Read: 1994 October 10, External Affairs Strategy


The Universal House of Justice

The Bahá'í World Centre
Department of the Secretariat

10 October 1994

To National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Baha'i Friends,

In its Ridvan 1993 message launching the Three Year Plan, the Universal House of Justice announced that further direction would be given to the external affairs of the Faith "as the Baha'i International Community is drawn more deeply into dealing with world issues". We have now been asked to convey to you on its behalf the enclosed paper on the external affairs strategy that is to guide the global activities of the community for the immediate future.

As you will readily appreciate, the major channels for the execution of this strategy are National Spiritual Assemblies, which are hereby called upon to increase the intensity and range of their activities in accordance with the enclosed guidelines. A greater coordination of the external affairs work is to be effected through close collaboration between these Assemblies and the Baha'i International Community's United Nations Office and Office of Public Information, as indicated. A large measure of this coordination will be the adherence of all concerned to the thematic emphases of the strategy: namely, human rights, the status of women, global prosperity, and moral development. This does not mean that Spiritual Assemblies should exclude other considerations from their external affairs plans; indeed, they must respond to important opportunities provided by particular developments in their respective areas whether or not they fall within these themes. However, Assemblies will be expected to incorporate the specified themes into their plans to the extent possible.

The United Nations Office and the Office of Public Information are now preparing to assume their increased tasks in this new phase of the external affairs work, particularly in relation to National Spiritual Assemblies. It will take some time before these offices are ready to initiate communications with you and to provide greater detail as to the execution of the plans to be pursued. However, you are urged not to wait or to stop your plans and programmes in the meantime; on the contrary, you should proceed with your own activities, interpreting and applying the guidelines as you deem possible.

Some Assemblies have long ago formed committees or appointed qualified individuals to act as their representatives in this field; a few, where the circumstances require it, have opened offices to enable them to deal expeditiously with government officials and agencies and non-governmental To National Spiritual Assemblies 10 October 1994 organizations. Other Assemblies have not yet taken any concrete steps in these respects. Whatever your situation, you are asked to take the time now to review the current status of your activity in external affairs and to devise such means or make such necessary adjustments as will ensure your effective and continual involvement in this essential work. You may, if you wish, send to the House of Justice a report of your experience, plans and expectations.

With loving Baha'i greetings,
For Department of the Secretariat

Enclosure

cc: International Teaching Centre
Counsellors
Baha'i International Community,
United Nations Office, New York
Office of Public Information, Haifa and New York


External Affairs Strategy

19 September 1994

A paper prepared by an Ad Hoc Committee and Approved by the Universal House of Justice


Part I

The Baha'i community has entered a new stage in its external affairs work with an impressive record of success at a time when widespread disorder has thrust society into a worsening disequilibrium. A feeling of rudderless-ness looms as world leaders seem unable to provide coherent answers to the questions of the times. There is a sense of a vacuum in the absence of any moral leadership. Despite all this, or because of it, people in various countries are increasingly seeking alternative means of asserting themselves. The success of the Baha'i community is signified by the heartening response its work in external affairs has evoked. Since its administrative system demonstrates its unique capacity to unify people in global action, the non-Baha'i world is turning to its members as a major resource in assisting with canalizing the forces for development and peace. The immense challenge posed by this response has yet to be thoughtfully addressed.

The Lesser Peace anticipated by Baha'u'llah will, of course, be established by the nations themselves. It seems clear that two entities will push for its realization: the governments of the world, and the peoples of the world through the instrumentality of the organizations of civil society. But to lend spiritual impetus to the momentum which that grand attainment will generate, the need for a Baha'i strategy is evident. One of its expressions should be the exertion of a kind of leadership, principally a moral leadership, by coherently, comprehensively and continually imparting our ideas for the advancement of civilization, and this through a unified voice that because of the diverse composition of our community could come to be regarded as representative of the aspirations of the peoples of the world.

The functions of the external affairs work of the Baha'i International Community is focused on two objectives:

1. To influence the processes towards world peace. So as not to dissipate our limited resources, our efforts will concentrate on human rights, the status of women, global prosperity, and moral development.
2. To defend the Faith, as in the case of the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran.

This two-pronged purpose will be universally adopted by the Baha'i community and become the focus for our diplomatic and public information work at the international, national and local levels. Diplomatic work involves the management of our relations with the United Nations and with governments, while public information work involves the management of our relations with the public in general. A collateral outcome of the work in these two aspects will be to attract to the Faith "capable and receptive souls" with the aim of enrolling some of them.


