The years between the International Epilepsy Congresses are the years of the Regional Congresses. Unfortunately, two of them in 2006 could not take place as scheduled because of terrorist attacks close by (in Bali and Sharm-el-Sheikh). As an outstanding example of good neighbors, the Malaysian Chapter offered to co-organize the Asian/Oceanian Congress in Kuala Lumpur jointly with the Indonesian Chapter, whereas the 1st Eastern Mediterranean Regional Congress took place in the magnificent surroundings of Luxor on the Nile. The Asian/Oceanian meeting was very well attended, while the Luxor Congress attracted an audience beyond expectation.
The European Congress in Helsinki could again be noted for a high attendance and an excellent program. The Latin American Congress took place in Guatemala. Its highlight was a very well-attended and well-prepared Chapter Convention which demonstrated the serious commitment to cooperation of many in the present leadership of the region. This was the first of a series of indicators of progress in the region. The situation of the Caribbean subregion was discussed with input from North American and European representatives.
Last but by no means least, the traditional Annual Meeting of the American Epilepsy Society was designated as the North American Regional Epilepsy Congress. The meeting took place in 2006 in San Diego as a joint meeting of the AES and the Canadian and Jamaican Chapters. A new agreement will provide the North American region with funds from the AES mandatory Epilepsia subscriptions in the same way as other regions contribute the surplus of their regional congresses. As a result, the North American Commission started an initiative with the Latin American Commission for a joint educational program that includes visiting professorships, training fellowships and bilateral cooperation between chapters from both regions. These commissions have also started to work on a joint development plan for the Caribbean with the establishment of a Haitian Chapter as the first aim.
The first Latin American Summer School on Epilepsy, held at a retreat in Brazil, brought together about 50 students from all parts of Latin America and some from Portuguese-speaking Africa. This 1½ week residential course attempted to bridge the gap between clinical work and basic research. The course was outstanding and, in the view of many participants, marked the onset of a new era for epileptology in Latin America. In summary, the Latin American region can be congratulated for taking a big leap forward, supported by good neighbors and with encouragement from the ILAE Executive Committee.
Hopefully, we can soon also be reporting on progress from Africa, still our least developed region. Educational activities have been and are being brought to this region by the AES, the French and Portuguese Chapters and by EUREPA. Several new chapters in sub-Saharan Africa are being established or have already applied for membership.
Most of our commissions have now become fully operative and I refer to their individual reports. Of the new commissions, Epilepsy Care can now work, in most regions, with a regional steering committee of the Global Campaign where the IBE and WHO are represented. Education is working closely with the Executive Committee and the European Epilepsy Academy (EUREPA) to establish durable structures for education and further develop high quality teaching programs, particularly modular distance education and residential courses.
After long and sometimes difficult considerations, the role of EUREPA in our educational agenda is now described in a formal agreement between ILAE and EUREPA. In addition, the Executive Committee has developed rules for financial support given to educational purposes, and similar rules for the support of research will follow.
Our election system is under discussion to ensure fair participation of all regions in our global agenda, and it is expected that respective constitutional amendments will be proposed to the General Assembly in 2009.
At mid-term, a routine change in our Information Office took place. Dr Simon Shorvon is leaving after 10 very successful years in the position, and we have a lot to thank him for. He continues as one of the co-editors of Epilepsia. Dr Edward Bertram of Charlottesville, Virginia, USA was appointed as the new Information Officer, and we welcome him with our best wishes for the challenges he is facing.