Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. [Volume 39, Issue 8. April 1976]
. . . .Which Way
. . . .Which Way
New Zealand the the World Assembly of Youth
New Zealand, first joined the World Assembly of Youth in 1963, when a delegation from NZUSA represented this country at a WAY General Assembly.
WAY at that stage appeared to be a very strong organisation. It had a large field staff working throughout the world, a large budget and was involved in numerous development projects in a number of Third World Countries. Although it had no membership from any of the Socialist Countries, it was well represented in Europe and was attracting new members from newly independent Third World Countries.
It appeared to be a vigorous, expanding organisation that New Zealand should be involved in. Yet, thirteen years later it is clear that WAY was never as strong as it then appeared, and many of the problems' that today dominate the organisation had their beginnings in that earlier period.
WAY was formed in 1949, at the height of the Cold War. After World War II in the euphoric atmosphere that led to the birth of the United Nations, attempts were made to form a World Youth organisation, parallel to the United Nations.
Cold War and Communist Domination
The problems of the Cold War however soon caused a split in the World Federation of Democratic Youth, as this organisation was called, and Western countries withdrew from W.F.D.Y. in 1948, complaining that the organisation had fallen under Communist domination, was no longer Democratic and that they could no longer therefore support it.
I have no knowledge of the rights or wrongs of this withdrawal, but by having its beginnings in this manner WAY in may peoples' eye's became a pawn in the Cold War.
Strongest support for the new organisation came from America, which provided the largest share of the budget. Recent revelations have indeed indicated that some money that reached WAY came from the CIA through the Fund or for Youth and Student Activities, a front organisation that no longer exists.
As well as America the other strong influence in WAY came from Western Europe. Right throughout the 50's imto? tje ,od 60's WAY was an organisation dominated by Western Europe.
Yet with Third World Countries becoming independent and joinging WAY, it wasn't long before they began to question this European deomination and to press for a larger share in the power. As WAY changed from an organisation with a majority of European members to one dominated by Third World Countries, so their influence increased.
In 1972, at the Assembly held in Manchester, England, this clash came to a head, and control of WAY passed to an organised slate composed of a majority of Third World delegates.
This change was not accomplished peacefully, and bitter feeling was left after the conference, especially amongst the Europeans who found themselves no longer in control of the organisation.
Urgent fence mending was needed, but unfortunately, this did not happen.
Withdrawals of European countries, which had begun prior to 1972, accelerated, until as Sue Green has pointed out, today Britain remains as the only NYC still affiliated, although at the last Assembly, Gibralter was admitted, and Portugal, Spain and Greece all appear interested in joining.
Denmark has an affiliated WAY committee which includes most of the affiliated Youth Council members, apart from the Communist youth organisations who threaten to leaven the Danish Youth Council if that organisation ever affiliates with WAY. The WAY committee in Denmark provides that country with a means of overcoming this problem.
Funds from the C.I.A.
Those countries withdrawing claimed they were doing so because WAY was no longer democratic, and because it was proved to have been funded by the CIA.
The new leadership retorted that this argument was s sham, that the CIA financing had occured while WAY was controlled by those very countries that were now withdrawing, and therefore was nothing whatsoever to do with them. The charge of being undemocratic was simply a reaction of a European failure to adjust to a new world where International organisations could no longer be controlled by the white west.
So Europe withdrew, and formed a new regional body, the Countil of European National Youth Councils (CENYC). Yet along withe the membership they also took with them the considerable financial input which had been going to WAY.
WAY's financial problems were compounded also by rising criticism that the organisation was too much under the financial domination of the U.S.A., and the Manchester Assembly took a decision to move to end American financing of WAY. The last American money ended in March 1975.
As American support ceased, WAY was forced to fire a large number of its regional staff, and scale down its programmes of activities. Little effort seems to have been made by the administration controlling WAY in the post-1972 period to find alternative sources of finance, and to allow WAY to continue with a useful programme.
It was easy to find people willing to fund activities that centred on Family Planning, a large part of WAY's programme over the last three years centred around this acitvity, causing some disatisfaction.
In the face of this mounting financial crisis, it proved difficult to hold the General Assembly, originally planned for last August. The six month delay was mainly the result of inadequate funds to organise the meeting, and when it was finally held the tight budget had repercussions right throughout the meeting.
There was no money, for instance, to pay for an adequate translation service, and the delegates from Latin America complained bitterly they were often left out of discussions because they could not understand what was going on.
Practically every delegate present was unhappy about the organisation of the conference. Lack of finance also led to the conference being too short to adequately discuss the very important questions the New Zealand delegation wished to see high up on the agenda.'
Practical Details Forgotten
Too much of the conference was spent listening to prestigeous speakers instead of working on the more practical questions that should have had more time devoted to then). This was obvious to all the members of the New Zealand delegation.
The leadership of WAY attempted to run a prestigeous conference, in which their stewardship could hopefully be shown to have left the organisation in good heart. It was clear that this was not the case.
It seems to me that we are still in a period when Third World Countries feel they have to prove themselves as efficient as the White West in organising and running things on a World scale. Unfortunately, they cannot yet marshall behind them the same financial resources that seem to flow into organisations still controlled by Western personnel. They struggle on under much more difficult situations.
I have spent little time dealing with the Assembly, because I think it is important to understand the situation that WAY is in, and how it came to be in the difficult situation it clearly find itself. At stake in the current debate over WAY are some very important principles.
It is possible to be an effective World organisation today without relying on American funding, or funding by any other Great power. WAY is attempting to follow this course. It is possible for Third World countries to control an organisation, without facing opposition from Western countries unable to adjust to a situation where they are no longer in control.
New Zealand's continued membership of WAY means that we believe that this kind of a struggle is important, and that this country is prepared to throw itself in with Third World countries and perhaps experience for ourselves something of the frustrations they feel continually.
New Executive Elected
At the Assembly a new leadership was elected to guide WAY over the next three years. Only one of these people was on the previous Executive. That members value New Zealand's continued participation in WAY was seen by the election of NYC President Errol Millar to influential position over the next three years.
Clearly this new administration faces great difficulties in trying to keep WAY alive. Money must be found, and efforts made to carry out the programme that was decided on at the Assembly.
This too will be difficult. The Assembly stated clearly, that although they saw Family Planning Programmes as one area for WAY to be involved in it would only be if local youth councils saw these as relevant to their situation (as Indian, and Sri Lankan delegates clearly did). There was wide agreement that Family Planning should be only one element of the WAY programme.
Plans were mounted to set up a team of young economists to study the U.N. proposals for a New World Economic Order and to start thinking of more radical proposals than those currently before the U.N.
There are plans for a display of works by yojg artists to be mounted and sent round different countries. There are proposals for youth exchanges for the training of young leaders in Community Development - to encourage youth to study critically the cultural heritage of their own countries, and how this heritage can be retained in the face of increasing technological change. All of these, I suggest are very exciting programmes, yet unless the money can be found, they will remain purely as ideas.
I believe for N.Z. to withdraw from WAY now would be a mistake.
We must wait and see how this new administration performs, to see whether they can make these ideas work, to see whether they can begin to re-open dialogue with those countries that have left the organisation, and to see whether promises that the new administration will be more open and less sensitive to criticism are kept.
If this can be done, WAY faces, if not a bright future, then at least as good a future as can be hoped for given the nature of the present world. A perfect World may provide a perfect world organisation - in the meantime I believe WAY is worth sticking to.