Image for Amnesty Members put No Confidence motion in Amnesty Australia Board at Hobart AGM

Members of Amnesty International Australia last Saturday (16th May), put a No Confidence Motion in the Amnesty International Australia Board  over their actions on Amnesty’s proposed new sex law policy.

Two resolutions were put before the Tasmanian Amnesty AGM including a No Confidence Motion in the AIA Board and a resolution on all members right to vote on policy decisions along with greater accountability and transparency in policy making processes by Amnesty International.

At the Amnesty AGM in Hobart the Amnesty Board distributed written advice to members attending the AGM’s in an attempt to direct Branch members not to vote for two resolutions on surrogacy and prostitution which were subsequently withdrawn by proponents from discussion.

Two Emergency Resolutions were then tabled at the Hobart Branch AGM:

Emergency Resolution 1

No Confidence Motion in the Board Of Amnesty International Australia

That this meeting supports a No Confidence Motion in the Amnesty International Australia Board as a response to its:

• Authorship of a Memorandum titled Brief: Proposed policy on the decriminalisation of ‘sex work’.
• Distribution to Branches of the Memorandum dated 13th May 2015 for attention of AGM attendees only two days prior to Branch AGM’s being held around Australia on the 16th May 2015.
• Failure to cite in the Memorandum all human rights based legislative options in an unbiased manner such as the Nordic model.
• Failure to include the views on the lived experiences of survivors of prostitution and the sex trade and use of inappropriate language.
• Failure to be transparent with membership since the NAGM in 2014 about its communications with the Amnesty International Board and International Secretariat on the proposed ‘sex work ’ policy and to provide timely updates to membership.
• Actions over the proposed ‘sex work’ policy especially, including the Memorandum, that are viewed by many AIA members as being secretive and in contravention of Amnesty International’s Governance principles on accountability, consultation with stakeholders and transparency.

Emergency Resolution 2

Voting rights for all AI members and proper stakeholder consultations to enhance greater transparency and democratic participation in Amnesty International

That in the interests of just, fair and democratic participatory governance mechanisms,  that Amnesty International overhaul its policy development and decision making processes and will commit to new participatory and democratic decision making procedures to include that all members can contribute to policy formation and ensure that:

• Principles of democratic participation in AI are adhered to with a one vote one value on all policy decisions as determined by membership surveys and voting and not just attendance at BAGM’s or NAGM’s.
• BAGM’s and NAGM’s not expose themselves to undue influence from actions by groups with vested interests branch stacking meetings in support of new policy directions or resolutions .
• Policy development processes are to be transparent and keep members informed with respect to outcomes of community engagement with all NGO stakeholders in a timely manner especially all those groups who have direct contact with affected groups or communities, to enable all views to be presented to all AI membership for consideration and voting .
• Mandatory provision of information, respecting members public right to know, as contributed to by all proponents that could inform members views towards Amnesty International policy on enhancing existing or adopting alternative best practise human rights based legislative proposals or enacted legislation in any jurisdiction.

Members who had resigned both before attending the Amnesty AGM and after the meeting found themselves, as have many other members and now former members of Amnesty International Australia across the country, unable to continue to support an organisation which has lost sight of what ethical governance mechanisms constitute for a peak human rights organisation.

Amnesty members in Australia need to think carefully about whether this is the sort of organisation they wish to continue to support when there are many other organisations which have a much better track record on due process and supporting the global campaign to end violence against women.

Isla MacGregor previously worked with Whistleblowers Tasmania between 1994-2014 and in 2003 while working with the Coalition for Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (CICSA) contributed to the Terms of References for a Commission of Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in Tasmania. Isla continues to work with numerous Australian and international human rights organisations which work toward ending violence to women, children and men in both the legal and illegal sectors of the sex trade and supports the growing international Stop Demand for prostitution campaign.

*Simone Watson is a survivor of prostitution living in Western Australia. She joined the campaign against Amnesty International’s draft policy on “sex work” a year ago after reading it’s support for pimps, buyers and profiteers of sexual exploitation, and the flawed and biased consultation process it employed garnered by groups with a vested interest in expanding the sex trade.