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BIEN: The report from the General Assembly

As previously reported, the 2016 BIEN Congress was held in Seoul, South Korea from July 7-9. The General Assembly (GA) was held on the last day of the congress, at which several important decisions were made, including the following:

1) BIEN now a legally chartered institution

At the 2014 congress, the GA mandated the Executive Committee (EC) of BIEN to make BIEN a legal entity. To this end, the EC established a task force headed by Louise Haagh. After considering various options, the EC decided to apply in Belgium for recognition as an international non-profit association (AISBL), and the application was approved.

It was necessary to change BIEN’s statutes to comply with the requirements of AISBL organizations. The needed changes were made and approved by the GA. The AISBL charter (BIEN’s newly revised statutes) can be viewed at this link [pdf].

2) Clarification of definition of ‘basic income’

The GA passed two motions related to the definition of the term ‘basic income’.

The first was a refinement of the official definition used by BIEN.

Previously, the definition of basic income on BIEN’s website and in its charter had described a “basic income” as “an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement”. At the 2016 congress, the GA approved the following change to the description: “[a basic income is] a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement.”

Moreover, the GA approved the following elaboration of the above description:

That is, Basic Income has the five following characteristics:

  1. Periodic: it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
  2. Cash payment: it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
  3. Individual: it is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
  4. Universal: it is paid to all, without means test.
  5. Unconditional: it is paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.

This amendment, then, adds two additional characteristics (periodic and in cash) to the three that had been in BIEN’s official definition of basic income since the network’s founding in 1986. Some participants in the GA meeting viewed the amendment as a clarification of the definition rather than a change to it, because it merely makes explicit two characteristics that have long been assumed by most of BIEN’s membership.

3) Resolution  on the type of basic income to be supported

In addition to the above clarification, the GA passed the following resolution:

A majority of members attending BIEN’s General Assembly meeting in Seoul on July 9, 2016, agreed to support a Basic Income that is stable in size and frequency and high enough to be, in combination with other social services, part of a policy strategy to eliminate material poverty and enable the social and cultural participation of every individual. We oppose the replacement of social services or entitlements, if that replacement worsens the situation of relatively disadvantaged, vulnerable, or lower-income people.

In keeping with BIEN’s charter (as an organization to “serve as a link between individuals and groups committed to, or interested in, basic income”), this motion is not binding on BIEN’s members or affiliates.

Prior to the decisions about the description of UBI and the type BIEN supports, there was a workshop and dedicated group work during the congress. The overview of discussions, concerns and reasons will be published here at Basic Income News shortly.


4) Portugal 2017 and Finland 2018: BIEN moves from biennial to annual Congresses

Since its founding in 1986, BIEN has held its Congresses once every two years. However, given the current momentum of the UBI movement–in conjunction with recent competing wishes to host the Congress (there were three candidates for the 16th Congress, and two candidates this time)–the EC proposed that BIEN commit to having yearly congresses . The two affiliates applying to host the next Congress, Portugal and Finland, agreed to put forward proposals for one Congress in 2017 and another in 2018, respectively.

Some people at the GA were skeptical about yearly Congresses, and others noted that BIEN does not need to change its statutes to have yearly Congress; it just needs to approve Congress proposals. On that basis, although the motion to commit to yearly Congresses was defeated, the proposal by Portugal and Finland to host Congress next year and the year after were approved.

The 17th BIEN Congress will be held in Lisbon, Portugal September 25-27, 2017, and the 18th BIEN Congress will be held in Finland 2018. The call for participation for 17th congress in Lisbon has already been released. The exact dates and the details of 18th Congress in Finland haven’t been decided yet. The dates will be published in Basic Income News when they are decided.


5) New affiliates: India, NZ, Quebec, Scotland, Taiwan, and China

At the GA, 6 new national or regional affiliates were approved. They are: India Network for Basic Income (India), Basic Income New Zealand Incorporated (New Zealand), Revenue de base Quebec (Quebec), Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland (Scotland), Global Basic Income Social Welfare Promotion Association in Taiwan (Taiwan), BIEN China (China).


6) Clarification and a plan for actualization of the vision of BIEN

BIEN’s co-chairs have drafted a clear vision for the organization, which they published prior to the congress. The vision was shared and discussed at a special workshop during the congress. In order to actualize this vision, it was proposed to increase the size of the EC from 9 to 11 members. The GA approved this proposal.

Names, roles, and affiliations of the new EC members can be found on the About BIEN page.

The detailed minutes of the GA can be found here [pdf]. The GA is open to all life members of BIEN, and is held at each congress.

BIEN invites everyone to join the next congress.


[Reviewed by Kate McFarland and Karl Widerquist]

About Toru Yamamori

has written 122 articles.

Toru Yamamori is a professor at Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • Steve Godenich

    A few observations:

    1) If you include every new-born child in the definition of ‘all’, nations may be forced to set family-size limits and tighter immigration controls.

    2) If you exclude ‘poverty-level’ from the definition, nations may pick future winners and losers based on popular choice of children’s welfare and budget constraints.

    3) Considering the above, it may evolve ins some nations to become Platonic bliss for some and socialized misery for others by current definition.

  • Steve Godenich


    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a nation-based individualized poverty-level citizen’s NIT (or tapering income for adult citizens) as a basic income or some reasonable facsimile, along with medical goods & services (which vary considerably between age groups). In addition, I support public schools for children, along with provisions for nurseries and residential educational facilities for orphans, foster children, single parent guardians(which vary considerably between households). That is one approach that may be both socially and economically desirable and viable.

    However, I don’t support a system that does not prioritize poverty-level relief as it’s first and foremost goal nor one that may disadvantage working stiffs by requiring more taxes to support an unnecessarily large government welfare bureaucracy. Given our 75,000 pages of tax code(and growing), I find it dubious that a permanent basic income would be clawed back in taxes efficiently and fear an even greater burden of taxes levied on working stiffs will create a downward spiral into greater poverty and economic instability. (Please don’t mention helicopter money)

    If memory serves me correctly, UBI was touted to replace the entire inefficient welfare system at one time and some even claimed it would save money. Show the economic viability of the plan (and transition process) for the USA or Canada or the UK,.. all of them., not straw-man proposals that get people’s hopes up with great expectations that may not be deliverable

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