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International Humanist Youth Conference 2002
Netherlands, 1-5 July, 2002
has been the first International Humanist youth conference in several years.
It was the start for further international cooperation among youth and youth
organizations. Besides this main goal, this conference offered an enriching
experience where participants discussed and learned more about humanism, humanist
orgamizations in other countries, and about how to organize or campaign for
humanist youth activities. It was an opportunity to meet people from other
cultures, make new friends and start new relations of information-sharing
In total 45 people participated in the Youth Conference from 16 countries.
Most of the participants are linked with a humanist organisation, as an active
volunteer, member of a board, employee or member. There were young humanists
from humanist youth organizations as well as from national humanist organizations
that offer specific activities for youth. Unfortunately, several youth from
Global South were unable to attend due to the refusal of Dutch Embassies to
grant visas despite the efforts IHEYO and the participants undertook to obtain
At this conferece a resolution about youth humanism was formulated that was
adopted by the IHEU General Assembly that week. Click
here for the resolution.
1 July - Monday evening
Introduction at Youth Hostel Bunnik
After everyone had been checked in throughout the afternoon, we all ate a
meal together in the youth hostel's dining room. Here the very first cross-cultural
conversations really flourished, as citizens of over 16 countries dined with
Following dinner, we moved to a large room with chairs arranged in a circle.
Gea Meijers (Dutch) year-long intern at IHEU and primary organizer of the
conference, started the introduction with Vincent Lloyd, international coordinator
IHEYO and citizine of the USA. Vincent then introduced the other organizers
of the Youth Conference:VB Rawat of Social Development Foundation in India,
Patricia van Wickeren of Jonge Humanisten Netherlands, James Walker from the
United States and month-long intern at IHEU, and Hans Hoekzema, former IHEYO-coordinator
for many years from the Netherlands who was going to help us with the first
evening. In addition, the group was addressed by Babu Gogineni, Executive
Director of IHEU, who delighted in seeing the fifty gathered participants
but also reminded them to carry their enthusiasm back with them to their homes.
Gea then explained the context of the conference and its objectives to start
future cooperation among each other. And she invited everyone to tell their
name, group affiliation, country, and what hopes they had for the conference.
This was a valuable overview of our large diversity, both between countries
and between different aspects of humanism.
After this introduction each organizer took a set of 7-8 individuals
away for a more close-knit conversation. The point of the smaller groups was
to a) learn each other's names, and b) find out more about the definition and
meaning of humanism for the participants. Some of the topics presented by the
mediators were "Describe a moment in your life when humanism had a great
impact on you," or "What is the reason you became a humanist?"
These discussions were designed to facilitate the group members, despite their
national, cultural, and linguistic differences, to see the similarities between
them and the humanism that brought them to Holland. Afterwards, each group presented
its thoughts and conclusions to all the others, and a tone of acceptance and
openness was set for the rest of the conference, which was adjourned until the
2 July - Tuesday morning
Laying the Groundwork
After breakfast and transport to the University for Humanistics
in Utrecht, presentations about IHEYO and the European Youth Programme were
made. These were well-received as sources of support and funding that were made
available to the participants for their future projects.
After this, the participants were split into their organizations, given supplies,
and told to prepare for a presentation of their organization to everyone. When
this was completed (and after a coffee break, of course), the organizers put
on a series of intercultural games/discussions. There was "Can You Trade
Values?" where value statements are put on cards and each person must trade
these cards to get those values most dear to him. There was "Where Do You
Stand?" in which a statement is presented to the group, and the room is
divided into 'Agree' and 'Disagree.' Each person must decide which side he/she
belongs to with regards to the statement, and then a dialogue between sides
is started to explain the differing viewpoints. Finally, there was an "Onion-layers/Be
Creative" game where the people could sing, dance and sit together as way
to learn about their different cultures.
