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International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) is the sole world umbrella organisation embracing Humanist, atheist, rationalist, secular, skeptic, Ethical Culture, freethought and similar organisations worldwide. Founded in Amsterdammarker in 1952, IHEU is a democratic union of more than 100 member organizations in 40 countries. [149821] Julian Huxley (the first director of UNESCOmarker), presided over the founding Congress of the IHEU.

The IHEU's vision is one of a Humanist world; a world in which the human rights of minorities are respected and everyone is able to live a life of dignity. The mission of IHEU is to build and represent the global Humanist movement that defends human rights and promotes Humanist values worldwide. IHEU sponsors the triennial World Humanist Congress and publishes International Humanist News.

In 2002 the IHEU General Assembly unanimously adopted the Amsterdam Declaration 2002 which represents the official defining statement of World Humanism. The Happy Human is the official symbol of IHEU.

Minimum Statement

All member organisations of the International Humanist and Ethical Union are required by IHEU bylaw 5.1 to accept the IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism:
Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

Strategic aims

The long term strategic aims of IHEU are:

  • To promote Humanism as a non-theistic life stance throughout the world.
  • To represent Humanism within the international community and organisations.
  • To defend human rights and the rights of Humanists.
  • To develop organised Humanism in every part of the world.
  • To build a strong and effective global organisation.


IHEU will:


Based in London, IHEU is an international NGO with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, General Consultative Status at the Council of Europe, Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and maintains operational relations with UNESCOmarker.

Core IHEU activities are:

  1. International conferences: to bring Humanists together and inspire them
  2. Campaigns: to promote and defend human rights and Humanist values
  3. Representation at international and regional bodies: to further Humanist goals
  4. Growth and Development: to support Humanist groups in developing countries
  5. Organisational Development: developing the youth movement, a women’s network, membership and support

The IHEU and Amnesty International led the campaign to try to obtain the release of Younus Shaikh.

IHEU chairmen and presidents

Years Position Holder(s)
1952-1975 Chairman Jaap van Praag  
1975-1979 Chairman troika Piet Thones Mihailo Marković Howard B. Radest
1979-1985 Bert Schwarz
1985-1986 Svetozar Stojanović
1986-1987 Rob Tielman Paul Kurtz
1987-1990 Levi Fragell
1990-1993 Kari Vigeland
1993-1994 Jane Wynne Willson
1995-1996 Vern Bullough
1996-1998 President  
1998-2003 Levi Fragell
2003-2006 Roy W Brown
2006- Sonja Eggerickx

IHEU Awards

International Humanist Award

Distinguished Service to Humanism Award

Other Awards

International Law

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights endorses international human rights for Freedom of Religion and Belief.

In international law the freedom of religion and belief is also protected byArticle 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This protection extends to those professing belief in no religion which includes agnostic, atheist, Humanist, and rationalist.

Also relevant are the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CROC), the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (Religion Declaration) and the International Labour Organisation Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958.


To date almost 10,000 people are members of the Union.



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