Approach and Means of Accomplishment

The coherence of our endeavours globally will depend largely on the clarity and common understanding of programmatic concepts, on the application of these concepts in relation to the international, national and local opportunities and conditions, on the involvement of National Spiritual Assemblies, and on the utilization of the talents of the largest possible number of competent individuals.

Among the means of accomplishing our purpose will be the production of literature and audiovisual materials; extensive use of mass-communication media; sponsorship of and participation in seminars, workshops and the like; association with like-minded people and organizations; cultivation of relations with governments; Baha'i representation at important relevant events; contributing to policy proposals when appropriate; assisting deserving and like-minded groups and organizations to realize their objectives.

The formulation and articulation of concepts for programmatic action at all levels will in large degree be effected through the guidance of the Universal House of Justice and through action of the offices of the Baha'i International Community. These offices will assist in the work of the national communities not only through the conveyance of ideas and concepts but also through training and through coordination of the distribution of information and materials.

National Spiritual Assemblies are to be the major channels for this work, as they are in the best position to influence national organizations and movements relevant to our purpose. They will, of course, guide the work of their national communities with governmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and artistic and business communities. In addition to forming task forces, committees or offices through which to devise and execute their plans and programmes, National Assemblies will enlist the collaboration of their Local Spiritual Assemblies as opportunities and circumstances allow.

To influence the processes towards world peace it will also be necessary to engage like-minded non-Baha'is in our activities, inviting them to work with us and offering to work with them, as appropriate. Occasions should be provided for such individuals to study certain aspects of the Faith which relate to topics of particular interest to them, so as to enable them to express Baha'i ideas to the world in their own way. An important element of success will be arranging for such individuals to share in social experiences with Baha'is particularly suited to dealing with them.

In the execution of plans and programmes, it will be vital for offices of the Baha'i International Community and National Spiritual Assemblies to identify an increasing number of competent individuals and draw upon their talents, both for consultation on various aspects of the work and for individual assignments. In this context the provision of adequate training takes on special importance.


The Baha'i International Community

Baha'i International Community is the name in which external affairs work is done at the international level; thus, for example, our United Nations Office and Office of Public Information are agencies of the Baha'i International Community. However, although this designation is used in this particular way, Baha'i International Community is a reference to the worldwide community of Baha'is, which these agencies represent in their various capacities under the direction of the Universal House of Justice, the head of that community. National and Local Spiritual Assemblies are, of course, institutions within the Baha'i International Community; thus, for instance, in identifying the components of the Baha'i International Community to United Nations agencies, our United Nations Office lists National Spiritual Assemblies as affiliates of the Baha'i International Community. This is to indicate to the United Nations that the Baha'i International Community is a global association of national Baha'i communities. However, it is generally unnecessary for National or Local Spiritual Assemblies to use the designation Baha'i International Community in their relations with national and local governments or with national and local organizations. In most instances it is highly important for them to be understood to be indigenous institutions.


Part II

Public Information Work

Several decades of public information work at the local, national, and international levels have created an historic opportunity in the public presentation of the Baha'i Message. The Faith can now begin persuasively to represent itself as a significant global influence promoting the emergence of world peace, gradually overcoming any impression of being merely another sectarian group carrying out propaganda. The four areas in which the work will proceed are those identified in the external affairs strategy: moral development, global prosperity, human rights, and the status of women.

Audiences

Apart from the general public itself, the two influential constituencies which will be the particular concern of our public information programme are

1. private enterprise (including corporations, business associations, business publications, etc.) and
2. organizations of social change. These include national and other international non -governmental organizations, as well as other types of civic associations and movements whose interests parallel in some degree those of the Faith.


Focus

In aiming to engage and sustain the interest of receptive circles in the audiences mentioned, the programme will seek to express the relevant Baha'i teachings in terms that these segments of society will understand and value. For this reason conceptual initiatives will drive public information activities. Such initiatives should give particular attention to 'Abdu'l-Baha's explanation of the central role that knowledge plays in human life and human society: that it is the process of generating and applying knowledge that lies at the heart of civilization. The objective will be to assist audiences to appreciate that social advancement, including economic, political, and social change flow from it.

Accordingly, the programme will explore not merely a body of challenging ideas, but the unique social workshop that the global Baha'i community today represents. By exploiting the unity that underlies Baha'i history, teachings, world-view and community development, public information activities can give increased force to a message whose relevance to contemporary need is already becoming apparent to a wide audience.


