90 years of Falcon history
IFM-SEI was founded at an international conference in Austria in 1922 by representatives from socialist education organisations from Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Italy, Czechoslovakia and Austria. The delegates discussed how youth organisations can prepare children and youth for a coming socialist society. Children should be able to critically reflect on society and children and youth organisations should organise free time activities away from the influence of existing societies. Children should experience a world based on the values freedom, peace, democracy and equality. The delegates in Austria formed an ‘international cooperation frame’, which was renamed later into ‘Internationale Sozialistischer Erziehungsorganisationen” (International of socialist education organisations). Seven European organisations had joined the international by 1931 and made contacts to other organisations in Europe, the USA, Latin America and the Middle East.
The most important activities of the member organisations have always been their summer camps: self-organised ‘children’s republics’, where the children take all decisions. Since 1930, the Socialist Educational International has organised international camps with several thousand participants. A few years before World War II, children and young people from many different countries came together to build children’s republics in the spirit of friendship and peace. During the fascist dictatorships in Italy, Austria and Germany, SEI member organisations were banned and their members persecuted. Only one month before the outbreak of the war the last pre-war international camp of the SEI took place in France.
Span the world with friendship
Dictatorship, persecution and the war may have destroyed the organisation, but the idea of an international network of socialist children’s and educational organisations survived in the minds of the people. Immediately after the liberation from fascism contacts were re-established and in 1946 the British organisation Woodcraft Folk invited falcon organisations from Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden to an international camp. Shortly later an international coordination office, the ‘International Falcons’ secretariat (IFS)’ was set up. After long debates, the International Falcon Movement (IFM) was founded in 1953. The basis of IFM was from the start international cooperation, education for tolerance and cooperation and respect of human rights, as well as the concept of socialist education. In the process of decolonisation since the 1960s, IFM became active in a new field: Solidarity with liberation movements and support for less developed parts of the world.
These new tasks, which went beyond the ‘traditional’ falcon work, led to more changes in 1970. The name was changed into ‘International Falcon Movement – Socialist Educational International’. A new way of working was agreed and a clear signal sent: We want to grow, we want to become a global movement and we will work in diverse ways to change our societies into a better one. Since then a lot of organisations joined and made IFM-SEI a truly global, united international under the founding slogan from the 1920’s – ‘Span the world with friendship!’