The General Members Meeting was held following the Conflict Transformation Encounter at the BOSCO Youth Centre in Walkerville, Johannesburg. More than 75 members and staff, including those who had presented apologies in abstention were part of the meeting. The meeting was chaired by Steering Committee member Fatima Swartz. A full set of minutes from the meeting will be circulated soon, and we welcome input from members who were unable to be present at this meeting.
Fatima Swartz opened the meeting with a review of the previous Members Meeting, and was joined by Steering Committee member Mr Baht Latumbo over Skype, who gave a welcome from the Philippines. During the overview of the previous minutes, attention was drawn to the fact that many of the ideas suggested previously have now been implemented through various programmes, although there are some that still remain ideas, and other new ideas that have emerged since.
Following input from the members on the overview, Fatima Swartz moved on with a discussion on the role and focus of The ACTION Support Centre in engaging with peace and security issues. She stressed that what’s important is how we make sense of challenges and engage them critically to come up with a way forward. With societies becoming more polarized, our work as peacebuilders is to connect people. This can be seen in ASC’s solidarity work. Fatima also emphasized the importance of considering whether we are going deep enough in the trainings and dialogues to tackle the issues at hand.
On an organizational level, Fatima highlighted that ASC has seen new staff joining the organization, and over the years, new relationships and partnerships have also been built with other organisations and institutions on various levels. A significant part of this has been the increasing connections that have taken ASC’s work beyond Africa, to Asia and the Middle East as well.
Philani Ndebele, the Campaigns Manager at the ASC shared a brief overview of ASC’S work mainly focusing on the three pillars that defines ASC’s work. Philani noted that ASC has managed to remain strong as a result of a strong network of its associates, facilitators, staff members and partners.
Following this, Members were invited to share comments and suggestions. Some of the members drew attention to the need to make translation of ASC documents a priority so as to increase accessibility for others on the continent. Members also inquired about plans to increase ASC programmes and presence in other regions, countries and localities, as well as strengthening relationships with organisations in other areas. Philani Ndebele acknowledged these issues, and suggestions were made, including the role that members can make towards the growth of the organisation
ASC Finance manager and SC Treasurer Richard Smith introduced the financial report with an explanation of the ASC Organisational Model. The model of a compact centre that works through partners and with members is not aimed at expanding and setting up ASC offices across the continent. The intention is to promote and spread the use of a conflict transformation approach, not to build an ASC empire or a franchise. Richard Smith went on to explain that the establishment of a membership base creates a sense of collective ownership, as members will contribute to the overall work of the ASC.
Musa Koopedi, the Finance Manager at ASC, shared information with regards to the finances of the organisation. She highlighted that the organisation is in a good financial state and that there has been an increase in the grants received.
A discussion of the Steering Committee took place, to determine the process of consolidating a governing board for the next term. In line with the ASC constitution the Steering Committee serves as the governing structure for the organisation. A plan was put in place to ensure that there would be sufficient continuity and to accommodate new members.
New members will work closely with outgoing SC members to ensure that by October there is sufficient depth of knowledge on how the SC works to ensure a smooth transition. Details of board member obligations were discussed, and nominations for 6 people were put forward. The Steering Committee was also tasked with identifying additional capacity, and was given the mandate to co-opt these capacities if and when the need arose.
Finally, various resolutions were put forward for consideration. It was suggested that the ASC should apply for membership to join the International Land Alliance and to explore attaining observer status in the African Union. The need to link and connect with umbrella bodies to strengthen the work of the ASC was also emphasized, and it was suggested that the African Solidarity Caravan be linked with the World Social Forum to be hosted in Tunisia. It was agreed that the ASC is going to investigate these ideas and consider options that will help strengthen the work of the ASC.
Fatima Swartz officially closed the meeting and thanked everyone who had participated in the meeting and in making it a success.