the BIEN Congress 2012, Munich, 14th to 16th September

BIEN now stands for ‘Basic Income Earth Network’. Once every two years BIEN holds a congress, and this year’s showed just how appropriate the name now is and how inappropriate it would be to still call it the ‘Basic Income European Network’. There were participants from South Africa, Namibia, India, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Canada, Latin America, and numerous European countries. Over three hundred in all gathered for forty-eight hours of plenary sessions, workshops and panels: often six different workshops and panels at one time, with three or four speakers each, to enable all of the papers to be delivered and discussed.

The congress was titled ‘Pathways to a Basic Income’. There was a sort of pattern to the timetable. Friday’s sessions were largely on the current state of the debate, Saturday on routes towards implementation of a Citizen’s Income, and Sunday on a Citizen’s Income’s relationships with such vital themes as ecology, rights, justice, and democracy: but nothing is that tidy, and each day contained a wide diversity of presentations and discussions touching on all of those areas.

The high point was a set of presentations by Guy Standing and representatives of India’s Self Employed Workers Association on the Indian Universal Cash Transfers pilot project and on some of the interim results. Of all of the sessions that I attended this one got by far the longest applause. The other high point, though a rather lower key presentation, was the significant story of Iran’s Citizen’s Income told by Hamid Tabatabai during one of the panel sessions.

The Congress was a quite inspiring mixture of the visionary and the realistic, of the broad-brush and the detailed, of the theoretical and the practical, and Germany’s Netzwerk Grundeinkommen (Basic Income Network) is to be congratulated on organising such a highly successful event.