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Chair's Letter - August 2013

Dear friends,

The ICM finished yesterday evening and I wanted to quickly share with you some of the key outcomes of the meeting, as well as some of the interventions made by the Amnesty UK delegation. I will of course provide you with a full report of the meeting in due course.

There were over 40 resolutions on the table, making the business of the ICM demanding but, I believe, taken together, provides a strong direction for the movement to improve financial management and reporting, and to strengthen governance and accountability. We also have some clearer direction on aspects of our human rights work. 

Overall it has been a very positive ICM with a tangible sense of determination to increase our impact for human rights through all that we do, and specifically by moving more of our resource to the global south and east. There was also a strong focus on fundraising and the need for the movement to increase its income in order to enable us to achieve greater impact for human rights.

The IS will be circulating a statement from the ICM shortly which will be uploaded on the Amnesty UK website early next week. 

UK Resolutions and implementation of relevant Amnesty UK AGM Decisions

In terms of resolutions, I am very pleased to say that our resolution on sporting organisations and human rights (3.13) proposed at our 2012 AGM by the York Group was passed by the ICM without amendment. Fellow delegates were delighted that we can now start working on this issue, which has particular relevance in the context of recent protests around the athletics championships in Russia and the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia.

Amnesty UK's resolution on restricted giving (1.04) created a very positive debate on the nature of restricted giving, how Sections could raise more money for the international budget and be recognised through the financial systems of the movement for their contribution.  Following much joint work between Amnesty UK, several Sections and the International Executive Committee (IEC), we agreed amendments so that the movement could pilot this approach and gather data for a decision at the 2015 ICM. Those Sections taking part in the pilot, which include Amnesty UK, will benefit from any changes backdated to the start of the pilot. I am pleased to say that the resolution was passed as amended.  

I am also pleased to say that we were successful in amending the proposed Core Standards (2.05) to include extended provision for trade union recognition. The resolution was passed as amended by Amnesty UK and other Sections who contributed to the debate. This reflects decision C7 of the Amnesty UK 2013 AGM.  

The Amnesty UK 2013 AGM also mandated the delegation to support resolutions 1.05, 2.06, 2.10, 4.03 and 4.07. Taking these in order:  

  • Resolution 1.05 Evaluation of “One Financial Amnesty” and impact on reserves (AI France) - calling for a mechanism whereby funds required by Sections to replenish their reserves would be deductible from assessment contributions.  During the course of debate, AI France decided to incorporate the issue of use of reserves into the IEC's overarching finance resolution (1.01), which was passed. 
  • Resolutions 2.01, 2.06, 2.09 and 2.10 requiring governance improvements and the establishment of an international governance working group were merged and amended into a merged resolution now entitled ‘Governance Reform’. This was passed. 
  • Resolution 4.03 Evaluation of the Global Transition Programme (GTP) (AI Belgian Francophone) calling for the creation of an independent committee to conduct regular (annual) evaluation of the GTP to be submitted to the Chairs Assembly was withdrawn because of an existing plan by the IEC to introduce three layers of evaluation.

This plan includes:

1. Ongoing monitoring:  the IEC Oversight Taskforce (made up of a subgroup of IEC members and Section Directors) are to receive monthly reports from the Senior Management Team of the International Secretariat. The IEC will also receive quarterly reports which will be made available to Sections and members.  

2. Interim evaluation: by December 2014 there will be an evaluation against the Global Transition Plan Roadmap to evaluate finances, ways of working, relationships with sections and integration. All Sections, partners on the ground, Hubs and other staff will be involved.

3. Final evaluation: by the end of 2016 there will be a full evaluation building on the ongoing monitoring, the interim evaluation and in the context of the overall investment made by the movement. As with the interim evaluation, staff, Sections, all partner external independent experts and an independent member of the IEC's Finance and Audit committee will be involved.

  • Resolution 4.07 - a vision for sections and structures (AI Ireland) which calls for an impact assessment of the shift in resources following the One Financial Amnesty 2011 ICM decision, and a clear vision for the human rights work of funding sections. This was passed with the financial element included in the overarching finance resolution 1.01. 

Amnesty UK Proposed Emergency Resolutions and accountability

You may also recall that Amnesty UK's AGM this year passed two resolutions calling for emergency resolutions to the ICM, one on financial management and the assessment system and the other on consultation on the GTP and the Reference Report. Unfortunately these resolutions were not considered to meet criteria for emergency resolutions and so were rejected by the ICM Prepcom (equivalent to Amnesty UK's Standing Orders Committee).  

