Both: Kia Ora
Craigo: I’m Craigo
Anton: I’m Anton. This video is about hosting the next WFD Congress. Craigo, what was your role at the WFD Congress?
C: My role as an OM, ordinary member. There were two of us, Joanne and I, who went on behalf of New Zealand as delegates to the general assembly.
A: What are those signs? (general assembly)
C: FS General assembly. So, we went as OM, two from each country coming together.
A: You have shown general assembly using the international sign for ‘general’. You use some international sign, I will have to adjust to that.
C: Yes, I acknowledge I use that sign, we need to switch between NZSL and international sign.
A: So, the bidding process for who will host the next congress, how does that work?
C: There was a process on voting for the ballots. We had three different countries that met the criteria. There are rules such as, if one country has a larger number of votes, then they automatically win. But if the votes are close then they vote again. In the second vote, the country with the lowest score is omitted, and the vote is conducted between the two countries with a similar number of votes from the first round of voting.
A: So, there are three countries bidding to host, did you receive any information about them?
C: Yes, each country that is in the vote, gets a chance give a private presentation away from the other bidders. They take turns presenting, one country at a time so we received information about all of them.
A: Is there anything else that the WFD board assesses the bidding countries? Do they provide any more information?
C: The board visited two out of the three countries. They did not go to Nigeria because it was not safe to go. The board assessed the feasibility of each country’s venues, accessibility, accommodation, food, pricing to determine whether that would be a good location to host. Then WFD recommended UAE
A: Ok, and did the attendees of the general assembly ask any questions?
C: Yes, there were questions from the attendees but there was a limit to how many questions could be asked due to time constraints. Each country gets asked 3 questions, the questions must all be the same. So, each country answers the same 3 questions.
A: Was there any new information when the questions were asked?
C: Two countries were perfect but the presentation from one country included new information which came as a shock. The new information was relating to the LGBTQIA+ community, and the situation became confusing and unclear.
A: And what did the WFD board do about that?
C: After the presentations there was a lunch break, WFD called an urgent private board meeting to discuss what to do. After lunch we all came back together as an assembly and WFD withdrew their recommendations to support UAE because of the newly shared information.
A: What was the voting outcome? What happened next?
C: The voting outcome was that there was no change, the vote would go ahead as normal. There would be a vote between Norway, UAE and Nigeria. Joanne and I voted for Norway. When the results were tallied, Norway and UAE were very closely in the lead with Nigeria receiving a much lower number of votes. As there was not a winner by a significant number of votes, we had a second vote with Norway and UAE being the contestants. Joanne and I voted for Norway again. The results were counted, and UAE had won by a clear majority.
A: What was the reaction from the international Deaf community?
C: Shock, confusion, uncomfortable, concern around safety for the LGBQIA+ community, There was concern about accessibility and a general concern for that community.
A: And what was the response from WFD board?
C: They affirmed the winners of the vote as UAE as the OM had voted for them. That is how the voting process works and that process cannot be changed. The majority of OM voted for UAE, so UAE clearly won the vote.
A: So that was the response from the WFD board. When the general assembly was closed, what happened in the next congress?
C: After the general assembly closed, what happened was some of the OM members were left feeling unsettled and concerned about the new information that had been brought up. It was confusing and it didn’t sit well with what had been submitted and withdrawn. So, the OMs from NZ were picked to attend a group discussion but I could not go as I had a schedule clash, another meeting to attend. The board agreed that Anton and Joanne would go to the discussion on my behalf.
A: Yes, I replaced Craigo and attended those meetings with Joanne when she was available. There were some clashes with Deaf Aotearoa commitments, so I attended the meetings, sometimes with Joanne, and sometimes on my own. The OM members had discussions about what to do and raised our concerns and clarifications as we worked through the issues. There was a lot of misinformation and confusion about whether LGBTQIA+ people would be safe, whether they could present and other topics of concern for that community. There was also discussion about women’s safety, whether women could attend and present. There was a lot of uncertainty around those things.
C: So, what happened at that meeting?
A: So, the OM discussed what to do moving forward to enact a clear process. The Belgium OM initiated the compilation of a draft to ask for an extra general assembly according to the WFD constitution which dictates the rules of how to properly call an additional general assembly. New Zealand (myself) helped in compiling the draft with a focus on following the correct process, we considered the possibility of withdrawing dependant on if information had been shared clearly or not, and the additional new information. We took time to clarify the information which had become muddled and ambiguous. The WFD board further questioned UAE about whether it will be safe for the LGBTQIA+ community or not. The response was yes it will be safe so now the board will proceed in asking more questions to clarify various LGBTQIA+ topics and whether they are accepted in UAE. So, we put forward a motion to request our addendum be added to the general assembly with a list of questions included in our submission to the board which we would like clarified and recorded. We also request a re-vote because the information we received at the time of the vote was not sufficient and the confusion caused by the additional information left us feeling uncomfortable and uncertain.
