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Impressions from the Auroville International meeting 2005


One family

Talk given by Sraddhalu Ranade

 


 

 

Auroville International

 

 

Report of the 21st Annual meeting of the Auroville International Association held in Auroville January 14 - 18, 2005

Theme: 'Auroville's conscious connection with the world'

 

Participants:

Members of AVI Centers and Liaisons:

Canada : Andrée and Christian Feuillette

France : Devasmita Patnaik, Francine Finck

Germany : Marianne Soerensen, Friederike Werner, Uschi Ernst, Wolfgang Schmidt-Reinecke, Helmut Ernst, Christoph Mühlhans

South Africa : Jasmin and Aravinda Maheshwari, Renée Fouché

Spain : Alfonso Galiana

Sweden : Eveline Preibsch

The Netherlands : Mia Berden, Marjorie Neumann, Toby Neumann, Robert Aarsse

UK : Sonia Dyne, Martin Littlewood

USA : Wendy Lines, Soleil Lithman, Julian Lines, Savitra Lithman

Auroville : Kathy, Tine, Mauna, Alan and many others joining for one or more sessions

Minutes: Friederike

 

The meeting had several different levels of which the main were:

•  Presentations and interactive meetings with Auroville groups

•  Meeting with the International Zone group

•  Meetings of the old AVI Board

•  General Assembly

•  Meetings of the newly elected AVI Board

 

•  Presentations and meetings with Auroville groups

The general spirit carrying us through these meetings was formulated by Sraddhalu in the opening session on January 14, 2005: "Those of you who live elsewhere in the world but are part of this consciousness, are also living in Auroville. What you do there, the way you live, the way you think, has its effect on the world as if you were here, has its effect on situations here, because you´re part of the consciousness and for this consciousness distance doesn´t matter."

The discussions we had with many Aurovilians were open and oriented towards a closer future cooperation. The different national AVI associations and the international AVI association got the opportunity to inform Aurovilians about their work and likewise Auroville groups and representatives invited us on tours and to visit them to their places of work.

One important topic, which we discussed from many different angles during our meeting, was the new situation after the tsunami hit. Suhasini, Bhavana, Dave, Hans and others explained to us the complex situation of the relief operations and the opportunities for Auroville to play a major role in the future long-term restructuring and rebuilding activities. It was emphasized how crucial the close connection with Auroville International had been in providing a channel for a considerable amount of donations to Auroville during a very short period of time. It seems that this has helped to raise the profile of AVI inside Auroville. Together with the admirable spontaneous (and persistent) preparedness of so many Aurovilians to offer practical help, this seems to have greatly enhanced Auroville´s reputation as evidenced by the large number of articles in the Indian and international media and also in contacts with government and NGO officials. A strong wish was voiced by the tsunami team that future donations coming from AVI be accompanied by experts to help in the long-term activities and ease the pressing manpower problem of Auroville. The possibility of contacting Senior Service organizations was mentioned.

Joss, after giving us a short overview over 35 years of ecological and educational work at the Pitchandikulam Bio Resource Center, introduced us to recent plans to create a "village platform", together with the former Village Action Group and the Palmyra group. This platform could be instrumental in tackling urgent problems in the bio-region, which had become more obvious after the tsunami, for example the salination of water tanks and aquifers, and missing sanitation systems. There are studies already available outlining appropriate botanical measures, like the planting of mangroves, for coastline protection. Over the years Auroville has become a resource bank for indigenous plants of the unique Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF), which are not found elsewhere in the world. He invited us to visit one of his educational projects, a secondary school in the Kaluveli Tank Region where special ecological training is offered.

Some of our members had the chance to meet Jürgen from Palmyra in Aurobrindavan who spoke to us about the knowledge and experience Palmyra gained from long standing connections with a vast range of villages in the Auroville bioregion, and practical efforts to protect the existing water tanks and systems including water quality control projects in the Palmyra laboratories.

On another occasion some of us met with Gilles from Water Harvest and Tency from CSR who informed us about the Water Seminar that had taken place in Auroville some weeks before the tsunami hit. As an outcome, comprehensive data are available that allow for the planning and implementation of an overall water management of the whole 1.400 sqm bioregion, which encompasses the coastal area of 70km from Cuddalore, south of Pondicherry, to Marakkanam on the north side of the Kaluveli Tank and 20 km inland. It was mentioned that the Indian President, Mr. Abdul Kalam, who visited Auroville recently, had expressed his special interest in desalination and water management, and offered his support for Auroville´s efforts in this field.