2 July - Tuesday afternoon
Learning about each organization and its ideas
After lunch, the first round of organization presentations began. For a complete
list of organizations present and their projects summaries, please see the
database-section which will be added soon to this website. After the presentations
there was time for two workshops, a discussion group about the IHEYO-structure
and a group preparing resolutions. The first workshop was on conflict in a
multicultural society, led by VB Rawat. The starting point for this workshop
was the growing tension over the past years between Hindus and Muslims in
Pakistan and India. As an expert, Rawat gave an introduction to this.
The second workshop was a discussion on where the boundaries of humanism
lie, and in what ways IHEYO should be bound by them. This discussion at
times got very heated, as well as very abstract, as many of the issues confronting
modern humanism were addressed. In the end, questions concerning our treatment
of other religions (particularly Islam) was resolved by the position that
any violation of human rights or incitement to violate those rights was
to be struggled against with maximum effort, while tolerance and dialogue
were to be used otherwise. It was also determined that each case must be
decided on its own merits, because only by keeping specific can you avoid
the dangers of broad generalizations. The same ideas held true for the stance
on political ideologies, and as one member remarked, "Ideologies don't
violate rights, people do." Clearly, with so many different national
situations represented at the discussion, this was a useful guideline that
will allow IHEYO to aid specific groups on specific issues without getting
muddled in rhetoric.
The group talking about the IHEYO formed a plan for its structure of continental
and national coordinators, later to be presented to the whole group for
further brainstorming. And the group preparing resolutions sat together
for the first time discussing youth involvement in the humanist movement
and also discussing education as an important factor in the lives of youth.
On Monday evening the organizers had asked the whole group who wanted to
prepare the resolutions and some enthousiastic people volunteered. The resolutions
were presented on Friday in the plenary of the youth conference and were
aimed to be presented to the General Assembly of IHEU and Humanist World
Congress, asking for more priority to be given to youth matters in the humanist
After the workshops and small groups the organization presentations continued
until everyone went out to dinner in the city of Utrecht. Later, the group
split into two groups and went to Amsterdam, seeing the sights of the city
from the canals that transect it. The group then returned to the hostel
picture of participants
3 July - Wednesday morning
Presentations and trainings
Once again the University of Humanistics in Utrecht provided the setting
for the Youth Conference, and the morning was filled with more organization
presentations. After the coffee break, a set of trainings was offered to the
participants in one of three categories: Teambuilding and Conflict Resolution,
Humanist Youth Celebrations and European Funding and Resources for Groups.
These trainings were designed to be useful in generating ideas about what
an organization could do in the future and how to bring that about successfully.
The training about humanist youth celebrations was specifically aimed at sharing
each other forms of celebration and to network with each other.
3 July - Wednesday afternoon
Brainstorming about future plan and group-picture
After lunch, the final presentations were given; all in all the scope of
the various youth organizations in attendance was amazing. From those that
worked with summer camps and youth activities to those that worked for secularization
or women's rights, the whole range of humanistic activities was represented.
Following this, we did a brainstorming session around possible plans for the
future of the international youth humanism network. The list included: introduce
humanism into public schools (as an alternative to religious study), raise
international awareness of humanist youth, have a say in UN decisions affecting
youth, organize more conferences, both regional and international, make a
website and/or database with all member organizations' information, start
an email listserve devoted to IHEYO issues, help and inform start-up groups,
begin an international youth camp, develop connections between the University
of Humanistics and IHEYO, edit/write a newsletter, translate and distribute
resources/information, get a member on the IHEU Board. There were a lot of
great ideas, and some are already in the process of being implemented. Finally,
everyone loaded up to go to the World Humanist Congress in Noordwijkerhout,
where we arrived just in time for dinner and speeches. But before that there
were groupfoto's taken and not once or twice but around ten camera's wanted
to take a picture!
