries around the world is the host’s responsibility, and IHEU will help as well. Therefore a robust marketing and promotion plan is essential early in the congress planning.

4.8 Part of ensuring a wide participation, is the provision of travel grants for Humanists from developing countries. The host organisation is expected to offer some funds for travel grants and IHEU will also source some. IHEU EC invites travel grant applications and allocates the funds.

5 IHEU General Assembly and EC

5.1 Arrangements for various other meetings in conjunction with the congress need to be planned by the host with the venue. They are as follows:

5.1.1 IHEU annual General Assembly (GA) which is held both before (for one whole day) and after the Congress (for half a day, to ratify any Resolutions passed at the Congress). IHEU’s Secretary to the GA will be the person who will liaise with the Organiser about the arrangements for this meeting. Whilst it is hoped that the venue costs will be part of the overall Congress venue costs, IHEU will be responsible for the costs of this meeting.

5.1.2 IHEU’s EC also meets before the General Assembly, during the Congress if necessary, and afterwards, and the EC may wish to hold other committee meetings when so many people are gathered together. IHEU’s Secretary to the EC will inform the Organiser of dates and times.

5.1.3 The Congress Resolutions Committee will also need to meet (see section 7)

5.1.4 IHEYO, the youth organisation may also have their GA and/or conference around the Congress, and the host’s Organiser will need to work with IHEYO EC to make these arrangements.

5.1.5 There are other organisations that have a protocol with IHEU and there may be a regional section of IHEU who need to have a meeting or GA during the congress week.

6 Speakers

6.1 IHEU is a federation of Humanist, Atheist, Rationalist, Secularist, Ethical Cultural and Freethought organisations. All these groups stand for democracy, human rights and secular ethics, and it is therefore expected that all the Chairs and speakers invited will normally be unambiguously humanists. Exceptions could be made for invitations to people with specific roles related to the theme or who are in positions in government. Such people should be generally sympathetic to the humanist cause.

6.2 The official congress language in English. But it is possible to also use the language of the host country provided that simultaneous translation is provided for any plenary session. Workshops may be in different languages, provided it is clearly stated in the programme and there is a sufficient range of other options in English also provided at the same time.

6.3 The programme must contain speakers from a range of countries. They need to be chosen, not only for their eminence, but also their ability to clearly communicate with an international audience in an engaging manner. They are also expected to keep to their time limits.

7 Congress Resolutions

7.1 Congresses are governed by IHEU’s Internal Rules, which allow for resolutions to be submitted before Congress and also formulated during Congress. These are debated in the final Plenum session, provided the Congress Resolutions Committee agree.

7.2 So the host organisation will need to arrange for the Congress Resolutions Committee to meet and also for photocopying of resolutions for the Plenum, including ensuring that the costs for this is in their budget.

7.3 The Internal Rules state:

  • The General Assembly shall appoint a Congress Resolutions Committee at their meeting a year prior to the Congress. The committee shall include individuals from at least three countries and a member of the Executive Committee. (IR No. 7.4.1)
  • Resolutions to Congress may be proposed by Member Organizations and shall be clearly identified as to their source and shall be accompanied by a statement of the President/Chair of the Member Organization, or other authorised person, that the resolution have been duly agreed to by the management/executive committee of the Member Organization for presentation to Congress. (IR No 7.4.2)
  • Resolutions must be submitted to the IHEU office at least 90 days prior to the opening date of the Congress, and shall be distributed to Member Organizations and those attending Congress 30 days before the opening of Congress. (IR No 7.4.3)
  • The Resolutions Committee shall decide which resolutions shall be presented to the Plenum of Congress. They may refuse to refer a resolution in whole or in part to Congress and may combine multiple resolutions to form composite resolutions. They shall communicate their decisions, with explanations, to the submitting Member Organization before the Congress mailing is sent 30 days before the opening. (IR No 7.4.4)
  • Workshops held at Congress may also present resolutions to the Plenum provided they are approved by the Resolutions Committee. (IR No 7.45)
  • A motion to amend a resolution that has been previously circulated shall state precisely which part(s) of a resolution are to be amended and shall be deposited with the IHEU office or with the Congress office (during Congress) at least 24 hours before the Plenum. The Resolutions Committee shall decide whether such amendments shall be put to the Plenum. Resolutions or motions to amend resolutions shall not be accepted from the Plenum. (IR No 7.4.6)
  • Resolutions passed by the Plenum of Congress shall bind the IHEU only when and if adopted by the General Assembly at a regularly scheduled meeting. (IR No 7.4.7)

8 Timetable

8.1 For a Congress to be successful, there needs to be a planning timetable that the host organisation needs to be prepared to follow. It is also important that sufficient, timely and interesting advance publicity is produced to publicise the Congress and attract an international audience.

8.2 The timetable is as follows:

  • 4 years before: EC invites bids 9 months before the GA
  • 4 years (60 days before GA) bids received by the EC and the host is chosen
  • 4 years before: IHEU GA ratifies the host.
  • 4 months after GA: IHEU/host sign agreement
  • 6 months after GA: Host set up an Organising Committee and inform IHEU of Committee Chair and Organiser: IHEU informs host of the EC Liaison Person
  • 9 months after GA: Theme agreed by the EC (this is the latest – it could have been part of the bid)
  • 3 years before: Previous congress – host organisation makes a presentation.
  • 20 months before: a firm date, venue and participants cost + outline programme with preview of major sessions to be agreed with IHEU EC
  • 18 months before: Preliminary announcement and call for papers
  • 10 months before: agree 2nd announcement and booking form with IHEU
  • 9 months before: 2nd announcement with preliminary programme with a Congress title, dates, location, brief details of accommodation options, information of getting a visa, preview of major sessions and speakers and an integrated booking form on line. Booking and payment for the Congress and GA and other planned events should be integrated into a single system. Information about travel to the venue, hotel lists (with costs), visas and other practical pre-Congress matters need to be available on line at that time. IHEU will arrange a link from its website.
  • 30 days before: updated programme (with language of sessions where not English) + travel details to the venue and where to register on arrival + congress resolutions – to be sent via email to all those who have registered and paid.
  • At the Congress: a “final” detailed printed programme including a full conference programme with clear session titles and where discussion is planned, the questions that the group will address (but not abstracts of papers to be presented), brief speaker biographies, times of sessions and breaks, when doors will open for each session, what catering facilities will be provided, the language in which the session will be conducted, what translation facilities will be available, arrangements for proposing resolutions to Congress, information about travel to the venue and getting to the accommodation, and other practical matters.
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