Bond AGM: what was progressive?

The Bond AGM last week took a few notable decisions. Congratulations to Charles Kazibwe and Jessica Woodroffe on their elections to the Board and commiserations to those who didn’t make it. The AGM also adopted a Charter of principles for Bond, and passed a controversial motion. Technically the Charter should have longer term significance, but the motion was more of a surprise…

The motion shouldn’t have been controversial at all, and was drafted in such a way as to make it possible for the Bond Board to have accepted it: I’m still not sure why they decided not to or why they refused to allow it to be remitted, as one big charity CEO suggested (ok, not everyone’s as familiar with Citrine’s rules for meetings as old TUC hacks like me…) But it was opposed by the Board, and adopted by (I think I recall right) about 55 votes to 35.

What it called for (apart from rules for the consideration of motions at future AGMs, which wasn’t opposed by anyone!) was a review of the Board’s governance and
decision-making processes to:

  1. “review the appropriateness of having corporations on the Board of Bond, by means of a full consultation and open debate with the Bond membership;” and
  2. “adopt procedures to ensure that major issues of controversy wlll be openly debated and voted upon by the Bond membership.”

The first point was thrown into sharp relief by the later debate on the Charter which included a commitment that “our governance … will be … independent of business interests”. Given that, it’s a bit difficult to explain why the Board co-opted two people from Accenture and Unilever. Despite the Board’s explanation that they were co-opted in a personal capacity, they were suggested by their firms, and are referred on the web, in the anual report and so on as being from the corporates that employ them. Wonderful people though I’m sure they are, their presence on the Board is surely inconsistent with the principle of independence from business interests?

The second point was, explicitly, a complaint that the Bond Board decided to get involved in the ‘joint campaign’ on food that was dreamed up by the big development charities earlier this year and is due to go live in January (I can’t use the name of the campaign because – honestly, you couldn’t make this up – it’s “under embargo” until it launches. Enough already!) The Board maintained that deciding to take part despite considerable unease in the sector about how the campaign is being run and what it will do to the public image of development was ‘leadership’, although in reality it was probably more a real-politik reflection of the power and money that the large charities have.

It will be interesting to see how the Board addresses these points and, indeed, how it involves Bond’s membership in addressing them.

The Charter, however, was adopted without disagreement. It’s worth a read (although the version that was adopted doesn’t seem to be on the Bond website yet), because it sets out a number of good principles for the development sector. I’m particularly glad that ‘economic justice’ was added in the course of the consultation this summer to the list of issues Bond will promote as part of its human rights agenda (another favourite for trade unions, freedom of association, was already in the draft.) John has already blogged on this site about another addition, on ethical fund-raising.

The rest of the AGM was interesting too, from Renwick Rose’s opener through the workshops and panel sessions. I have blogged on the TUC Touchstone site on what I thought was pretty much the most lacklustre part of the day, the speech by DFID Secretary of State Justine Greening.

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One Response to Bond AGM: what was progressive?

  1. Thanks Owen – great summary of the day. I thought the debate around the motion was so important. The motion simply said that decisions about major issues potentially dividing the network should be taken to the network for debate and vote. That’s such a basic principle it shouldn’t even need a motion. But it did, because Bond hasn’t been working by those basic democratic principles for some years now – and that really does need to stop.
    Regarding whether or not having Trustees from big business on the Board works to the benefit of those companies, I notice that a recent issue of Bond’s networker magazie contained a lead feature article by a major company outlining its “sustainable busiiness case”, and what policy measures it would like to see the Rio+20 governments enact. That company was Unilever – the same company one of Bond’s Trustees works for.

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