World Service Meetings
Alcoholics Anonymous began spreading to other countries in the 1940's. In that decade, the message was carried by A.A. members in the armed services both during World War II and in the occupation forces afterward. It was carried by travelers. It was carried by seamen - or "internationalists" as they came to be called - and by members posted by their employers to overseas countries: the early "Loners." It was carried by the media, especially by a Reader's Digest article on A.A. which appeared in 1946.
This spread of A.A. around the world was exciting to the "headquarters" staff and deeply gratifying to Bill. In May 1950, Bill and Lois went to Europe for the express purpose of visiting A.A. there: In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, France, England and Ireland. And by 1955, Bill was able to declare, at the St. Louis Convention, that "A.A. had established beachheads in seventy foreign lands." In ensuing years, those "beachheads" evolved into groups, the groups established their own service offices and their own publishing operations for A. A. literature and elected their own service boards.
The General Service Conference Charter written in the late 1940's by Bill W. and Bernard Smith, and adopted in 1955, envisaged that the LJ.S./Canada Conference would eventually have "Sections" in foreign countries. Instead, however, each country has developed its own, autonomous service structure. Most are patterned to a greater or lesser degree after the U.S./Canada model - but they are all independent.
It was against this background that Bill W. began thinking, in the mid-1960's, of a worldwide service meeting. From his personal observations during his 1950 trip to Europe and his subsequent correspondence with A.A. pioneers in many other lands, Bill was aware of how the fledgling service structures were floundering. He realized their need for A.A. literature in their own languages; the obstacles to growth posed by the ignorance of professionals in their countries; the arguments and controversies that arose within their ranks; and their fears of all kinds of calamities. In these respects, he saw strong parallels (as he wrote Dr. Bob) with "our own pioneering time in Akron, Cleveland and New York." By October, 1967, he was ready to make this suggestion to the General Service Board:
"It is suggested that G.S.0. launch an inquiry, addressed to overseas areas of largest A.A. population, asking whether they would like, on a tentative basis and only for purposes of exploration, to call a World Service Meeting to be held in New York late in 1969.
"Perhaps two delegates should be asked from each participating nation or region involved. Each country would be invited to contribute to a meeting treasury and, further, to pay some part (perhaps the first $200) of the expenses of each delegate.
"These delegates - including two delegates from our own North American (U.S./Canada) Conference - would sit with members of our board of trustees, plus the necessary staff and directors of our services.
"The assembled meeting would first be shown the evolution of our services here and the part they have played in North American development. In retrospect, this evolution will be seen as something that was absolutely necessary for the functioning of A.A. as a whole, particularly in this country and in Canada. The need to get similar undertaking launched elsewhere will be presented as fundamental and essential. In short, we will present the vision of general services overseas as indispensable to future world functioning.
"Taking into consideration the development stages in which the few existing overseas service structures find themselves, we shall offer tentative next steps that each might take in the direction of long-term world objectives.
"Using these suggestions as a basis for-discussion, we shall then review the difficulties to be anticipated in those countries struggling to set up a general service body. Even at this first meeting, we would come into agreement on a series of such steps that could be relayed to other regions not represented at the original meeting.
"At the next trustees' meeting, we would like authorization to ask about 15 countries whether they would care to send delegates. In short, we will probe their interest in such a meeting.
"If, by the January trustees' meeting, enough overseas interest has been demonstrated, then I will prepare a more concrete, and inclusive position paper on this subject - to be presented to the 1986 General Service Conference, to ascertain their views. If the Conference is favorable, we will ask for approval of the needed funds."
Authorization was given by the board, and on, November 15, 1967, the following letter was sent to representatives of:
1. United Kingdom
3. New Zealand
8. Central America (Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua)
9. South America
12. South Africa
"We are addressing this letter to you, and know you will see that the members of your board are made aware of its contents. Many thanks in. advance for your assistance in this important A.A. matter.
"In this memorandum, I am proposing that A.A. take first steps toward forming a world service conference. The time will come when our overseas population may well exceed that of the United States and Canada.
"In ‘The Third Legacy Manual' (now ‘The A.A. Service Manual') and in other writings, the principle has already been enunciated that the General Service Office of North America (in New York) should one day become the senior service center among a number of national and zonal offices started around the globe. This attitude on our part has already been of value in forwarding A.A. efforts overseas. It has banished all thought that New York general services is going to run the world of A.A.
"However, our North American Conference here will probably wish to participate in a world' service conference to which accredited delegates will be sent by national and zonal A.A. offices from all corners of the globe.
"Beyond doubt, we are approaching the time when there will be an ever-mounting need for general service setups in a great many parts of the world - offices and boards similar to those that exist today in some countries, and are in the process of developing in others.
"There are many problems of growth and relations that call for an international exchange of experiences. The problems of public relations, of anonymity, of self-support, of relations with medicine and religion - these are all keenly felt in many A.A. countries. The problem of printing and distributing literature is another one that can best be solved by exchange of experiences and policies.
"As a beginning, I propose a World Service Meeting - not a conference, since it would not be fully representative of world A.A. - to be held in the fall of 1969, and to run for three days. This meeting could be held in New York so that delegates would have access to the experience of staff members and board members, and delegates would have the opportunity of seeing a 30-year-old service office at work. To the meeting would come delegates from countries where the A.A. population was already considerable and where the problems of growth were already present. Probably less than 15 countries and/or zones would be involved in the First World Service Meeting.
"Two delegates might come from each country or zone.. One of these delegates should be the principal A.A. service head. The other could be the chairman of the general service board or committee and could be an A.A. or a nonalcoholic.
"Both delegates should have a working command of English. The meeting will be conducted in. English, since the cost of simultaneous translation is prohibitive. However, there would be translators available for interview periods.
"The First World Service Meeting would be financed by voluntary contributions of the participating countries (from A.A. sources only), and each country would contribute to a world treasury according to its ability to pay.
Will it be possible for you to give this program your early attention and let us have these answers/
1. Does this program sound like a good idea to you?
2. Can you ‘elect' two delegates who can be said to fairly represent the groups in your country or zone?
3. What contribution can your country or zone make to a world meeting treasury?
4. In addition, each country would be asked to pay the first $200 of expenses for each of its delegates. Would your groups find this practical?
"If possible, please let me hear from you by the middle of December. When we have heard from you - and if we find substantial approval of the idea - we will present the program to the North American Conference and ask them to approve two delegates, and to help underwrite the meeting expense.
