AGM '09: debating and voting (#5)

11:15am The four working parties are the fora where much of the substantive debate and discussion about each of the proposed resolutions takes place. It's where the key arguments for and against are put, where amendments (friendly or otherwise) can be made and where the mood of the conference delegates is taken.

I'll try to give a taste of the debates and a sense of the cut and thrust of AI's internal democracy.

International justice
I can't be in four places at once, so I decide to go off to Working Party B and first up is the motion dealing with international justice.

A couple of individual members are proposing that AIUK tries to get AI to take action to bring change to the UN, specifically to beef up the power of the International Criminal Court "to deal with non-compliant states", and to establish parallel restorative justice and truth commission mechanisms, to run alongside international criminal tribunals, in order to contribute to peace and reconciliation in post-conflict situations. The proposers are frustrated at the ability of powerful States to defy the will of the UN by blocking moves towards international justice, but also identify the limitations of such tribunals in contributing to peace-making.

Given the current debates at a Northern Ireland level about the appropriateness of different mechanisms to deal with the delivery of truth, justice and reconciliation, this is a very interesting if ambitious and wide-ranging resolution.

The resolution is amended, primarily to deal more specifically with the power of veto at the UN Security Council. The amended resolution is overwhelmingly supported and will go forward in this shape to the main plenary of the Conference.

AGM follow-up
The next resolution calls for more follow-up action by AIUK as a result of each decision taken by the AGM, in the shape of press releases, press conferences and letters to targeted governments. The local group proposing the resolution feels that each motion passed by conference should lead to specific types of immediate media work or lobbying.

A representative of the Board opposes the resolution as impracticable in terms of how AIUK can most effectively carry out press and political work. This view is solidly backed by the show of hands in the working party.

A friendly amendment – to use the website to post online the wording of successful resolutions – is accepted, albeit narrowly, by those in the room. However, given that it appears that AIUK already does this (!), the resolution as a whole is rejected by the Working Party. Democracy in action.

Human rights scholarship
Another local group wants AIUK to set up a financial scholarship to fund a student through a Masters degree in human rights law at one of the country's universities. My classmates at Queen's must be pricking up their ears!

Yet, disappointment seems at hand almost immediately, as the Board's reprepesentative outlines the reasons why they are asking delegates to vote against the motion. A show of hands overwhelmingly backs the Board's position.

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