IRSA General Assembly, August 13 2016

International Rural Sociology Association
General Assembly
Toronto, Canada
Saturday, August 13, 2016 (11am – 1pm)

Outgoing President Geoff Lawrence opened the General Assembly by welcoming all those present. President Lawrence then reported to the Assembly that the IRSA Council had voted unanimously to accept the Nigerian Rural Sociology Association (NRSA) as an “Associate Organization” under article 3 of the IRSA Constitution. A representative who was in attendance stood up to thank IRSA and to invite all IRSA members to attend the upcoming NRSA meeting in October.

Next, President Lawrence extended his greetings to the Incoming President, Dr Koichi Ikegami, and then proceeded to the introduction of new office bearers. President Lawrence introduced Dr Sally Shortall as the new First Vice President and Dr Lutgarda Tolentino as the new Second Vice President. President Lawrence announced that Raymond Jussaume had been re-appointed as IRSA Secretary-Treasurer. Finally, President Lawrence recognized all those in attendance at the General Assembly who were either members of past or present IRSA Councils, officers of member organizations, or past IRSA Presidents.

A brief discussion followed of the Minutes of the previous General Assembly that was held in Lisbon in 2012. President Lawrence noted that those minutes had been reviewed and approved by Council in 2014. A Motion was then made: That the General Assembly approve the minutes from the 2012 General Assembly held in Lisbon, Portugal, at the meeting of the XII World Congress of Rural Sociology. The motion was moved by Dr Shucksmith and seconded by Dr Almas. The motion was carried by a unanimous vote.

Secretary-Treasurer Jussaume presented the Quadrennial Report. One highlight of the report was the work of Council member Keith Moore to expand ties with African rural sociologists. One result of that work was the aforementioned acceptance of NRSA as an Associate Organization. Dr Jussaume also mentioned that IRSA tax status with the US IRS as a non-profit organization has been extended. He then briefly reviewed the activities of member associations over the past four years and also noted that IRSA maintains its membership with the International Sociological Association. Dr Jussaume asked for questions about the report. There were none, and so the Motion was made: That the General Assembly accept the Quadrennial Report. The motion was moved by Dr Shucksmith and seconded by Dr Scott. The motion was carried by a unanimous vote.

Secretary-Treasurer Jussaume then presented the Financial Report. He pointed out that all member associations were current with dues payments. He emphasized that IRSA currently has a $30,000 positive balance. However, IRSA spent more over the past four years than it received in new income. The two biggest expenses are web site maintenance and support for the President to travel to member association meetings. While IRSA’s financial health is good, new sources of income are needed. A discussion ensued about the challenges associated with finding new sources of income, as well as the problem that IRSA faces of keeping the World Congress affordable at the same time that the World Congress is the major source of income for IRSA. Subsequently, the Motion was put forth: That the General Assembly accept the Financial Report. The motion was moved by Dr Koç and seconded by Dr Higgins. The motion was carried by a unanimous vote.

Dr Lawrence than announced that the site for the 2020 World Congress would be Cairns, Australia. He then introduced Dr Stewart Lockie, who presented information on Cairns as a location for the World Congress. Following Dr Lockie’s presentation, Dr Clare Hinrichs asked what the specific location for conference meetings would be? Stewart responded that local arrangements would like to have to have the meetings at the Cairns Convention Center, but that cost and location scenarios still need to be worked out. One challenge is that The Cairns Institute, which is the local host sponsor, is located 15 kilometers from downtown. Dr Sergio Schneider suggested that a big effort was needed to spread the news about the Congress, especially within Asia in order to increase participation at the Congress. It is always important to encourage participation from locations in the region where the Congress is held. Dr Schneider suggested that the local arrangements committee be more aggressive than usual in coordinating with rural sociological groups in the region. Another suggestion was put forth from the assembly that several program co-chairs be selected, with one co-chair being from the local region. At this point, the motion was made: To note that Cairns will be the site of the XV World Congress. The motion was moved by Dr Shucksmith and seconded by Dr Akitsu. The motion carried by a unanimous vote.