"I sense a feeling of great growth in A.A. worldwide even in the thought of a score or more of us gathered face-to-face - talking of the great vision of general service offices clear around the world.
"(Co-founder of A.A.)"
The ideas presented by Bill were enthusiastically approved by the countries to whom the letter was sent.
Bill then prepared a lengthy position paper for presentation to the General Service Board at its January, 1968, meeting and to the General Service Conference in April. He traced the beginning of local and national services, the origin of the General Service Board, the writing and publishing of the Big Book and other literature, the development of the Traditions, the birth and growth of the General Service Office and its various kinds of services, and finally the role of the (U.S./Canada Conference and how it assumed leadership from Bill and Dr. Bob. The paper then continued as follows:
"However, one more vital development in our world service structure is still greatly needed, We must now proceed to establish other world service center; these in addition to the few that have been taking form in recent years.
"Long ago, it became apparent that New York could not forever provide complete general services to all the A.A. countries that occupy such vast regions of the world. The reasons for this are not hard to understand; our present centralized structure would develop serious defects:
(1) If continued, growing centralization would tend to make New York and its service leadership the "world capital" of A.A. Psychologically, such an ever-growing concentration would be most unwise.
(2) It would foreclose the creation of effective world leadership overseas.
(3) It would deprive other countries of the healthy responsibility of manning their own overall services.
(4) Administratively, an increasing centralization at New York would also prove faulty. For example, just how could New York actually manage and conduct public relations in remote Europe or distant Australia? We can continue to give advice on request, but never could we personally render service, as we do in the North American region.
(5) The financial problem of supporting an activity lodged mostly at New York would finally become difficult, if not impossible. Even now, about 15% of our service budget goes for overseas activities. Only a fraction of this expense is met by contributions from overseas; Canadian and U.S. groups bear the brunt of it.
"Someday, the A.A. population overseas may grow far larger than in North America. What then? Would overseas A.A. - not at all represented in the North American Conference - wish to finance activities of G.S.O. in New York on a large scale, meanwhile having nothing to say about the disposition of their contributions?
"Fortunately, there has been considerable awareness of these problems. Our "Third Legacy Manual" of service, and the General Service Conference Charter therein, make it plain that the U.S. and Canada - described as the North American Section - comprise only a part of the eventual world service setup. This means that in good time, and according to considerations of geography, language, and actual need, other centers for overall service can be created.
"At this juncture, two questions may well be asked: (1) Does New York wish to withdraw entirely from overseas services? (2) Is it meant that every country in. the world should maintain an expensive general service office, aimed at duplicating the North American operation?
"The answer to the first question is ‘no.' Little by little, we simply wish to move all that part of our present overseas service responsibility that is feasible to transfer. The General Service Office in New York would continue to make its longer experience available to the younger centers. But meanwhile, we would shift as much of our present administrative load as we could to new service centers abroad.
"The answer to the second question is also ‘no.' It is not expected that countries of relatively small A.A. population will need anything like a complete array of' general services. For example, several countries might wish to act together in setting up a common general service office. Many nation might never need anything more than a general service committee, rotating in character, to be named by representatives of groups on the occasion of national annual conventions. No doubt such a committee could best be elected by the "Third, Legacy method," and it could be authorized to look after a few matters of overall concern and act as liaison with other general service centers.
"This modest undertaking would establish in. each of such countries a rotating national leadership, and moreover, the A.A. members of the country would become educated as to what world services are. This would prepare them for larger responsibilities, should these appear later on. Such a token beginning could be made in many countries of small population right away. And the cost would be very small. The formation for an orderly service evolution would thus be created.
"Of course, at New York we stand entirely ready to encourage and assist those general service and literature centers which are already in existence or in immediate contemplation - just as we have been doing for some years past."
The 1969 Project
"It is now our thought, here at New York, that a conference to be made up of overseas delegates chosen at first from a few overseas countries of large A.A. population, should meet with us here in the fall of 1969. The conference purpose would be to consider - in every aspect - the future development of world service. A tentative inquiry has already been launched as to the desirability of such an exploratory project, and the overseas response has been most enthusiastic.
"It still remains to secure the official approval of our General Service Board at its January 1968 meeting, and also the approval of the North American General Service Conference at its April 1968 gathering. I most heartily hope that such authorization will be forthcoming, and that funds will be voted to cover the New York share of the costs involved."
The proposal was approved enthusiastically by the Trustees in New York and by the Delegates to the 1968 Conference (U.S./Canada).
The following year, October 9-11, 1969, the First World Service Meeting was convened in the East Room of the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. In. attendance were 27 delegates from 16 countries, as follows:
Australia - Bernice F. and Ernest L.
Belgium - Adolph V. and Andries VanStaen (non alcoholic)
Guatemala - Gustavo E.
Costa Rica - Roberto S.
Columbia - Arturo E.
Finland - Johan T. and Veiicko Kuosmanen
France - Jacques A. and Roger P.
Germany - Guenter B. and Dr. Waither Lechler (non¬alcoholic)
Holland - Piet deW. and Hans K.
Mexico - Antonio H. and Jorge M.
New Zealand - Irvan T. and Ian M.
Norway - Haaiçon C. and Erling N.
South Africa - Glen B. and Andries K.
England - W.D. (Wick) W. and Alan B.
(U.S./Canada - Warren S. and Charles (Chuck) D.
Some of these delegates were the founders of A.A. in their respective countries. Also voting members were Bill W.; Dr. Jack Norris, Chairman of the General Service Board; and Bob H., General Manager of the General Service Office and President of A.A. World Services, Inc. Midge M. was the Secretary and Coordinator of the First World Service Meeting. And because of the informational nature of this initial gathering, all the other G.S.O. and Grapevine staff members, and most of the Trustees were involved as well.
The theme of the meeting was "Our Common Welfare." The delegates and their wives gathered for a reception and registration at the Roosevelt on Wednesday evening. The first event the following morning was a visit and tour of G.S.O. and the Grapevine, then located at 305 East 45th Street. The opening general session began at 10:45 a.m. with greetings from Dr. Norris. Thereafter, the agenda for the next three full days was broken down into segments devoted to structure, finance, publishing, services, and general service boards. Each segment began with an explanation of how that subject functioned in North America, after which each country reported on how the same subject operated there. The delegates then met in smaller workshop group to discuss and share their experiences regarding the subject. Time was also allowed for some historical reminiscences by Bill W. and some sharing from the U.S./Canada delegates on general service activities at both the area level and the conference level.