Several meetings took place with Bhavana, Karin, Morris, Lavkamad and the remaining Village Action Group . After Village Action went through a deep crisis last year it can be stated that, luckily, most of the women´s and youth groups still function and most of the village programs carry on, even if the majority of the formerly employed social workers are no longer working. The Village Action Group is now challenged to help coordinate and take an active part in the tsunami relief efforts. The tsunami wave seems to have awakened all of Auroville and its supporters to the fact that the surrounding villages are part of the Auroville adventure; cooperating with them and caring for them is an active step towards bringing about an actual Human Unity. Later Lavkamad showed us around the newly finished Auroville Industrial School (ICI standard) which was set up from a grant given by a German ministry. It offers a first class vocational training in electronics, software and hardware and business English to young people from the area.

Jacques from the Dental Clinic presented us with another example of a very concrete, "hands-on" village action involvement. Whereas in 1981 the Dental Clinic could offer only emergency care to the villages, in 1993 a first sub-center opened in Edyanchavadi. Today there are 12 sub-centers serving 25.000 people in 20 villages - an impressive figure in India where 70% of the population get no chance to enjoy dental care at all. Twenty-two women have been trained to become hygienists carrying out a wide range of dental care measures, thereby gaining a lot of respect in the villages.

An invitation to the Mohanam Cultural Center in Sanjeevi Nagar village close to Auroville on Pongal Sunday introduced us to an impressive initiative by Aurelio to engage village youth in preserving their own rich culture. This center is also attracting young people from abroad for practical help and studies and Aurelio emphasized that without the support of two German volunteers doing their alternative service he would not have managed to set up the center. Another example of human unity in practice!

This brings us to another major topic of the meeting: education and youth exchange. One afternoon was reserved for schools and institutions under SAIIER (Sri Aurobindo International Institute for Educational Research). Transition School, Last School, Future School, Isaiambalam School, Udavi School, Nandanam Creche, Laboratory of Evolution (LOE), Auroville Arts and Savitri Bhavan presented the respective focus of their activities. Later some of us attended an impressive presentation by 8 Future School Students who had been invited to a youth conference on ecology in Mexico. Sanjeev and Ashok introduced us to the biannual research journal RITAM and to a number of projects supported by the Government of India, including a new student dorm, a new primary school and a new school directed by Meenakshi. It was emphasized that Auroville´s educational programs on Human Unity and on Body Awareness are very special, something that could be developed into communicable programs. Teachers and social workers are already coming from different parts of the world to do their internship in Auroville schools and kindergartens.

Later that afternoon Kathy gave us a power point presentation on her involvement with informal education and worldwide networking . Together with Shivaya, Dawn and Anand she is running the AVIS (Auroville Volunteering, Internship and Studies programme) service, presently handling around 80 requests for volunteer and internship places from 19 countries. Currently there are 3 established programs from the California Institute for Integral Studies (CIIS) on Multiculturalism, Indian Psychology and an Alumni tour. Also the University of California at Santa Cruz had a program, as did the University of Washington and the Vestoppland Folk Highschool from Norway. In the past the Naropa Institute of Boulder, Colorado and the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California have conducted visits. Educational exchanges are also happening with the Findhorn Community in Scotland. There are newly established links with the Breuninger Foundation from Stuttgart, Germany, which runs a program on "Integral Education for Global Responsibility" and they have sponsored two young Aurovilians to be part of a one-year international study program, which will include a learning module in Auroville. CIRHU was also the main organizer of the International Youth Conference scheduled to take place in Auroville shortly after the AVI meeting. Kathy was one of the organizers of the Auroville Winter Integral Studies Program (WISP) with Aurovilians and visitors teaching.

On another occasion Shivaya talked about the "pioneering" German volunteers program . This program, running successfully for more than five years and officially recognized by the relevant German ministry, is sending young men to Auroville to do alternative service instead of going into the army. Shivaya mentioned that it would be very helpful if an introduction program to Auroville and the Indian environment could be developed for such volunteers. She is doing fundraising for the AVIS services and for the urgently needed accommodation for young volunteers. Luckily the American students' hostel at the US pavilion site is finally finished and was inaugurated on February 2.

More presentations were offered to us: Marc from the Auroville Board of Commerce (ABC) asked if the AVI centers would be prepared to cooperate in outreach activities for Auroville products, mentioning the website for Auroville`s commercial activities (www.auroville.com). He invited us to the ABC office and to an Auroville unit, informing us about ABC´s efforts in providing support to the Auroville units in areas of marketing and quality control.

We were made familiar with the extremely important service the Auroville farmers offer to the community. Jeff and John from the Auroville Farm Group showed us around different farms explaining the multi-levelled challenges relating to biological farming for Auroville´s healthy food supply and self-sustainability. Each AVI Center was given a copy of the final report of "The Auroville Farm Group Assessment". This ground study could be a valuable tool for AVI centers to contact universities and institutions in their respective countries working in the field of biological farming, for studies programs or exchange of knowledge. Since manpower is one of the main problems Auroville farms are facing, besides lacking funds, volunteers are especially welcome.

