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International Humanist Youth Conference 2002
Netherlands, 1-5 July, 2002

Introduction to Report

This 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 and cooperation.

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 them.

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 one another.

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 next morning.

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 movement.

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 in Utrecht.

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 youth conference.

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 was formed,
-a plan for a camp next year was presented, and:
-a group of people for the communication-structure of the IHEYO-network was formed.
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

1. Proposed IHEYO Youth Resolution

Whereas the IHEYO believes that the involvement of youth in the international humanist movement is of utmost importance for the present and future development of humanism;

Whereas non-participation of youth in the IHEU over its 50 year history is a matter of great concern;

Whereas, in order for humanism to grow in the 'real world,' the input and life experience of young people is essential;

Resolved, at each General Assembly young humanists will be represented and have the opportunity to fully participate;

Resolved, the IHEU will allocate funds each year for youth activities;

Resolved, each IHEU Congress will include youth activities both for youth specifically and that foster cooperation and integration of youth and non-youth participants;

Resolved, that IHEU will ensure that youth humanists from Global South are able to participate in all IHEYO activities;

Resolved, that each IHEU member organization will establish or expand youth activities;

Resolved, that IHEU will keep in mind the issues of concern to young humanists in any forum of NGOs, the UN and other intergovernmental organizations.

This resolution presented to the General Assembly of IHEU and was well received by the delegates. They pledged their support for the ideas within.