International Advisory Council
| Doudou Diene | Michael Murphy
Marc Luyckx Ghisi
Reflecting the international nature of the project, Auroville has an International Advisory Council made up of eminent people from several nations who are available to give advice to Auroville and its Governing Board. The Council normally meets once or twice a year in Auroville.
Minutes of the 16th Meeting of the International Advisory Council July 25-27, 2008
1. Approval of the minutes
2. Executive Leadership :
We have received the amendments to the text of the Auroville Foundation Act, proposed by the Secretary of the Foundation, in order to strengthen the executive powers of the Working Committee. We await the reaction from the Working Committee to those proposals.
It should be made clear how the Working Committee will really represent the Resident's Assembly which is the legislative power and receives mandates from it. We also recommend the development of specific strategies to improve the functioning of the Residents' Assembly.
3. Education :
We have met with the Sri Aurobindo International Institute of Education Research (SAIIER) Board and are highly impressed by the great variety of the education experiments in Auroville promoted by SAIIER.
We are confident that SAIIER will do its best to ensure that the knowledge and experience gained in Auroville is made available as widely as possible outside Auroville. It is crucial that a report, which demonstrates Auroville's innovative approach to education, be ready in order to be presented in Paris at the Conference in UNESCO on the “Commemoration of the 40 th Anniversary of the Establishment of Auroville, an International Township”.
4. Land :
We welcome the official creation of “L'Avenir d'Auroville” and of the “Land Consolidation Committee”.
We would like to repeat what we have already said :
IAC strongly recommends an integrative and a comprehensive approach to the Land consolidation issue. Such a process should be seen as an integral part of the creation of a model “green city”, encouraging greater support from international agencies.
Ethical and Social Challenges:
We would like to underline a social and ethical challenge in the housing policy. In line with Auroville's ideals of Human unity, this housing policy should aim at diminishing the class divides between rich and poor houses inside and outside Auroville. However, in recognizing the complexity of this issue, we simultaneously affirm the importance of ethical values aesthetics, diversity in lifestyle, and freedom of choice. In all this we do not want to promote rigid rules and conformity.
B. Auroville Open City:
We would like to emphasize that Auroville should be an open city, that legally existing Human Residential Settlements should be accommodated inside the city and that greater interaction between them and the Aurovialians should be encouraged.
C. Land Acquisition:
All the necessary land for the building of the inner city should be purchased or obtained by exchanged, as soon as possible. We appeal for a quick action in this matter as there is a danger of rapid price increase. We appreciate the progress that has been made in negotiations with some land-owning families owners and support the strategy adopted.
Auroville land and acquisition committee should study seriously the “Eminent domain law” to facilitate the building of the city without acquiring all the lands inside the inner core of the city.
We believe Auroville should formally commit itself to the concept of land exchange but should bear in mind the sensitivities of those who have set up projects outside the greenbelt. To this end we propose the development of a policy document outlining the criteria for exchange of land, which takes into account these sensitivities.
Here are some suggested criteria for the policy document:
Project's alignment with the ideals of Auroville
Extent of the transformations made
Quality of the projects created
Use of the project as a model for others
Length of stay at the location
D. Airport :
We strongly support the Auroville Foundation's initiative to ensure that the flight path of the new airport does not go over Auroville.
5. International Zone :
As we have asked in our former reports, guidelines for national/or regional pavilions should be formulated as soon as possible by the Working Committee in order to make International Zone a reality.
The UNESCO Conference seems an excellent opportunity to highlight the International zone. Auroville will not be able to make use of this opportunity unless it has a clearly formulated policy on the pavilions.
6. Visas :
We welcome the progress made on this delicate issue. We express our strong hope that the visit of the Jt. Secretary in Auroville will further facilitate the matter. For example it could be envisaged that children of Aurovilian parents born in Auroville be given “person of Indian Origin” (PIO) Status.
We are concerned that despite initiatives taken by the Auroville Foundation and the Working Committee, the Govt. of India is still denying visas to three boys. We believe the boys' recent acquittal by the High Court should be grounds for urgent reconsideration of this case, and allowing them to return to Auroville.
We recognize the Govt. of India's right to refuse to give reasons for not granting visas. However we urge that the “right to information act” be used to attempt to discover the reasons for the denial of visas for the 3 boys.
We do understand that such refusals without any explanation creates a sense of insecurity amongst Aurovilians, and could effect the very principle of Auroville as international city. Therefore we renew our appeal for reconsideration of the visas for the 3 boys.
7. The role of the Foundation :
Given the sensitivity and deep concern shared with us by Aurovilians regarding this issue, we strongly believe that the roles and duties of the Governing Board, the Residents Assembly, the Working Committee, the International Advisory Council, and the Secretary of the Auroville Foundation should be clarified as soon as possible. In pursuit of this clarity, we repeat here what we have stated in our last report.
