Membership Council (MC)
The Membership Council is the supervising body of Amnesty the Netherlands and represents all members. Composition of the Membership Council and its tasks are laid down in the Statute and General Regulations of Amnesty the Netherlands. Decisions by the Board regarding longer term strategy and financial estimates, annual budget, and annual report and annual financial account need approval of the Membership Council. The Board informs the Council twice a year on the progress of the implementation of Amnesty’s longer term strategy (Agenda ’10-’16).
The Membership Council has the authority to appoint, suspend and discharge the members of the Board and appoints the members of the Financial Committee and Board of Appeals. It also holds the power to appoint and discharge the external accountant of the organization and to disband the association. The Membership Council has the authority to amend the Statute and General Regulations.
Elections take place every three years and are organized regionally in accordance with the Electoral Regulations. There are five regions and the amount of members in a region determines the number of seats allotted to the Membership Council for that region. All members of Amnesty the Netherlands are eligible for a position in the Membership Council, but they must meet an agreed profile. Unless suspended, all members of Amnesty the Netherlands are qualified to vote. The Candidates Committee assesses suitability of the candidates against the agreed profile. This Committee provides the Board with a list of candidates. In turn, the Board makes the final decision about the composition of the list of candidates and publishes it three weeks before election. Members of the Membership Council are elected for a three year term and can be reelected for a second and third term. Newly elected members follow a induction program. All positions are voluntary posts.
Although the elections are organized per region, members of the Membership Council represent all members of Amnesty the Netherlands and are allowed to act without interference of or consultation with the members of their region. However, it is good practice of the Membership Council to maintain contact with the (active) members in their region.
Until 2010, Amnesty’s supervising body was the Annual General Meeting, as is common practice within the international Amnesty movement. Over the years, this appeared to be a less constructive arrangement, because of decreased attendance rates, lack of continuity as well as inadequate representation. By amendment of the Statute in 2010 the role, tasks and responsibilities of the Annual General Meeting were transferred to the Membership Council.
The Membership Council meets twice a year, usually in June and December. In the June meeting the annual report and annual financial accounts of the preceding year, as adopted by the Board, are discussed and approved. In the December meeting the annual plan and budget for the following year, as adopted by the Board, are discussed and approved. In accordance with the Statute, an extraordinary meeting can be held if called for.
Establishing a Membership Council led to new practices for preparing the meetings. Meeting documents are sent well in advance, giving the members of the Membership Council an appropriate amount of time for preparation, and if wanted, consultation with the members in their region. Prior to the meeting, members of the Council can hand in questions and comments, which will be responded to before the meeting takes place. Responses are shared with all members of the Council when these are deemed of general interest. This ‘question & answer approach’ facilitates more efficient proceedings during the meeting itself.
The new arrangement has proven to be a fruitful reconciliation of being a grass roots organization on the one hand and having an effective and qualitatively robust governance on the other hand.
The Board is the governing body and upholds the principles of the Code of Good Governance for Charities and acts accordingly. Composition of the Board and its tasks are laid down in the Statute of Amnesty the Netherlands. The Board is entrusted with governing the organization and has final responsibility for the leadership and implementation of Amnesty’s programs and activities. It monitors the implementation of the Membership Council’s decisions. Day-to-day administration of the organization is delegated by the Board to the section director as laid down in a separate Statute (Directiestatuut).
The Board adopts the (longer term) strategy and budget of Amnesty the Netherlands. On a regular base, the section director reports to the Board on the progress of human rights projects, (international) organizational development issues, and income and spending. This enables the Board to adjust the strategic course if warranted. The Board adopts the annual report and annual financial accounts. For the latter, an external accountant informs the Board about his or her findings.
Members of the Board are recruited on the basis of an agreed profile. Specific profiles are drafted for the chairman, treasurer and secretary. Board members are appointed by the Membership Council for a three year term and can be reappointed for a second and third term. All positions are voluntary posts. Currently the Board has eight members, but will be reduced to seven posts once a vacancy arises. Ila Kasem is chairman of the Board.
Unless suspended, all members of Amnesty International are eligible to apply as a candidate to become a Board member. The ‘Committee New Board Members’ (Commissie Nieuwe Bestuursleden) assesses all candidates against the agreed profiles for the vacant positions. This standing committee advices the Board on the suitability of every candidate, in order of preference given candidates’ credentials. In practice, the Board usually endorses this advice and forwards it to the Membership Council for the final decision. Composition and proceeding of this committee are laid down in a regulation as agreed on by the Board and acts accordingly. Board members are not eligible for this committee.