PORTUGAL: BIEN Affiliates and General Assembly get together at the BIEN Lisbon Congress 2017
Jenna van Draanen. Credit to Enno Schmidt / Luís Gaspar.
Just as in the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) Congress in Seoul, in 2016, BIEN’s General Assembly (GA) took place in Lisbon’s BIEN Congress this year (2017). With an important addition: this time a BIEN Affiliates meeting occurred, allowing for substantial interchange of experiences between basic income activist groups all around the world, connected through the “umbrella” network of BIEN.
As an outcome of the Seoul Congress, the GA decided to establish a specific Task Force for dealing with BIEN’s affiliates, in the sense of promoting their interaction, general exchange of information and experiences. That Task Force was named Outreach, and is currently coordinated by Jenna van Draanen.
At Lisbon, many BIEN Affiliates were represented, including the Universal Basic Income Europe (UBIE) network, itself a joint group of European BIEN affiliates. Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, United Kingdom (Citizens Income Trust and Citizens Basic Income Network Scotland), Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, India (update), Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain and the United States of America were the Affiliates represented, which comprises a 68% presence rate in this Congress. Among the non-represented groups at the Congress counted the Southern Africa, the Argentina and the China Affiliates.
To organize the meeting and to guarantee a more uniform input from affiliates, standard questions were sent out, focusing on activity in the past 12 months, the challenges faced and the opportunities going forward. On a general sense, BIEN Affiliates have been active in networking their own territories in an attempt to get everyone interested in doing activism on basic income to work together or at least knowing of each other’s activities. In those regions already running or contemplating, at the political level, the experimentation with basic income, such as Scotland, Canada (Ontario), the Netherlands or Finland, Affiliates have also been busy counseling and supplying input for the conduction of these experiments. In all other regions, efforts have been made to lobby for basic income within political parties, unions, anti-poverty groups and others, while also trying to reach out to the wider public.
On challenges to basic income implementation, BIEN Affiliates were fairly consistent in saying that these challenges are mainly due to ignorance (about the basic income concept), preconceptions, resistance (e.g.: work ethics, moral hazards) and a general sense that the human being is not to be trusted.
The GA meeting, just as already done in Seoul, was conducted in two parts.
In the first part (on the 25th of September, first day of the Congress), Louise Haagh, BIEN’s chair, described the proposed move of BIEN’s registration from Belgium to the United Kingdom, took questions, and invited members to arrange a time to meet her if they required further discussion. Also, proposals for changes to membership fees and changes to the voting procedure for Executive Committee members were discussed. Aiming at choosing where the BIEN Congress for 2019 will take place, representatives of the four countries (Australia, India, United Kingdom and United States) bidding to host the 2019 BIEN Congress spoke about their proposals. This first session ended with a discussion on fundraising.
On the second part (on the 27th of September, last day of the Congress), after some preliminary settings, the GA voted unanimously for the change of BIEN’s status from an International Non-profit-making Association registered in Belgium to a Charitable Incorporated Organization registered in the United Kingdom. Also unanimous was the favorable vote for Haagh’s proposition that additional trustees for BIEN’s Charitable Incorporated Organization were added, as well as a new treasurer (instead of the former Andrea Fumagalli). These additional trustees being Annie Miller, Jay Ginn, Jake Eliot and Mark Wadsworth, the latter cumulating as the new treasurer. The voting procedure itself was also under discussion, and voting. Between three possibilities, multiple electronic ballots, only voting at the GA by secret ballot and postal ballots alongside a secret ballot at the GA, the latter was chosen. A note was made that no candidate can stand for more than one post, and nominations will have to be received by one month before the GA. After the initial presentations from representative applications for BIEN’s 2019 Congress (in part one of the meeting), GA members clearly voted for India.
At this second part of the GA meeting, reports from the Chair and from the Basic Income News and Outreach taskforces were also presented by Louise Haagh, André Coelho and Jenna van Draanen respectively. Shortly after, three new BIEN affiliate requests were accepted unanimously, namely Iceland, Malawi and World Basic Income. Finally, a vote was held on a proposal to change BIEN’s policy towards donations and membership fees. BIEN members voted unanimously to raise the annual contribution for BIENfactors from 200€ up to 400€. Also unanimous was the voting for the creation of a new status: regular donor (to BIEN). Clearly favorable was the vote to introduce a sliding scale for annual contributions for BIEN’s membership and finally the proposal for increasing the life membership fee from 100€ up to 200€ was rejected.
At the closing words session of the Congress, Jurgen de Wispeleare refreshed the audience memory on the already known details for the 2018 BIEN Congress, to be held in Tampere, Finland, between the 23rd and 25th of September, 2018. Louise Haagh thanked the Portuguese LOC (local organizing committee), all the speakers and the general audience for a successful Congress. She underlined the importance to involve all patches of society in the global debate around basic income, and as such BIEN’s Congresses should increase their promotion of those kinds of meetings involving academics, activists and leaders from political parties and civil society institutions. Haagh also highlighted that the basic income debate is changing, in terms of its reasoning and discourse, as the distance to actual implementation shrinks.