The functioning and development of Auroville should take into account five basic principles.
1 Respect for and full awareness of Mother's ideals. Auroville is a human spiritual adventure that should be protected and nurtured. The Central consideration here is that these ideals permanently inspire the functioning and progress of Auroville and the solution of all its problems.
2. Aurovilians are the main actors of Auroville's development.
3. There has been and continues to be a strong commitment of the Indian Government without which the realization of Auroville's ideals would be impossible. The role of the Government is to protect and to facilitate Auroville's development in all its aspects.
4. As and when possible, all decisions should and must be taken by the Aurovilians, in consultation with the representatives of the Governing Board. The Auroville Foundation can and must intervene only if there is incompetence or if the issues require the participation or involvement of the Government of India.
5. In keeping with the newest trends in the international management circles, both in the corporate and in the non profit world, Auroville's management should reflect transparency, empowerment, participation and networking.
Concretely, all organizational structures must reflect the dual reality of Auroville.
The unique specificity of Auroville as a multicultural, international, and spiritual enterprise
The important contribution of the Indian Government in creating the Auroville Foundation Act and in allowing and protecting this experiment
Therefore the notion of unity should be actually amplified by merging in this Unity Fund, all Governmental and private donations together. The mechanism of appointment of the Executives must be as transparent as possible. The Secretary of the Foundation must be a member this executive body in a fruitful collaboration. His role is to participate in the decision making process.
If this process of strengthening collaboration, transparency and respect for diversity of Auroville has been achieved, the credibility of the Unity Fund will be greatly enhanced and the co-signing issue will become unnecessary.
In the principle of partnership between the Community of Auroville and the Secretariat of the Foundation, IAC considers that a major progress will be achieved and future conflicts will be avoided, if:
on the one hand, the community fully understands and accepts the profound commitment of the Indian government to the ideals of Auroville, its establishment and its future development.
and on the other hand, the Secretary of the Foundation, while bringing the highest level of administrative competence, integrity and efficiency, fully accepts the uniqueness of cultural climate and the sensitivity of the interpersonal relationships embodied in the Auroville experiment.
IAC appreciates the receptivity of the Secretary Mr Ramaswamy to its recommendations. And acknowledges the quality of the collaboration of the Secretariat and in particular of Mr Srinivasamurty.
We recommend that the Governing Board create a working group representing members of the Governing Board and the Working Committee to clarify the role of the Government of India in relation to the Auroville Foundation and the Auroville community.
8. Progressive phasing out of the co-signatory agreement :
Following the devolution principle, which always empowers the lowest level of power, we propose steps with a view to make the procedure of co-signing by the Secretary unnecessary in one year's time.
the co-signatory agreement for cheques above Rs. five lakhs should continue for an additional six months.
During this period the following steps should be taken;
The efficient functioning of the “Budget Co-ordination Committee” should be in place.
The study of the procedure for the functioning the Unity Fund which has been initiated should be completed, and the implementation of the new procedures should be in place.
Meanwhile all Governmental funds should be immediately channeled to the Unity Fund without any delay.
During this trial period it should be ensured that there are no delays in the allocation of funds, due to co-signing procedure.
At the end of the six months we propose that the co-signatory process be suspended for the next six months as a trial period. During this time two executives of the Unity Fund will sign the cheques.
A review and evaluation of the whole process should be undertaken after the second period of six months, in summer 2009. And hopefully a definitive agreement will be reached.
9. UNESCO Conference in Paris :
We believe that the forthcoming UNESCO Conference on the “Commemoration of the 40 th Anniversary of the Establishment of Auroville, an International Township”, in October 2008 is an excellent opportunity for disseminating information and generating interest in Auroville and its activities. We therefore urge Auroville to be fully involved in the development and the organization of this conference. We also believe that it is urgent that there is effective coordination between Auroville, the Government of India and the UNESCO representatives.
10. Outreach Media :
We recognize the crucial importance of Outreach media and ask the Working Committee and the Auroville Foundation to make it a recognized body of Auroville, with a mandate, as soon as possible.
We envisage two main functions for OM. The first is liaison with the media. The importance of liaising effectively with the outside press and media, cannot be overstated. Regulations are needed but they should not be too restrictive.
The second function of Outreach Media should be to ensure that the ideals and achievements of Auroville are widely known within India and internationally. The Mother did not want Auroville to be promoted, but that should not preclude proactive strategies for projecting accurate information and knowledge about Auroville. These strategies should promote Auroville's aims of diversity and universality. And one way to promote this universality is to highlight the contribution of local Tamils and their integration in Auroville.
The relation between Outreach Media (OM) and Auroville International (AVI) should be strengthened.
