Abbé Pierre was known internationally and travelled the world in the 1950s, resulting in the creation of Emmaus communities and the affiliation of a large number of existing local initiatives supporting the most excluded. Today, 425 member associations are working together to affirm that another world, one that is fair and fraternal, is possible.

How it works

The member organisations of Emmaus International (or groups) are currently present in 41 countries worldwide. They take different forms depending on their activities: residential and/or working communities*, voluntary friends’ committees, or a wide variety of structures, in particular work camps or work integration centres. Each one of them is an independent entity. 

All of these local organisations are direct members of Emmaus International, which coordinates their activities and ensures adherence to the values and founding texts of the movement. As members, they commit to acting in solidarity with each other. Furthermore, because the groups fund the movement’s solidarity programmes, Emmaus International is duty bound to act with transparency. 

To facilitate the running of the movement, these organisations are also attached to ‘regions’ – Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe – which make it possible to work at a level that facilitates meetings and the exchange of best practices, as well as the implementation of the guidelines adopted at the General Assembly. These regions elect the Emmaus International Board members, presided over by the Chair of Emmaus International. This arrangement permits a truly international governance of the movement, as close as possible to the groups’ realities on the ground.  

The local organisations are also a member of a national organisation, when one exists, to foster an exchange of best practices and joint initiatives, which are as close as possible to the realities of the groups, in the country in which they are located.  

Emmaus International decided very early on to work in three languages, known as the movement’s official languages – French, English and Spanish. 

*“The communities are made up of people who were previously homeless, called companions, and volunteers, called friends, in addition to staff members, community leaders or social workers. This tripod forms the basis of the community. All these people work together, and some of them live together within the community. Based on this, we talk about “working communities” or “residential and working communities”.

Discover the Emmaus International statutes


The Emmaus International General Assembly is the highest governing body of our movement. Each group is represented with one vote, regardless of its size and the number of people in it. The General Assembly decisions apply to all the groups. They take place every four years. 

The importance of this decision-making forum was reiterated in 2003 when amendments to the statutes designated it the competent forum for electing the Chair of Emmaus International. Since then, all the groups of the movement worldwide elect their Chair every four years at their General Assembly. 

The implementation of decisions made at the General Assembly are then delegated to the Board. This is composed of twenty-four Emmaus International Board members, elected in each of the four regions and the Chair. This system enables our movement to assure a truly international governance of our movement which is as close as possible to the realities experienced at grassroots level. 

The Board and Emmaus International Executive Committee are formed of elected members from the four regions. Each region regularly organises a Regional Assembly, which defines its strategic guidelines in line with the decisions made at the World General Assembly. Some decisions are therefore made by the regional organisations. 

At both international and regional levels, the elected bodies (the board and executive committees) are supported by permanent staff members (secretariats).

If there are three or more member organisations in a country, a national organisation should be set up. National organisations are also sometimes supported by permanent staff members according to the country’s means, and have their own governing bodies that set guidelines at the national level. National organisations elect a national delegate who sits on the regional board.