Youthspeak Vol 4, issue 6

youthspeak vol 4 issue 6

YouthSpeak newsletter of IHEYO

Vol. 4 issue 6, Summer 2007


In this Issue

The Headlines

ARTICLE: IHEYO's renewed communication strategy
Meeting South Asian working group

In The Spotlight

Lars-Petter Helgestad

Humanist News

IHEYO's 2007 General Assembly
Other news: IHEU repeats position on Darfur, American Humanist Association organises web-contest for humanist videos, new president for British Humanist Association

Note from the Chief Editor

Hi all,

As you will read in this newsletter, IHEYO has appointed a new Chief Editor. I want to grasp this opportunity to tell you all a bit more about myself – the article on IHEYO's renewed communication strategy will tell you more about what I'm doing and what I will be doing in the next few months.

Being 25 years old, I have spent most of my life in Belgium, except for two stays in respectively the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa. Having been a committed humanist atheist for as long as I can think of, these stays abroad radicalised my atheist views as I was confronted with more obscurantist sides of religion than the ones I was used to. Being convinced that the realisation of a desirable future can only be the result of a this-worldly ethics, I am most happy to be appointed to the job of spreading information on humanist thought, providing information on humanism and supporting a worldwide community of young humanists.

The feeling to belong to a worldwide community has already been very comforting. It is most important to me that this monthly newsletter and the website reflect the views of this worldwide community, and the kind support of IHEYO members has helped me so far. However, I would like everyone of you to become involvled in our communication strategy, in order to make sure that it reflects your views, interests and concerns (and worries). You are all very welcome to send me news, articles or other information on your organisation or events. Your feedback on this newsletter, reactions to articles or any other kind of letter is equally important to me. So, just write to!



****************************Headlines **************************

ARTICLE: IHEYO's renewed communication strategy

Fall 2006, IHEYO decided to rebuild its current website ( into a Content Management System1-powered webspot. While providing information on humanism as a life-stance in a format tailored to youngsters, this renewed website would also integrate the already existing IHEYO-forum ( and allow for the management of the email-lists. These technical concerns obviously emanated from the growing importance of virtual communication in people's lives. Therefore, a powerful website can be a major tool to facilitate the spread of humanist thought and humanist organising.

The renewal of IHEYO's website within an integrated communication strategy thus became a foremost project for the organisation. Since early July I (Joris Verschueren) have been appointed Communication Officer of IHEYO. The implementation of IHEYO's new communication ambitions presents me with some challenges. I'll hover over some of those quickly.

First and foremost, our organisation's website should provide the interested internet surfer with up-front information on humanism and our organisation. As an organisation for young humanists, it should provide the curious and uninformed with accessible reading bits on humanism. At the same time however, the thirst for information of the more knowledgeable humanist must equally be quenched. And last but not least, our website must be an inviting portal for these humanist individuals and organisations to become involved with our organisation.

To these ends, the architecture of the website is being redesigned. The already existent highlights, such as the “humanism??”-, the “humanist thinkers”- or the Youthspeak archive-sections, to name but a few, will of course be retained. But the overarching idea is that they will be extended and complemented with information on the functioning of our organisation, on our campaigns, our members, and the like ... Not only will the new architecture be more intuitively navigable, the content will be largely expanded – especially the thinkers and education sections could use some updating – and supplemented with other resources and links.

But, as said, our website should not limit itself to the unidirectional provision of information. It ambitions to become a platform for exchange on humanist issues between our member organisations, their members and members of the general public. Moreover, it is to become a tool in the hands of our member organisations, a tool that they can use to organise and discuss on the world-wide web (see also the interview with Lars-Petter Helgestad in this issue). Dynamics that come about on this web-portal can result in material advances for our member organisations.

Therefore, the already existing forum will be integrated in the website. It will gain a more prominent position alongside the other information provided. Pages on humanist issues, thinkers or education will include space for discussion and link through to corresponding forum items. The provision of more topics for discussion intends to make the forum more vibrant and thus to draw more visitors of the website into conversations on humanism. In order to attract more participants to our forums, we will experiment with the integration of discussion groups of member organisations into the overall IHEYO website – following the idea that our website should become a tool in their hands.