Method

Central to the programme will be collaboration between the Office of Public Information and National Spiritual Assemblies. This collaboration will take the form of a wide range of projects, each focusing on one or more of the four themes of the external affairs strategy, following an agreed-upon schedule, and carried out by task forces in the field. The programme calls for the mobilization of the impressive and growing pool of talent that the Baha'i community possess but that is, for the most part, geographically scattered.

A major resource available to the Office of Public Information and the National Spiritual Assemblies is the wide range of voluntary Baha'i associations that have come into existence, such as the European Baha'i Business Forum, the Associations for Baha'i Studies, Núr University, the Justice Society, etc. Such agencies will often be in a position themselves to act as task forces, assuming the responsibility for specific projects, under the direction of the responsible National Spiritual Assemblies. Where such groups of qualified Baha'is do not already exist to accept assignments, specialized task forces can be created by the National Assemblies in consultation with the Office of Public Information.

The role of the Office of Public Information in this collaborative programme will be to identify the goals of the global programme for the approval of the House of Justice; inform National Assemblies concerning the underlying concepts, their application and results; and encourage these institutions and qualified Baha'i agencies to adopt projects.

The Office of Public Information will give importance to projects that can be carried out by Baha'i agencies acting in collaboration with like-minded non-Baha'i groups and that may arouse an interest on the part of some members of these groups in the Faith itself. External Affairs Strategy


Part III

Diplomatic Work

With the formation of the League of Nations, the Baha'i community found a propitious avenue at the onset of the Formative Age to promote its principles of world order and to defend the interests of the Faith. The decision rendered by the Council of the League affirming the right of the community to possession of the House of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad gave a clear indication of the success of its diplomatic initiation at the international level. With the founding of the United Nations a new phase was entered and the related activities of the Faith began to be done in the name of the Baha'i International Community. The diplomatic work attained yet another distinctive phase when the Baha'i International Community, in 1970, was granted consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); subsequently, it obtained a similar status in relation to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The persecution of the Baha'is in Iran, exacerbated by the 1979 revolution, posed just the challenge to the Baha'i International Community's diplomatic skill which has enabled it to employ for more than a decade the human rights instruments of the United Nations in a manner that has set a pattern for others and won the admiration of governments and non-governmental organizations around the world. Having ventured so successfully onto the global scene, the community is now poised for yet another thrust in its work, a thrust to which it is being propelled not only by its phenomenal success but also by the demanding and rapidly changing conditions of world society.

Aims and Focus

The diplomatic activities of the Baha'i International Community aim at influencing thought and action at the United Nations and among national governments, particularly with respect to human rights, the status of women, and global prosperity. As major channels for such activities, National Spiritual Assemblies engage in coordinated diplomatic efforts through their contacts with the appropriate agencies of their national governments. A further aim is to ensure the recognition and protection of the Baha'i community everywhere.

There are two main categories of the diplomatic work:

1. maintenance of regular representational activity, through the Baha'i International Community's United Nations Office, to preserve, expand and upgrade the consultative status of the community with United Nations agencies and, within this context, defence of the interests of the community;
2. programmatic activity which will engage the Baha'i International Community's United Nations Office in a worldwide campaign, involving National and Local Spiritual Assemblies, in pursuit of themes meant to influence their governments in the processes towards peace. External Affairs Strategy


Structure of the Diplomatic System

Regarding the maintenance of representational activity, the United Nations Office of the Baha'i International Community represents the diplomatic interests of the Faith at the international level, particularly in relation to the United Nations, and in this regard it guides and coordinates the efforts of the National Spiritual Assemblies in relation to their governments.

The National Spiritual Assemblies are responsible for diplomatic work at the national level and guide the Local Spiritual Assemblies in activities at the local level; however to effect a coherent pattern in the development of diplomatic activities worldwide, the Baha'i International Community's United Nations Office will give direction to these activities in the form of information, materials, ideas and advice addressed to National Spiritual Assemblies. In turn, the National Spiritual Assemblies will report their related activities to that office and generally correspond with it about diplomatic programmes. Furthermore, the office will assist the National Spiritual Assemblies through a process of training which will assume various forms.


Holy-Writings.com v2.7 (213613) © 2005 - 2015 Emanuel V. Towfigh & Peter Hoerster | Imprint | Change Interface Language: DE EN