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By Way of Re-Introduction: Note, “International Humanist and Ethical Union” Became “Humanists International”


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Canadian Atheist

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/09/11

The International Humanist and Ethical Union or IHEU was founded in 1952 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, by Julian Huxley, Jaap van Praag, Harold Blackham (Humanists International, 2019a). Humanism, as a philosophy and lifestance, needs little introduction to the community of readers here. The American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, British Ethical Union, the Vienna Ethical Circle, and the Dutch Humanist League formed the first collective of IHEU (Ibid.). The first IHEU congress took place between August 22 and 27 in 1952. With five resolutions passed on the last day of the congress with the inclusion of the Amsterdam Declaration, not to be confused with the 2002 Amsterdam Declaration (Humanists International, 2019b; Humanists International, 1952). The 1952 Amsterdam Declaration emphasized the following principles:

  1. It is democratic.
  2. It seeks to use science creatively, not destructively.
  3. Humanism is ethical.
  4. It insists that personal liberty is an end that must be combined with social responsibility in order that it shall not be sacrificed to the improvement of material conditions.
  5. It is a way of life, aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment, through the cultivation of ethical and creative living.

(Humanists International, 1952)

These ethical and humanistic principles formulated the basis for what became the international democratic body of the humanist movement beginning in 1952. The organization has been registered in New York, USA with the main administrative headquarters in London, UK with operation as a non-governmental organization or NGO. The function of the international democratic body of humanists is the influence on international policy with concrete steps in representation on a number of United Nations committees and other international bodies (Humanists International, 2019a).

Interestingly, the founding declaration, the 1952 Amsterdam Declaration, states, “Ethical humanism is thus a faith that answers the challenge of our times. We call upon all men who share this conviction to associate themselves with us in this cause” – a faith (Humanists International, 1952). The 2002 Amsterdam Declaration advanced some of the notions with 50 years of development of IHEU:

  1. Humanism is ethical.
  2. Humanism is rational.
  3. Humanism supports democracy and human rights.
  4. Humanism insists that personal liberty must be combined with social responsibility.
  5. Humanism is a response to the widespread demand for an alternative to dogmatic religion.
  6. Humanism values artistic creativity and imagination.
  7. Humanism is a lifestance aiming at the maximum possible fulfilment.

(Humanists International, 2019b)

It went from democratic to the support for democracy and human rights, from a way of life to a lifestance, while remaining the same on items including the ethical nature of it. They have a youth branch for 18-to-35-year-olds entitled IHEYO or the International Humanist and Ethical Youth Organisation (Humanists International, 2019c). As 2019 rolled along, and as the history of the organization developed more into the present, circa May/June of 2019, IHEU went through a name change into HI or Humanists International as part of a rebranding and the same for its youth branch from IHEYO to YHI or Young Humanists International.

With elections to the boards, now, we can see the rebranding and the leadership – some renewed and some new – to Humanists International and Young Humanists International (recommendation: use the full titles rather than the initialisms). Humanists International’s Board composed of Andrew Copson (President, United Kingdom), Anne-France Ketelaer (Vice-President, Belgium), Boris van der Ham (Treasurer, Netherlands), Roslyn Mould (Board Member, Ghana), Kristin Mile (Board Member, Norway), Uttam Niraula (Board Member, Nepal), David Pineda (Board Member, Guatemala), Rebecca Hale (Board Member, America), and Gulalai Ismail (Board Member, Pakistan) – more on Gulalai in a recent article entitled “Some Minor Coverage and Recent News on the Co-Founder of Aware Girls” (Humanists International, 2019d; Jacobsen, 2019). “Young Humanists International executive committee is currently composed of 9 officers: the president, secretary general, treasurer, communications officer, and the chairs of each regional working group” with Marieke Prien (President, Germany), Jad Zeitouni (Vice-President, Belgium), Scott Jacobsen (Secretary-General, Canada), Anya Overmann (Communications Officer, America), Viola Namyalo (AfWG Chair, Uganda), Danielle Hill (AsWG Chair, Philippines), Hari Parekh (EWG Chair, United Kingdom), Rony Marques (AmWG Chair, Brazil) with the “WG” short for “Working Group” in each as in African Working Group, Asian Working Group, European Working Group, and Americas Working Group (Humanists International, 2019c).

Humanists International, as the full organization, represents 181 Member Organizations or MOs, which remains a staggering testament to the hard work and dedication of the entire global community to come together and the Board and staff – Gary McLelland (Chief Executive), Bob Churchill (Director of Communications and Campaigns), Dr. Elizabeth O’Casey (Director of Advocacy), and Dr. Giovanni Gaetani (International Development Manager) – of Humanists International (and Young Humanists International) to bring everyone within the global humanist democratic umbrella (Humanists International, 2019d; Humanists International, 2019e). A truly impressive achievement and growth trajectory for a, typically, marginalized or silenced – whether externally or internally – minority, or superminority depending on the specific context. All recent elections happened in Reykjavik, Iceland (Humanists International, 2019f). If you would like to join, or have an organization considered for membership, this would be highly encouraged and supported, as humanism and its values continue to grow as a community and a life stance around the world – in even some of the most unlikely places (Humanists International, 2019g).

So there you go, IHEU is Humanists International and IHEYO is Young Humanists International.


Humanists International. (2019a). About. Retrieved from

Humanists International. (1952). Amsterdam Declaration 1952). Retrieved from

Humanists International. (2019f). General Assembly 2019. Retrieved from

Humanists International. (2019g). Join. Retrieved from

Humanists International. (2019e). Our members: Members list. Retrieved from

Humanists International. (2019d). Our people. Retrieved from

Humanists International. (2019b). The Amsterdam Declaration. Retrieved from

Humanists International. (2019c). Young Humanists International. Retrieved from

Jacobsen, S.D. (2019, September 10). Some Minor Coverage and Recent News on the Co-Founder of Aware Girls. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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