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President's Report

 

Giuliano Avanzini

 

During the time separating the present Annual Report (or rather biennial report) from the previous one, many interesting developments occurred in the ILAE organisation.

The ILAE has established a Headquarters Office in Brussels, Belgium. Peter J. Berry, our Financial Manager for the past term, has been appointed as the League's first Administrative Director. He works with the Officers and the Executive Committee. Peter continues to be based in the U.S. Delphine Sartiaux serves as the League's Assistant Administrative Director in Brussels. Delphine and her colleague, Nele Devolder, are currently maintaining the database of Chapter information and are available upon request to provide chapters with services that they might need. Using the central database of Chapter membership, the Headquarters can in fact manage, on chapters' behalf, the contacts with their members, reminding them of deadlines, offering journal subscriptions, etc. The Headquarters Office assists the ILAE officers and primarily the Secretary General's office in their activities. In addition, the Headquarters Office can assist the work of ILAE commissions and task forces and can provide upon request meeting space in Brussels.

As the ILAE has expanded to reach more than 91 affiliated Chapters with a total of more than 16,850 Chapter members throughout the world, we have been increasingly confronted with the problem of the gap between developed and developing countries. The present Executive Committee (EC) is firmly committed to pursuing the initiatives undertaken by the previous EC in order to spread the benefits of ILAE activities to all parts of the world. One important step towards this objective is the ongoing restructuring of the Regional Commissions with the assistance of the ad hoc Task Force, chaired by the 2nd Vice-president Martin Brodie and including Yoshiaki Mayanagi and Peter Wolf, who has been made responsible for ILAE educational programs. The Regional Commissions will help the ILAE adapt its policy to special regional requirements. ILAE Congress activities during the year that has just ended have put the ILAE regional system in the front line. The success of the three principal meetings held in Latin America, Asia and Oceania, and in Europe (not to mention the American Epilepsy Society meeting, which is particularly attended by people coming from the North American region) bears witness to the viability of the Regional Commissions. With the establishment of two further Regional Commissions (Eastern Mediterranean and African) the regional system will be complete. Complementary to the action of the Regional Task Force is the activity of the Subregional and Interregional Organisations Task Force chaired by Çiðdem Özkara, which is promoting and assisting sub- or interregional coordinated actions by groups of countries that due to common historical, cultural and linguistic background are naturally prepared to collaborate. The Mediterranean Conference, held every two years since 1990, is a good example of collaborative efforts of countries from three continents bordering one sea.

The Regional Commissions can substantially help the ILAE EC in its general planning, whereas the individual ILAE Chapters (which, in the final analysis, are the ILAE) can provide the Headquarters with updated inputs that allow the ILAE to be perceived as a common home. This concept formed the basis of the Chapter Convention held on 5 October in Madrid (Spain) during the 5th European Congress on Epileptology.

More than 40 chapters were represented and, during the Convention, the main objectives of the League and its policies in relation to regional organisation, the production and circulation of scientific and professional information, educational and research activities, and office organisation were reviewed and discussed. An overview of new Chapter services was presented, including the Website "Chapter log-in" section and the project of a database for all ILAE Chapter members.
A great impulse has been given to identifying and meeting the needs of different parts of the world by the Global Campaign launched by Ted Reynolds and developed in collaboration with the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The possibility of creating and managing Websites for individual Chapters was considered with much interest, and four major services were identified for future development:

• Education

• Research

• Chapter Development/Organisation

• Website services

This event provided Chapters a great opportunity to meet, exchange points of view and make suggestions concerning the future of the League. All of the participants were enthusiastically convinced about the usefulness of this type of meeting, and it was decided to repeat the experience during the 25th International Epilepsy Congress.

A great impulse has been given to identifying and meeting the needs of different parts of the world by the Global Campaign launched by Ted Reynolds and developed in collaboration with the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Further achievements have been obtained thanks to the creativity of the ILAE past president Jerome Engel Jr., who took over as chairman for the ILAE and is collaborating with Hanneke deBoer of the IBE and Leonid Prilipko of the WHO. Their recent achievements are specified in the relevant report. I would like to stress here the extraordinary interest in the results of the demonstration projects that are going on in different parts of the world.

An important effort has been made to improve our communications system by appointing Simon Shorvon to the position of Information Officer. He will facilitate the activities of the ILAE Epilepsy Information Centre in Zurich, and design and editing of the ILAE newsletter, Epigraph.

The Epilepsy Information Centre is currently managed by Ian Mothersill under the supervision of Christian Pachlatko. The most requested eight publications from the Information Epilepsy Centre have been scanned for distribution to Chapters and translation: Russian translation is already ongoing under the responsibility of Alla Guekht. The ILAE historical archives will be soon moved to the Information Epilepsy Centre, which will become the permanent source of information on the almost 100 year history of our association.

The ILAE newsletter Epigraph , which was started by Simon Shorvon and is now edited by Ley Sander, has rapidly become a formidable means of information that reaches 20,000 people in an attractive full-colour print.

