Two successful UIA Associations Round Tables 
by Nancy Carfrae, Union of International Associations (UIA)
Big picture. The UIA Associations Round Table Asia-Pacific welcomed 72 participants from 49 international associations and 18 countries to Bangkok on 29 and 30 September.
Keynote speaker Laura Lopez from UN-ESCAP, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, set the stage with an overview of how associations contribute to UN programmes, introducing a lively discussion on the pioneering role of associations. John Peacock of Associations Forum encouraged us to consider the governance structures of our associations. We learned from three case studies: Rakesh Soans from FSL-India spoke of the challenge of engaging volunteer workers; Esther Chong from the Singapore Business Federation shared her experience in encouraging corporate activism; and UIA’s Ryan Brubaker gave tips on establishing a consistent identity for an association. The Round Table closed with a hands-on session on communicating clearly, led by Clara Fernandez Lopez of UIA.
Before, after, and in between we enjoyed the generous hospitality of Thailand, with tours of Bangkok and the IT&CMA exhibition, dancing, music, fashion, and bountiful good food.
The UIA Associations Round Table Europe welcomed 192 participants from 140 international associations and 22 countries to Brussels on 13 November.
We started with the big picture: UIA Vice-President Cyril Ritchie examined the associations world in the light of democracy, inspiring us with examples from the past and challenges for the future. We finished the day with practicalities: four service providers told us what kind of help they can give associations.
The greater part of the day was filled with workshops.
Ulrike von Lonski shared with us a tool used by her organization, the World Petroleum Council, to ensure effective communication. In order to get one’s message across, she recommended a six-step “Communication planning tool”, adaptable to every communication need, whether internal or external, large-scale or not. One starts by establishing the purpose – “what do I want to achieve” – then determines the audience, the message, the channel(s) to be used, and the timing. The final step is evaluation: did people get the message?
Valentin Dupouey from the Erasmus Student Network guided us through discussions on the relationship between an elected volunteer board, professional paid staff, and grassroots volunteers. We considered seven aspects: working collaboratively; fostering a feeling of belonging; transferring knowledge; building a good relationship between board and staff; encouraging future leadership; engaging volunteers; and understanding what motivates volunteers.
Marleen Denef and Sarah Verschaeve from the law firm Curia answered questions on legal matters affecting the work of international associations: whether the defining characteristic of an international association is its social impact or its financial impact; how good governance can be fostered by a careful composition of the board of directors; the risks when deriving income from commercial activities or when partnering with a commercial company; and complying with privacy regulations.
Philippe Noirhomme from the Belgian VAT Desk took on the thorny topic of VAT issues for international associations. He explained that the most common status for an association is that of a “fully taxable person”, both charging and recuperating VAT. For most daily activities, the tax status is determined by the country in which the main management decisions are taken, but there is a distinction between services and products, and between services rendered to all members together and to some individually.
Both the 2015 Round Tables will be remembered for quality of the conversations and the engagement of the participants. The valuable and significant contribution associations make to society is as strong as Bangkok sunshine and as vital as Brussels rain.
We look forward to 2016: Busan in September, and Monaco in November.
w w w. uia. org/roundtable