Finally, certainly a highlight for all of us, we were invited to visit Matrimandir . First Alain explained the basic garden layout to us. A proper garden concept is still missing: for the time being Aurovilians are requested to submit ideas; and in case no satisfactory concept is found the call will go outside. Then Andy and Gilles introduced us to the ambitious plans to finish the Matrimandir building within the next two years, with all the technical problems involved, like the present challenge to take off all the discs again because of the waterproof coating problems. A solution for the inner skin has been found - a special fabric covering the triangles will be illuminated from behind by controllable coloured LED light. The Inner Chamber will be closed for renovation and the installation of a new AC system after February. By that time two meditation rooms in the petals will be ready and open for meditation. In the Matrimandir office Divya and Barbara gave us a power point presentation, which can be used for fundraising. Each center was given a copy on CD. To finish Matrimandir two million dollars have to be raised within the next two years. Most donations still come from Indians. AVI centers could join in with creative fundraising ideas.

From Matrimandir we walked the few steps over to the Townhall where Pashi, Luigi, Lalit and Sauro presented us with the vision and concept of the Master Plan and with the wide range of contacts and collaborations they have been able to establish in recent years, for example the Asia Urbs program with the European Union. They are also involved with Pondicherry Heritage Preservation and other Indian programs in the field of urban and environmental planning. In cooperation with the Indian Space Agency they are active in putting together a GIS database monitoring changes in the bio-region.

On two occasions board members were invited by Auroville "key people" and by the Working Committee and Auroville Council to get some background information. We were informed about internal Aurovilian efforts to find appropriate organizational structures and decision making procedures, about land issues, the tsunami situation, city development issues and the visa situation. It was commonly agreed that Auroville and AVI should work more closely together in an atmosphere of mutual trust.

Topics of discussion were:

- AVI members expressed their impression that the development of the International Zone has not received the attention it deserves in Auroville. It ressembles Matrimandir in that it does not appear to be catering directly for the bodily needs and the physical survival of the community, but has to do with the visionary level. This point was conceded by Aurovilians, whose needs like housing, schooling, land etc. always seem more urgently pressing, and the greater vision within Auroville is still evolving.

- The discussion moved to Helmut Ernst´s concept for an International University in Auroville, which he had presented for the International Zone Group and a second time for Auroville at large in the Town Hall. Some questioned how much acceleration Auroville could handle and whether it is ready to advertise its educational concepts. On the other side, several Aurovilians expressed interest in further discussing Helmut´s concept.

- An Aurovilian complained that too many visitors come to Auroville just for touristic reasons and that there is no proper procedure for dealing with the problem so far. AVI members communicated their experience that since many visitors come to offer at least part of their time for voluntary work, this opportunity could be made available to them with improved organization. AVIS and the Connections services are a very good step in this direction, also the guest introduction tours. Reception and information services for Auroville visitors could be improved, along the lines of what the Visitors Center already does for Matrimandir visitors. The guesthouses should be equipped with good information material. Perhaps something similar to the Findhorn work-experience plan could be established. The International Zone could in its future development provide a kind of landing place. Highly skilled people arrive in AV who would like to share their knowledge and expertise, but sometimes they do not know how to go about it and response from AV is not organised.

- Outreach is a very important issue, a strong outreach group with a broad vision becomes more and more important, especially since Auroville has gained such a good reputation after the tsunami. This should not be spoiled.

•  Meeting with the International Zone group

Since the International Zone group can be regarded as the "natural partner" for AVI this meeting was of special importance to us. The International Zone (IZ) will be Auroville´s outward gateway and interface with the rest of the world, therefore it is a zone with great challenges but also with high potential.

Shraddhavan opened the session by presenting a little booklet on the seed idea of the IZ as envisaged by the Mother, with special emphasis on education. She admitted that for most Aurovilians the IZ idea is not very attractive since they want to go beyond their national identity. As an educational project it may become more attractive. It can also act as the place where Auroville is brought into contact with all those promising developments in the world, which can be truly seen as the force of the Mother working. The student groups and young volunteers already coming to Auroville seem "magnetically" drawn there by that force.

Sonia mentioned the need to establish programs and curricula, since a number of schools and universities have already shown their interest in establishing exchange programs. But so far there are only a few dedicated individuals in Auroville catering for these needs.

Wolfgang spoke on the question of national identity. In Mother´s and Sri Aurobindo´s writings national identity is seen as a strong value with soul quality, not as a barrier in itself. So you first have to accept, understand and come to relaxed terms with your national identity before you can transcend it. This pre-condition is very often not understood but should be part of an education on human unity.

