2014 was the first full year of the current term of office and was a busy year of activity and achievement.
One of the first activities of the year was European Epilepsy Day in February. This was also to be the last European Epilepsy Day as plans to supersede a European day for epilepsy with an interna- tional event were already underway. Similar to previous years, IBE associations across the region created a wide range of activities to create awareness about epilepsy and, at the same time, to raise funds for their work. At European level, once again we were hosted in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, meeting with Members of the European Parliament and with a poster exhibi- tion on the theme Epilepsy is more than Seizures.
During the year, together with our partners, the International League Against Epilepsy, we also organised three regional con- gresses. The first of these was the 2nd African Epilepsy Regional Congress, which took place in Cape Town in late May. A high- light of the congress was the special IBE programme ‘Epilepsy & Society’, which had a high attendance of delegates including people with epilepsy, their families and care-givers.
The 10th Asian & Oceanian Epilepsy Congress, in Singapore in early August, also had a very successful and well attended ‘Epilepsy & Society’ programme in addition to the presentation of the Outstanding Persons with Epilepsy awards, which have become a special feature of the Asian congresses. The good news is that the awards may also be introduced by other IBE Regional Committees. This is a tremendous way of spotlighting those people with epilepsy who overcome their epilepsy to achieve great things.
The third regional congress, the 8th Latin American Regional Congress, took place in Buenos Aires in September with an excellent number of delegates attending. During the congress, an important meeting on the PAHO Strategic Plan for the Americas took place. Launched in 2011, the plan will run for 10 years and the meeting in Buenos Aires was to review progress to date and plan for the future.
In early 2014, the term of the European Parliament came to an end and ballots took place in each Member State to elect MEPs to start for the term 2014-2019. This provided the opportunity to advocate for epilepsy among delegates standing for election through the creation of a Manifesto, which was widely circulated in many of the languages of the EU. Following the elections, we began to renew the European Advocates for Epilepsy MEP group, with its new President, Brian Hayes MEP.
Our Secretary General, Sari Tervonen, facilitated a Members Survey, which has since been used in developing the IBE Strategic Plan for 2015-2018 and I would like to thank all of the members who participated. Linked to the Strategic Plan was the ongoing work of the Governance Task Force, in reviewing the Constitution and Bye-laws. To this end, the task force met in Stockholm in mid-2014 and work on drafting the new text got underway.
After two years of hard work, the ILAE Definitions Task Force produced the Definitions of Epilepsy 2014, which IBE has endorsed. The Task Force membership included two IBE representatives – Mike Glynn and Carlos Acevedo.
2014 was also a year of planning for the future and, in particular for the launch of the 1st International Epilepsy Day, that would take place in February 2015. A new dedicated website epilepsy.org was created and a competition was held to find the perfect logo. A range of materials was also developed to support members in celebrating the event at national level right across the world. A joint initiative of IBE and ILAE, over the years International Epilepsy Day will develop into the preeminent day for raising epilepsy awareness at global level.
Following some quiet background efforts, and thanks in particular to our friends in China and Russia, towards the end of the year we found that our efforts had borne fruit and that epilepsy would be on the agenda for the WHO Executive Board meeting in January 2015, with the exciting prospect of having a Resolution on epilepsy approved by the World Health Assembly. This would be a mammoth task, and would require much hard work and dedication, not only by the IBE and ILAE boards, but by IBE and ILAE chapters around the world. Little were we to know, as the year came to a close, just how well these efforts were to pay off! But that is for next year’s report!
In closing I would like to thank to all those who have supported me over the last twelve months – my fellow members of the IBE Executive Committee, Regional Committees, Task Forces, Chapters and, in particular, Ann Little at the office. I would also like to mention the importance of the continued joint working relationship that IBE has with our partners in the International League Against Epilepsy. Together we can achieve great things.
With best wishes to all!