The Congress of World Federalists Has Elected a New Leadership

Lucio Levi  
Member of UEF Federal Committee, Former President of UEF Italy

The Congress of the World Federalist Movement (WFM), held online in July and October last, was called to face a very serious political, organizational and financial crisis of the Movement. The crisis exploded immediately after the 2018 Congress, which had reformed the statute with the aim of simplifying the organizational structure of the Movement. First of all, the Council, the representative body of the member and associated organizations of the Movement (MOs and AOs), which was meeting twice a year and defined the political line of the Movement, had been abolished, and, secondly, it was decided to hold the Congress more frequently (every two years instead of every four / six years). If these reforms have simplified, according to expectations, the functioning of the organization, they have, at the same time, produced a concentration of power in the International Secretariat and the Executive Committee, and increased the distance between the center and the periphery.

Immediately after Congress, the WFM was paralyzed by a series of chain resignations starting with that of Bill Pace, who had led the Movement for 25 years and had been the architect of the campaign that led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court – the WFM's largest political achievement in its 75 years of existence - and the leader of a coalition of 2,500 NGOs. Due to deep political disagreements, the heads of key offices resigned also, including Tawanda Hondora, appointed Executive Director in place of Bill Pace. It should be added that, to aggravate this difficult situation, the new statute does not allow the co-options of new members to the Executive Committee to fill the vacant posts. As a result, the WFM was left practically without guidance.

On the one hand, the exponents of the old leadership continued to pursue traditional objectives (the campaigns for the universal ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, and for the Responsibility to Protect civilian populations against serious violations of human rights, in the event that the States concerned are unable to guarantee such protection), while the international community was beset by ever deeper divisions due to the resurgence of nationalism and the return of power politics. The International Criminal Court is criticized for having brought to trial only the political leaders of African states, and for not having had the strength to indict the leaders of the great powers, who refuse to submit to a higher jurisdiction. As a result, some states (Burundi and South Africa) have withdrawn from the Court, which is accused of applying a double standard, and other states are threatening to follow their example.

Faced with this change in the international political situation and following the withdrawal of Bill Pace, the leader of the NGO-coalition campaigning for the International Criminal Court and for the Responsibility to Protect, the WFM has lost its leading role of the two coalitions and with it its main financing sources. At the same time, the activity of the national organizations of the WFM has gradually come to a halt, and the number of members has decreased. At this point, a change of direction was required, and the opening of a debate on the WFM strategy and the choice of new priorities for action, first of all the issue of climate change, but also that of the UN Parliamentary Assembly, as insistently requested by a part of the Movement. This debate has long been postponed with the consequence of causing the collapse of the organization, the closure of its offices in New York and The Hague and the dismissal of its officials.

Those who participated in the Congress found themselves faced with a document of over 50 pages, called "Strategic Plan". The plan unquestionably has some positive aspects: for the first time it is stated that the choice of strategic priorities must be linked to the analysis of the trends in world politics - which can favor or hinder the path towards a world federation -, and the strategy defined towards the world federation is inspired by the idea of constitutional gradualism, in other words it relegates to the archives the idea of a qualitative leap from a world divided into sovereign states to the world federation. However, the Strategic Plan does have a flaw that affects its entire framework: it does not even attempt to formulate a diagnosis of the causes of the organization's crisis. The significance of this omission is clear. The outgoing leadership limited itself to proposing that the WFM continue in the direction traced by the old strategic choices. The only innovative choice, which has the meaning of making a virtue out of necessity, was to found the continuity of the organization on the free and voluntary work of its militants.

It was therefore inevitable that the Congress decided to entrust the future of WFM to a new, younger and more dynamic managerial class and to change the composition of the newly-elected Executive Committee, assigning a seat to each MO and AO, in order to allow all root organizations to meet at least twice a year and thus participate in leading the Movement. The Congress elected two co-Presidents: Inozuka Tadashi (Japan) and Fernando Iglesias (Argentine), who, for the first time in the history of the Movement, are neither of Anglo-Saxon origin nor are they Protestants. The Englishman John Vlasto, who represents the Democracy without borders movement, was elected President of the Executive Committee. The posts of Executive Director (Sandra Coyle) and Treasurer (Bente Nielsen) have been extended.

It is clear that the reconstruction work of the Movement will be a demanding one, long and difficult. It should be remembered that a group of European federalists has launched an appeal to unite European federalists and World federalists, and more specifically to spread the slogan "united we'll be stronger", and launch a debate on a common strategy of European federalists and World federalists.

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