IBBY UK: Motion to Accept Palestinian Section in 2002

Monday 10 February 2014

Background statement by IBBY UK:

Some members of the British Section of IBBY, under the auspices of the British Council, have had the privilege over the last two years of working with Palestinian organizations that are bravely struggling, in the most difficult conditions, to promote the development of quality creative literature and picture books for young people. These members have asked us to address the moral question behind the exclusion of Palestinians as a ‘National Section’ from IBBY and the benefits that accrue from belonging to an international body dedicated to the same aims that they hold for their country.

Previous applications to join IBBY have been rejected by the IBBY Executive on the grounds that Palestine is not yet constituted as a ‘state’. In a recent communication from Executive Director Leena Maissen, we were informed that:

“The issue has been extensively discussed by various ECs and the conclusion has been that as long as IBBY is a NGO within the UN system it shall follow the UN policy in admitting sovereign states only as National Section members and offering the possibility of individual membership in non-sovereign states and territories.”

We cannot find any reference within The Statutes of IBBY or its Amendments to a provision to “follow UN policy in admitting sovereign states only as National Section members.” The term ‘sovereign states’ does not appear under Clause II, Section 1 that defines what is meant by ‘National Sections’. Reference is made to ‘country’ and ‘nation’.

Basis for the motion within the current Statutes

• We have formulated our proposal within what we believe is a rational and legitimate reading of the original Statutes and its Amendments.

• We note that some National Sections are organised into units that are culturally determined e.g. Belgian Section (Flemish Branch) and Belgian Section (French Branch); Spanish Section (Basque Branch, Catalan Branch, Galician Branch). From this, we deduce that, in practice, there has been some flexibility within the organisation in order to represent and reflect the needs of constituent groups and to fulfil IBBY’s aims more effectively. Our motion draws attention to issues of representation.

Moral basis for the motion

• We believe that the aims of IBBY as expressed in its Statutes are profoundly moral in their concern with wider knowledge, international understanding, peace and good-will. They reflect the founding spirit together with recognition of the role of literature for young people in promoting these universal values ‘throughout the world’. (The Statutes, Clause 1, Section 1)

• We believe it is essential to interpret the Statutes within IBBY’s founding spirit. To exclude Palestinian organisations and individuals from IBBY should they apply to form a National Section is to allow current political conflict and interests to override the founding spirit to which all members sign up. Instead, such an application should be welcomed for its potential contribution to IBBY’s aims both locally and globally, in particular encouraging wider knowledge and understanding of each other in the cause of peace.

• Finally, to continue the exclusion is to deny the rights of Palestinian children to the benefits accruing to children elsewhere from the work of IBBY and is contrary to IBBY’s aims.

The motion

“We draw the attention of the General Assembly to the exclusion from IBBY of the Occupied Territories. The Occupied Territories, known by its inhabitants as Palestine, is a country. There are persons and organisations within it who seek to form a national section that is compatible with the aims of IBBY. It is not the case that the Occupied Territories form part of the country of Israel. Therefore it cannot be said that Palestinians and their organisations in the Occupied Territories are already represented by the Israeli national section. They have observer status at the United Nations. The current position in which Palestinians can only join IBBY as individuals is a barrier to them furthering IBBY’s fundamental aims within their country. In order that IBBY fulfils its aims in relation to this part of the world, we propose that the General Assembly accepts the right of Palestinians to form their own national section.”

Motion proposed by British Section of IBBY

Seconded by……

Procedure for a motion to be put to the General Assembly

Our proposal has to go first to the Executive Committee for discussion at its meeting prior to the Congress on 28 September. The Executive Committee then decides whether the motion will be put before the General Assembly or not. We are circulating the motion to other National Sections in advance for two reasons:

• to enable you to consider the issues as democratically as possible in advance;

• to invite other National Sections to join us in proposing or seconding the motion.

We hope to show through our joint concern that this is a matter not of technicality but it is fundamental to IBBY’s principles and morality. It needs to be addressed by the General Assembly as a whole.

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