Friday, April 13, 2007

Presidential Termination

In July 2010, some 2,000 researchers from all over the world will gather in Stockholm for the VIII ICCEES World Congress. For a week, issues related to Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia will be discussed at over 400 seminars and panels.

The International Council for East and Central European Studies (ICCEES) is the academic world organisation of analysts within this field. The ICCEES World Congress is a quintennial event, which last took place in Berlin in 2005. Since then, Germany and its national organisation - Deutsche Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde - hosts the ICCEES Information Centre, at University of Münster. Previous congresses have e.g. taken place in Helsinki in 2000, and in Warzaw in 1995.

The history of the organisation originates from 1974, when the International Committee for Soviet and East European Studies (ICSEES) was formed at a first congress in Banff, Canada. Due to the revolutionary political developments in Central and Eastern Europe from the mid 1980s, the name was altered in 1990 to International Council for Central and East European Studies (ICCEES) at its IV World Congress in Harrogate, England. Today, ICCEES consists of 20 national organisations, and an additional 4 associate members.

As ICCEES now has passed its third decade of existence, the Swedish Society for the Study of Russia, Central & Eastern Europe & Central Asia is undertaking increasingly intense preparations for the VIII ICCEES World Congress in Stockholm in 2010. Reflecting an expanded regional scope, the congress theme will be “Eurasia: Prospects for Wider Cooperation”.

The decision to let Sweden and its CEE Society host the congress was made by the ICCEES Executive Committee at the 2005 Berlin Congress. However, since then, preparations have admittedly been complicated by a presidential change in the Swedish organisation briefly after the decision was made, a consequent loss of instutional belonging, and a protracted interim period.

In March 2006, I was elected president of the Swedish Society for the Study of Russia, Central & Eastern Europe & Central Asia. The task set before the board was tremendous, with high demands on forming the financial and institutional basis for the 2010 ICCEES Congress. Thus, the ensuing work was very tough on the board, and many of us at times doubted that we would succeed. Still, at year's end, we had managed to get the backing of the Swedish government, key academic instititutions and major research foundations. This very satisfying result was due to the dedicated and determined voluntary work of the board and individual members of the Society. Now, I think that belief is strong among our members and the academic community that we will be able to carry through with the 2010 ICCEES World Congress with the quality such an event deserves. This is a very gratifying result indeed, even if it also has taken a tremendous amount of hard work and a deep toll on the commitment and time of those involved.

Concerning my own role, leadership is the art of making oneself obsolete. As president, I had set the task before me to form the financial and organisational basis of the ICCEES Congress. Having succeeded with this, I realised that the next stage in the process was to start filling the congress with relevant and solid academic content. Here, I was simply not the right man for the job, not because I could not successfully solve the task, but because I understood that other people could do it even better. As a consequence I made it very clear that the next step in the process needed professional academics, who could formulate the tasks from their experience and work with the dedication that their trade motivates. This requires the commitment and concerted efforts of the academic community. My decision was therefore to step aside to let other people in and find a solution that would better serve the interests of the Society and further preparations for the VIII ICCEES World Congress. Consequently, I recently left the presidency of the Society, confident that a very competent and professional new board will be successful in carrying on the work. So, with my mission completed, I can only say that it - despite all the hard work - has been a privilege and an honour to head the Swedish East European community and cooperate with the board and individual members in our joint efforts to further our interests and positions as an academic community nationally and internationally. I can now but wish the new board the best of luck in its further work.

1 comment:

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