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A global perspective was present from the early days of our organization and was formalized by a name change in 1990 to the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. I’d like to highlight some of our international initiatives in this issue’s column.

The mission statement for ISTSS reflects the most recent thinking about the organization’s goals:

The ISTSS is an international multidisciplinary, professional membership organization that promotes advancement and exchange of knowledge about severe stress and trauma. This knowledge includes understanding the scope and consequences of traumatic exposure, preventing traumatic events and ameliorating their consequences, and advocating for the field of traumatic stress.

Supporting advancement and exchange of knowledge on an international basis reflects a belief that traumatic stress is universal to human experience, and its consequences are a concern for all of humankind. International scope fosters scientific advancement by encouraging knowledge exchange among diverse societies and cultures, a factor that may be crucial to achieving full understanding of the effects of trauma. International scope also facilitates reciprocity in the sharing of knowledge and provides a basis for disseminating educational resources that increase the standard of care for traumatized individuals worldwide. The dissemination efforts I mentioned in the spring issue of StressPoints applies across the globe.

The affiliate structure of ISTSS is a means for translating the international concept into action. The main governance body for this effort is the International Structure and Affiliations (IS&A) Committee. This is a standing committee with the following charges: 1) to recommend bylaws and procedures that advance the international scope of the society; 2) to encourage networking of trauma professionals worldwide; 3) to help increase and maintain breadth of programming for the annual meeting; and 4) to encourage suitable international representation on society leadership and professional activities. In addition, the IS&A Committee has served as the body that reviews requests from trauma societies that wish to affiliate with ISTSS and makes recommendations to the board of directors concerning these requests.

Currently there are eight trauma societies formally identified as affiliates of ISTSS: African Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (AfSTSS); Argentine Society for Psychotrauma (SAPsi); Association de Langue Francaise pour l’Etude du Stress et du Traumatisme (ALFEST); Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ASTSS); Canadian Traumatic Stress Studies Network (CTSN); Deutschsprachige Gesellschaft Für Psychotraumatologie (DeGPT); European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ESTSS); and Kuwaiti Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (KSTSS). The relationship between these organizations and ISTSS reflects the efforts of many leaders in the traumatic stress field and represents tangible progress toward the vision of an international community of trauma societies.

Erik De Soir and Danny Kaloupek, co-chairs of the IS&A Committee, currently are working with leaders from our partner traumatic stress societies to update the affiliation process and the benefits that affiliation confers to participating organizations. The co-chairs have created a document that outlines the underlying principles and aims for affiliation. Most of the content in this column comes from their document. Agreement about this framework sets the stage for subsequent proposals about how affiliation is accomplished and maintained, and what affiliation offers to all parties. The following list reflects the initial assumptions that guide our thinking about ISTSS structure and the nature of affiliations among major trauma societies.

  1. The costs and logistics associated with maintaining international activities can be substantial.
  2. International scope is an aspirational concept that will be achieved incrementally over time.
  3. The most immediate benefits of affiliation are facilitation of communication across trauma societies and establishment of working relationships on which to undertake activities of mutual interest (e.g., the World Congress).
  4. Affiliation must be based on mutual respect and tangible reciprocity between participating organizations.
  5. Affiliation must allow for diversity of perspective that arises from different cultural, intellectual and linguistic backgrounds.
  6. Affiliation is intended as an enduring relationship, with periodic renewal.
  7. Affiliation cannot undermine the autonomy of participating organizations.
  8. The financial cost of affiliation must be reasonable for all participating organizations.
  9. Existing affiliate relationships need to be preserved as the terms of affiliation are revised.

Consistent with these aspirations, the ISTSS board decided some years ago to hold the midyear board meeting outside of the United States (preferably outside of North America), even though it is more expensive for most board members and for ISTSS. The 2005 midyear board meeting was held in conjunction with ESTSS in Stockholm in June. Also, as a result of these affiliations and a desire to combine efforts and knowledge, the fourth World Congress will be held in June 2006 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, chaired by Richard Bryant and Dani Mosca. And discussions are beginning for a World Congress in 2010. As a further commitment of encouraging international attendance at the annual meetings, I am pleased to report that 100 percent of the ISTSS board of directors contributed to the travel grant fund that helps support travel to annual meetings for members from developing countries.

In closing, as always, I encourage you to contact me with your ideas for ISTSS and let me know how you’d like to participate. E-mail me at brothba@emory.edu.