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New Governance Structure for WILPF International.

The biggest change approved at the Triennial Congress was a new governance structure for WILPF's decision-making body, the International Board (IB). Margrethe Tingstad, Vice-President, and Lyn Lane, outgoing Convenor of the Standing Constitution Committee, presented the updated Constitution and By-Laws at Congress.

The new WILPF governance model replaces the previously small Executive Committee (ExCom). Thirty-six (36) National Sections will no longer be represented on the IB, instead there are six (6) regional representatives. The governing body is now comprised of eleven (11) members: one President, two Vice-Presidents, the Secretary-General, one Treasurer, and six members from regions, who are nominated by regions and endorsed by Congress. For regional representation, there will be one vote per region, with one regional liaison and one regional alternate.

"Governance structure won't solve communication issues across language, contexts, etc.," stated Lyn Lane, "but it will give us a stepping stone to work from." The roles and responsibilities of the new IB were outlined by Lyn as follows:

* The President provides political leadership.

* The Treasurer is responsible for the financial leadership of WILPF.

* The Vice-Presidents support the President and undertake such duties of the President as she and/or the International Board may delegate.

* The Secretary-General is the daily public spokesperson of WILPF and represents WILPF in its activities; she is responsible for the management of the International Secretariat, in all its offices, and for liaising with the National Sections to strengthen their capacity to achieve WILPF's aims and principles in their country.

* Regional Representatives provide two-way communication between the National Sections in their designated region and the International Board; feed national and regional experiences and concerns into the International Board and report back on the international experience and concerns to the regional membership; on request by the President and/or the International Board, and in consultation with the respective National Section when issues of importance arise, contact the media on behalf of the International Board; report to the International Board on regional activities and their needs; encourage cooperation between regions.

Sections were also encouraged to create forums to strengthen communication and collaboration within and across Sections, such as has been done with regional forums in Africa and Europe, through online meetings, translation, and other initiatives to strengthen political work.

Members from Norway, DRC, Afghanistan, France, US, Colombia, Costa Rica, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Palestine, as well as ExCom members, commented on the proposal.Some comments welcomed the proposal and the opportunity to address current gaps in governance. Others raised clarification questions. Three sections raised serious concerns: WILPF US (Mary Hanson Harrison), WILPF Colombia (Katherine Ronderos), and WILPF Costa Rica (Adilia Caravaca).

Mary Hanson Harrison spoke up and noted that some Sections had asked for more time for the delegates to Congress, who are the decision-making body, to discuss the reorganization plan. Only 45 minutes were allotted in the schedule. This concern was expressed by others, as well, and on the first day of Congress, Mary convened over 40 members to discuss their concerns.

At the formal voting session, Mary spoke for the allotted three minutes. Addressing the membership, she stated that the WILPF US Section dissented "not to win or lose, but to speak our piece." Mary stressed the need to keep the membership-driven foundation of WILPF as the deliberative body and to continue having one representative per national Section.

Mary raised concerns around cultural diversity, representation, communication, transparency, accountability, and inclusion. She stressed that it would be difficult to ask one person to represent all Sections and Groups in one region.

She expressed concerns primarily about the risk of narrowing the voices who represent the members by selecting only those who agree with the overriding decision-makers and leadership, while voices of dissent would not be heard or welcomed.

Katherine Ronderos (WILPF Colombia President) affirmed that she saw the proposal as a strategy to make sure decisions are faster to deliver, but expressed worry regarding how this would work in reality due to the diversity of the regions and how they operate. In particular, she raised concerns about the representation of the Sections when political decisions need to be taken. She then proposed that instead of one Regional Representative and one Regional Alternate, there be two Regional Representatives, still with one vote per region.

Written statements from WILPF US and WILPF Colombia regarding the decision taken to change the Constitution can be found in the Appendices of the 2018 Congress Report.

Adilia Caravaca (President, WILPF Costa Rica) acknowledged the efforts in creating a body that is more effective and efficient, but expressed concerns on how Sections would feel represented in the new IB. She then argued that the ExCom was meant to have regional representation while maintaining the IB for political decisions.

Heidi Meinzolt (WILPF Germany) expressed support for the new Constitution, pointing out that it would be a process that would help WILPF bridge some of the insufficiencies. Similarly, Carmen Magallon (WILPF Spain) agreed on the need to try this changed structure in a spirit of trust.

In response to the concerns, Margrethe and Lyn noted that there have been many opportunities for engagement, through discussion papers, IB meetings and webinars. However, some Sections did not participate. "Let's ensure every time at the Section level or regional levels that we get 100% representation and participation," stated Margrethe.

Hannan Awwad (WILPF Palestine) asked about the number of regions and how many members would represent each region. In response, it was confirmed that the decision was taken to focus on the same six regions that WILPF currently focuses on, and that each region is entitled to one seat at the table; when the Regional Representative is not available the Alternate Regional Representative would step in.

Kozue Akibayashi called for a vote on the original proposal to adopt the new Constitution and By-Laws as proposed by the Standing Constitution Committee.

The motion passed, with 102 votes in favor, six votes against, and 10 abstentions.

This is a slightly edited version of the account that appears on pp. 25-27 in the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom 2018 Congress Report prepared by Zala Zbogar and edited by Elena Cason and Janette McLeod. The full report including appendices will be available on the WILPF US website.
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Title Annotation:Congress Reflections; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom
Publication:Peace and Freedom
Date:Jan 1, 2019
Words:1036
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