Aryamani and Jill reminded us not to see education in old contexts but to be innovative and remember that also students can be educators. Since Auroville wants to be the laboratory for a new society the dynamic exchange of energies is most important. Soleil joined in, reminding us that the special light, which is showing in Auroville children, is showing in children all over the world so there is great potential for future cross-fertilization. Auroville may as well receive as it may give.

After a tea break Sergei spoke about the situation of the Russian liaison and their special problems since most people in Russia cannot read English. So the Moscow liaison has created an Auroville website in Russian ( www.auroville.ru ) with 100 pages of text, describing the physical reality of Auroville, including translated articles of AV Today and even one full issue of the News & Notes. Altogether there are 3 major projects for the Russian liaison: the website, the pavilion and the translation of works from Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Regular meetings in Moscow and St. Petersburg are organized. A brochure on the Russian pavilion has recently been published with 1.000 copies printed. Rs 20 Lakhs for the pavilion are available and the members of the Russian pavilion group in Auroville now feel ready to start with the building. They need to communicate this back to Moscow.

The African Pavilion group consists of about a dozen members based both in Auroville and in Africa, and is open to all those with a connection and interest in the realisation of the African Section of the IZ. The group is presently forming a web forum as an essential tool for its collaborative work.

Anne spoke for the British pavilion group, which was formed two years ago and so far has members only in Auroville. Even if there are less than 50 English nationals in Auroville (unfortunately no Irish, Welsh or Scottish yet!) they make their presence felt since they hold some key positions. There is no money yet for a pavilion and they still have to identify the British soul qualities a pavilion should express so they are presently concentrating on cultural activities like the Shakespeare theatre.

Tapas reported that Aster and Prem Malik have been the main pillars for the functioning of Bharat Nivas in the past. A Bharat Nivas core group has been meeting weekly for 7 years, Aster, Ashok, Meenakshi and Dharmesh being part of it. Present activities are the Center for Integral Studies, the Kala Kendra, the Tamil Heritage Center and the Atithi Griha guesthouse. It should be remembered that Bharat Nivas is hosting many groups and activities of Auroville so support in the maintenance is always welcome, just as everybody is welcome to contribute to the soul searching of India. If the other pavilion groups presently focus on cultural activities Bharat Nivas is there to host them.

Sauro gave an overview of 12 years of the Italian pavilion group. Its focus was not so much on exploration but more on activities, the most active time being from 93-96. Now it is reanimated, gaining support form the Italian embassy in Delhi. Money for a pavilion seems not to be the problem, donors are there, but there is a lack of clarity on planning policy in the IZ. The donors proposed to build something that can be used in common. Separate buildings presently do not seem appropriate, a common European infrastructure should be created.

For France there is no representative in the IZ group yet and no pavilion group so far. Language is still a problem.

Wolfgang mentioned that the Mother wanted the national pavilions for the inner soul searching of a nation and for the outer relations with governments. The German pavilion group in Auroville has established good contacts with the Max Mueller Bhavan and is ready to cooperate with it in cultural activities. The group in Germany has been looking for many years into the soul aspect of the nation. Unfortunately the results have not yet been published. To write a brochure, also in an English version like the Spanish brochure, is one of the main tasks for the future.

Tapas said we should keep in mind that cultural institutes in India have to present their respective cultures to the Indian public.

Christian reported that getting city partnerships together may be easier than dealing with governments. AVI Canada is trying to organize a "jumelage" (twinning) between Montreal and Auroville.

The question of groupings in the IZ was raised, Europe being the one continent which seems presently most ready to grow together. Some believe that the European idea goes beyond national identity and some European thinkers already speak of the European soul emerging. Martin reminded us of the European pavilion group meeting in Berlin - its report was very valuable and inspiring, although inconclusive. Perhaps something similar could be created in Auroville, which could be a means of research into a possible emergence of a European soul. The IZ group could create a framework for pavilion groups coming together.

Aryamani mentioned the previous idea to create a pavilion of "the Americas" whereas now there is only a US pavilion.

The proposal from the AVI meeting in California was mentioned again. The question was raised whether there is still consensus on seeing AVI pavilion groups as equal partners in the vision quest and the planning of the IZ.

Sergei answered that better email communication is necessary to come to a better understanding. It should not be a question of voting rights but of mutual understanding. There should be an open discussion first but the final decisions must be taken in Auroville. The paper "Possible ways for AVI participation in the development of the International Zone", which was circulated by the IZ group, could be a basis for cooperation. This paper will be attached to the meeting report.

