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As I review 2016 on a global scale, it has been one which has surprised and shocked us. Events that dominated the news in the second half of 2016 include Brexit and the recent election of Donald Trump as the next US President. The turmoil faced in the Middle East continues with heart breaking scenes from war torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Consequences of migration in Europe has seen a rise in populism, testing and questioning our values and identity. Leaders fell and were replaced, protests were held, emotions ran rampant, from shock, disbelief, to anger, fear, hopelessness, to acceptance, positive action, to “a thing of the past” and acceptance.

As we go through these stages above, we wonder where are we- where is the world heading? I am reminded of the words of Leonard Cohen (1934-2016), “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. And maybe these events force us to question things and look for new solutions. In all this confusion and uncertainty, there can be hope, there can be light, there are hundreds of thousands, millions of people, who will unite for positive action, quietly, loudly, in strength of one character, in mobilising a movement or group. I am reminded of our SIETAR members, our network, our colleagues, the work we do bridging cultures, countries and peoples. And so once again, I feel there is a greater need for our area of work and to continue and engage on every level, no matter how great, no matter how small.

And sharing some of these stories of how we make a difference and what we are doing in our SIETAR community, 2016 has been a constructive year. Below I share some highlights of our work and achievements around the world:

• The Board, Executive, Communications, Re-structuring and Events committees have worked tirelessly on making SIETAR Europa more visible, more professional, putting standards and processes in place. This job is on-going. As we professionalise, we ask difficult questions on our structure, how to serve our members better and the future of the SIETAR organisation. The end result of these discussions is to become a more efficient, transparent and professional organisation.

• We had a number of conferences around the world, including SIETAR USA and SIETAR Poland and a very successful SIETAR Europa webinar series using new, efficient tool we have subscribed to, Zoom.

• A group of interculturalists met in Brussels to brainstorm on the migrant issue. This work and dialogue continues.

• The SIETAR Global Connect group which meets once a month and brings all SIETAR presidents together, continues to share best practices and exchange. We welcomed SIETAR Mexico to our global community and will soon be welcoming SIETAR South Africa. A global events calendar displays the variety of events all over the world.

• And last but not least, planning for the #seucongress Dublin congress is well under way, led by a number of committees; including a steering committee, two very dedicated congress coordinators, a program and academic committee with a lot of reviewers, which includes the keynote speakers’ committee, film festival, arts and music program and pre-congress committees. Then there is the very active communications committee, sponsorship, scholarship, budgeting and finally volunteers committee.

And if that is not enough, we are already looking forward to 2017…
• We already have the entire 2017 webinar series on line!
• More national and global SIETAR conferences to look forward to, please see the websites of all national SIETARs, an overview is here!
• Of course, the congress in Dublin 22-27 May and
• A little sneak surprise, you are the first to hear about the SIETAR Europa Cookbook – soon to be launched in 2017, more information will follow soon as we invite all of you to contribute!

It is a pleasure to work with a talented and committed SIETAR Europa board. I am pleased that we will have our annual face to face board meeting in March 2017. One of our efficiency drives has been to reduce our face to face board meetings. Although this is not ideal, we strive to hold one face to face meeting per year and the remainder are held virtually every two months. I look forward to 2017, to continuing our dialogues and to meeting you in Dublin. In the meantime, I and the SIETAR Europa Board take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a happy holiday and new year. Until 2017, stay well and warm!

Pari Namazie
President SIETAR Europa

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