We deplore the BBC film and wish to highlight the significance of the joint efforts of the Chairman of the Governing Board, the Working Committee and the International Advisory Council to correct the distorted image of Auroville presented in the film.
At the same time the BBC film shows the absolute necessity of ensuring that Auroville's procedures for protecting children are as secure as possible. We welcome the move to collaborate with an NGO to make child protection even more proactive.
The film demonstrates that there are some elements in the surrounding region, who have a negative attitude towards Auroville. Auroville should reflect on the reasons for this negativity.
Aurovilians should also reflect on what the whole episode teaches them about their spiritual progress and challenges.
11. Matrimandir :
Matrimandir's promotion should never become “ the tree hiding the forest”. This means that presentation of Matrimandir should always make the link with the global project of the city of Auroville.
The implementation of the access policy is very difficult and delicate. It should definitely protect against mass tourism but remain open and flexible. Protection should not supercede openness.
We are pleased that the transfer of those workers who have been moved from construction to maintenance is being effected smoothly.
We are very conscious that the term ‘mandir' means temple in India, and that the pressure to consider Matrimandir as a religious temple will increase with time. As we know, The Mother and Sri Aurobindo always indicated that the ultimate spiritual transformation is beyond the established religions. They certainly would never have wanted that Matrimandir should be considered as a religious temple. This is a very difficult and delicate challenge for the management.
12. “L'Avenir d' Auroville” :
We have heard with great interest the presentation made by the L'Avenir d' Auroville. Congratulations on these first steps towards the future. Here are some suggestions for further consideration.
The approach to development should be as holistic as possible. The Plan should take into account all the outstanding achievements of Auroville such as, Water Purification (Aquadyn) Solar Energy (CRS), IRD, and others.
Local villages should be integrated in the plan in order to be faithful to Auroville's calling as a multicultural and universal city.
We encourage adequate integration of social services in your plans.
You have made an excellent beginning in coordinating with the regional and national planning committees. This coordination should be an essential part of your plan.
Rules, Regulations and Criteria for the approval of new buildings, residential and non residential, should be drafted as soon as possible. This will increase greatly the needed transparency.
We are happy to see that the fund raising activities are beginning to be coordinated. We feel that the BBC events should not deter you from proactive fund raising. All fund raising efforts should include a designated percentage for infrastructure costs.
13. Presentation of projects:
We have been inspired by the great diversity of projects presented to us. We applaud the exceptional creativity and originality of those projects. They should all be encouraged and recognized for their crucial contribution to Auroville and Humanity. They have the potential to spread Auroville's influence and achievements throughout India and abroad, and we were pleased to be told of some projects which are already doing just that.
We were surprised to learn that for most of the participants it was the first time that they heard about each other's work. We thus feel that such a presentation should be amplified at the next IAC meetings in a lively and informal way. And this presentation should be considered as an integral part of the IAC meeting.
Aurovilians should organize more such occasions themselves to learn about each others' work.
Here is the list of projects:
14. The protection of organic farming
The problems of Auroville Farmers were brought to our attention. It seems to us that if Auroville is to encourage Aurovilians to grow organic food sustainably, and to experiment, they should also find a way to make this activity economically viable.
Auroville farmers could also help themselves by urging the Indian Government level to create a system of labeling and certification of organic food, which will enable them to generate a much higher income.
Closing remarks :
We realize that this may be the last time we will come together as members of the International Advisory Committee. We would like to share a few observations that may be useful to the future members of IAC and indeed to the future growth of Auroville.
Auroville is a unique experiment that strives to bring together the spiritual dimensions of individual lives and the sustainable development of a communal spirit. In order for Auroville to reach its fullest potential, in spirit as well as in temporal space, all the participants in this path-breaking venture need to create a productive balance between individual aspirations and collective needs.
To this end, much greater emphasis should be placed on strengthening the community spirit internally and to project the collective vision of Auroville externally.
A number of initiatives can be undertaken relatively quickly to strengthen the collective spirit. A few examples follow :
Develop an organized structure to facilitate greater exchange of information, and collaboration and sharing of resources among different Auroville projects to promote innovative practices for the good of Auroville as well as for India and the world. The Indian government, through the Secretary and the Governing Board should play a major role in utilizing, supporting and maximizing the innovative practices of Auroville.
Use the visitors centre to promote some of the unique project of Auroville in diverse fields, such as environment, social innovations, education and the arts. These could be done in the form of brochures with consistent style to create a cohesive group. Such efforts could be undertaken by the outreach committee, strengthening its role.
Use select projects as model case studies to project their relevance to India and the rest of the world.
It has been a privilege to serve as members of IAC. All of us remain committed to helping Auroville realize its mission. We thank you for your encouragement, your support, and your friendship.
Auroville July 27, 2008.
Vishakha N. DESAI
Marc LUYCKX GHISI
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