This strategy touches upon a third concern – sustainability. The renewed IHEYO website is to become the result of a participatory endeavour. The expansion of fora throughout the website is an implicit invitation for visitors to contribute content to our website, content that subsequently becomes part of the information provided. As this participation is fundamental to the vibrancy of our website, my aim is to set up website working group to maintain the website, be it by providing content, be it by managing the website's architecture, be it by moderating one or more fora. This aims to kill two birds with one stone; first of all, as soon as the website is no longer authored by one single person, it better reflects the international humanist community – a group will always provide more, and more diversified content – secondly, as things are now, IHEYO can only count on my work as a communication officer until the end of December. From then on, the maintenance of the website has to be handed over to a group of volunteers. The website working group will gain full prominence once the new website is taken on-line and has replaced the current one, but a small number of volunteers has already taken up this work. So, take this as a warm invitation to become involved in the creation of IHEYO's public image! If you want to contribute, in any way, to the new website or the new communication strategy, please contact me ASAP!

A fourth, but therefore not less important concern – it's based on my experience when I lived in Africa – is the accessibility of our website. As an international organisation, IHEYO cannot afford to boast a website that is only accessible over a high-speed connection such as broadband. This implies that the design, the “fanciness” of our website, however important, may not hamper the transfer of the information it contains. We are now working on different lay-outs, for our visitors to choose according to the speed of their connection. We hope that a leaner design will undergird the openness, the vibrancy and the liveliness of our foremost communication channel.

This, of course, has been a lot of talk on a project that is not finalised yet. We hope to get it up and running in a few weeks time. I, for one, hope that this project may have enthused you, and the sooner you take part, the sooner it will be ready! So:!

Joris Verschueren, Communication Officer of IHEYO

Initiating “Organized Young Humanist Movement” in Asia

The Asian working group of IHEYO organized a three day meeting in Nepal from 1–3 June 2007 to set the future plan of the group. This meeting has formally started up "The Organized Youth Humanist Activism" in Asia. Moreover, this meeting changed the name of the Asian group formally to "Asian Humanist Alliance of IHEYO”, resulting in the acronym (AHA)-IHEYO.

The meeting treated the fifteen issues on the agenda as proposed by Uttam, Executive Member of IHEYO, taking into consideration the different opinions of the proposed members of AHA-IHEYO. Of course, as it was the first meeting for groups stemming from the Asian region it was basically focused on the formation of Asian Humanist Alliance- IHEYO.

Several issues and topics on the agenda of AHA-IHEYO have been finalised, such as the action plan, activities, guidelines and AHA-IHEYO's institutional structure. IHEYO has invited two participants from India and two from Nepal for the meeting. Mr. Abhilash from India, Mr. Uttam & Raju from Nepal played a vital role for the fully interactive meeting.

The meeting has set the basic guidelines for the group to operate and function in a democratic way. It has been worked out to be helpful for the decision making process of AHA-IHEYO. The meeting has endorsed a steering committee consisting of 5 members, based on a two-tiered structure of the institution. Hereunder, the first steering committee of the AHA-IHEYO as endorsed by the meeting of the group is presented.




Uttam Niraula






Raju P.Chetri



Harpreet Kaur






The current steering committee will be functioning until the next Assembly to be held in this region. The first Assembly of AHA-IHEYO will dissolve the existing steering committee and form the new Steering Committee.

The meeting has decided to publish an e-bulletin of AHA-IHEYO half yearly. The meeting has also decided to create an e-mail group with the support from IHEYO. This e-group will be the main mode of communication among the members of the steering committee and others. Members of the AHA-IHEYO interact and discuss in this group. This group also helps to increase/update the members on work and activities of AHA-IHEYO. AHA- IHEYO can count on the collaboration of IHEYO to put its information on IHEYO’s website.

The meeting has decided to organize a Regional Conference in December 2008 and a Steering Committee meeting in November 2007 for which the venue will be fixed later. The regional seminar will be organized every year and the Steering committee meeting will be held twice every year.

The meeting has further decided to establish the Secretariat of AHA-IHEYO in Nepal.

A major challenge for AHA-IHEYO will lie in taking up contact with different youth organizations and to associate like-minded youngsters for the collective efforts. AHA-IHEYO will have its own criteria for the involvement in the group in collaboration with IHEYO. This group will accommodate very active, enthusiastic and activist minded youngsters for the promotion of the humanist movement in Asia.

Mainly, seven probable countries for the membership of AHA-IHEYO have been selected currently and depending upon the contact and communication with them further membership option will be made open. Any organization from Asia which fits into the IHEYO criteria can join AHA- IHEYO.

After the three day meeting, participants also attended a one day workshop on "Secularization of the Country: role of youth, politicians and civil society" jointly organized by AHA- IHEYO and Society for Humanism (SOCH) Nepal. In this workshop youth, politicians and members of civil society have actively participated and discussed about humanism, a new subject in Nepal. All the participants expressed their views. The work of IHEYO has been detailed in this workshop.