An "Opening Dinner" was held on Thursday, followed by an A.A. meeting. It was chaired by Warren S., U. 5./Canada delegate; and the speakers were Gustavo E. from Guatemala followed by Bill and Lois. At the final evaluation session on Saturday afternoon, the delegates unanimously agreed that the First World Service Meeting had been worthwhile and approved the idea of holding future meetings. New York was the unanimous choice for the next meeting, which they agreed should be three years hence; however, they felt that other future meetings should be held in other areas of the world, if feasible. They accepted the principle of staggered rotation in electing future delegates, but left the specific implementation up to their boards and offices. Finally, the delegates recommended the formation of four committees to conduct the business of the World Service Meeting until the next gathering could be held. These were: Policy; Finance; Agenda/Admissions; and Literature/Publishing - with members to be chosen by lot, with emphasis on geographical distribution.
All the proceedings of the First World Service Meeting -presentations, reports and talks - were preserved in mimeographed form, .a valuable historical resource. The only printed report, however, was the Holiday Issue of "Box 4-5-9" in 1969, under the general headline, "Language of the Heart Heard ‘Round the World." And Midge M., writing to the delegates in November, said, "It isn't possible to adequately put into words the wonderful feeling of love and unity that existed between us all."
When the Second WSM met October 5-7, 1972, again at the Hotel Roosevelt, Bill W., who had originated the concept, was no longer present. He had died 20 months earlier. However, with the theme "Our Primary Purpose," this gathering of 29 delegates from 16 countries followed the same general format as the first meeting, with the same participants from the New York G.S.O. Beth K. was now the Secretary and coordinator. In addition to sharing in the same subject areas as their predecessors, the delegates to the Second WSM addressed the internal organization and procedures of the World Service Meeting itself. Their resulting recommendations have been followed ever since, with certain amendments.
It was determined, for example, that the WSM should be held every two years; that delegates serve a four-year term (thus providing that approximately half would always be experienced, while the other half would be new); and that observers do not attend. The functions and responsibilities of the newly formed WSM committees were reduced to writing. A procedure was established for rotating future meetings and a Site Committee was selected. Its recommendation was that England should be the locus for the 1974 meeting, "with Mexico or Finland as second and third choices." The General Service Board U.S./Canada reaffirmed its willingness to underwrite the third WSM regardless of location and to continue to provide staff work between meetings as well as clerical assistance on—site if desired by the host country. Participating countries continued to be responsible for delegate's fees plus additional direct contributions were possible.
New agenda items included a presentation and discussion on relations with professionals; and a presentation and workshop on anonymity. After the Second WSM adjourned, three activities took place which made the event especially memorable for the delegates. It happened that the annual "Bill's Birthday Dinner," sponsored by New York Intergroup, was held October 7, so the delegates were invited to sit on the dais with their countries flags before them, in the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton Hotel, filled with over 2,000 A.A. members and friends. For many of the delegates, this was the largest A.A. gathering they had ever attended. Lois was present to read Bill's last message and lead the candle-lighting ceremony. The delegate from Ireland was asked to read the Preamble in Gaelic, and delegates from Australia, England, Sweden and Columbia briefly shared their personal stories. It was nearly as big a thrill for the audience as for the participants.
The next day, Sunday, the trustees of the U.S./Canada Board hosted a brunch at the Hotel Roosevelt for the WSM delegates – the only occasion when the two groups had opportunity to meet together and exchange ideas. Immediately afterward, a busload of delegates and their spouses traveled to Bedford Hills for a visit with Lois followed by mid-afternoon refreshments. The visitors were moved at the experience of seeing Bill's "hide-away," the studio where he did much of his thinking and writing, and the collection of his mementos. The delegates' last experience together was to join hands and voices as Lois led them in the Serenity Prayer.
The countries represented at the Second WSM were the same as at the first, except: Ireland came in; Holland dropped out; and. Nicaragua represented Central America in. place of Guatemala and Costa Rica. The delegates were:
Australia - Edward (Ted) C. and Bernice Farmer
Belgium - Andre M. and Andries Van. S.
Nicaragua - Juan D.
England - Gordon W. and Bill S.
Finaland - Veikico K. and Kalervo S.
France - Charles A. and Mireifle R.
Germany - Margret K. and Dr. Walther Lechler (non¬alcoholic)
Ireland - Frank McA. and Anthony (Tony) B.
Mexico - Jorge V. and Adalberto L.
New Zealand - Tom P. and H.A. (Snow) C.
U.S./Canada - Shirley S. and Ben P.
Norway - Arne P. and Hans K.
South Africa — Geoff R. and Bill S.
Columbia - Hector T. and Alberto C.
Sweden - Inga-Britt S. and Karl N.
The Third WSM was held at the Gloucester Hotel in London, England, from Tuesday, October 16, through Friday, October 18, 1974. Although Waneta N., staff member at C.S.O. in New York, was Secretary of the meeting and coordinated the planning and organizing, the General Service Board for the United Kingdom were the hosts and the G.S.O. at 11 Redcliffe Gardens, managed by Bill S., provided the on-site stenographic and clerical help. Additional staff help was provided by Waneta, Betty L. and Niles P., assistant general manager, who had made A.A. trips to many countries; these three went to London about two weeks early and stayed to complete the final report of the Third WSM.
Alcoholics Anonymous in 19 countries was represented by 33 delegates. Argentina was present for the first time. For the 1969 and 1972 WSM's, the (U.S./Canada General Service Conference had drawn names from among its delegate-members by lot to serve as WSM delegates; for 1974, it was decided to send two Trustees. The delegates assembled in London were:
Australia - Dr. Bill Spence (non-alcoholic) and Edward (Ted) C.
Belgium - Jeroom B. and Dr. Andre Masschelein (non¬alcoholic)
Guatemala - Humberto R.
Honduras - Rodolfo M.
Nicaragua - Juan D.
Columbia - Hector T. and Dr. Guillermo Zuleta (non¬alcoholic)
Finland - Nub T. and Kalervo S.
France - Finn Rolf P. and Mireille R.
Germany - Rev. Rolf Schreiter (non-alcoholic) and Margret K.
Ireland - E.R. (Ted) C. and Anthony (Tony) B.
Mexico - Raymundo C. and Adalberto L.
New Zealand - Tom Pullar and Hugh (Monty) H.
Norway - Hans F. and Kans K.
South Africa - Anton S. and Mike T.
