JCI Belgium history
The first steps towards the origin of JCI Belgium were set on September 1st, 1936. At that time a Junior Section was set up in the Brussels Chamber of Commerce & Industry, when young men and women decided to meet, and to establish a business network. This original chapter was the first to be created on the European continent.
JCI Belgium was affiliated at the 2nd World Congress held in Dallas TX (USA) in February 1947. Today JCI Belgium is the longest standing affiliated European member of JCI.
At the 3rd World Congress held in Rio do Janeiro (Brazil) in 1948, Gilbert MABILLE was elected in the Board of Directors as “Executive Member”. He was involved to prepare for the 4th World Congress to be held in Brussels (Belgium) in April 1949, the first Congress outside of the Americas and the first one in Europe. At this World Congress a contest was organized that resulted in the selection of the Jaycee Song. The constitution was rewritten because the earlier document could not be located. The International Affairs commission reached the conclusion that one of the greatest barriers to free trade among nations at this time was the lack of uniform passport and visa regulations. JCI should work through the United Nations to expedite a program to standardize such regulations.
At the Congress in Brussels, Belgian Theo STAAR was elected as JCI President for 1949-1950.
During the 5th World Congress held in Manila (Philippines) in March 1950, the concern of expanding communism in several areas of the world, worried members that wanted to preserve world peace. This concern dominates the resolutions passed at this World Congress.
President Theo STAAR worded it as follows:
“The economic ills of many countries, which are providing breeding grounds for communism, are world responsibilities. We must realize that between the nations of the world, there must be e freer interchange of goods. No nation, however self sufficient, can stand aloof either as a buyer or a seller of goods. It is a clear and urgent change laid on nations which have achieved high standards of industrialization, to assist those not so fortunately placed. ‘The brotherhood of men transcends the sovereignty of nations’ should be JCI’s guideline in its efforts toward the preservation of peace.”
Most of JCI’s development dealt with means of promoting trade and preserving peace. If trades were less restrictive and tariffs lifted peace would be less difficult to maintain. A unanimous vote was recorded for a resolution outlawing the use of atomic and hydrogen bombs as instruments of destruction. This would be best achieved through connections at the United Nations.
Also emphasis was given to diversify activities from more strictly economic concerns to include a wide range of projects of more immediate and direct value to the community as a whole.
Anyway, at that time, Belgium was the stronghold for JCI in Europe. It was in Belgium, together with Germany, that lady members were admitted, a subject that created much discussion at the following 6th World Congress in Montreal (Canada). Female membership was admitted but they would not be eligible for international office.
During the following years Belgian VP’s Francis VAN DER VLIET (with Robert ZIEGLER), Paul MOUREAU, and Arthur ZIEGLER were in charge of the extension of JCI Europe.
JCI Belgium continued to be active and organized the JCI Conference in Brussels in 1958, the year of the successful World Exhibition in Belgium. Another JCI Conference was organized in Brussels in 1970.
In 1968 JCI Belgium sent a large delegation to the JCI Conference in Monaco. The delegation was joined by Belgian Paul-Henri SPAAK, one of the seven founding fathers of the European Union. The delegation pleaded successfully to start up “Project Europe” in JCI Europe to improve and implement knowledge about the European Union and built friendship and understanding in Europe. Belgian Michel DONCK was elected as the first “Mister Europe” within JCI Europe.
In 1972, returning from the successful JCI Conference in Edinburgh the plane, that carried a large part of the Belgian delegation, crashed near Heathrow Airport in London. It caused the death of almost the whole Executive Board of JCI Belgium. This committee had already started to extend JCI Belgium which resulted, in five years, to an increase in local organizations and an important increase in membership, from 900 members up to 2.000 members.
The successes obtained in JCI Belgium and the strong commitment to JCI during the 70’s have to be attributed to those who lead the way and may rightfully claim having been at the origins of this expansion.
After this cruel accident, the “Staines Foundation” was created, with the help of a number of National Organizations and Local organizations. Every year at the convention of JCI Belgium, the President of JCI London hands over the “Staines Memorial award” to a member that best achieved international recognition and esteem for JCI Belgium, promoting international cooperation and friendship.
The Staines Foundation today insures all members of JCI Belgium for accidents occurring when traveling for JCI Belgium.