In sum, IHEYO has started its initiative to establish a group at the Asian level after the India conference held in 2006. With the rigorous efforts for 7 months after the conference, AHA-IHEYO has been formed formally. Currently, 9 organizations from the different countries of the Asian region are affiliated with AHA-IHEYO. At the same time AHA-IHEYO is also looking into the possibility of involving youth who can be individual member of it.

Uttam Niraula, coordinator of AHA-IHEYO, uttamniraula73[at]



********************In the Spotlight *********************

Lars-Petter Helgestad

IHEYOs Secretary-General Yemi Johnson in conversation with Lars-Petter Helgestad

Yemi: Congratulations on the assumption of your office as the new IHEYO President

LP: Thank you! It is 9 months now already...

Yemi: Can we meet you? Let us take a peek into your background (e.g country and humanist activism background)

LP: I am Norwegian, 23 years old, a student of political science and sociology at the University of Oslo. Since 2003 I have been an active volunteer in the Norwegian Humanist Association (NHA), the worlds largest Humanist organisation. I have also volunteered with other organisations in the field of solidarity, students rights and theatre.

Yemi: How did you come into Humanism? And of course, IHEYO?

LP: I am brought up by two humanist parents, so I guess that explains something. Unlike others, I have not had to fight my way out of the family religion. My parents have acted in line with their values, but not pushed their life stance on me. I was even singing in a Christian choir for kids for some years! But it was not until lower secondary school that I came to know that my life stance had a name, Humanism.

Then, at 15, I participated at the NHSs humanist coming-of-age-ceremony, like 10% of Norwegians do. After being chairman of a local NHA-group, I participated in 2003 at the International Humanist Youth Conference in Berlin. I wasn't going to stand for election, but after some fuzz I did, and I have been in the Executive Committee of IHEYO since...

Yemi: What are your visions for IHEYO as its president, bearing in mind the big difference between national and international Humanism?

LP: I really want IHEYO to grow, both in terms of member organisations and volunteers. If we shall be able to carry out our task as platform for and voice of young humanist worldwide, we need more resources... And soon, we have a new good tool in a re-designed website!

Yemi: You have been president for some time now, what has been your greatest challenges? LP: Time! Leading the work of 10 volunteers and half an employee is quite a task, and requires many hours on my computer, writing and reading emails, calling, drafting reports and so. I'm just a volunteer myself, with studies, a small job, a girlfriend, some other elected offices and so on in my life...

Yemi: And how do you hope to tackle these challenges?

LP: I am rearranging my life now, to have less things to do in total, and more fixed time to lead the work and inspire the volunteers of IHEYO.

Yemi: Funding is a big problem for youth NGOs worldwide, how have been able to cope with this? And how do you hope to influence the EC and the GA to raise IHEYO fortunes?
LP: Most of our funding comes from other humanists. We have had experienced volunteers all the way, making good projects and writing nice applications, but we now need to improve this. We need to ensure long-term, structural funding so that we don't have to live "from project to project".

Yemi: Personally, I am a product of IHEYOs internship programme, what plans are on for the continuance of the project?

LP: This great project has been on hold for some time, as we have not been able to ensure funding and hosts for this. We now hope to be able to start it up again in 2008 together with the new youth Humanist organisation in Norway. At the same time, we request our European members to use the possibilities that come with the European Voluntary Service programme.

Yemi: Apart from IHEYO, what kind of person is Lars-Petter? And what is his philosophy of life?
LP: I am a positive and hard-working person, dedicated to the projects I'm in. I build my life on human (i.e. my own) experience, ethics and responsibility.

Yemi: What are your personal future aspirations?

LP: I plan to finish my Bachelor and then see what options are open. I see myself employed in a non-governmental organisation, possibly involved in international matters? Time will show, I don't think I know anyone working in the profession they intended to...

Yemi: On a final note, where do you see IHEYO in two years?

LP: I see IHEYO having stable funding, a full-time employee supporting the volunteers and our general administration. We have reached out and have several members also in the Americas, Oceania, and Eastern Europe, and offer great interactions between many young humanist from all over the world!

Yemi: THANK YOU! I guess that is 'Tusen takk' in your language!!

LP: You're right, tusen takk yourself!

Yemi Johnson, Secretary General of IHEYO, yemijohnson[at]



**************************** Humanist News **************************

IHEYO's General Assembly 2007

IHEYO's General Assemby for this year was to be held in the town of Ronse in Belgium from July 28 to August 4. It proved to be an exciting event, where (relative) progress has been made on important issues.

