News Detail

28.10.2020

Towards a virtual FIA Congress in 2021

For the first time since the founding of our Federation in 1952, the FIA world Congress will take place in a purely virtual environment. This unprecedented initiative was made necessary by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has ravaged our societies and impeded our activities in the real world. This global health emergency, which has already claimed more than a million victims, is currently surging in a second wave, which makes it highly problematic, if not impossible, to hold an international event like the FIA Congress and ensure that there are adequate health and safety protection mechanisms in place.

The crisis we are facing today is unprecedented in modern history post-world-war-two.

The crisis we are facing today is the most unprecedented in modern history since the Second World War. A terrifying side-effect of globalisation, it spreads along with the flows of people, goods and services that today link every country to the rest of the world. This tightly bound symbiosis is enriching, but also linked to the countless social and humanitarian crises and inequalities that keep on growing. It is these inequalities that are now at risk of expanding in an exponential fashion, driven by economic stagnation and the approaching spectre of an unprecedented recession, whose end it is difficult, if not impossible, to predict.

With lock-downs, social distancing and other emergency security measures adopted by most countries round the globe, our sector was one of the first to be impacted. Without a doubt, it will be one of the last to emerge from it. From one day to the next, audiovisual production found itself at a standstill. Deprived of an audience, live performance venues closed their doors. The consequences for performers, who are already vulnerable due to budget cuts in recent years, as well as the short-term nature of their work and, in many cases, the lack of a real employment status, have been (and continue to be) simply catastrophic. Many have found themselves without an income from one day to the next and may also be without the social protection and unemployment benefit intended to help them face the forced and prolonged interruption of work. Various financial support measures for the cultural sector have been put in place but few of them directly reach performers facing hardship. While the world faces a huge surge in the number of infections, the question of how long financial support measures can be made available has inevitably come to the fore. It is quite clear however, that even when the immediate health crisis passes – perhaps with the identification and roll-out of an effective vaccine – the sector will be far from over the worst and will need time to be restored to any kind of sustainable level.

Our unions continue to do vital work, both supporting members in need and helping them in their everyday lives, as well as advocating for targeted aid measures and better social protection for performers, including for those who are without the protections conferred by an employment contract. In many cases, FIA unions have informed us about significant membership growth, however their financial resources, largely drawn from voluntary member contributions, are nonetheless reaching a critical level. Those that employ staff have had to resign themselves to placing some of their personnel on furlough or even terminating their employment for financial reasons.

Given this context, it would have been unthinkable for FIA to organise its Congress as usual. For one thing, it would have been greatly limited by the restrictions that continue to disrupt international travel and by the social distancing rules and sometimes new lockdowns that continue to change and evolve from country to country as the crisis unfolds.  Bringing together the FIA membership in a single place, while guaranteeing that they could meet and work safely and return home without any hindrances, was sadly impossible. Keeping the costs for Congress at an acceptable level would also have been unachievable and the presence of a Congress quorum was highly uncertain. Furthermore, it would have been difficult for our members to leave their home countries in the middle of a crisis and to engage additional costs for international action at a time when limiting expenditure to the greatest degree possible is the order of the day.

For all of these reasons, the FIA executive had initially decided to postpone our Federation’s world Congress until February 2021, but then proceeded to cancel all arrangements made and, in an online meeting that took place on the 27th and 28th of October 2020, decided that Congress must instead be held in an exclusively virtual environment during the week of 3-7 May 2021.

It will thus be in an online forum that the FIA delegates will next meet to examine the work done since the preceding Congress of our Federation in Brazil in 2016 and to define and approve the programme of work for the coming four years. It will also be via electronic means that we shall organise, on this occasion, the elections to renew the membership of the Executive and Presidium of FIA.

The Executive Committee has noted that the FIA statutes do not stipulate the physical presence of its members at Congress and thus do not pose a barrier to any vote being undertaken, including for the renewal of the governing bodies, via exclusively electronic means. Using its powers, as conferred in the FIA statutes, the Executive of FIA has therefore interpreted those statutes in such a way as to officially enable the holding of a virtual Congress in 2021.

The Presidium and secretariat of FIA shall do their utmost in the coming months to ensure that the FIA Virtual Congress, despite being an inevitably less sociable gathering, will still be a meaningful, inclusive and participative experience for all our members worldwide.