Canada, August 2018: We were sipping a glass of wine under the warm sun with Stéphane Deschênes, owner of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Resort near Toronto. The resort where we were staying at the moment. We told him about our plans to visit the World Congress of the International Naturist Federation and how excited we were to get an idea of how naturism is organised worldwide. Stéphane had experience as a board member of the INF-FNI until he decided to step down a couple of years earlier. His advice was “don’t get too excited, you might end up very disappointed”.
Portugal, October 2018: During the last months, more people with experience in the INF-FNI had brought our excitement to a lower level. They had told us to expect verbal fights and negativity. Rivalry between the federations and the board and among the federations themselves. We had been hearing rumours about stolen elections, abuse of power, and many tears. Everything that does not fit in the naturist ideology. They had prepared us for the worst, and we’re happy they did because it was not a beautiful thing to see.
What happened in Portugal
We could feel that there was something in the air as soon as we arrived at the hotel in Lisbon where the congress would be happening. The atmosphere was tense. During our travels, we had already met some of the representatives of the national federations and at the congress, we quickly realised that the people we knew roughly formed one group. Later, we would call them the “progressives”, who wanted to see the INF-FNI modernise. As bloggers with a strong online presence, it’s not a coincidence that these are the representatives with whom we almost naturally felt a connection.
We called the other group the “conservatives”, who would do everything to keep the INF-FNI as it has been for many decades before. They don’t believe that modernisation is beneficial for the growth of naturism. On the contrary, it would probably harm the philosophy that they were trying to protect.
Both groups were ready to pick up arms to fight for their own beliefs. Motions (proposals for structural changes) proposed by one side were voted down by the other side. And vice versa. Instead of trying to make the INF-FNI better, everyone seemed to only be concerned that the other party should not get what they wanted. The result was that during those three days of the congress, nothing was accomplished at all. On the contrary, it led to the New Zealand federation leaving the INF-FNI.
Against all odds, we arrived in Slovenia
Honestly, at the end of the congress in Portugal, we were ready to cut all ties with the INF-FNI. We didn’t want to have anything to do with that organisation. Naked Wanderings was growing fast and we were sure that we could get our own voice out without their support. They didn’t need us, and we didn’t need them. And then came COVID and its many travel restrictions.
Slovenia, October 2021: The congress that was supposed to happen in 2020, was postponed to 2021 because of the COVID pandemic. But even then, it was impossible for people from some countries to get to Europe. Both the federations of South Africa (SANNA) and Australia (ANF) asked us whether we could represent them during the congress so they would not lose their votes. As Europeans, we could travel freely within the continent. Against all odds, we arrived at our second world congress of the INF-FNI.
And then something interesting happened
Given our previous experience, we had less than no expectations this time. But there was something at stake. Stéphane Deschênes had returned to the INF-FNI and was a candidate for the position of president. Partially because he believes that if you want to see change, you should engage, and partially because he had been begged and/or arm-wrestled by a number of federations into becoming a candidate.
Honestly, we can’t remember much of what has been said during that congress. It seemed like none of the motions really mattered. Our, and many other, eyes were on the elections for the new president. Would Sieglinde Ivo, with more than a decade of experience, get elected once again? Or would Stéphane win the voting? To a further extent, would the conservatives win or make place for the progressive? The more people we talked to, the more we realised that it would be a close race. And then something interesting happened.
The Dutch naturist federation (NFN) proposed a 3rd option: What if we would have 2 presidents for the next couple of years in order to facilitate the transition? There was muttering in the room. This has never happened before. Was this a good idea? Was it even legal? Nevertheless, a majority voted that this would be the way forward. We believed in the idea, because we thought that it might help bring the two fractions back together. Today, we realise that this decision may have had another positive effect…
Yet another congress
Luxembourg, October 2022: 4 years had gone by since we decided that we didn’t want to have anything to do anymore with the INF-FNI, and yet I arrived at the doors of the hotel in Luxembourg to attend yet another congress. The ongoing energy crisis had made long-haul flights significantly more expensive and we had been asked once more to represent Australia and South Africa. Lins decided not to come because of a lot of paperwork that had recently come her way, so I would represent both countries.