Argentina - Maria Marta L. and Hector G.
Sweden - Ulf T. and Inga-Britt S.
England - Ronnie H. and Gordon W.
U.S./Canada - Dr. John L. Norris (non-alcoholic) and Don A.
Ronnie H., Chairman of the General Service Board for the United Kingdom, also served as Chairman of the Third WSM, delivering both welcoming and closing remarks. Inga-Britt S. gave a stirring keynote address in which she also took note of the fact that the English hosts had graciously turned to Sweden for a keynote speaker of the first WSM to be held outside the United States. With the theme of "Sharing," the meeting agenda devoted considerable time to communications. In a segment on internal communications, Ronnie H. made a presentation on the value of A.A. magazines such as the "A.A. Grapevine" in the U.S. and "Share' in England; Hector T. from Columbia, on the ways General Service Offices aid communication with groups; and Margret K. of Germany, on Conferences and Conventions as a means of communication. In a workshop that followed, delegates in smaller groups shared on these topics. In. a segment on external communications, presentations were made by Andre M. of Belgium on working with the professional community; by Ted C., Australia, on public information and work in hospitals and institutions; and Dr. Jack Norris on how A.A. can cooperate with occupational alcoholism programs. This, too, was followed by workshops to discuss the subjects in more depth.
Finally, communications between countries as the subject of three special workshops formed along language and/or geographic lines: one for the European countries; and second for Spanish-speaking countries; and a third for all other English-speaking countries. This plan proved to be so productive that it was to be a feature of all subsequent WSM'S.
Also repeated at all subsequent WSM's is the "Statement of Purpose," a significant accomplishment of the Third WSM:
"The primary purpose of the ‘World Service Meeting is the same as that of all A.A. activity; to carry the message to ‘the alcoholic who still suffers wherever in the world he may be, whatever the language he speaks. The World Service Meeting seeks ways and means of accomplishing this goal by serving as a forum for sharing the experience, strength and hope of Delegates who come together every two years from all corners of the world. It can also represent an expression of the group conscience on a worldwide basis.
"Experience teaches us that organizing ourselves into a sound structure enables us to develop and deliver our services more effectively. The World Service Meeting encourages the planning of sound service structures, suited to the needs and capabilities of the various countries; and the explorations of expanding A.A. services to reach the alcoholic through internal communication, literature distribution, sponsorship, public information, community relations and institutions' work."
The delegates unanimously agreed that every other World Service Meeting should be held in. New York. This would give each delegate an opportunity to visit the New York Office and Staff as well as to visit the Staff and Office in another country of the world. They noted, however, that since the actions of one WSM are not binding on the next, each future Meeting will continue to choose the site for the next.
Both in the Literature/Publishing Committee and on the Meeting floor, the problem of literature for Central American countries was aired; namely, six countries with a common language trying to set up separate A.A. publishing operations, but without the financial resources nor the A.A. membership to support such operations. Delegates from Scandinavia shared that their G.S.O.'s co-operate by combining their printing orders to affect savings. Each G.S.O. then pays the same unit price and in turn sells at the same unit price to groups in its own distribution area. Central American delegates explained that nationalistic feeling even among A.A.'s in their countries are an obstacle, but they will try to work out means of more cooperation in literature matters.
Friday noon, following the Chairman's closing remarks, Gordon W., the outgoing delegate from the U.K., symbolically turned over his responsibility to Maria Marta from Argentina, the most recent country to be admitted. To Cordon's emotion-filled farewell, Maria Marta replied, in part:
"We are living in a world full of hate, violence, fear and egoism. Nevertheless, we have succeeded in. forgetting all this.' For two days we have worked in an atmosphere of peace, trying with generosity to solve our problems and those of others in real A.A. spirit. May Cod, as each of us understands Him, help us to keep this precious gift always with us."
Most of the delegates went by motor coach, after lunch on Friday, to Selsey-on-Sea, where they joined over 800 alcoholics and their families at the 19th Annual Convention of England and Wales. The weekend included a Saturday-afternoon session during which six of the delegates shared their personal stories. At this Convention, the WSM delegates were the guests of the General Service Board for the U.K.
October 7-10, 1976, the Fourth World Service Meeting took place at the Hotel Statler-Hilton in New York City. The theme, "Working with Others," was highlighted eloquently in the keynote address by Hugh M., delegate from New Zealand, who emphasized A.A.'s reliance on assistance and cooperation from non-alcoholic professionals from the earliest days. It was also dealt with in presentations on A.A. in hospitals and in rehabilitation centers and correctional institutions; and was discussed in workshops in these areas. Special interest groups were the topic of three presentations, pro and con, by Dr. Jack Norris, chairman of the General Service Board U.S./Canada, and by delegates from Norway and New Zealand.
A recommendation of the 1976 WSM was that a standing committee on "Working with Others" be formed; and that in order to keep the number of committees to four, the Finance Committee be combined with the Policy/Admissions Committee, as questions relating to all three subjects are closely connected.
The beneficial influence of WSM's was illustrated dramatically in a report from the Central American delegates on the formation of a Central American Literature Committee, to solve the problems aired at the Third WSM. The need for literature transcended political differences among the countries, which banded together to pool their needs and establish a common inventory printed in Costa Rica and financed by AAWS in New York. The G. S .O. ‘s of the member countries (i.e., Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama) ordered their needs from New York, remitting payment there also. New York then wired authorization to the printer in Costa Rica to ship the order. This had all been worked out between the newly-formed C.A. Literature Committee and AAWS, as a result of the encouragement received at the Third WSM.
In a sharing session, the delegates recommended that a biography of Dr. Bob be written at this time. They felt that "quite a lot had been done on Bill W. and what he did and said," but they felt a need for a life story of Dr. Bob. (This WSM recommendation was forwarded to the 1977 General Service Conference U.S./Canada, which recommended that writing proceed on "a joint biography of Dr. Bob and Bill;" and the 1979 Conference approved their being published as two separate books. "Dr. Bob and the Good Oldtimers" was completed and published in 1980.) In the same sharing session, it was reported that the (U.S../Canada Trustees' Literature Committee had suggested' that "a definitive history of the first 50 years of Alcoholics Anonymous be written and published, separate from ‘A.A. Comes of Age'," and the delegates expressed approval of such a project. (This, too, was undertaken a decade later.)
The service highlights and country histories delivered at the Fourth WSM showed striking growth and exciting development of A.A in the countries represented - especially when compared with the reports at the First WSM nine years before. The delegates now directed their concern to ways of helping countries where A.A. was not developed enough to qualify for attendance at a WSM.
