The deteriorating international political situation has forced ACI – The Financial Markets Association, to postpone its 43rd World Congress which was due to be held in Lebanon from May 22-25. The event is now scheduled for September 10-14, at the same venue.
In a joint statement with Shadi Hanna, chairman of the ACI Lebanon Organising Committee, ACI president Heering Ligthart says, “Sadly the uncertainty, resulting from the current Iraqi crisis, gave us no other option than to take the decision to postpone the event.”
The new dates were chosen deliberately, according to Hanna, who explains, “The Lebanon Congress can be a bridge to the IMF meeting which is being held in Dubai on September 17. Delegates to that meeting can travel via Beirut – this is one of the reasons we chose this date.”
Acknowledging the efforts that have been undertaken by the organisers to host the congress, Ligthart adds, “The sympathies of ACI go to the Organising Committee of ACI Lebanon which has put so much time and effort into this event, but we are convinced that the rearranged congress in September will be an outstanding success.”
Hanna says that the final decision to postpone, which was taken after consultation with ACI’s president and managing director, went smoothly. “The events impacting on us are out of our hands,” he says. “Lebanon has nothing to do with the current crisis, but it was the sensible decision to postpone. Even though Lebanon is very safe, we appreciate that many institutions are unhappy about their staff travelling to the region at the current time.”
Business as Usual
In effect, the postponement is merely a hiatus in preparations for the Congress. Hanna says that since returning from ACI’s Strategic Planning Group (SPG) meeting in Paris in February, he and the Organising Committee have been busy preparing for such an eventuality. “The majority of the preparations were already complete before February,” he says. “We have merely switched the programme to September – everything within the programme will remain the same. The climate in September is similar to May, therefore events can be held outdoors as we originally planned.
“We have also rebooked all of the hotels and the BIEL Centre for the new dates and renewed all of our contracts without exception,” he continues. “Everyone is aware of the regional situation, so have not been surprised by the move. We have written letters to sponsors, vendors and exhibitors, as well as the national associations of ACI to inform them of the new plans.”
Those delegates that have already registered for the event need not re-register, adds Hanna, their reservations will be transferred to the new dates. “If for some reason, delegates cannot come, we will refund their money,” he says. “However registrations for the congress have been very encouraging and we are confident they will all come in September, as will the exhibitors that have committed to the event.”
ACI states in a press release announcing the postponement that, “A large number of institutions were not sanctioning staff travel to the Middle East region at the current time”, but it is hopeful that by September, the majority of these restrictions will have been lifted.
Indeed organisers are confident that a more stable regional environment in September will attract even more attendees than originally thought. “We have allowed ourselves plenty of time for the situation to settle,” says Hanna. “Even if there is a longer war than expected there will still be plenty of time, but although we have more time to prepare, we have to pause now. We have to see how events unfold in the region. Our preparations are at an advanced-enough stage that we can wait and see before finalising the details.”
It is not only the congress plans that have been altered. ACI’s permanent staff has been busy rearranging the committee meetings due to be held alongside the congress. Bill Hahn, managing director of ACI, says that the Committee for Professionalism, Board of Education, Excom, and full council meetings will take place in May, and are set for Wednesday, May 21 to Friday, May 23. ACI Romania has offered to host the meetings in Bucharest and is currently arranging the logistical details, all of which will be sent to council and committee members as soon as they become available.
“Given the short notice, Europe was the logical place to hold the meetings,” says Hahn. “Also, by holding them in the same week as originally planned, committee members’ plans were not put out as they already had the dates ‘blacked out’ in their diaries.”
Further to this, the same committee meetings planned for October/November, will now take place at the Lebanon Congress in September. Details of the new meeting schedule will be forwarded to council members; however, Hahn stresses that the general assembly will take place on the Saturday of the congress in Beirut, as originally planned.
Hanna is confident that the congress, which will be held in September for the first time, will be a success. “The current situation is unfortunate, but it is out of our hands. We have put a tremendous amount of effort into this event and we are going to do everything we can to make it successful. Beirut is no more dangerous than any other city, so, with a more stable regional environment, we look forward to welcoming all of our ACI friends and colleagues to Beirut in September for what we hope will be a congress to remember.”