Stéphane had been one of the two presidents for exactly one year. I had doubts about whether something had changed meanwhile. The INF-FNI was an unwieldy organisation that might take forever to change, especially due to the rivalry between the organisations that try their very best to avoid the others getting their way. But on the first day, I could already sense a change. The atmosphere could almost be called cheerful and there was little hostility to be noticed. Such a difference from the previous congresses.
The positive one
As we have little to do with the working of the INF-FNI or any of its member federations, we aren’t really involved in what happens between congresses. Apparently, the decision to elect two presidents had the side effect that others realised that the best results might require some out-of-the-box thinking. That the best solutions are not black nor white, but often a combination of both. Instead of each trying to get their own way, everyone started looking at the larger picture. And this appeared to have a very positive effect.
The “us against them” factor that had so much dominated the previous congresses seemed to have disappeared. Many proposals during the congress got a unanimous vote. For the first time, I saw a group of people who were all trying to build the INF-FNI of the future.
Another important election came up as well. After serving for 8 years as Vice President of the INF-FNI, Jean Peters had to make place for Edwin Kilby, the candidate proposed by British Naturism. Today, there’s nobody on the INF-FNI board who has been there for more than 4 years. A fresh team, with fresh ideas, supported by federations who all form a united international front.
The Future of the International Naturist Federation
We doubted whether we were going to include all that sad history in this blog post. Did we really need to bring up Portugal and Slovenia again? Shouldn’t we just leave the past behind us and focus on the positive outcomes of the 2022 Congress? The thing is, you need history to understand the future.
People who know that we’ve been to the congress ask us what they can expect in the next weeks or months. The answer is very little. But that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Only by visiting these congresses, we learned that a lot of the work is being done at the very fundaments of the organisation. Most naturists will notice nothing about this, but it’s an absolute necessity if we want to have a strong organisation that supports the naturist federations and fights for the rights of the naturist on an international level. Only once the structure is solid, it’s possible to do more visual things.
There are a number of conclusions to be made from this story: be the change you want to see, Rome wasn’t built in a day, great things happen outside of your comfort zone, and don’t just give up. The latter is what probably applies the most to us. The INF-FNI still doesn’t need us and we still don’t need them. But now, it seems like it may become an organisation that we actually WANT to be part of.
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26 thoughts on “The Future of the International Naturist Federation”
Thanks for sharing Nick!
I am happy to see INF-FNI is looking over the borders of resorts and beaches. “A world where naturism can be practised everywhere” sounds perfect to me!
Exactly. The pay-for-play resorts may have a function, but they can never be part of the day to day life of most people. The right to be nude in ordinary life as a fundamental human right is where nudism belongs.
Both go hand in hand. There are many naturists who practised naturism at home long before they went to their first resort. But there are many others who went to a resort first before embracing naturism in their daily life.
Nick, you made a great Australian with South African votes and were able as delegate (by coincidence ended up as the delegate sitting next to me 😀) to make so many valid points! I thoroughly enjoyed your assessment of the congresses since 2018. So well done. As someone who was there in New Zealand in 2016, I truly have seen the shift and am part of the team working for the future of naturism at the global level, like you are. Great blog post!
Nice to see one of our administrators in attendance
thank you for giving a little insight into an organisation I know exists but not knowing what they actually do.
That’s one of the problems the INF is facing, few people have an idea what they do
Thank you for the information. I was a member of the board of one of the INF associates but never participated in a congress. Reading the statements, my impression is that there is much debatable in all these sentences. So, maybe it is not a matter of personal disputes among people long serving to the cause, but something deeper in the philosophy. “Promoting naturism as ideology”, “promoting naturism as natural”, “human right to be naked” to mention just a few. Those concepts deserve more discussion, both inside the organization(s), and with the outside world, especially with people prone to adopt nudism/naturism occasionally, but reluctant to associations in general.
Philosophical idealist BS equated to something in a college text book with no practical plan.
A gloating spot for the ego centric.
“Look at me I’m important, I belong to the INF and do nothing.