Helsinki, Finland, was selected as the site of the 1978 WSM. It was also suggested that the Sixth WSM, in 1980, be held in late June or early July in New York, immediately preceding the next A,A. International Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Few will every forget the inspiring and uplifting closing talk by Bob H., Chairman of General Services (U.S./Canada, who had a major role in organizing the first two WSM's. He, too, reminded the delegates of A.A.'s debt to non-alcoholic friends in the beginning. He continued, "Non-alcoholics serve on our boards and committees and cooperate with our members at all levels in both government and private sectors. Theirs has been a primary role in our recent accelerated growth rate . . .cooperate with these wonderful folk? We must and we shall. . .But what about cooperation with each other - ‘working with others within A.A.? Do we, on all occasions, work together as well as we should? I think most of you would agree - we could do better, surely." And later he said, "we have shared a unique experience here, one that has been shared by fewer than 150 of our more than 1,000,000 members around the world. A bond has been forged among us and memories created that will last as long as we do. This is not because we have been together, but because of what we have done together."
As had happened four years before, the delegates to the Fourth WSM were invited to participate in the annual Bill W. Birthday Dinner at the New York Hilton. There they sat on the dais, with their countries flags in front of them, and selected delegates spoke on the program. And again, on Sunday, they attended a brunch as guests of the Trustees U.S./Canada, followed by a trip to Steppingstones.
At the Fourth WSM, Brazil was represented for the first time. A total of 21 countries were represented by 32 delegates, as follows:
Argentina - Maria Marta L. and Elsa P.
Australia - Dr. Bill Spence (non-alcoholic) and Roy H.
Belgium - Jeroom B. and Bob van.
Brazil - Joaquim Inacio L. and Don L.
Guatemala - Humberto R.Honduras - Rodolfo L.
Nicaragua - Juan P.
Columbia - David P.
Finland - Nub T. and Valter L.
French-speaking Europe - Finn. Roif P. (France) and Paul s. (Belgium)
Germany - Rev. Rolf Schreiter (non-alcoholic) and Friedel H.
Ireland - Frank McA.
Mexico - Roberto M. and Raymundo C.
New Zealand - Hugh (Monty) M. and Pat M.
Norway - Hans F. and Oskar H.
South Africa - Mike T. and John B.
Sweden - Ulf T.
England - Ronnie
Scotland – Tom H.
U.S./Canada – Dr. John L. Norris (non-alcoholic) and N.M. "Mac" C. (Manitoba)
Secretary and Coordinator of the Fourth WSM was Betty L. and the Chairman and presiding officer was Bob P., General Manager of G.S.O. New York, who was to serve in the same capacity for four more World Service Meetings.
June R., Secretary and Coordinator of the Fifth World Service Meeting, reported to the AAWS Board in November, 1978: "The Hanasaari Sweedish-Fjnnish Cultural Center in Helsinki, Finland, is the most beautiful spot I have ever seen. It is an island retreat that served as the site of our Fifth World Service Meeting, held October 5-7 . . . The experience was beneficial emotionally, spiritually and mentally, and I feel that I have moved up a rung on the ladder of life." Her feeling was echoed by many of the delegates, including "Mac" C., who said, "I will never be the same again." Part of the magic was the isolated and serene setting, separated from the distractions of the city. The accommodations were pristine and Scandinavian in style, the sunny dining room featured many smorgasbords, and the meeting room was a small amphitheater with raised tiers of seats with pull-out desks with microphones, which had the effect of encouraging participation.
An advance contingent from G.S.O. New York went over nearly a week before the Meeting to work at the G.S.0. in Helsinki reproducing and assembling the delegates' manuals in English and help with other preparations. It consisted of June R., Bob P., Phyllis M., Mary Ellen W. (Spanish-speaking), and Dorothy McGinity, a non-alcoholic secretarial wonder-woman from G.S.0. in New York, who ended up performing all the recording-secretary and stenographic functions of the Meeting single-handedly, working far into the night to prepare and reproduce the committee reports and other materials. The staff members from New York served as Committee Secretaries; Bob P., Chairman, presided.
At this Meeting, Holland was represented for the first time; also, El Salvador, representing the Northern Zone of Central America. The 34 delegates came from 20 countries, as follows:
Australia - Anne O'C. and Bob McC.
Belgium - Adoiphe V. and Bob Van H.
Brazil - Joaquim macjo L. and Benedito Eloy V.
El Salvador - Humberto M.
Honduras - Jose C.
Nicaragua - Juan P.
Columbia - David P. and John. A.
Finland - Pentti K. and Valter L.
French-Speaking Europe - Annie C. (France) and Paul S. (Belgium)
Germany - Ferdinand B. and Freidel H.
Holland - Eric V. and Sip 0.
Ireland - Frank McA. and Ambrose M.
Mexico - Robert M. and Francisco C.
New Zealand - Dr. Fraser McDonald (non-alcoholic) and Pat M.
Norway - Dr. Oscar Olsen (non-alcoholic) and Oskar H.
Sweden - Lennart R.
South Africa - John B. and Graham S.
England - Joyce C. and Bill S.
U.S./Canada - Virginia H. and N.M. ("Mac") C. (Manitoba)
Dr. John L. Norris had addressed the 32nd Annual International Congress on Alcoholism in Warsaw, Poland, on September 3, so he was invited to attend the Helsinki WSM as a guest. He shared with the delegates - as he had with the Congress in Warsaw - the results of the 1977 membership survey. The survey is made every three years in the U.S./Canada, but in this case it included similar data from Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, Finland, France, Mexico and West Germany as well. More than 19,000 A.A. members worldwide participated. The findings were of considerable interest to the delegates, who also expressed their appreciation for Dr. Jack's presence.
The theme of the Fifth WSM was "Recovery, Unity, Service -Worldwide." The keynote address on this theme by David P., delegate from Columbia, was so brilliant it was not only acclaimed by his immediate audience in Helsinki, it became a kind of minor classic as it was reproduced and distributed widely in the Fellowship. For this reason, it is reproduced in full here.
"The event we now open is indeed wonderful. We have gathered because, in spite of all our differences, we have something in common that binds us together with strong ties. We have known the process of a painful sickness. We have achieved, by the grace of God, a recovery which now allows us to live and to love again. We are involved in the spirit of unity that gives us strength. We are impelled by a desire to give service. We are the inheritors of the Legacies of A.A.