4 July - Thursday,
World Humanist Congress, first day
This day was dedicated to making the youth presence felt at the IHEU congress,
as well as to foster communication and cooperation between the IHEYO members
and the larger humanist community. Participants attended workshops addressed
by prominent humanists, and could go on excursions on the work of the Dutch
humanist organization. In addition, the resolution group met to work on writing
the resolutions to be presented to the World Congress on behalf of the IHEYO
5 July - Friday morning,
Closing of the Youth Conference
After speeches by Levi Fragell (President of IHEU), Roy Brown (Vice President
of IHEU) and Matt Cherry (IHEU UN Representative) about the challenges of
the future for humanism in different parts of the world, as well as the important
role that youth plays in that future, discussion was opened on the resolutions
to be presented to the World Congress. The first, a resolution on the relationship
between IHEU and youth, was passed with several minor adjustments (see the
resolution-part for a copy of this document). The second, on education and
humanism, was after a similar reworking. It must be said, however, that time
restrictions and a lack of process led to the belief by some participants
that the statements were invalid as representational documents. The process
of creation, discussion, adoption, and presentation of resolutions is something
to be worked on before future conferences.
After the discussion about resolutions we discussed again future plans and
the structure of IHEYO, but now in a more contcrete way than on Wednesday:
-a planning group for the next conference to be held in Germany next year
-a plan for a camp next year was presented, and:
-a group of people for the communication-structure of the IHEYO-network was
More plans were also mentioned in the evalutation forms that were filled in
by participants or were mentioned earlier.
At almost one o'clock the conference was brought officially to a close, and
all members were thanked for their enthusiasm and participation. Goodbyes
and information were exchanged with those leaving, while the majority attended
the World Congress for the rest of Friday and Saturday.
6 July -Saturday
Closure of the World Humanist Congress
The World Humanist Congress closed with accepting the renewed Amsterdam declaration
which give a contemporary view of the humanist stance and its principles.
The Amsterdam declaration was first accepted at the founding congress of IHEU
and after 50 years the ideas have not changed that much whihc speaks for the
strength of its ideas. Also as one of the closing plenary speeches IHEYO could
speak. Vincent Lloyd (USA, IHEYO), Gea Meijers (Netherlands, intern IHEU),
Gosia Minta (Poland, Polish Humanist Association) and Andreas Palmqvist (Sweden,
Humanisterna) told about IHEYO, its activities, the youth conference and briefly
the resolutions. Due to a miscommunication the resolutions were not presented
at the Congress but only at the General Assembly were the one about youth
involvement in the humanist movement was well recieved.
Looking back the most important reasons making the conference a success, were
in the title - it was international, and it was humanist. The belief in humanism,
rational and secular in character, brought everyone together within a common
framework that allowed the reciprocal flow of ideas and opinions. The international
quality of the varied participants gave many different viewpoints and created
numerous opportunities for learning and sharing across cultures.
Very unfortunate in this respect remains that the invited young humanists
from Africa could not obtain a visa regardless of the many efforts IHEU/IHEYO
and the participants themselves undertook.
For the participants who could come, the enthusiasm generated by this convergence
of identities gave the participants a sense of optimism that the work of IHEYO
would continue, and that they will be an integral part in a worthwhile and
powerful cause. We will meet again!
Conference Resolution adopted by the IHEU at their 2002 General Assembly
Proposed IHEYO Youth Resolution
the IHEYO believes that the involvement of youth in the international humanist
movement is of utmost importance for the present and future development of
non-participation of youth in the IHEU over its 50 year history is a matter
of great concern;
in order for humanism to grow in the 'real world,' the input and life experience
of young people is essential;
at each General Assembly young humanists will be represented and have the
opportunity to fully participate;
the IHEU will allocate funds each year for youth activities;
each IHEU Congress will include youth activities both for youth specifically
and that foster cooperation and integration of youth and non-youth participants;
that IHEU will ensure that youth humanists from Global South are able to participate
in all IHEYO activities;
that each IHEU member organization will establish or expand youth activities;
that IHEU will keep in mind the issues of concern to young humanists in any
forum of NGOs, the UN and other intergovernmental organizations.
resolution presented to the General Assembly of IHEU and was well received
by the delegates. They pledged their support for the ideas within.