Some 120 participants from 26 nations appeared deeply impressed by the 52nd IAPC World Conference, which took place on a Danube river cruise from Passau to Vienna from 8 to 12 November 2019. Under the general question of the conference: “Democracy under pressure?”, around fifty speakers gave presentations and discussed the worldwide development of democracy in addition to revealing the latest trends in political campaigning.
The conference began with the Austrian journalist Max Zirngast, who had been indicted in Turkey in 2018 for membership of a terrorist organization and spent over three months in a high-security prison before being acquitted in September 2019. He not only outlined developments in Turkey, but also presented a global review that confirms legitimate concerns about the state of democracy around the world. The lead-in was presented by former IAPC President Volker Riegger. Furthermore, the “Democracy in Danger” session also featured numerous examples from countries around the world where the quality of democracy has been compromised. In this regard, a discussion on the situation in Latin America, Russia and Scandinavia was hosted by Faye Diamond / USA and featured Mauricio De Vengoechea / Colombia, Ekaterina Egorova / Russia as well as Torbjörn Sjöström / Sweden.
The first morning of the 52nd World Conference ended with a stimulating round table discussion on the role and challenges of women in society. Hosted by Mina Jordeby / Sweden, the discussion featured Regula Bühlmann / Switzerland, Ondine Fortune / USA, Milica Katic / Serbia and Justine Gaspar / Malta.
The afternoon of the first day of the conference was marked by a commemoration of the horrors of the Second World War. The guided tour through the former Mauthausen concentration camp near Linz and, in particular, the observation of a minute’s silence at the roll call ground with readings by Faye Diamond and Marcel Wieder was an extremely sobering experience for many of the participants. The event concluded with a presentation by former Austrian President Dr Heinz Fischer on “Democracy under pressure – learning from the past”, who was introduced by Sepp Hartinger / Austria. In his address, Dr Fischer shed detailed light on the background to this history and pointed to the lessons to be learned from it.
The second day of the conference began with a session on Europe and the EU in which the former Prime Minister of Slovenia and long-time MEP Alojz Peterle as well as Andreas Pfeifer, head of the foreign policy editorial department of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF and Gerda Füricht-Fiegl from Danube University Krems examined various problems and outlined ways and solutions. The session was hosted by Susanne Hartinger / Austria.
A further thematic focus consisted of presentations on the latest trends from all over the world. Participants followed the presentations with great interest. Hosted by Program Chair Melissa Cressey / USA, exciting news from a wide variety of campaigning disciplines was presented by Feyi Akindoyeni from Australia as well as Adam Hyland, Aubrey Montgomery, Josh Nanberg and Brent Buchanan from the USA.
One of the key issues discussed at Danube University in the afternoon was the state of Austrian politics. Hosted by Christoph Hofinger, this segment featured contributions by Katrin Praprotnik, Tamara Ehs and Judith Kohlenberger. An inspiring wine tasting at Nikolaihof, the world’s oldest winery, and an exclusive nighttime visit to the Krems art gallery completed the day’s schedule before the conference cruiser set off for Vienna.
Another highlight of the accompanying program was a guided tour of UNO-City Vienna and a presentation given by Martin Nesirky, Director of UNIS Vienna.
During the final gala dinner on board, Sepp Hartinger, Austria, a member of the IAPC since 1982 and its President from 1999-2001, was awarded the “Joe Napolitan & Michel Bongrand Founder Award for Lifetime Achievement” for the services he has rendered to the Association. Following on from Bo Krogvig / Sweden and Jon Gaul / Australia, he is the third member of the IAPC to receive this honor.
In addition, a comprehensive structural reform, prepared by President Mehmet Ural, was adopted at the IAPC General Assembly. This provides for a drastic reduction in the number of board members and a fixed allocation of responsibilities for each individual board member. The new 13-member Board of Directors was elected at the Annual General Meeting and shall commence its duties on 1 January 2020. It is composed as follows:
President: Mauricio De Vengoechea, Colombia
Treasurer: Melissa Cressey, USA
Secretary General: Matt Klink, USA
Vice President, Membership: Marilu Brajer, Argentina
Vice President, Conferences & Events: Crystal Martin, USA
Vice President, Fundraising: Wayne Johnson, USA
Vice President, Communications: Necati Özkan, Turkey
Vice President, Awards: Mina Jordeby, Sweden
Board Member, Membership: Marcel Wieder, Canada
Board Member, Conference & Events: Justino Pereira, Brazil
Board Member, Fundraising: Sal Russo, USA
Board Member, Communication: Kurtis Adigba, Nigeria
Board Member, Awards: Feyi Akindoyeni, Australia
All in all, the 52nd World Conference, which was staged for the first time on a river cruiser, offered unique impressions, both in regard to the speakers and the accompanying program. The discovery of such magnificent landscapes along the Danube shall also help the 52nd World Conference to long be remembered by all those who attended it.
At this point we wish to express our special gratitude to all the participants and speakers, and in particular to Melissa Cressey as Program Chair, Sepp Hartinger as Conference Chair as well as to all our sponsors and the entire team of Hartinger Consulting for the implementation and organization of this event.
As soon as one conference is over, the next conference begins. Preparations for the 53rd IAPC World Conference, which will take place immediately after the US presidential election from 8 to 11 November 2020, have been underway for weeks. IAPC President Mauricio De Vengoechea is in charge of organizing the event. Program Chair will be Tom Edmonds. On behalf of the IAPC we already welcome you to Miami!