Concept VII

“The Conference recognizes that the Charter and the Bylaws of the General Service Board are legal instruments: that the Trustees are thereby fully empowered to manage and conduct all of the world service affairs of Alcoholics Anonymous. It is further understood that the Conference Charter itself is not a legal document: that it relies instead upon the force of tradition and the power of the A.A. purse for its final effectiveness.”    

Although it appears to be contradictory, Concept VII provides for a “Balance of Power” between the General Service Board and the General Service Conference.

In 1950, when the Conference Charter was drawn, there was a question of where the final authority ought to rest. Would the Conference have the last word, or would the Trustees? After considering many options, our present Conference Charter was developed. This structure clearly gives the Conference a final and ultimate authority but which nevertheless legally preserves the right of the Trustees to function freely and adequately, just as any board of directors must. This means that the practical power of the Conference will nearly always be superior to the legal power of the Trustees.

Up to now, experience has shown this balance of powers between the Trustees and the Conference is thoroughly workable.  We have taken great pains to reserve final authority to the Conference by practical and traditional means. By legal means we have delegated functional and discretionary authority to the Trustees. We believe this balance can be maintained indefinitely, because the one is protected by tradition and the other by law.

Interestingly, when the Conference forwards a directive to the Trustees, the Trustees have the legal right to say ‘no’ to anything and everything the Conference wants.  The Board of Trustees has veto power over any Conference action. This is legally necessary and right in principle, even though the veto will seldom if ever be used.

Concept VII provides three examples in which the Trustees should and could veto Conference action.

1. If the Conference should take an action or issue a directive to the Trustees in clear violation of its own Charter, or that of the General Service Board; or if the Conference were to pass any measure so ill-considered or so reckless as to seriously injure, in the judgment of the Trustees, A.A’s public relations or A.A. as a whole, it would then be the duty of the Trustees to ask for a Conference reconsideration. If the Conference refused to reconsider, the Trustees could then use their legal right of veto.

2. Traditionally the Trustees never should substantially exceed a Conference-approved budget without consulting the Conference, they should feel entirely free to reduce the Conference budget figure during any fiscal year, even though such an action might curtail or cancel special plans or projects initiated and directed by the Conference itself.

3. If, by reason of unforeseen conditions, any particular plan, project or directive of the Conference should become impractical or unworkable during a fiscal year, the Trustees should without prejudice, be able to use their right of veto and cancellation.

It was our experience as a Panel 51 Delegate and as a Panel 55 Delegate that the influence of Concept VII, that being a respect for the “Balance of Power” between the Conference members and the Trustees, allowed us as Trusted Servants of the Fellowship to see grave issues resolved during our terms, with the spirit of harmonious cooperation our general rule.

Mike & Shirley O.

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