After last years amendments of the by-laws, this was the first time a quorum at the General Assembly was required. 10 out of 20 full members had to be present or represented for the meeting to be held. Unfortunately, this quorum was not reached during the sessions of the General Assembly itself, which consequentially took on the character of a Members' Meeting to allow the discussions to go through, without formal decision-making. As the General Assambly failed to meet the quorum, IHEYO will organise an extraordinary General Assembly, without the requirement of a quorum (as described in our By-Laws). This extraordinary General Assembly will probably be held in November. More information will be supplied to members soon.

The Executive Committee had prepared an extensive agenda for the General Assembly (GA). The delegates were asked to debate the minutes from the 2006 GA, the Annual Report and accountings of 2006. In addition, an Action Plan and Budget for 2008, new amendments to the By-Laws – among which this quorum question – and the Standing Orders, and finally membership applications were discussed by the necessitated Members' meeting. The minutes of this meeting will be communicated to all members, who will be invited to comment during the preparation of the extraordinary GA.

There would also be held elections, but these could not go through either. However, the Members' Meeting was presented with candidates for the following offices: 1st and 2nd Vice President, Secretary-General, Deputy Treasurer and up to two Board Members. The final decisions have been postponed to the extraordinary GA.

All documents prepared for the General Assembly are available at our website

Lars-Petter Helgestad, President of IHEYO, lars-petter.helgestad[at]



IHEU renews call for action in Darfur

IHEU with other NGOs represented at the United Nations has again called for action to resolve the breakdown of the rule of law in Sudan. In a statement to the Human Rights Committee, the group of experts in Geneva reporting to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the NGOs said that the massive violations of human rights in Darfur endangered the implementation of civil and political rights in the country as a whole. The Committee has no powers of investigation but it takes evidence and makes recommendations. Read more on IHEU's website


American Humanist Association organises web-contest for Humanist videos

After weeks of careful and difficult consideration, the American Humanist Association, in conjunction with EvolveFISH, and Rational Response, has decided upon the Humanist Video Challenge winners! The Humanist Video Challenge was created to bring the positive message of Humanism to YouTube. Contestants created short Web videos presenting a positive vision of Humanism and uploaded them to YouTube by the contest deadline of Thursday, May 3, 2007--the National Day of Reason in the United States. The Happy Humanist logo was asked to be included at least once within each piece. The videos can still be seen on-line, both on the YouTube spot of Humanist Vision ( and on the AHA-website ( Enjoy!



New president for British Humanist Association

Political and social commentator Polly Toynbee has been appointed as the new President of the British Humanist Association (BHA), taking up the office that fell vacant with the death of comedian Linda Smith last year.
Accepting the appointment, Polly said, 'I am honoured to be appointed President of the BHA at a time when not for many years has there been such a need to promote a Humanist view of the world. Religious fanaticism is the clear and present danger all round the world. We need to oppose religious zealotry by promoting the positive and liberating case for believing life on earth is precious because the here and now is all there is and our destiny is in our own hands. Mankind itself has all the innate moral strength it needs, without inventing divine reward and wrath.
'Humanism is tolerant of all beliefs, so long as they oppress no-one else, including weak members of their own communities, and so long as they seek no special privileges from the state. The Humanist view of life is progressive and optimistic, in awe of human potential, living without fear of judgement and death, finding enough purpose and meaning in life, love and leaving a good legacy.'
Welcoming the appointment, chief exec Hanne Stinson said, 'We are all delighted. Polly is highly articulate, and well respected as a commentator on social affairs and religion: just the person we need to raise the profile of the BHA and help us get the views of the people we represent across to government and opinion-formers. She is a great opinion-former herself, and I am sure she will do a wonderful job for us. Linda Smith - the BHA's much loved President until her tragically early death last year - will be a very hard act to follow, but I am sure that Polly can do it.'
For more on the appointment, see the BHA homepage at


IHEYO YouthSpeak, Edited:
Rosemary Wanjala, Gea Meijers, Joris Verschueren, Yemi Johnson and Lars-Petter Helgestad
Contact YouthSpeak at: youthspeak[at]
Articles do not necessarily reflect the official view of IHEYO
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1A content management system is basically a computer application that allows the management of content from several providers. More specifically, a web-CMS is a web-application that allows for the management of a website by several administrators, and for the production and publication of website content by a large group of users (such as forums and blog-sites). This results in continuous production of new content on almost every page of the website. For this reason, CMS-powered websites are called “dynamic” websites, as opposed to “static” websites on which content is published by a “webmaster”.