The problem is that often the only time when members get together is during the congress, which only happens every 2 years and always has an overfull agenda. Only in recent years, working groups have been put together who talk about topics more in-depth and on a more regular basis.
Thank you Nick for this report/blog. It was my first Congress and I must say that I really enjoyed the event.
The saying goes that “there is strength in unity” and it is essential that everyone with the slightest interest in Naturism/Nudism must pull together in order that there is better acceptance of the naked body in all its glory everywhere on this earth. As was mentioned at this Congress Federations must support one another and exchange ideas on how to further naturist aims. Only in this way can we progress. Thank you. – See you on Montalivet September 23.
Exactly. If federations don’t work together, the INF doesn’t have much use.
Unfortunately, neither of the two United States organizations have chosen to be part of the INF. HOPEFULLY – the “new” INF might appeal to them to come back into the fold.
For good reason
Actually, AANR used to be in the INF but stepped out about a decade ago. We too hope that these recent changes might encourage them to return.
Don’t need them and don’t want them. A complete waste of time and money. We have left BN as we don’t want to support financially this dictatorship called INF. Supporting Naturism are they? we had not contact from anyone during covid no help, advice, or financial assistance and now we have no resort. Oh and many others are in trouble and have either already closed or may close in the near future. So are the INF going to do anything?.. its a big fat NO I think!!
Did you try to contact the INF yourselves for help or advice during Covid? I’m not sure why you expect them to help you financially either to be honest – they are not a charity. I sympathise with your plight but many resorts and clubs were able to stay viable through Covid and out the other side, so if your resort didn’t, why is that?
Whether or not a resort survived during COVID did not purely have to do with management. Location was a very important factor since most naturists that did travel did so close to home. Another important factor was government support, which resorts in some countries benefited from and in other countries not.
But we agree with you that the INF is not a charity nor a commercial institution. If they would provide a sort of insurance to naturist businesses, their membership fee would be much higher.
We definitely get what you’re saying. What has the INF done in recent years to the benefit of international naturism? Very little. Instead, we get the feeling that they have mostly been in an identity crisis. Today, we see big steps being taken towards becoming a federation with a clear vision.
Unfortunately for you, and any other naturist business, their vision is not to support commercial businesses directly, but rather to grow naturism as a whole. This might eventually benefit the businesses as well, because if there are more naturists or if naturism becomes more accepted, more guests will come to the resorts. But don’t expect any direct support from them.
I’m glad the INF envisions a human right to be naked. I fully support that agenda by my actions as well as my words.
I haven’t paid much attention to INF since reading several years ago about the President resigning when he found himself as the only naked person at their meeting. Actions speak louder than words, and I have to wonder what kind of “nudist” organization wears clothing to their meetings?
It wasn’t mentioned by Nick & Lins, but I wonder how many representatives attended the INF Congress naked? I do see a photo of a group of clothed people.
At this congress, it was strictly forbidden to be naked… go figure…But we do know the background.
After COVID, very few countries wanted to take the responsibility to organise the congress on short notice. The Luxembourg federation eventually managed to do this, but they did so in an airport hotel where no nudity was allowed.
We agree with you that whenever possible, a requirement for organising the congress should be that it happens in a naturist resort or at least in a place that allows nudity.
Gracias Nick y Lins por la información. Parece interesante la propuesta Holandesa, para que se acepten la pluralidad de opiniones y acciones, es importante adaptarse a los cambios de la sociedad y a las diferentes formas de naturismo-nudismo y que la FNI, tenga un papel positivista que acepte la pluralidad.
Enhorabuena por vuestro trabajo de embajadores y divulgadores, como socio de una pequeña asociación naturista afiliada a la FNI, es la información mas detallada que he leído.
Appreciate your article, historical background, and reflections.
The thing is… There’s no incentive to become a federation member. Why should people join? What would we get out of it?
By the way, the INF correspondent in our country (there’s no national federation) is an odd duck that heavily promoted a cult-like version of polyamory. Maybe they should do a better job vetting people.
This has probably been the biggest struggle of the INF lately: Giving people a reason to join. Now that they have their vision statement ready, we hope that they will also be sharing the steps they take while working towards it.