C: Has WFD responded to your submission?
A: We sent it on the morning of the closing ceremony, and our submission has been noted. They said that they will discuss it at their next WFD board meeting, which is coming sometime this year, I’m not sure when. At that time, they will discuss our motion to add an addendum to the general assembly. They told us to keep in mind this has never happened before it is a new, unique situation and they are navigating how to get through this process.
C: What else happened other than you offering up that submission?
A: There were two things. Firstly, New Zealand was involved in the proposing an extra general assembly, alongside 19 registered countries and 23 supporting countries that were listed in the submission. There is an opposing motion in response to our proposal involving 21 countries. They felt that the vote was fairly and democratically won by UAE and the voting process should be respected. They do not believe we have a right to an additional general assembly and would like to cancel that motion. So, WFD will need to consider both submissions and decide what to do with each. So, that was the first thing,
C: The next one
A: The second thing is, Norway have sent an open letter to the WFD board. They submitted their letter before the closing ceremony.
C: Before, yes (agrees)
A: The open letter discusses the unclear processes before the vote. There were a few issues, for example the information around campaigning and bidding. Three days before the general assembly was set up, information was given inconsistently to the three bidding countries. The UAE was provided information which Nigeria and Norway were not. Norway is also questioning the process because Nigeria, for example, you said it was decided it is not a safe place to visit?
A: If, Nigeria is not safe to visit what are the reasons behind that and why did they allow that bid to happen. There was money involved, it’s not fair to take payment if the decision had been made, Norway have questions about the process there. In regard to the motion for an additional general assembly, Norway have said they do not want to be involved or hamper the process and will remain impartial. Their focus is solely on clarifying the processes and do not want to be involved in pushing forward or supporting our motion. They will be standing back to wait and see what happens with the motion. However, their letter includes the same ideas as us in wanting WFD to provide information and Norway have proposed constitutional changes.
A: Norway have met with the board and have gained some clarification through those discussions. For example, the board have confirmed that the LGBTQIA+ community would be safe in the UAE. Now the matter of LGBTQIA+ people being permitted to present is a new issue and is the reason the board withdrew their recommendation of UAE. Norway has noted this in their letter, Norway wants to change the process and make some improvements for the future, to be more fair.
C: Yes, fair on the other countries involved in the process.
A: The proposed changes will be actioned at the next congress and general assembly in 2027. There will not be an additional assembly, so we need to wait until 2027 for those changes to go ahead.
C: So, what are the next steps for Deaf Aotearoa? (11:07)
A: Well, two proposals have been submitted to the WFD board, and they will decide at their next meeting what the next steps will be. Deaf Aotearoa are waiting to see if there an additional general assembly will be held, or what the next decision will be, what they decide will be final. We need to keep in mind the global situation for Deaf people. For example, 70% of United Nations countries oppress or shun LGBTQIA+ communities. Comparatively with Deaf communities around the world, the majority have also experienced oppression. So, we have a responsibility to support LGBTQIA+ people in those communities who are likely to be silenced or oppressed. We don’t want the WFD congress to be divided we want to be united.
C: That’s right, we don’t want to ignore or disregard other countries
A: We believe all countries have the right to bid it depends on their capacity to host and their ability to keep everyone safe. UAE have made huge advances in their approach to women’s rights, but there has been misinformation which states that UAE oppress women. But really there has been an improvement in women’s rights over the past decade, since the UAE have joined the UN. It will be interesting if the next congress is hosted there, to see whether LGBTQIA+ people will be supported there. Actually, there is a high percentage of LGBTQIA+ people there.
C: there is LGBTQIA+ representation there? Perfect?
A: The UAE has a higher number of LGBTQIA+ people represented among their population. Are they being silenced or suppressed, or are they supported over there? We want to support all human rights and Deaf rights of people everywhere and become diplomatic. When countries converse with each other they should respect the other country. There are different contexts internationally, which law should you respect/follow? It’s really a tricky situation. At the same time, we do have to follow principles which provide human rights and Deaf rights for people everywhere, not just in western countries. We don’t want Western countries to be the only ones being able to host, it is difficult. We will try our best to support the WFD board and OMs and the discussions between the two to work out clearly the criteria for the next host. We will find out if UAE is safe, and the congress moves ahead there. If not, Deaf Aotearoa will fly to the congress in UAE again and we need to support the WFD board. Norway wants to make changes to the constitution so we will need to vote. If we don’t go, and we don’t vote then we lose our voice, so it’s difficult.
C: That’s right. If we withdraw then we will lose our vote, and New Zealand’s voice.
A: The board is having to think about how we will tackle this over the next four years and how they can support Deaf rights around the world.
A: Thank you for watching.
C: Thank you for watching. Sorry, it’s such a long video but hopefully it is valuable information.
A: Hope it will help you understand the context on an international scale, and we are happy to answer questions.
C: Yes, ask away