During the 70’s Belgian members were successful bringing new ideas within JCI:
- Being part of the LRPC 1974 that introduced the “Declaration of Principles” and the “Main Emphasis Theme”
- Installing a reserve fund that later became the JCI Foundation
- Printing of JCI World in Belgium and air mail to the members
- Achieving the goal of 500.000 members
- Introducing professional training courses with JCI The Netherlands
- Introducing “Management by Objectives” for the membership services based on a “Mission”
In 1977 JCI Senate Belgium, although active since 1966, was created as a different legal entity within the JCI Belgium family. JCI Belgium Senate has since been continuously supporting and subsidizing the efforts of JCI Belgium by funds made available by its senator members.
JCI Belgium later has also invited their fellow members at JCI Area Conferences in Antwerp (1978) “Free enterprise for a better future through a better understanding”, Liège (1987) “Communication: instrument of the second Renaissance” and Ostend (2000) “Expand your boundaries”.
JCI Belgium members Gerrit LOVINK (ITF # 002) and Reginald SCHAUMANS were involved in the 80’s to set up JCI training programs for the training of Trainers with the packages TROT, Prime and Excel. A number of belgian JCI trainers have achieved the highest recognition within the JCI Training Certification.
As most Belgians trainers master different languages, JCI Belgium has been very often asked to run programs in Africa, Asia, The Americas and Europe. They were often at the origin of creating and inspiring new National and Local Organizations.
At the 45th World Congress held in Puerto Rico in 1990 a second Belgian was elected in the office of JCI President.
President Reginald SCHAUMANS had as his motto for the year 1991 “You make the difference”. Members who have trust in their capabilities can inspire the future of their communities.
This theme based on the philosophy of Junior Chamber to motivate members all over the world to continue to set up great programs for their local, regional or national communities in order to make that difference.
For the membership, to be able to play a more important role in the economic development of their communities, the “Junior Chamber International Business Network”’ was created.
President Reginald SCHAUMANS chaired “The international Model United Nations” in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations in New York held by JCI. The declaration of Global Citizenship was signed by delegates of over 90 countries.
In his opening speech of the 1991 Helsinki World Congress (theme “Accept the challenges of a new world”) Reginald stated:
“In the face of changing interrelation among the nations of the world, we will have to meet many challenges in the decades ahead. No longer can we solely depend on our nation-states to decide for individuals the direction for the future, nor can we ignore the messages being sent to us by our global home, Planet Earth.”
It is necessary for all citizens of the world to take responsibility as the stewards and trustees of our existence. It is up to us, as citizens of the world, to make a difference in the areas of the environment, economic development and the future of our children.
Junior Chamber, going back to its Declaration of Principles and its Creed, confirms its belief that the individual is the key of the future. The individual, with his very own uniqueness, skills and creativity, language, religion and traditions, who shares the same rights but who accepts the same responsibilities she or he has towards his neighbors, community, the world. The individual will make the difference.”
It has to be noted that because of the start of the first Iraq War, Reginald SCHAUMANS was one of the few international individuals that did not hesitate to travel by airline around the world to serve the membership.
During the following years many Belgians were involved with the JCI Foundation, and represented JCI in different NGO’s and organizations to build up cooperation in favor of JCI activities.
In 1997 Albert II, the King of Belgium, awarded a status of High Protection to JCI Belgium.
Ever since 1993 different members served in the capacity of international Vice-President, contributing to the development of JCI especially in Africa and Europe. Most of them received the prestigious Award as “Best Vice-President of the year”.
In 2009 JCI Belgium, through its regional organization JCI Flanders, offered a new award to the international organization: the “JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Award”, sponsored by Flanders District of Creativity.
In 2008 JCI Belgium decided to bid for hosting the JCI World Congress and to invite the international membership to a World Congress. JCI Belgium was elected during the 64th World Congress in Tunisia to host the 66th World Congress in Brussels in 2011.
The 66th JCI Congress, held in Brussels, brought together 4.550 members coming out of 101 JCI Member Organizations. The central meeting point, at the same time lunch place and JCI Village, gave an original approach to communication, and allowed many participants to foster friendships and understanding, in the spirit of our founders as written down in the “Preamble” to the JCI Constitution. JCI Belgium had, by far, the largest number of participants of any JCI National Organization.