Finally it was mentioned that AVI has taken the decision to make the Unity Pavilion a present focus of support and activities and Shivaya confirmed that a lot of help is still needed. Hopefully there will be funds soon to build the second phase of the Unity Pavilion, the Hall of Peace, since the Peace Table sitting in the middle of theUP cuts the space in an unpractical way.

Jill and Anne presented the SITA project, the Shakespeare International Theater in Auroville, a proposed theatre with a 300-500 seat capacity, international in scope. The IZ group has agreed that common facilities are important and SITA can be one of these and is consistent with the town planning process. Questions were raised as to whether a theatre as described belongs more to the cultural zone. The project was not discussed with the rest of the international community but presented as an outcome.

In the afternoon Peter made a power point presentation about planning in the International Zone, showing various proposals by different architects over the years. Problems like the location of neighbouring villages and Pondicherry's expansion were mentioned. Raman suggested that education of the youth about the goals of Auroville is one of the most important strategies for promoting a good relationship with the villages. A common platform for Auroville and the villagers has to be created.

 

•  Meetings of the old Board

Our discussions during last year´s AVI meeting in Brazil had a strong focus on defining the role AVI wants to play and how we want to cooperate with Auroville in future. We agreed that there are some necessary adjustments in our self-definition and orientation and also in our collaboration with Auroville. This year we had several sessions looking into the question of how we can implement this and cooperate inside our own organization in a more fruitful way.

We started a long series of board meetings with an introductory session, facilitated by Alan, which aimed at tuning us all in to the highest level for our discussions, beyond personal preferences and resistances. Questions like "What does Auroville mean to you" and "What is the highest aspiration for the Auroville International work you are engaged in" helped us focus on our inner connection with Mother´s work and vision. Alan chose two quotations from the Mother to help us concentrate. They express the spirit in which we are striving to collaborate: "We have all met in previous lives. Otherwise we would not have come together in this life. We are of one family and have worked through the ages for the victory of the Divine and its manifestation upon earth" and "You have come to do the yoga for all - at some level this is what you´ve assented to. It is more difficult, but more complete and infinitely more powerful". We may not have successfully worked in this spirit on all levels and in all moments but one thing is always good to remember: what we manage to work out amongst us we are working out for the bigger human family.

It is obviously a big challenge to get collaboration between members of an organisation, which is so spread out over the world, with only one physical meeting per year that cannot even be attended by every member. For most of the time we have to rely on email communication in a language, which is not the mother tongue of most participants, so there is wide space for misunderstandings. And nearly all members are working on an honorary basis so processes are sometimes extremely slow because of other workloads. As one attempt to remedy some problems we agreed to work out some guidelines for email communication , which Martin (UK) would facilitate . They will be attached to this report. As another way to improve future communication we will try out conference calls among board members in between the annual meetings. It was emphasized and commonly agreed that Board decisions, when taken with the necessary majority of votes, should be accepted by all members, whether they were physically present at a meeting or not. Otherwise our efforts would be frustrated endlessly.

 

The board prepared the following activity status report for the General Assembly:

•  There is a strong wish that the individual national centers should grow together into one stronger AVI association. More unified actions of AVI are advisable. One practical example is the Tsunami relief operation. Donations that came in to national centers can be pooled together and declared as a common AVI donation. It was also felt that AVI needs a kind of concrete focal point in Auroville where the energies could flow together. It was a common impression that this should be the Unity Pavilion.

•  The above said means also that the Board should grow more together as a working body . As communication via email sometimes can be insufficient we propose to try out conference calls and individual phone calls on urgent issues. Martin offered to work out some guidelines for email communication.

•  In a parallel move Auroville and AVI should also grow and work more closely together . There were complaints that long-term active AVI members sometimes are still treated like first time visitors in Auroville. There were several proposals on how to change this.

•  The job descriptions for the Board proposed at the Brazil meeting and amended by Toby were accepted in principle by the Board. Some fine-tuning will be done by Toby and Martin. The resulting document will be attached to the meeting report.

•  The decision taken at the Brazil meeting to have a change in the Auroville representation on the Board has been further worked out. We propose to have a representative team of three members: Kathy, Tine and Lella. Kathy will be the coordinator and represent the team on the Board, Tine will be co-opted for one year and will help prepare the 2006 meeting in South Africa, as requested by Jasmin.

•  The Board has worked out some tasks and functions that the Auroville team is requested to fulfil . We suggest that the representatives work in close cooperation with the Auroville guest service, where Lella is herself presently working, and the Auroville guest introduction team (Ross, Julietta, Ambre). The Solar Café where the guest service has its office seems to be a good place for attracting people´s attention for AVI.