The delegation followed its strategy to raise the key issues through the resolutions on the table and debate in the relevant workshops. It is clear that many other Sections share the concerns raised at our AGM and that the IEC understands these and is addressing them.  We will need to absorb the final decisions to determine how many of the concerns expressed in resolutions C2 and C5 of our AGM are reflected now in the decisions of the ICM. This will no doubt be a subject of discussion in the meetings we will hold over the autumn.   

Perhaps the key change made relating to the issues raised through decisions C2 and C5 of our AGM was the decision of the IEC to include an addition to their own finance resolution (1.01). This inclusion calls for a review of the assessment system and evaluation of the necessity to make long term amendments and to make any proposals for amendments to the 2015 ICM. This was passed. Download the overall statement made by the finance working party reflecting the discussions held (PDF) 

We also engaged in a dedicated discussion of the GTP and its challenges. We asked questions of the IEC and Senior Leadership Team at the International Secretariat regarding the measurement of the net human rights impact, factoring in the shift in resourcing across the movement.

The financial resolutions that were passed at the ICM do not affect Amnesty UK's medium-term financial position. There is no impact on the planned staff restructure agreed at the 2013 AGM and this will now take place. We will actively engage in the review of the assessment system leading up to the 2015 ICM and will keep members informed and involved in progress. 

Human Rights Campaigning

As well as Amnesty UK’s resolution on sport and human rights, decisions were taken on the issue of the right to food, water, sanitation; human rights violations caused by large-scale disasters;  and counter-terrorism and the war on terror.  

There were also workshops on the two planned global campaigns for 2014 to 2016 as well as a good policy discussion on sexual and reproductive rights. In addition there were some excellent presentations on our work to protect migrant workers, crisis work with a focus on Mali and Egypt and a stimulating and timely session on digital freedom and privacy.  On the final day we were privileged to hear directly from Shin Dong-Hyuk about his experiences living in and escaping from a camp in North Korea and the importance of Amnesty’s support for the struggle of the people there.  

There is no finer example of the impact we can have as a movement when we do work together as one than the success of our Arms Trade Treaty. There were many inspiring moments during the course of the ICM, but none more so than when we together celebrated this incredible achievement.  The significant contribution made by members, supporters and staff of AUK   to achieving the ATT was recognised by Kate Allen being invited to speak to the ICM. Here is a video played at the ICM which recounts the campaign and its success. I do hope you enjoy it.


Elections to the IEC (now named the International Board)

The ICM also held elections for the IEC.  There were 7 candidates for 4 vacancies. The elected candidates were:  Vincent Adzahlie-Mensah from AI Ghana, Guadalupe Rivas from AI Mexico, Sarah Beamish from AI Canada (English speaking) and Paul Divakar (from India, nominated by AI Australia). As Pietro Antonioli has come to the end of his time on the IEC, a new Chair will be elected at the next meeting of the IEC 

Find out more about the International Board members on the IS website

Next Steps

This was my first ICM and it was very impressive to see how the delegates work so constructively together, to strive for consensus in order to develop well-thought out and effective policy. It is of course a real privilege to spend time with fellow Amnesty members from across the world. The ICM at times feels very similar to our own AGM, creating a great sense of shared purpose and community - but on an even bigger scale.  The UK delegation have all been inspired by the occasion and we return home determined to share all that we have learned with you over the coming months and determined to do all we can to play our part in improving the impact that Amnesty has for human rights.  We also want to maintain the connection we have made with so many inspiring Amnesty activists and staff over the past few days and find ways to really build that sense of the global movement for all of us in the UK.

The delegation and I look forward to sharing all of this with you in more depth in the coming weeks and months.

Finally, I would like to thank the delegation -  Cris Burson-Thomas (Treasurer and Board Member), Tom Hedley (Board Member), Hannah Perry (Board Member), Kate Allen (Amnesty UK Director) and Kerry Moscogiuri (Marketing Director)  for their skilled and effective negotiating, sheer hard work and unfailing commitment over very long days; the Amnesty UK Staff, the Board, Charitable Trust and sub-committees who supported us in preparing for the ICM and for the contributions made by you, key activists, by your AGM resolutions and informally giving us clear messages for us to bring to discussions with the global movement. Thank you.

Best wishes,

Sarah O'Grady  
Vice Chair, Amnesty UK