The History of FICE

The Start

FICE was founded under the auspices of UNESCO in 1948, at a time when schools, children's homes and children's villages had been set up to meet the needs of millions of children displaced or orphaned by World War II. UNESCO saw the need to support the workers in these services, as they coped with the deprivation, emotional damage and physical harm that these children had suffered.

Many of the children had travelled a long way from their homes in the course of the War, as refugees or transported by Government decision. They were no longer in settled communities, but mixed with children from other countries and cultures, with other languages. It was felt that an international network would help people learn from each other and be able to support each other in their challenging task of creating a positive future for the children.


World War II ended nearly sixty years ago, and Europe has changed a lot in that time, and many of the countries have developed economically. The problems presented by children and young people have changed as well, and in response FICE has grown and developed. Originally know as the Fédération des Communautés d'Enfants, it changed its name about twenty years ago in order to reflect changes in emphasis, but it kept the same initials for the sake of continuity of identity.

Throughout its history, there have been FICE National Members in other continents, and Congresses have been held in Africa and North America. Although still largely-Eurocentric, FICE has members in other continents and wishes to develop further so that its membership truly reflects the worldwide services for children and young people.

More Detail

For a more detailed history of FICE's early years, an article by CYC-Net published in the Children Webmag lays out all the facts and early developments. [Click here to read it]

Even More Detail

Irene Knöpfel-Nobs wrote a thesis on the history of FICE for a degree at Zurich University when Professor Heinrich Tuggener of Zurich was President. A version of it was published by FICE in 1992 under the title Von der Kindergemeinschaften zur ausserfamiliaren Erziehung : Die Geschichte der Fédération Internationale des Communautés Educatives. A shorter version was translated into French and English and published by FICE. Although this book does not cover the last decade, it provides excellent detail about FICE's early years, including a good bibliography and references, and it highlights the contributions of the many professionals who have provided the foundations on which today's FICE is built. Click here to read the English version

Since the period covered by Irene Knopfl-Nobs, Franz Züsli was Secretary General, followed by Thomas Mächler, each holding office for six years. For Thomas Mächler's account of the period in which he held office, click here.

The Honorary Officers of FICE


Professor Heinrich Tuggener Switzerland 1982 - 1988
Dr Steen Mogens Lasson Denmark 1988 - 1994
Robert Soisson Luxembourg 1994 - 2000
Theo Binnendijk Netherlands 2000 - Present

Notes :

1 Details about earlier Presidents are still to be inserted.
2 Presidents are elected for two years, but may be re-elected twice, so that the maximum period for which they may serve is six years.

Secretaries General

Franz Züsli-Niscosi Switzerland 1983 (Autumn) - 1992 (Spring)
Thomas Mächler Switzerland 1992 - 1998
Gianluca Barbanotti Italy 1998 - 1999
Christoph Tanner Switzerland 1999 - 2000
Vacancy - 2000 - Present

Notes :

1 Details about earlier Secretaries General are still to be inserted, and the dates given above are still to be checked.
2 Secretaries General in FICE are technically elected, but they have been funded by sponsoring organisations such as the Pestalozzi Foundation of Switzerland, whose Chief Executives have therefore combined their work role with that of Secretary General to FICE.


Robert Soisson Luxembourg 198x? - 1994
Richard Joubert France 1994 - 2002
Rolf Widmer - 2002 - present

Note : Details about earlier Treasurers are still to be inserted, and dates are to be confirmed.

Honorary Titles

Members who have given outstanding service to FICE have been given honorary titles for life in recognition of their contributions. Those marked + have died.

Honorary Presidents

Louis François :   France +
Raoul Wetzburger :   Belgium
Professor Heinrich Tuggener :   Switzerland
Dr Steen Mogens Lasson :  Denmark
Robert Soisson :  Luxembourg

Honorary Members

Herbert Angst : Switzerland
Professor Othmar Roden : Austria +
Camille Hermange : France
Meir Gottesmann : Israel +


Any person with additional information about FICE's history is invited to make contact so that this section can be expanded.