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International conferences

Union of International Associations: a profile (Part #4)

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Another area in which the U.I.A. gives expert help and advice to N.G.O.'s is in the arranging of international meetings and congresses. It is probably true to say that the most important aspect of international life, and the raison d'etre of an international association, is the meetings it makes possible between people of opposed views at various forms of conference or congress. It is here that realities are faced and differences seen in their true light. The function of meetings is to reduce as far as possible the friction and resistance caused by national and sectional self-interest and bred by the distortions in attitude introduced by distance.

With the recent rapid rise in the number of organisations and meetings, and their attendant complications, internationally minded cities, which are the usual meeting places, have become adapted to commercial possibilities and standards of efficiency. Many new Congress Centres have been built and congress organising has thus become a speciality and, like other specialities, it has left many traps for the unwary. Perhaps the most crippling is, for instance, to find an English secretary, vital to administrative success, nearly useless because of the complete difference in layout of the French typewriter keyboard. Consequently it is primarily at the level of technical and practical problems that the U.I.A. has sought to assist officials to increase the possibilities for the success of their meetings. The U.I.A. has encouraged the publication of reports by officials familiar with successful techniques. The two works that have appeared to date are 'Theory and Practice of Congress Organisation' and a 'Manual for Congress Organisers'.

Arising from the increasing number of international meetings is the problem of providing information on their date and location. Each meeting represents an area of effective co-operation and it is important that knowledge of this be made available to as wide a circle as possible. In fact one of the problems of congress organisers is publicising their meetings outside the field of their own associations' membership. It must be realised that this is no small problem when during some periods of the year there are over 25 international congresses per day. By various means, including direct contact with congress organisers and from reliable secondary sources, including periodicals, U.I.A. obtains information about all significant international gatherings. The data is published in an annual Congress Calendar and is kept up to date by supplements inserted in the monthly magazine International Associations.