"The astronomers speak about certain bodies in outer space which, having lost their generating function, shrink slowly and inexorably, concentrating themselves in such a way that they shrink to infinitesimal size, but acquire an impressive gravity. They are the so-called "black holes," of very small volume, with terrific weight. Their density becomes so concentrated that a gravitational vortex is formed around them, a ghostly and catastrophic hole that devours everything that passes by; light and radio and energy waves are absorbed and drawn by that irresistible whirlpool.
"The same thing happened in our alcoholic life. Emotional overload led to a shrinking of our mentality. A gloomy emptiness surrounded us. A tremendous storage of negative energy took place, aided by our own guilt and suffering. The greater our emotional load, the smaller our spiritual dimension. The greater the density of our selfishness, the shorter the scope of our horizons. Black holes in the space of our lives were sinking and paralyzing our willpower, our capacities, our dreams, our ambitions, goals, end outlooks.
"Unlike those surreal bodies, we did have a way out of our condition. The lifesaving message of A.A. came to us. And the tiny universe that confined us started to expand again. We began to untie our imagination, our mind, and our good will. We were ready to live and let live. Spiritual life was reborn. We found harmony with brothers, God, and ourselves. And we called that Recovery.
"What, then is Recovery for me?
"It is not perfection, but the search for it. It is not lethargy, but a state of awareness.
It is realizing that there is a place for us in the world.
It is acknowledging that we, alone, cannot do anything, but with the help of God we can accomplish everything.
It is being sure that we walk along the path, even though we make our path as we walk.
It is living today as we would like to have lived yesterday, and as we wish to live tomorrow.
It is knowing that our journey has a meaning, a reason for being.
It is a constant spiritual awakening. And, above all, recovery is a working faith.
"We alcoholics have already suffered at the hands of a powerful enemy. We do not wish to fight against anybody, not even against alcohol. We have endured our illness physically, mentally, and morally. When we awoke to reality, we stood amidst the ruins of a shattered life, a destroyed morality, and a smashed dignity.
"Through the grace of God, however, we have survived by joining a society of equals. We need each other in a harmonious environment in order to survive. We needed Unity.
"What is Unity for me?
"It is not a monody, but a symphony of individual voices.
It is not a compact law, but a mixture of different opinions.
It is knowing that our alcoholic brother or sister has the same right to life, happiness, and peace as we have.
It is feeling that the word "we" stands-before the word "I."
It is admitting that we are all equal before God.
It is acceptance that different paths can lead us toward our final destiny.
It is a stripping of our pride, so we won't feel greater or lesser than our fellows.
It is not doing to our neighbor what we wouldn't like done to us.
And, above all, unity is a working humility -humility to accept the ultimate authority that expresses itself in our group conscience; humility to welcome anybody who wishes A.A. membership; humility to understand that our service tasks do not grant us power, command, or authority; humility to keep anonymity that reminds us to place principles before personalities.
"In our drinking days, when the world was only a large "nobody's land" we had selfishness as compass and our own fulfillment as schedule. Money, intelligence, imagination, and initiative were used only as tools for constructing a universe fitted to our size. When our castle made out of cards fell down on our own heads, someone else came to rescue us, understood us, and delivered the message that saved us. So much was put at our disposal - literature to read, experience freely and gladly given, and a meeting place where a cup of coffee was waiting for us.
"At first we received and used these services, taking them for granted. But gradually we began to feel that a treasure, which we had no right to hide away, was being placed in our hands. We had to give to someone else the light of hope that had illuminated our darkness. It was unfair to let the fruits we had harvested rot in the barns of our laziness. And so we turned to Service.
"What is Service for me?
"It is not altruism, but a need for survival. It is not charity, but an expression of gratitude.
It is the responsibility of lending a hand to our brother or sister who is drowning.
It is recognizing that, by giving ourselves to others, we will find our own souls.
It is learning that they who give the most, receive the most.
It is extending to other alcoholics the sobriety that was bestowed on us.
It is working so that others get a permanent place in the new world we have discovered.
It is remembering the words of Bill W.: "We must carry A.A.'s message; otherwise we ourselves may fall into decay and those who have not yet been given the truth may die."
And, above all, service is a working love.
"It is love that works - unselfish, patient, tolerant, anonymous love, love that doesn't have a price tag on it. Love that has no envy and that endures everything.
"In the name of John my fellow delegate, and all the A.A. ‘s of Colombia, I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to, address you. May God help all the participants in this meeting, so that we may be able to find new and better approaches to bringing to all alcoholics in the world our Legacies of Recovery with Unity through Service.
"Finally, we should like to congratulate our Finnish brethren for having undertaken, in such a brilliant, responsible, and effective -way, the organization of this meeting.
"Thank you very much.
The Policy/Admissions/Finance Committee reported that they agreed that discussion of the future character and role of the World Service Meeting was the most important subject on its agenda, and it devoted the major portion of its time to it. One suggestion was that the General Service Board and Conference U.S./Canada be expanded and restructured to incorporate worldwide A.A., but this option was rejected by the committee. One member said, "The WSM, between 1969 and 1978, should have grown beyond its adolescence and assumed additional responsibility."
Accordingly, the committee unanimously recommended that the WSM should fulfill its purpose of achieving worldwide A.A. unity and common practices among all countries. It proposed that this subject be taken back by the delegates to their respective national conferences or boards and discussed in depth, and that it be prominent on the agenda for the 1980 WSM. This proposal was approved unanimously.
Out of the Communications Among Countries workshop for Europe came two recommendations that created great excitement among all the delegates and had lasting impact on world services:
It was recommended that a European Information Center be established. The responsibility to implement the recommendation was accepted by the U.K. delegates, with the Center to operate out of the General Service Office, London. The purpose of the Center is to receive information from participating countries for dissemination to other European countries and G.S.O.'s. Such information would include forthcoming conventions and other events to avoid conflict of dates, as well as shared experience on diverse matters of service and structure. (The Center was eventually to compile and publish a directory of where translations of A.A. books and literature were available, worldwide.)
It was also strongly recommended that those other European countries not yet represented at the World Service level...be encouraged to share their experience with us. Spain, Iceland, Portugal, Austria, Italy and Greece were specially mentioned.
Our vision for the future is the establishment of some form of European service meeting whose main objective will be that of all service meetings within our worldwide Fellowship.
