The annual PEN Congress offers an opportunity for the entire PEN community to gather and speak about our work. Officially, it is the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the international office of PEN, but its importance extends far beyond this function. The Congress helps us strengthen our networks and connections; reinforce and refine our core principles through discussion, debate and the passage of resolutions; exchange experiences and ideas; celebrate writing in all its forms; and simply catch up with old and new friends and colleagues.
Each Congress has its own theme, which is always set by the host PEN Centre that year and often reflects issues that are of utmost importance to the members of that particular Centre. Recent themes have included ‘The Environment and Literature – What Can Words Do?’ (Tokyo 2010, hosted by Japan PEN); ‘Words, Words, Nothing but … Words?’ (Linz 2009, hosted by Austrian PEN); and ‘The Role of the Word’ (Bogotá 2008, hosted by Colombian PEN).