•  The Auroville representative´s office should be in the Unity Pavilion, which is the natural focal point for AVI activities. The office there will help to create an energy field in the UP and IZ

•  Regular office hours should be kept there, as well as regular open days.

•  In order to attract more people to join the AVI family and create new liaisons we propose the following steps:

To create two brochures : a smaller one to give basic information and a more comprehensive one. Both should be designed in an interesting, eye-catching way.

To create an AVI internet forum which is separate from the compat forum, especially for AVI matters.

To create an AVI newsletter .

To create a certain "incentive scheme" like a worldwide membership which qualifies members to take part in certain activities like "Aurohost".

•  The Board decided to take up again the short messages from the meeting to the compat forum . Julian will be responsible. The reasons for the Board's unanimous decision to suspend them during the Brazil meeting were explained and apologies made for not having given a prior notice to the compat forum at the time.

•  The Board reconsidered the question of an AVI Board of Advisors . The situation since Brazil has changed as a new International Advisory Council has now been nominated. Nevertheless it would be helpful to have a Board of Advisors, It is proposed to invite Savitra and Robert Aarsse initially. A meeting with them will take place soon in Auroville.

•  We are planning a second AVI meeting this year in Spain , of 3 to 5 days duration, at the end of September. Alfonso is proposing three possible venues.

•  We should further discuss with Jasmin whether the annual meeting 2006 can take place in South Africa .

•  The existing Board is running for election in its present composition. We propose to create, according to our statutes, the new office of Vice-Chairman. We propose Julian to for this office.

•  General Assembly of the Auroville International association

 

In our first session Sonia read out the report to the General Assembly on behalf of the board, summing up our previous discussions and activities.

The following discussion centred first on the question of the role a Board of Advisors could fulfil. It was stressed that the Mother put strong emphasis on Auroville establishing relations with governments and official bodies . She saw Auroville International as being instrumental in this. The advisors would be helpers and consultants, also in general questions of networking. First names for this Board are Robert Aarsse and Savitra Lithman. It was also suggested to contact former IAC members Mary King and Norman Myers who expressed their interest to come into contact with the new IAC members.

Robert Aarsse , an ex-diplomat, stressed that governments tend to think in the past and generally lack creative thinking. Good projects that are presented in an interesting way may have fair chances to get support. For these contacts, which are simple in a way but very complex at the same time, a task force with special skills is needed. AVI has to keep in mind that good projects sometimes cannot be carried out because Auroville simply is not ready for them.

First steps towards establishing links with governments by AVI Spain included handing Auroville information material to the King of Spain. Alfonso envisaged focusing on this question during the planned AVI meeting in Spain in September 2005. AVI Brazil has established contacts with Brazilian cultural minister Gilberto Gil. AVI UK has working relations with the European Commission and Prince Charles has been given information material (he personally congratulated Aurovilian Hemant for receiving the Ashden Award in June last year, and considered commissioning a solar rikshaw!). AVI UK was also able to get two substantial grants from the EC to support village education and indigenous forest restoration in the Auroville bio-region. AVI Germany is running the social volunteers program, officially recognized by the responsible German government ministry and has been able to get a three phase grant by another German ministry, the second phase of which is just being finalized - the funding of the vocational training center "Auroville Industrial School" on the Village Action compound. Close and friendly relations could also be established with the Indian embassy in Berlin and German Aurovilians are in close contact with the German consulate and the Max Mueller Bhavan in Chennai.

Several participants regretted that on several occasions AVI was not informed by Auroville groups carrying out projects together with international agencies, for instance the Asia Urbs project together with the European Union. National AVI centers might have been able to provide support and also establish valuable contacts for their work. In the tsunami crisis AVI has proven to be a reliable channel for support.

It was mentioned that the cultural activities in the International Zone envisaged by some pavilion groups could provide a good opportunity to establish contacts with embassies and consulates. The International Zone may be one of the most important future undertakings of Auroville. Just as Matrimandir is representing the soul of Auroville, the national pavilions should aim to express the soul quality of nations, and in this they will be a unique and most precious part of Auroville. The existing pavilions, like Bharat Nivas and the Tibetan pavilion, should be more consciously respected and supported in their striving to fulfil this task.

The annual reports of the AVI centers, presented in short to the general assembly, will be attached to this report.

 

A second session of the General Assembly was reserved for voting. We were grateful that Alan agreed to facilitate. First the General Assembly agreed to pool together donations for Auroville from individual centers, asking the new board to work out details. Second voting was for the Unity Pavilion presently being the main focal point for support, financially and otherwise, of AVI. This was also unanimously agreed.

