Vassilis Sgoutas, whose three-year term ended in July, has been an outstanding president of the Union of International Architects (UIA). Founded in 1948, membership has now increased from 21 to 110 nations, representing 879,324 architects.

Europe (known as Region I) is by far the largest region, with some 352,000 members. Next comes North and South America (Region III) with 200,000, followed by Asia and Australia (Region IV) at 176,000. Region II, comprising the old Soviet Union, Greece and the Balkans, has 127,000 architects; Africa (Region V) trails with a mere 25,535 architects.

So, with just 20% of the world's architects and some of the world's strongest economies, as well as 60% of the world's population, Region IV is clearly a place to market your services.

UIA treasurer Don Hackl has reported that the member with the highest GDP per capita is Luxembourg at US$44,676, whereas the lowest is Mali at US$250. More importantly, the USA's wealth – US$33,212 per capita – underlines the comparative poverty of countries such as Russia (US$2731) and Nigeria (US$284).

What hope, then, for reciprocal trade and shared values in a world of such diverse incomes, a world where the richest countries all too often pursue hegemonic polices while plundering the resources of the impoverished? Plenty, it seems, as the Americans are now heavily 'into' China, whose GDP per capita is a mere US$784.

Encouragingly, the UIA is itself a model of fairness: Europe pays 45% of the UIA income as a result of a subscription system that reflects the financial strength of each region. In addition, the six strongest national economies, of which only Japan and USA are outside Europe, contribute 40% of the UIA's annual revenue.

But the UIA is also an organisation of hope, as was expressed by Suha Ozkan of Turkey who explained that the next conference (Istanbul 2005) will focus on the new values that seem to be finding universal acceptance in this century.

In an increasingly 'glocal' world, with growing respect for local cultures and heritage, there is expanding awareness of, and concern for, issues such as ecological sustainability and the reinterpretation of traditional vernaculars in the work of architects.

So where next for an organisation that under Sgoutas focused on poverty in the developing world, environmentally responsible design and fair opportunities for international trade? Probably more of the same under the presidency of Brazilian architect and planner Jaime Lerner who, in parallel with a distinguished professional career, was the three-times mayor of Curitiba and the governor of his state. Committed to the intelligent development and management of the city, with particular expertise in developing-world urban problems, he is well placed to further the UIA's influence on the world stage.

So, we are moving into a new era following an exciting congress in Berlin from which the RIBA can take pride on three counts. Lord Foster was awarded the UIA's Auguste Perret Prize for applied technology in architecture (congratulations Norman); the RIBA co-hosted a successful evening at Michael Wilford's wonderful new Berlin Embassy (courtesy of the ambassador Sir Paul Lever); and World Architecture, this journal's sister magazine, hosted its second awards ceremony.

Congratulations to Arup Associates, Richard Rogers Partnership and Nicholas Grimshaw, who all won awards, as well as to Nikolaus Hirsch of the AA and Wandel Hoefer Lorch + Hirsch – joint winner of the European category for his beautiful Dresden synagogue.