Federation Internationale des Communautes Educatives (FICE) Questions and Answers

What is FICE?

FICE is the largest international professional association for people working with children and young people.

What does FICE stand for?

People have a number of ways of pronouncing the title, but the usual one is fee-say. The literal English translation is the International Federation of Educative Communities, but it is rarely used because its meaning is obscured by history. Most people use the initials.

How was FICE set up?

FICE was originally set up by UNESCO in Paris in 1948 to give support to the people working with refugee children displaced or orphaned by World War II. Children were mostly living in large institutions at that time, and for some years FICE’s membership was largely made up of residential workers. Now, however, FICE members work in all sorts of settings, though there is still something of an emphasis on children and young people who experience major problems such that they require care and/or education away from home. Some of the organisations in membership also work with adults, but FICE’s focus remains on children and young people.

Who are members of FICE?

There are organisations in about thirty countries which act as National Sections of FICE. The services for children and young people and the professions of those who work with them are organised very differently in different countries, and so the representative organisations in FICE also differ. Some are large with thousands of members; some are small and struggling. Some are co-ordinatory bodies similar to the National Children’s Bureau; some are professional associations. Some were set up as FICE National Sections; some were already in existence before taking on the role. All National Sections should be open to individuals and organisations to be able to join.

Individuals and organisations can also join FICE-International directly in countries where there is no National Section.

Since FICE was founded in Europe, it is dominated by European countries, but there are National Sections in almost every continent, and individuals from other countries attend FICE events.

What does FICE-International do?

There are major Congresses every two years, attended by about 500 delegates. The next one is due to be held in Helsinki, 11-13 June 2008. In between the Congresses there are other seminars and conferences , hosted by National Sections.

FICE-International has published books, bulletins and reports over the years, and is just starting another series of books to mark its 60th Anniversary next year.

FICE also organises a Professional Experience Programme (PEP) for people working with children to obtain placements in other countries.

However, the main function of FICE is to provide a setting in which people can network, pick up ideas, tell others about new developments and research, and develop joint projects.

What languages are used in FICE-International?

Technically, FICE works in three languages – English, French and German – and there are excellent interpreters at Federal Council meetings, General Assemblies and Congresses. In practice, virtually everyone speaks English, and it is rare that other languages are needed, though occasionally it is appreciated if one speaks French, German or Russian.

What do FICE National Sections do?

Each National Section has its own programme of activities. These vary enormously, but often including conferences, seminars, training, meetings with politicians and Government officials, publications and other membership services. Some of the materials produced by National Sections are available in English.

Federal Council meetings provide opportunities for members of National Sections to plan joint projects, such as visits to other countries, programmes for children from different countries to come together, aid activities for countries with weaker economies, or EU-funded research and training projects involving universities and agencies from several countries. These programmes are not formally FICE activities but are the result of the networking which FICE makes possible.

Does FICE have links with other international organisations?

FICE-International has working links with the EU, Council of Europe, ECOSOC, and membership of ENQASP and ENCAST. Representatives report back to Federal Council meetings.

In the 1980s, FICE was declared a Peace Messenger by the United Nations. This honour reflected FICE’s work over many years in bringing people together in difficult situations. Throughout the Cold War representatives of Eastern and Western Europe continued to meet despite political strictures. This emphasis continues, and over the last few years, FICE has set up a series of  successful Peace / Friendship Camps for staff and children and young people from the countries of former Yugoslavia to come together.

How is FICE governed?

Every two years there is a General Assembly, linked with the International Congress. It takes the formal decisions such as the election of officers.

In between the General Assemblies there are Federal Council meetings at approximately six monthly intervals. These are usually attended by a couple of representatives from each National Section, so that there are usually forty or fifty people at Federal Council meetings. When voting each National Section has two votes.

Federal Council meetings are held in different countries, and they provide an opportunity to learn about the services for children and young people in the host country, sometimes through day conferences or lectures or visits.

There is also an Executive Committee made up of the President, Secretary General, Treasurer and Vice Presidents. It meets in between Federal Council meetings to plan the programmes for Federal Council meetings and undertake detailed preliminary work on issues in order not to waste Federal Council time.

Who are the Honorary Officers at present?

The President of FICE-International is Monika Niederle of Austria, and she has just commenced her first term of office, having been elected in Sarajevo in September 2006.
Andrew Hosie of Scotland is Acting Secretary General. Rolf Widmer of Switzerland is the Treasurer. There are four Vice Presidents – Martti Kemppainen of Finland, Anton Tobe of the Netherlands, Soeren Hegstrup of Denmark and David Lane from England. The Vice Presidents each have specific remits as well as assisting the President in the overall management of FICE.

How are Honorary Officers elected?

The General Assembly elects Honorary Officers, generally to serve for periods of two years, but the President can be re-elected for two further terms, making six years in all, and the others can be re-elected without limit. If a vacancy occurs, the Federal Council can appoint an Acting Officer.

Where is the FICE office?

At present FICE-international has no dedicated office, and the Secretariat is conducted from the President’s National Section. Bettina Terp of Austria is responsible for the Secretariat.

How is FICE financed?

For many years UNESCO provided a core grant, but about 25 years ago, UNESCO decided to target its money on developing countries, and withdrew its support from FICE. The Pestalozzi Foundation in Switzerland paid the salaries of the General Secretary and Secretariat for many years. For the last two decades, FICE has had to rely on subscriptions from the National Sections. The level of subscriptions is based on the size of the country, the state of its economy and the size f the National Section. Although some of the National Sections are well off, FICE-International itself has limited resources.

What is the position about FICE-England?

The Residential Care Association joined FICE in the early 1950s, but when it became the Residential Care association it withdrew from membership. The Social Care Association rejoined in 1988, but again withdrew, setting up an organisation called Caring for Children to maintain contact in its place. This had a very small membership and very limited resources, and during Professor Ewan Anderson’s Presidency of CfC it was decided in 2004 that it could no longer continue.

There was then a gap with no formal representation, but the National Children’s Bureau decided to take up Associate Membership, to assess whether to take up full membership. NCERCC is acting as the Member on behalf of the NCB. It is hoped that Full Membership will be agreed at the Congress in Helsinki in 2008.

What happens next?

If FICE-England is to be successful, there will need to be a core of members prepared to set up a Committee, decide on a programme of activities and agree who should represent FICE-England at FICE Federal Council meetings etc.

The next Federal Council meeting is in Hungary in May 2007, and the autumn meeting is in Israel in October 2007. The Congress in Helsinki follows in June 2008.

The type and scale of activities will be for the Committee and NCERCC to agree. At present a day conference is being planned for 18 January 2007, to cover a range of topics where this country can learn from continental Europe.

Where can I learn more?

FICE-International has a website – www.fice-inter.org . Responsibility for this website has changed recently, so the contents are currently subject to modification and redesign. Some of the National Sections also have websites, but they are mostly in their respective languages.

For more information, Geraldine Drew by email:  [email protected]

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