Then there was some confusion regarding the question of whether people not nominated by a center can become board members, and whether members of AVI centers and liaisons not present at the General Assembly can be represented by Aurovilians acting as proxies in the voting. After some intense discussion we finally agreed to accept all nominations and also to accept Aurovilian proxies for passive voting on this occasion only, under the condition that a committee of the new board will look into the statutes and recommend guidelines to clarify future voting procedures. The old board stood for re-election with only Eveline from Sweden resigning and Toby stepping in to replace Martin Schreurs. Altogether 16 people were nominated to stand for election to the Board plus the Auroville representative Kathy and also Tine for 1 year to help prepare the South Africa meeting. It was further agreed prior to the vote that those 11 people with the most votes would become board members and the remaining nominees would be co-opted for 1 year, with the understanding that the new board would co-opt them for a further year, in order not to create "second class" board members. So the new board consists of:

Sonia (AVI UK)

Martin (AVI UK)

Julian (AVI USA)

Chandresh (AVI USA)

Alfonso (AVI Spain)

Devasmita (AVI France)

Friederike (AVI Germany)

Wolfgang (AVI Germany)

Toby (AVI Netherland)

Paulo (AVI Brazil)

Jasmin (liaison South Africa)

Kathy (Auroville)

 

Coopted members :

Sylvie (AVI France)

Francine (AVI France)

Christian (AVI Canada)

Marco (AVI Italy)

Helmut (AVI Germany)

Tine (Auroville)

 

Honorary members:

Mia (AVI Netherlands)

Mauna (Auroville)

 

Finally the General Assembly had to vote for the chairperson , which Sonia agreed to remain for at least one year. There was unanimous voting for her, Friederike was confirmed as AVI secretary and Sylvie as treasurer .

 

The General Assembly thanked Eveline for her many years of dedicated service on the AVI board. Since she announced her resolve to concentrate her efforts on supporting Village Action work in future we are looking forward to further cooperation with her and with AVI Sweden. Our special thanks go to our lovely hosts for most of our meetings, Kalsang and Claude from the Tibetan Pavilion, and to Alan on whose facilitating skills we could rely during many a difficult meeting. And we want to express our deep gratitude to all those Aurovilians who took an active part in hosting and organizing the meeting. This goes especially to Kathy, Tine, Mauna, Joster and Ingo, as well as to all those who took their precious time to meet with us and show us around. It also goes to Anandi who invited us for a delicious organic lunch at Kofpu and to Wim and the "Fire Family" who organized a cultural program which was highly appreciated after so many hours spent in meetings. We also would like to thank the Auroville Fund and several individuals for their financial contribution, which helped to make some social events happen.

•  Meetings of the newly elected Board

The new board first evaluated the voting procedures at the General Assembly. Even if it was consensus at the GA to accept the outcome some members expressed their unease regarding the changed atmosphere in the voting when compared to previous years. Since it was felt that tensions have to be addressed we agreed to have a special board session for this. Our next AVI meeting in Spain will certainly have to further explore ways in which we can work together in harmony.

Finally we unanimously agreed to accept the results of the voting procedure adopted on this occasion, even if it may not have been completely according to the statutes, but it must not be seen to create a precedent. A committee was formed to check the statutes, work out advice for further voting procedure and prepare, if necessary, a rewording. Carel will be asked to give his advice. Helmut, Tine, Jasmin, Mia, Martin, Friederike and Wolfgang volunteered for the committee.

A first meeting of this committee took place in Carel´s house. He introduced us to some historical background of the AVI association´s legal situation. Voting was never an important issue in the past, the statutes had to be formulated to get official recognition. They are wide enough to allow everybody to join ("formally even the Pope could become chairman"). A healthy balance between inclusion of all willing to participate and creating an efficient working body has to be found. We agreed not to opt for a reformulation of the statutes but to look for the places where they are open for divergent interpretation and formulate a common agreement. We will have to further work on this during our next AVI meeting.

It was emphasized that newly elected board members should honour the work of the previous board and inform and educate themselves about its activities. While it is a common feature that new people want to change a lot it is always advisable to share first the previous experience and get the taste of the work. It was also mentioned that there has to be faith and trust among board members so a certain confidentiality has to be honoured.

The new Board unanimously agreed to create the new function of Vice-Chairman and Julian was elected, it also had to take a vote on the function of Executive Director and Wolfgang was re-elected.

 

Next steps and tasks:

- In order to improve their work and financial situation AVI centers want to develop a membership scheme similar to AVI Germany´s structures. Wolfgang offered a workshop on this.

- Wolfgang will write a proposal about the idea to create a worldwide AVI membership . This could be linked up with Nilauro´s Aurohost initiative. The proposal will be attached to the report.