Meanwhile, at its first meeting the Policy/Admissions/Finance Committee was earnestly discussing related concerns as reported above. While it was agreed that the concept of a worldwide A.A. body was essential, it was felt that further benefit to A.A. in the participating countries would be achieved by more delegate reporting and by activity between meetings. It was also felt that there was little benefit to non-participating countries, which were the very ones, which needed help the most in developing a service structure.
A specific solution which might be explored between now and 1980 would be a reorganization of the WSM to provide for regional service assemblies along language lines, where this is possible, or along geographical lines...
(The direct result of these recommendations was to be the birth of interim, "zonal" service meetings held in the years between WSM's; namely, European Service Meetings and "Ibero-American Encounters of A.A." See below.)
In full session, the Fifth WSM reaffirmed the suggestion that every other Meeting be held in New York, and reaffirmed the suggestion made by the Fourth WSM that the 1980 Meeting be held immediately preceding the next A.A. International Convention.
At the conclusion of the 1978 WSM, the delegates were guests of the Finnish Board on a sightseeing tour of Helsinki by bus. Two incidents from the tour were especially remembered. Sip 0., the appealing young delegate from Holland, had to say goodbye halfway through to catch a plane home, and as his small figure disappeared down the street with emotional farewells following him from the bus, many eyes were moist. And on a stop at the magnificent performing arts center, Ellie Norris (Dr. Jack's wife) tested the acoustics of the vast concert hall by singing a song in her lovely soprano voice.
The tour ended at the 30th Anniversary Convention of A.A. in Finland, on Sunday afternoon, October 8, at the Helsinki Fair Center. With a crowd of thousands filling the large arena, the delegates heard talks by non-alcoholic professionals and officials praising A.A. and saw honor paid to Veikko K., past WSM delegate, manager of the Finnish G.S.O., and most importantly, founder of A.A. in Finland! (They had already met Veikko when he greeted thin at the opening of the Fifth WSM with the message, "God has plans we don't know about.")
Inspired partly by the success of Finland's Hanasaari Island as a meeting place, the Sixth WSM came together at the Harrison Conference Center, in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, June 27-30, 1980 - and with the same enthusiastic reaction. Iceland was admitted for the first time, revealing in its report that it had over 2,000 A.A. members, a Board of Trustees, a National Service Conference and a flourishing publishing operation. This time, 22 countries were represented by 34 delegates, as follows:
Argentina - Tomes E. and Walter B.
Australia - Anne O'C. and Bob McC.
Belgium .- Urbain W. and Romain B.
Brazil - Benedito V. and Roy P.
El Salvador - Uzziel M.
Honduras - Jose C.
Finland - Pentti K. and Lloyd S.
French Speaking Europe - Annie C. (France) and Philippe DeB. (Belgium)
German-Speaking Europe - Fredinant B. (Germany) and Walter K. (Switzerland)
England - Joyce C.
Scotland - Angus M.
Holland - Reginald B. and Sip 0.
Iceland - Tomes T. and Johannes M.
Ireland - Denis O'D.
Mexico - Roberto C. and Francisco Chevez (non-alcoholic)
New Zealand - Ken P. and Neil P.
Norway - Oscar Olsen (non-alcoholic) and Oivind S.
South Africa - Suliman E.
Sweden - Lennart R. and Curt L.
U.S./Canada - Virginia H. and Stan Cameron (Saskatchewan)
Milton Maxwell, chairperson of the General Service Board U.S./Canada, was chairman of the Meeting, delivering the opening and closing talks. Bob P. presided, and Beth K. was Secretary and Coordinator.
Dr. Maxwell's welcoming remarks were especially interesting as the impressions of a professional sociologist regarding Alcoholics Anonymous. Of his first exposure to a group, he said, "I experienced the power of honest sharing, where members no longer had anything to hide...I felt so at home...I felt myself change and hated to leave." At the Traditions he marveled. "The Traditions caution us against the common tendency in human organizations to forget that money and property and organization are only means that fall into their rightful place when the end, the purpose is kept clearly in view." He expressed wonder at the way the Conference does not legislate or govern, but develops consensus by "substantial unanimity." And he ended:
"A.A. unity is based not upon authority but upon accepting differences, allowing freedom, and keeping our focus on the primary purpose of helping one another achieve and maintain sobriety.
"Basically, the spiritual part of the program means an unself-centered approach to everything, not insisting on having our own way but accepting what is best for A.A. as a whole. The A.A. way is to give each individual his dignity and freedom, each group its dignity and freedom, and each country or region its dignity and freedom. Our U.S./Canadian experience is not binding on any of you, but we join in these World Service Meetings to share our experience and your experience, and through that sharing to help A.A. grow stronger in all parts of the world.
After a moving keynote address by Anne O'C. of Australia on the theme, "Service - The Heart of A.A.," the first agenda item of significance was, as recommended by the Fifth WSM, a general floor discussion on "the possibility of reorganizing the WSM to better serve its function." The session was lively and marked by general agreement that no major changes are needed at this time. The progress made toward having two regular zonal meetings, one in Europe and one in Latin America, was cited as a good way of maintaining communication begun at the WSM and of including countries that do not yet quality for attendance at the WSM. The unanimous sense of the meeting was "that the World Service Meeting in its present form should be continued at the present time, and that interim zonal meetings continue to be encouraged, and that the delegates fulfill their responsibilities in carrying the message back from WSM's to their own countries and to the countries in those parts of the world that need help."
Allied agenda topics were presentations on "The Future of A.A. Worldwide," and reports on the interim zonal service meetings. It was reported that such a meeting had been held in Bogota, Columbia, the previous November, and that planning meetings involving a number of countries had been held in Great Britain, aiming for a first European service meeting in 1981.
It was the sense of the meeting that Mexico be the site of the Seventh WSM in 1982. It was recommended that simultaneous translation in Spanish and English be provided at that Meeting.
The Policy/Admissions/Finance Committee formalized the earlier sense of the meeting from the full floor discussion, "In response to the question of possible reorganization of the WSM, the committee recommends that the WSM be continued in its present form and encourages the continuance and expansion of zonal meetings in the interim years. And that for the time being such meetings be complementary to, not a part of, the WSM structure, but in the interests of continuity, first-term WSM delegates should, where appropriate, be members of the zonal meetings." The same committee recommended it would not be appropriate for observers from countries without a national structure to attend future WSM's, but recommended that more countries might wish to invite observers to their national conferences in order to share their experiences.