Dr Lawrence then led a discussion of future issues – based upon what he learned over his four years as President. He believes that there are three issues of concern for the future. The first is getting greater regional representation, including the need to include more African scholars. Some progress has been made on this, but more needs to be done. Also, IRSA needs to become concerned about participation from the Middle East, as well as some Asian and Latin American countries that are underrepresented in IRSA activities. IRSA needs to provide more support to scholars from these regions. This leads to the second issue, which is the financial viability of IRSA. This issue has been raised regularly since 2004. How does IRSA increase revenues when regional associations have such tight budgets? Where do we get money? Finally, the third issues is how do we go about choosing future World Congress venues in an era of global political instability?

At the same time, Dr Lawrence also wanted to highlight positives. The core regional associations are up to date in payments. Also, the web site is going well. Dr Lawrence asked for those in attendance to please support Presidential calls for web site material. Finally, Dr Lawrence noted that IRSA is financially stable, but there are so many crucial issues facing rural regions and IRSA participants need to help find solutions to these. ALASRU member, Dr Sergio Schneider, spoke up at this point and announced that ALASRU is launching a new journal that is being published in three languages. This is wonderful news.

Dr Lawrence than introduced his replacement as President, Dr Koichi Ikegami, who was elected this year by vote of the Council. Dr Ikegami expressed his gratitude to Dr Lawrence. Dr Ikegami stated that he is looking forward to working with regional associations and helping to make IRSA more globalized. He also looks forward to sharing and working on his vision for IRSA. Dr Ikegami asked those at the meeting to attend the special session on Africa that was going to be held later on Saturday. Dr Ikegami believes that IRSA needs to focus on preparing and developing the next generation of (young) rural sociologists. There is also a need to raise sustainable sources of funds for young researchers, especially from developing countries. IRSA must address crucial issues in rural areas, and research is needed to help find solutions. IRSA can play an important research-based role in doing this. Dr Ikegami then asked for the support of IRSA participants during his term of office until 2020.

Program Co-chairs Phil Mount and Clare Hinrichs, and Local Arrangements Co-chairs Mustafa Koç and Patrizia Albanese gave their joint report on the current Congress. Dr Hinrichs stated that there were a total of 208 events in the Toronto program. Most were paper sessions, and session chairs organized most paper sessions. There were also three films and a breakfast meeting. The Congress also had an active poster session. Approximately 750 delegates were registered as of the fifth of August, and there were a few late registrants. Delegates came from over 50 countries. The biggest participation came from Canada and then the US. A number of bursaries were given out. Over 654 papers were presented. Anecdotal feedback has been positive. A number of participants reported that they very much liked the daily updates that the local arrangements committee sent out during the Congress to all Congress participants via e-mail.

Dr Koç noted that the most recent count for the Congress was 837 participants, out of whom 725 payed registration fees. There were 654 papers presented during the Congress, as well as 7 “virtual” presentations. There were 13 poster sessions, and over 80 national and international volunteers provided assistance during the Congress. The local arrangements committee organized three tours with 108 delegates. The local arrangements committee plans to fulfil its financial obligation to IRSA. Gratitude was expressed to Mustafa by various attendees at General Assembly as well as to Ryerson University for all of its support and hard work.

A Motion was then offered: That the General Assembly thank the Program Chairs, Local Arrangements Chairs and their committee members for an excellent Congress. The motion was moved by Dr Scott and seconded by Dr Shucksmith. The motion was carried by a unanimous vote.

An additional motion was then proposed that: That the General Assembly recognize Keith Moore’s work over the past four years. The motion was moved by Dr Shucksmith and seconded by Dr Brown. The motion carried by a unanimous vote.

Finally, Dr Krzysztof Gorlach presented a brief film and explanation of the upcoming 27th European Congress for Rural Sociology to be held in Krakow (July 24-27, 2017). The theme of this conference will be Uneven Processes of Rural Change: on Diversity, Knowledge and Justice. The program committee is currently collecting session proposals, with a deadline of 9/15/16. All are welcome to participate in the Congress.

President Koichi Ikegami closed the General Assembly by extending his thanks to President Lawrence for all of his work over the past four years.

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