- Regarding the two AVI brochures : Wolfgang and Friederike have volunteered to make a draft for the small one. Paul (UK) and Aravinda (South Africa) may help with the layout. Tine will organize the printing. This smaller brochure is meant for distribution among interested guests and officials. A bigger, more comprehensive second brochure is meant for the worldwide membership to make the work of AVI better known. The publication team will be: Franz, Tine, Mauna, Jasmin, Friederike, Wolfgang.

- An AVI newsletter should go out regularly to all AVIs and liaisons to bring closeness within the association. It could also be used as a basis for national newsletters. Wolfgang will make a draft with Sonia helping.

- An AVI internet forum will be created which is separate from the compat forum, especially for AVI matters.

- Wolfgang will sit together with Sylvie to work on the budget , and Julian wants to join. A better overview of our financial situation would be helpful. We should consider raising the annual subscription.

- The next AVI meeting will take place in Spain in order to encourage the participation of those from the many European centers who cannot travel far. In the case that the meeting in South Africa can take place in 2006 we will have the meeting in Spain during the last two months of September 2005. (September 2006 in the case that the South Africa meeting does not take place.) Alfonso will further check three different possibilities (Tarragona, Barcelona or Costa Brava). He hopes to get some support in sorting out the situation of AVI Spain. Jasmin has promised to give a clear notice by the end of March 2005 whether it will be possible to have the meeting in SA.

{Please note: Meanwhile the dates and place for the meeting in Spain have been fixed. It will take place from September 30 th until October 2 nd , 2005 in Sant Feliu de Guixols/Catalonia, the board meetings starting two days earlier. For 2006 there are two options, which have not been finally decided upon, the invitation by our South African liaison and a new one by AVI Italy}

There is a chance to combine the meeting in Cape Town with the inauguration of the Africa peace-table from George Nakashima. The table itself could be ready but it is not clear yet where it will finally stay. Jasmin plans to write a letter to Nelson Mandela to get his support and statement for the meeting. She also mentioned that the South African "reconciliation" energy might help to heal tensions within the board and address the outstanding problems . March 2006 seems to be a good date for a meeting in South Africa since people who use to go to Auroville in the beginning of the year could combine it with their travelling home. Kathy was asked if she was prepared to do the travelling to the meetings and she said, yes, travelling is already part of her job but it has to fit in her other schedules. Since we want to participate in Auroville´s 40 th anniversary in 2008 our next Auroville meeting will be then, probably in the beginning of March. We still have to consider if we should schedule meetings in Auroville for other dates than during the "high season". August/September seem to be better dates. For 2007 we were invited by Christian to come to Canada.

- An idea was proposed for a manual for the preparation of meetings . Julian said AVI USA is presently engaged this work and when ready it could be used as a basis. We hope to further profit from Kathy´s skills.

- Martin will work out the guidelines for email communication. ( be attached to the meeting report.)

- Kathy and Tine will sit together to work out a division of work scheme . A paper has been formulated meanwhile and will be attached to this report. Lella will not be an official part of the Auroville representative team, since she has too much to do during the guest season, but she will inform visitors coming to the "Auroville guest service" about AVI. The team will further cooperate with those who organize the "guest introduction tours" and with the Outreach group. There will be an official AVI desk in the Unity Pavilion with regular office hours. Sonia will fund some needed furniture and Friederike and Christoph will fund the Skynet connection (high-speed wireless internet conn.)

- Helmut proposed, since the board is quite large now, the formation of working groups . He volunteered for a group working on the topic of education. According to him the youth conference in Auroville in February 2005 shows that the world is ready to recognize Auroville as a unique place for learning and that UNESCO is prepared to support. Kathy replied that "the world" is already coming to Auroville but Auroville has problems in coping with it. So a strengthening of existing features is presently advisable.

- Regarding the tsunami relief operations :

A common press release of AVI would have been advisable. We should look for ways that enable us to quickly react in case of emergency.

It should be communicated to the AVI centers that unallotted donations for tsunami relief should be sent to Auroville beach settlements. It should also be stressed that Auroville´s needs for experts and experienced people is at least as great as the financial needs. Centers should regularly follow the updates of the tsunami group on the Auroville website to find out about details.

- Board members will contact

the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation to talk with him about visa issues;

the members of the new International Advisory Council, also talk with them about visa issues;

the newly elected Auroville Working Committee and Auroville Council, asking them to nominate one member being responsible for contacts with AVI;

Mary King and Norman Myers for the consultants network;

the Golden Chain (ex-Ashram students network). Devasmita volunteered to do this.

- write a letter to Karan Singh (for the Governing Board) regarding land and visa issues, with cc to the Working Committee, drawing attention to the responsibility of AVI towards our donors and the legal obligations of AVI members in their countries.

 


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