Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]
All the Way . .
All the Way . . .
For some time there has been a debate raging inside the National Youth Council over whether it should be affiliated to the World Assembly of Youth.
A compromise was reached with the decision to send three delegates to the 9th WAY General Assembly in Kenya, on the understanding that they would report back for a final decision to be made
Salient asked two of the delegates, Geoff Woolford (NYC Executive Officer) and Sue Green (NYC Executive member and former NZUSA Education Vice-president) for their comments on the Assembly.
The 9th General Assembly of the World Assembly of Youth (WAY) held from 23 to 28 February in Nairobi, Kenya, was attended by a delegation of three from the National Youth Council of New Zealand.
It was not without lengthy, and, at times, very heated debate that a decision was taken to send the delegation. And with the return of the delegates and a reassessment of NYC's position in WAY taking place in early June, that debate is far from complete.
On the return of Ross Tanner (member of the NYC executive) from working for several months for the WAY secretariat in Brussels, a sub-committee of the National Youth Council was formed to prepare a report on our relationship with WAY and what our future with WAY should be.
This committee prepared an outline paper which recommended that New Zealand continue its membership of WAY, that it send a delegation to the 1976 WAY assembly, and that we reassess our position within WAY on its return. This report was to be discussed at the Council's AGM in November 1975.
In the interim period between the preparation of the report and the date of the AGM I visited Melbourne and talked about WAY with members of the National Youth Council of Australia (NYCA).
NYCA had recently withdrawn from WAY and as a result of these discussions I realised that there were many areas of contention which the sub-committee report had not covered. So on my return to New Zealand I prepared a further report for the AGM outlining some of these areas.
- WAY was formerly funded by the CIA. Up until 1975 its main source of money was from the US AID agency, for family planning activities and its current financial position is doubtful.
- Cost of WAY membership ($360 - fees and $ 1500 fund to send delegates to Assemblies per year) in relation to little perceived benefit to New Zealand Youth.
- Unrepresentative membership of WAY - it has very few European and Asian members and a number of countries are represented by a WAY committee rather than their National Youth Council.
- Political opposition to some of WAY's activities - concentration on family planning activities.
- Lack of democracy within WAY and the concentration of power within the hands of the Secretary General.
- Lack of information provided by WAY to New Zealand, concerning its activities and finances.
At the AGM a motion to withdraw from WAY was defeated, but it was clear that the sub-committee's report was not considered sufficiently detailed and the executive was instructed to prepare another report.
This was done and a General Meeting was held in January to discuss the report and decide whether we would send a delegation to the Assembly.
After a heated discussion it was decided to send a delegation of three people who would be pressing to right some of our criticisms of WAY. They would also be acting in an investigatory capacity and our position within WAY would be reassessed on their return. NZUSA has given notice that it again intends to move for our withdrawl from WAY.
The delegation was elected from nominations received from the Council. Those chosen were Errol Millar (NYC President), Geoff Woolford (NYC executive officer) and myself (NYC executive member and one of the most vocal critics of WAY).
On my return to New Zealand I issued a controversial press statement in which I described the Assembly as "a circus and a shambles." This is a description which is particularly aptly applied to the organisation or lack of it, of the Assembly.
The conference centre was two miles from the hotel the delegates stayed at. On several occasions no transport was provided. At other times it consisted of one VW Combie for 150 people - rather a tight fit!
Some delegates walked the distance, until several got mugged and robbed and one got run down by a car.
There was a shortage of interpreters, office staff and organisers which meant that many reports were presented orally and not received in written form, and the conference was constantly running late.
The hotel facilities were poor and the food of such a substandard nature that many delegates got food poisoning and spent more time in the toilets than in the conference rooms.
The conference was only five days long - an absurdly short period to attempt such a weighty agenda. Yet the entire first day was taken up with the opening ceremony.
During each day the proceedings of the conference were interrupted as we were called together to hear innumberable guest speakers. These in the main consisted of representatives of the United Nations, Environmental and family planning agencies and various running dogs of [unclear: Jano] Kenyatta (Kenyan President).
Consequently the actual number of hours spent on the concrete work of the conference was very small.
Although we were informed prior to leaving New Zealand that there would be 3 workshops and 3 commissions at the Assembly the workshops never eventuated. The delegates were divided among 3 commissions - Human Rights, Development and Administration and 'The Future of WAY'.
Both myself and Errol Millar attended the Administrative Commission. This commission discussed the Secretary General's report, a masterpiece of vagueness and side-stepping. For me the classic statement in this report and one which says much about the nature of WAY's activities is "the Latin American office of WAY has continually harrassed dictators, where appropriate." (emphasis added).
This commission also discussed the accounts and financial position of WAY. Without money from US AID agency the total budget of the 'International' organisation for the year 1976-77 is US $32,000.
Thus other agencies are going to have to be approached for funds. If these approaches are unsuccessful it is my personal opinion that the possibility of WAY receiving further money from US sources cannot be discounted.
When it was drawn to the attention of the commission that we should also be discussing a draft budget for the next triennium and we did not appear to have one, the treasurer rather embarrassedly pulled a crumpled, pencilled-on piece of paper from his pocket.
This was hastily photocopied and circulated to the assembled masses who, although it was hardly legible, were able to deduce that this 'draft budget' did not add up. Looking even more shamefaced the treasurer hastily collected the copies.
Next day another 'draft budget' appeared. This one added up because $500 from sale of publications had been added to the income. This draft was approved by the commission but a New Zealand delegate was heard to comment that she was interested that the treasurer's skills as a salesman were such that he had sold $500 worth of publications overnight.
Most of the time of this commission was taken up with discussion on changes of definitions, in amending the charter. These, although important in themselves, almost monopolised the limited time the commission had available and I feel we did not come to grips with many of the really important issues, such as WAY's relationship with regional organisations like the Asian' Youth Council and the Council of European National Youth Councils, and how it can reinvolve Asian and European countries in its activities.
It cojld continue at great length to discuss all aspects of the Assembly but I believe that the points I have made already well illustrate my attitude to the Assembly and to WAY as an organisation.
I consider the World Assembly of Youth to be virtually irrelevant as an international youth organisation.
It is almost totally lacking in funds to finance its activities, many of which, even if successful, would be of dubious worth. For example, planned projects for Asia include family planning programmes in a number of countries, and a regional event for young entrepreneurs'. - a week at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton perhaps?
The nature of WAY's membership on the representativeness of many of its constituents is questionable.
I believe WAY has little to offer New Zealand youth and I don't think we should be blackmailed into continuing our membership by a 'white man's burden' - type attitude towards aid to Third World countries as I am sure there are far more worthwhile contexts in which we can make our contribution.
I am hopeful that when our position is received in June. NYC constituents will decide to withdraw from the World Assembly of Youth.