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Secretary General's Report

 

Natalio Fejerman

 

The last printed Annual Report appeared in the second half of the year 2000 and was widely distributed during the 24th International Epilepsy Congress held in Buenos Aires. Comprising over 100 pages, it was quite comprehensive and fulfilled a need for information that had been previously requested by the chapters.

I started working as Secretary General of ILAE on 15 June 2001, and reading carefully the 2000 Annual Report, I realized that it was very difficult to keep updated information on the chapters, the chapters' activities, and the commissions of ILAE.

Several factors hampered the collection of information:

  1. The officers of the chapters serve in office at a variable number of years and the chapters elect their officers at different times of the year
  2. Communication between the chapters in the developing world and the Officers of ILAE was not easy due to poor mail delivery, phone and fax facilities
  3. There were no uniform templates with reply forms to collect data and no clear instructions to the chapters on how to report name and address changes
  4. Language was also an obstacle and several chapter officers had trouble responding to requests and some even misinterpreted voting procedures

Therefore, my main task from the outset was to improve communication with the chapters by first creating a complete and updated database. I refused to publish a new Annual Report until these objectives were accomplished. This is the justification of my first apology, the fact that we are publishing the so called "Annual Report" over two years after the release of the previous one. On the other hand, everybody can now observe the accuracy of our chapter rosters.

Of course, the development of email throughout the world has been a great assistance, but the change in ILAE's day-to-day operations was even more significant. In January 2002, ILAE's Administrative Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium was created in conjunction with the already existing ILAE Financial Office in the U.S. In the beginning, I complained, because I thought that it was a way to discriminate against a new Secretary General living in an underdeveloped country but I later realised that it constituted a great step toward a more effective and efficient organisation. Going forward, we, the officers, may change, or we might even be separated for sound reasons, but there will no longer be the transfer of files to the new officers and risk of potential loss of contact with the chapters will be eliminated. So, it is now clear for all the chapters, we have a Headquarters office open all the time to receive their reports and questions. Anyway, I always like to receive copies of your emails that you send to headquarters. It is just one more click of your computer mouse. Both the Headquarters and I are also willing to facilitate contacts with the chapters through other languages, such as French and Spanish.

As I said before, email has changed our lives. But I still think that nothing can replace personal contact. With this in mind, I tried to attend all the regional meetings and take advantage of the opportunity to personally meet the delegates from the chapters in each region. For instance, the Latin American Epilepsy Congress in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, in May 2002, the Asian and Oceanian Epilepsy Congress in Nagano, Japan, in September 2002, and the European Epilepsy Congress in Madrid, Spain, in October 2002, were of paramount importance to strengthen relations with officers and delegates, collect new data, suggest the creation of new chapters in the regions, report about the changes taking place in ILAE's operations, etc.

Following this, the League held its first Chapter Convention during the Congress in Madrid. All chapter participants were quite active and provided useful ideas for future projects. This reflects a commitment of this Executive Committee to foster better relations between all chapters and to continue to expand the number of chapters around the world.


As an example of our efforts to have more countries join ILAE with chapters, after the meeting in Nagano, I attended the International Child Neurology Association Congress in Beijing, China, not only to take part there in a symposium organised by our Global Campaign Committee, but also to attempt to convince epileptologists in China about the advantages of creating a chapter in their country. For different reasons, it is still a very difficult task to have representation from Taiwan and China in an international organisation such as ILAE.

The ILAE has a Website with all the information you may want about the officers, chapters, commissions and other activities of the League.

The Executive Committee has provisionally approved seven new chapters (Costa Rica, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Pakistan, South Africa) to be confirmed in the next General Assembly meeting in Lisbon. After the meeting, the League will have 91 chapters.

It was a shared opinion within the Executive Committee that the League's Constitution and Bylaws needed revision. The most urgent change is the creation of an Elections Commission chaired by the Past President, to replace the previous Nominating Committee. The new proposal contains clear definitions of roles, procedures, and timetables.

We attempted to prepare a full text of a revised Constitution and Bylaws to be submitted to all chapters 60 days before the next General Assembly, but consensus was not so easily obtained. Therefore, we only prepared and sent the amendments to the article relating to the election of the Executive Committee. Our primary discussions have centered on whether or not to maintain separate documents or to combine them into one document (as is the rule in the U.S). Another issue deals with the authority of the Executive Committee to amend the Bylaws with or without the approval of the General Assembly. We expect that in the 2004 Annual Report, we will be able to print a fully revised governance document.

As a way to justify again our delay in publishing this Annual Report, I want to say that ILAE has a Website (www.ilae-epilepsy.org) that we have started to and will improve in the future. The Website contains all the information you may want about the officers, chapters, commissions and other activities of the League. My objective as Secretary General is that, in the near future, those chapters that might not be able to receive the printed version of the Annual Report will be free to download an exact copy from the Website. As I personally love books, I'll focus my efforts on making available information in both formats — through the Website and through the printed report.

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