There is always a first time for everything. So it was for the inaugural convening of the Rotary Council on Resolutions, which will now meet online each year in the future. A separate Council on Legislation will continue to meet in person every three years, with the authority to amend Rotary constitutional documents.
At the 2016 Council on Legislation it was resolved to establish a Council on Resolutions, which would consider Resolutions annually instead of every three years as part of the Council on Legislation, primarily to reduce costs (by reducing the time for which accommodation is required) but also to provide more frequent opportunities for clubs and Districts to submit matters for consideration by the Rotary International Board. Resolutions are not legislative but recommendations to the RI Board (or Foundation Trustees), which can be adopted by the Board or become the catalyst for future legislation to be enacted.
Using an on-line platform, representatives from all of Rotary’s districts had the opportunity to vote (over a one month period) on resolutions that clubs, districts, the RI Board, and the General Council or Conference of RIBI have proposed. An analysis of the votes cast shows that 46 or more Districts did not vote or abstained on every resolution. It is interesting to speculate why that might be so.
So how did the new Council work out? Thirty-eight Resolutions were considered and 17 were adopted. Full details of the proposed Resolutions and the voting is available at https://my.rotary.org/en/cor/vote
There are a few interesting takeaways from the vote outcomes and the process. Exactly half of the Resolutions were from Japan and many of them in some way could be interpreted as challenging those changes approved at the 2016 Council on Legislation, which allows clubs to adopt procedures that are exceptions to the Standard Rotary Club Constitution. There were also several Resolutions that sought to roll back or hold the line on annual approved increases in Rotary dues. No one likes cost increases and costs are real issue in some districts but the reality is that under our current structure, Rotary needs to service its membership at an acceptable level. Several resolutions appeared to be about situations that seemed to relate uniquely to local circumstances and were not approved.
District 9800 voted differently to the majority of Districts for 10 Resolutions so D9800 Rotarians will be interested to understand how we arrived at our apparently contrary voting intentions. For our district, each member of the District Resolutions Committee independently reviewed every resolution on the basis of their experience and understanding of the issues. In addition to myself, the Committee comprises the 3 previous Council on Legislation Representatives (Past District Governors Gordon McKern, Ian Knight and Don Jago) as well as Past District Governor Murray Verso who is the District 9800 Alternate Representative. Across the board our views were similar and where different there was no strong disagreement. We took a majority view and in a couple of cases I was able to call on my recent experience at the 2016 Council on Legislation for guidance. The recommendations were then endorsed by the DGEN group. We took the view that the Standard Club Constitution should avoid being overly prescriptive and many of the proposals were to make it more so.
So why did Districts vote differently? If Australia is a guide, many Council Representatives are new to the job. Only I and one other Australian District Representative (2 out of 21) are serving as Representatives again.
It could be that new representatives were simply unfamiliar with the implications of some resolutions or could it be that there is a deliberate push-back regarding the more flexible alternative provisions to the Standard Rotary Club Constitution. Not all the differences represent significant disagreement. For most of the ten resolutions where our votes differed our District did not see our conclusion as being unchallengeable. For example we certainly see the value in clubs having Strategic Planning Committees but we did think it was counter-productive to make such a committee compulsory in the Standard Constitution Bylaws. The voting margin for most of the resolutions for which we differed was not great but two resolutions (both from Japan) essentially requesting the RI Board to justify changes to allow flexibility as approved at the 2016 Council on Legislation were significantly supported. The 2019 Council on Legislation could prove interesting!
Whilst the annual on-line voting has merit in that it reduces costs and allows for more frequent consideration of matters that are considered important, the downside is that there is no facility for debate or discussion. I believe this would have influenced a different outcome in at least some of the resolutions, when unintended implications are identified.
Notwithstanding, the process worked efficiently and there will be potential to fine-tune the process for future Councils. For me, the real concern is not the voting outcomes but the fact that so many Districts chose not to have their voice heard.
PDG Dennis Shore
District 9800 Council on Legislation Representative 2014-17
District 9800 Council on Legislation and Council on Resolutions Representative 2017-2020