Why we are resigning from IAPTI

Justice on the surface, Janus underneath. All that glitters is actually silver…

IAPTI Logo International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters, based in Argentine

Dear colleagues,

This is to inform you of our resignation from the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI).

– Maria Karra (president of IAPTI’s Ethics Committee and founding member),
– Attila Piróth (vice-president of the Ethics Committee),
– Catherine V. Howard (University Liaison Committee member),
– Shai Navé (head of Israel Chapter),
– Valerij Tomarenko and Steve Vitek (both of the Professional Practices Committee),
wish to dissociate ourselves from IAPTI for the reasons outlined below:

Over the past year, we have become increasingly concerned about a growing list of problems stemming from the lack of checks and balances within IAPTI, which include the lack of democratic participation, transparency, external oversight, and measures to prevent conflicts of interest. As a result, there is a dissonance between the association’s outward image and its inner workings. Its pledge to empower individual translators and interpreters worldwide is at odds with its own hierarchical internal structure that disempowers members. IAPTI is run according to an executive model, not a democratic one, which allows few opportunities for participation and decision-making by members.

According to its own mission statement, IAPTI strives to be “a venue in which to establish a dialog, without censorship and without conflicts of interest, with the aim of promoting effective professional ethics.” Nonetheless, we have been stymied in our efforts to pursue constructive dialogs for meaningful change; our attempts to communicate problems to the general membership have been censored; and conflicts of interest continue to pervade the Board. All this is no longer aligned with our ideas about ethical business practices.

IAPTI’s outward calls for transparency in other entities are not consistent with its own internal practices. For example, the Board has failed to provide members with the range of financial statements required in the bylaws. For seven years since its founding, IAPTI’s registration has still not been approved by the Argentine justice or tax authorities, hence it has been operating without government oversight, but members are not aware of the ramifications of this lack of approval. Without financial transparency, members are left in the dark and ill-prepared for tax-related issues concerning business expenses, such as their membership fee. In our opinion, IAPTI’s lack of legal authorization is no excuse for failing to honor its obligations for transparency and accountability to its members.

In IAPTI’s current status, its own bylaws are not applied in full. It is unclear which bylaws, if any, in IAPTI’s website are applicable or valid, in the absence of any proviso or explanation. Members are unaware of any changes made in the bylaws, whereas such changes are supposed to be approved by members in a general assembly, according to the bylaws themselves. Without knowing the legal framework in which the association operates, members are deprived of information about the modus operandi of the association to which they belong. This excludes them from the emancipating experience of actively participating in the formation of IAPTI’s internal and external policies.

IAPTI's international aspirations and practices contrast with the local composition of the Board. All of the main officers (president, vice president, secretary general, and treasurer) are from Argentina and have held these positions ever since the association was founded in 2009. Although other Board members have changed over the years, they have likewise all been from Argentina, with a single exception. Furthermore, no elections have been held for any of these positions, even though the bylaws require they be held every four years. The Board thereby fails to reflect or to take advantage of the association's main strength: its rich diversity with members in over eighty countries.

We have reluctantly reached the conclusion that our attempts to promote checks and balances and greater transparency in IAPTI are futile. During the past months, several colleagues—including Diana Coada, Lisa Simpson, Lucille R. Kaplan, Vivian Stevenson, and Jayne Fox—told us they resigned from their staff positions in IAPTI over similar or other equally pressing concerns. We feel we exhausted all possibilities at our disposal to further the mission for which we joined this association. We believe IAPTI can fulfill its objectives only with fundamental structural changes within the association—changes that the Board has consistently resisted.

Therefore, we hereby resign from our positions within IAPTI and no longer wish to remain members of the association.

Attila Piróth
Maria Karra
Shai Navé
Valerij Tomarenko
Catherine V. Howard
Steve Vitek

  1. Mario Chávez’s avatar

    I have known some of the resigning IAPTI members in the last few years (Twitter, their blog postings, etc.). Although I was never a member of IAPTI, I can understand some of the concerns, especially the one on financial transparency and board membership elections. After being an ATA member for many years myself, I decided to start distancing from ATA for some weighty reasons. Back to the concern that IAPTI's board members are all Argentine locals and that IAPTI hasn't yet been registered or recognized by Argentine law and tax authorities, I wonder: wouldn't IAPTI's registration in another country with better administrative mechanisms for recognition as a legal and professional entity better serve IAPTI's goals? Shouldn't IAPTI's financial operations be subject to periodical audits by an independent party?  As for me, I'm beginning to consider associating myself with UK's ITI.


    1. ValerijTomarenko’s avatar

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment and good questions, Mario!

      I think you’re right that another country would serve IAPTI better (compare AIIC, for example).

      However, IAPTI only markets itself as an international organization, its core (the Board) being a few Argentine (+ one Brazilian) individuals. Were they to set up a truly international organization, they would have to lose control over their operations and make themselves exposed and vulnerable to scrutiny.

      As an Argentine organization with unapproved legal status (for seven years since submitting their documents for the registration), they can only benefit from the status quo: Argentine bureaucracy has been always a convenient excuse for any violation of their own self-proclaimed principles and rules. No general assemblies have been ever organized, no elections held, the Board never had to account to anyone and had never been subject to auditing.

      At the moment, IAPTI is nothing more than their website plus their Facebook and LinkedIn groups both censored and manipulated by the Board. For many (still) members, it will take some time to realize (and fix) this cognitive dissonance, like it took quite some time for me.


    2. Catherine V. Howard’s avatar

      Thanks for posting this, Valerij. As if to confirm what we said in this letter of resignation about IAPTI censorship, I see that your post of this same letter in the IAPTI LinkedIn forum was deleted the next day. Another co-signatory, Attila Piróth, has posted a statement in the same forum about this censorship: see tinyurl.com/jj65jov As a co-signatory myself, I have reposted the letter in LinkedIn: see tinyurl.com/hog534m Let us see if it will be allowed to stand or whether it too will be censored.


    3. Ken Kronenberg’s avatar

      I think that what the signatories have done in separating themselves from the corruption that is becoming evident in IAPTI is gutsy and necessary. The six of you are really to be applauded for your clear vision and integrity. What this entire fiasco highlights is just how difficult it is given the overwhelming power of a business model based me-me-me. How does one assure that personal power doesn't become the de facto goal of an organization, so that transparency becomes an enemy, censorship a norm, and elections an option when it suits one's purpose? I don't know. People had such high hopes that IAPTI would become the standard-bearer of working translators. The quality that I perceive in the letter that you have written reassures me that there are minds at work learning the lessons of this great disappointment.


    4. Lisa Simpson’s avatar

      Mario, if you’re considering the ITI you might want to read this thread: http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_in_the_uk/301835-contemplating_becoming_a_member_of_iti-page3.html#2606398

      or (from my own blog): http://decipherit.net/blog/blog.php?d=4

      or: http://decipherit.net/blog/blog.php?d=1

      or: http://decipherit.net/blog/blog.php?d=5

      Unfortunately, what a number of these associations now have in common is that they see themselves as businesses and have thrown open the doors to corporate interests, whether that be large software companies, mega-agencies or translators who have diversified and are pushing their webinars/books/courses on their colleagues. Many associations have lost sight of the fact that they should be representing the best interests of their members and that they are also answerable to them. These days, the main party to benefit from associations are agencies who have convenient directories they can trawl through, send round robins to a few dozen translators and then pick the cheapest. 



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