The ILAE Website has been set up and will be further developed under the supervision of an ad hoc task force chaired by Simon Shorvon and including Robert Fisher and Philip Lee. It is intended to become a privileged channel for two-way communications with Chapters and individuals throughout the world that will substantially contribute towards orienting ILAE actions.

Another important turning point was reached at the end of 2001, when Timothy Pedley handed over the editorship of Epilepsia to Robert Fisher, the former editor of Epilepsia Supplements.

Epilepsia continues to be the most authoritative journal in the field and the editor in chief is designing new projects to make it available to all Chapter members across the world.

In no way should this change of location of the 25th International Epilepsy Congress be seen as due to a lessening of ILAE commitment to Africa and to the developing world in general; rather the ILAE EC decided that a substantial part of the expected surplus generated by the Congress will be used to create a bursary system to promote the participation of delegates from developing countries.

One is the launching of national editions of Epilepsia Digest , which make the most important scientific results available to people of different cultures beyond linguistic barriers. A Japanese and Italian edition of Epilepsia Digest are currently ongoing. This project was made possible thanks to the sensitivity and organisation of the new publisher Blackwell Science, Inc. Another project that is currently being developed by the editor in chief in collaboration with the publisher and the ILAE Financial Office is aimed at creating easy access to the electronic version of the journal.

A tiered online subscription pricing offer taking into account regional disparities, according to a transparent economic indicator, is now being prepared.

The 25th International Epilepsy Congress will be held in Lisbon, Portugal. This biennial event provides a special opportunity for exchanging experiences among people from areas that differ in culture, technological development and social structure.

According to our mission of promoting a worldwide development of epileptology, the International Epilepsy Congress is organised every two years in a different world region to give everyone the opportunity to benefit from this high quality convention. To this aim the ad hoc office of the International Director of Meetings headed by Richard Holmes has been created with the support of both ILAE and IBE, which helps the national Chapters, acting as local organisers, in facing the challenging task of organising such a complex event.

Originally the 25th International Epilepsy Congress was to be held in Tunis under the leadership of Amel Mrabet in recognition of the outstanding activity of the Tunisian Epileptological community and of the strategic priority of the African continent in ILAE-IBE policy. However the international political situation led the ILAE and IBE to move the congress away from Tunis. On behalf of the ILAE EC and General Assembly I would like to express here our great appreciation for the tremendous effort of Amel Mrabet and her collaborators in organising the meeting until that time and our discomfort and sorrow for not being able to confirm the original destination. I would also like to thank the Portuguese Chapter, the Organising and Scientific Committees, and the International Director of Meetings Richard Holmes for making it possible to rearrange what is expected to be a very successful meeting in Lisbon. The original structure of the program is unchanged and includes, beside the main topics, many interesting parallel sessions designed by the ILAE Resource and Problem Oriented Commissions and educational activities organised by the European Epilepsy Academy (EUREPA) chaired by Peter Wolf and by the ILAE Commission of Neurobiology chaired by Esper Cavalheiro and Asla Pitkanen.

In no way should this change of location of the 25th International Epilepsy Congress be seen as due to a lessening of ILAE commitment to Africa and to the developing world in general; rather the ILAE EC decided that a substantial part of the expected surplus generated by the Congress will be used to create a bursary system to promote the participation of delegates from developing countries. Thanks to this resource it will be possible in Lisbon to hold the Convention of African delegates to start the process of creating an ILAE African Regional Commission. It will be a kind of "Constituent Assembly" that will discuss a commission structure appropriate to the special problems of the area and set in motion the process to establish a Regional Commission for African Affairs that will complete the ILAE Regional Commission system. The other missing area, the so-called Eastern Mediterranean Region according to WHO terminology, has in fact already completed its constitution, which will be ratified in Lisbon.

Preliminary results have been published in Epilepsia and are stimulating a vivid discussion involving many distinguished epileptologists across the world.

Other ongoing activities are the revision of the Classification of Seizures and Epilepsy Syndromes, which is intensively carried out by the ad hoc task force chaired by Past President Jerome Engel and the revision of the ILAE Constitution and Bylaws by the ILAE EC under the responsibility of the General Secretary Natalio Fejerman. Preliminary results of the Classification Task Force have already been published in Epilepsia and are stimulating a vivid discussion involving many distinguished epileptologists across the world.

Some amendments of the Constitution and Bylaws will be submitted to the General Assembly that will convene in Lisbon during the 25th International Epilepsy Congress.

This Annual Report comes out midway through the term of the present Executive Committee. I would like to thank the ILAE Chapters, Commission Chairs, offices and the ILAE EC for their collaborative attitude, without which much of what has been achieved in these two years would not have been completed. In particular I would like to acknowledge the continuous support of General Secretary Natalio Fejerman and Treasurer Josemir (Ley) Sander who together with the President form the ILAE Management Committee and of Administrative Director Peter Berry whose collaboration is greatly helping us in the current management of our society.

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