33 No. 5
Perturbations to the normal course of events, whether they carry a positive or a negative aspect, are always interesting. They disturb the steady as she goes and often boring routine character of our lives and, particularly if they are significant, engender innovative thought and action to ensure that the enterprise affected continues on its way and prospers. There have been two significant perturbations to the financial life of the Union during the past 12 months and both are still running their courses. The first and very positive of these is the International Year of Chemistry which has brought us many strategic opportunities as well as some formidable challenges. The IYC has made and will continue to make 2011 a particularly active and exciting year for the Union and has very much sharpened our sensitivity to the need to promote and demonstrate the beneficial societal impact of our subject and of our own work as its international union. The second, and more difficult perturbation, is the continuation of the worldwide depression, which is impossible to ignore and which in many instances removes the luxury of certainty and plenty and makes it necessary to struggle to keep afloat and to maintain even core activities.
The recent financial performance of the Union can be properly and fairly assessed only in the light of these major factors as they have indeed had some influence on the manner in which we conduct our business. They are also interlinked because the IYC brought the necessity to raise sponsorship to support our program of international events and the facility with which sponsorship can be won for any purpose is affected by a general dearth of discretionary funds. Given these circumstances we have done very well and the finances of the Union will certainly emerge at the end of this year in a reasonably healthy state. In respect to the IYC, the decision taken was to make a maximum of half a million U.S. dollars available to support the year, but with the proviso that as much of this as was possible, ideally all of it, be recovered from sponsorship. This funding was directed to be applied to support the Cornerstone Events, namely the Paris Opening Ceremony, the General Assembly in Puerto Rico, and the Closing Ceremony in Brussels, as well as the IYC website and other additional central costs that fell on the Secretariat. Because of its international character and appeal to young chemists, funds have also been provided to the Global Water Experiment. The outcome was that sufficient sponsorship was raised by the two local organizing committees at the Paris and Brussels events to cover their costs. These costs in total exceeded USD 800 000 and the organizers deserve our congratulations and gratitude for their superb efforts. Further sponsorship in excess of USD 400 000 as well as considerable sponsorship in kind were raised centrally. Even though the year still has several months to run, it is becoming clear that the Union itself will spend less than USD 250 000. It is still too early to know the final outcome, but this is clearly the time to say a very sincere thank you to all our sponsors who have supported and made possible our IYC program.
The additional activities of the International Year of Chemistry have given us the impetus to think in a wider context, but it is important to emphasize that there has been no let up in the work of the divisions and committees who have, during 2011, carried through a full program of our essential core activities. We have, however, realized that there is a much bigger world out there that we can and need to influence and that if we want to do this effectively we will have to increase our resources. The great value of the duality of our mandate—for pure and applied chemistry—has also been very apparent during the IYC. When used imaginatively this is more conducive to arousing the interest of non-chemists in our outreach activities. Therefore, we must continue to encourage and foster interactions and joint activities that bring the pure and applied sides of our subject together. The experience of winning sponsorship and working with our sponsors is another valuable lesson for the future.
Since there is not likely to be a more appropriate opportunity for some time to utilize our Strategic Opportunities Fund, it has been used to fund some of the projects comprising the IYC activities. Because of the surge of events there has also been a faster than usual general uptake of project funds. Our income streams have stood up reasonably well despite the recession, but with our investment portfolio requiring careful monitoring. As I have reported on other occasions the prudent nature of the composition of that portfolio, our maintenance of both U.S. dollar and Euro accounts, and the varied nature of our holdings have again allowed us to do just about as well as could be expected in the global financial climate. It would be comforting to be able to say that we have emerged from this difficult period, but the market turbulence continues. Nevertheless, we should now look forward with confidence to the improved financial possibilities that must come soon. When they do, we will need to maintain our increased and improved program of work and, as we have undoubtedly done this year, to continue to do better than “steady as she goes.”
last modified 12 September 2011.
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