During my visit to Mexico City this year for the IEEE Region 9 annual meeting, I had the chance to visit the Memory and Tolerance Museum, whose mission is to increase the understanding of cultural diversity and eradicate hatred and genocide around the world. It was a humbling experience to see exhibits of the horrible events against humanity, which continue to happen in almost every corner of the world. It made me wonder: Why do such atrocities still happen?
Could it be that because we speak different languages, we don’t understand each other; we follow different cultural and social norms, so we behave differently; we have different physical appearances, so we do not look like each other? These differences create perceived distance between us.
IEEE’s mission is to bring together individuals with a common interest in advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. The mission helps IEEE build its international community of technologists—regardless of nationality—to encourage friendship, support peaceful cooperation, and further the exchange of ideas. Our activity in IEEE demonstrates the ability of technologists to work together for the greater global public good without boundaries.
Maintaining high ideals
This is a high ideal, and IEEE’s apolitical, neutral stance allows us to engage with our members in every part of the world, those living in democracies, monarchies, and dictatorships as well as in countries undergoing civil upheaval, and in nations in conflict. IEEE does not suspend our commitment to support this global scientific community in challenging times. Instead, we aspire to strengthen relationships within our international technical community to nurture peaceful coexistence and collaboration and to continue to build relations among individuals across national boundaries, ideologies, and politics that may help foster a more peaceful world.
IEEE’s relationship is with our members—not their countries, their employers, or institutions. Across IEEE, we value our members as individuals and recognize and celebrate their technical efforts and contributions to the field. We are open, diverse, and inclusive, and we hold our fellow members personally accountable for their behavior, and not for the actions of others.
At different times throughout our organization’s history, there have been calls for IEEE to expel members due to the behavior of governments, institutions, or employers, or to limit access to IEEE resources, journals, and events based on nationality or work affiliation. Nothing in IEEE’s bylaws or policies permit this to occur. In fact, our core policies clearly assert that we do not discriminate based on nationality, race, religion, gender, disability, age, or sexual orientation.
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IEEE’s continued ability to engage researchers and members in so many countries is contingent on IEEE’s continual recognition as an apolitical organization that maintains its neutrality on matters outside its technical scope.
As an international organization operating in more than 160 countries, IEEE supports the free and open exchange of scholarly and academic work and the global advancement of science and technology. IEEE is committed to enabling an environment of international cooperation and the sharing of our members’ wealth of knowledge to drive innovation. Science and engineering are fundamental enterprises for which openness, international collaboration, the free flow of ideas, and the involvement of all talented individuals are essential for ongoing advancement. Science, engineering, and humanity prosper when there is freedom of association and communication.
Significant work still needs to be done to ensure that scientists and engineers have the right to pursue their careers without discrimination. IEEE is committed to the realization and maintenance of such freedoms.
These freedoms are challenged in many countries. As I write this column, the ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing atrocities and humanitarian crisis are assaults on the conscience. Around the world, other countries are in conflict stemming from political tensions, drought, disease, and more.
When leaving the museum in Mexico City, a thought kept coming back to me: To meet IEEE’s mission to advance technology for the benefit of humanity, we must bring together our members who share the common fundamental value of promoting worldwide peace. The world will be a better place only when everywhere is a better place.
A sense of belonging
IEEE has been my professional home for more than 37 years. My membership in IEEE has fostered within me a sense of belonging and made me feel like I was connected to something bigger than myself. I hope that IEEE can continue to offer you and all technical professionals around the world the same opportunities that it has offered me: the free exchange of ideas, learning and skill-building, career advancement opportunities and leadership training and, most importantly, lifelong friendships and networking with like-minded colleagues. After all, IEEE is our professional home!
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