The Working with Others committee recommended that since the question of drug addiction frequently comes up at public information meetings, it be stressed that A.A. offers a program of recovery from alcoholism. People who are alcoholic and also addicted to drugs are welcome to join our Fellowship. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
The delegates heard two moving a memorable closing talks. Tomas T. from Iceland said, in part:
"The World Service Meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous has become the cornerstone of international cooperation and relations within the Fellowship. To us, first-time attendees from Iceland, this meeting is what Mecca is to the Muslim; the experience of the infant, sitting at the knee of its elders, absorbing from their lips the knowledge gained through hard-earned victories of a lifetime, sprinkled with the awareness of failures that do not need to be repeated by those who follow in their steps. We have come here with an open mind to learn, a will to share what little experience we may have; and we leave all the richer in understanding - a key word, indeed, as the problems we may have thought existed only for us up north were the same for our fellow A.A.'s living south, east, or west, and to solve them views had to be exchanged. Back home, we will report that this Fellowship is one; within it, borders do not exist."
And Dr. Maxwell again drew upon his experience, his perspective as a non-alcoholic professional and his extraordinary insight in his closing remarks, which included the following:
"What Bill and Dr. Bob and some key others helped to design differs from most organizations in many respects. Yet I believe that herein we have the essential secret of A.A.'s effectiveness and survival. To repeat myself, in a larger society characterized by competitive striving for status,' recognition, power and material things, A.A. has a recovery program based on the opposite values of growing toward an unself-centered way of life. Out Traditions end structure support the basic recovery program. There is no confusion of ends and means. There is singleness of purpose. There is an internal harmony of program, principles, and practices which stands in striking contract to the operations of most organizations and agencies in our society.
"People sometimes wonder if A..A. is going to survive - a question that has been asked every decade. Well, it is true that individual members and groups in A.A. often fall short of the mark. It is equally true that no human organization is immune to drift and foundering. Nevertheless, it appears to me that Alcoholics Anonymous has some very unusual assets in its Traditions, its structure, and the nature of its recovery program which will help to keep A.A. on course for the foreseeable future."
As soon as the Meeting adjourned, the delegates departed for New Orleans, where they were the guests of the General Service Board U.S./Canada at the International Convention of A.A. Many of
them participated in spots on the program, and there, for the first time, a luncheon reunion of present and past WSM delegates was held.
The Seventh WSM took place October 14-17, 1982, at the beautiful and gracious La Mansion Hotel, a convention center/resort in San Juan del Rio, Mexico - some 70 miles north of Mexico City. The 38 delegates (a record number) and supporting staff from G.S.O.'S in New York and Mexico gathered in the capital and were transported to the meeting site by bus. They were:
Australia - Vonnie E.and Bob McC.
Belgium - Urbain W. and Romain B.
Brazil - Saulo P. and Roy P.
El Salvador - Jose M.
Guatemala - Walter S.
Finland - Kari H. and Lloyd S.
French-Speaking Europe - Jean-Max B. (France and Ph8ilippe DeB. (Belgium)
Germany - Ferdinand B. and Manf red W.
England - Dr. David Robinson (non-alcoholic)
Scotland - Angus M.
Holland - Hans B. and Jan B.
Iceland - Valberg H. and Johannes M.
Ireland - Dennis O'D.
Italy - Roberto C.
Mexico - Roberto C. and Juan B.
New Zealand - Ken P. and Neil P.
Norway - Bjorn 0. and Qivind S.
South Africa - Suliman E. and John H.
Sweden - Curt L. and Eva H.
Trinidad/Tobago - Andrew B. and Ramnath B.
U.S./Canada - David A. and Stan C. (Saskatchewan)
Uruguay - Dr. Fernando C. and Carlos C.
This was the first WSM for Italy, Trinidad/Tobago, and Uruguay. For more than a year, it appeared that South Africa would be unable to attend because Mexico had no diplomatic relations with South Africa and would not issue visas to citizens of that country. Appeals by G.S.0. New York to the State Department in Washington and to the Mexican Consulate in New York, pointing out the non-political nature of A.A., were unsuccessful. Finally, the G.S.O. in Mexico was able to arrange for a special act to be passed by the Mexican Parliament to make an exception and permit the South African A.A. delegates to attend the WSM.
Phyllis M., the Secretary and Coordinator, and Bob P. constituted the advance force to work with the G.S.O. Mexico to set up the meeting. Helpers from the latter office included Genaro S., general manager; Juan B., a trustee as well as WSM delegate; and especially Jose G., a bi-lingual businessman -volunteer at G.S.O. who was designated the main contact for planning and running the WSM, including handling the funds. In addition, Consuelo D., trustee, was an adept and hard-working hostess - primarily for the families and guests of the delegates, but for all, as it turned out - assisted by Oscar and Hector. The other staff assistance from G.S.O. New York was provided by Susan D., Lois F. and Helen T.; and by Elizabeth Garcia and Adelina Wilmot, bi-lingual non-alcoholics handling the on-site liaison with the hotel as well as all stenographic tasks, a herculean job.
The predominant impression of the Mexican locus was the hospitality, not only from those mentioned above, but also from the local A.A. members. Upon the arrival of the buses at La Mansion on Thursday, they were met by a delegation from the A.A. groups in nearby San Juan del Rio, who presented the delegates with a huge, beautiful floral bouquet and gave a speech in Spanish, saying how proud they were that this important meeting was being held in their town and asking God's blessing on the proceedings. The bouquet remained on display in the hotel lobby throughout the four days of the meeting.
As this was the first WSM to have simultaneous translation facilities, it was evaluated by the Policy/Admissions/Finance Committee, which found it most beneficial. It was recommended that similar simultaneous translations between English and Spanish be provided at the Eighth WSM and beyond.
Similarly, the Literature/Publishing Committee evaluated the worth of the Latin American Translation Commission. They concluded the Commission fulfills a needed function and recommended its continuance be on the agenda for discussion at the next Latin American Zonal Meeting.
After considerable discussion of problems various countries were experiencing with non-Conference-approved literature, the committee's consensus was that countries who sell only A.A. literature were experiencing little or no difficulties, and countries who were selling more non-A.A. literature were having problems. The committee suggested that members be informed that Conference—approved literature reflects the view of A.A. as a whole, while non-Conference-approved literature often, represents the thinking of one person, and not the collective A.A. group conscience.
The theme of the Seventh WSM, "Carrying the A. A. Message," was emphasized and enlarged upon in detail in the keynote address, presentations, workshops and the agenda of the Working with Others Committee, which dealt with such aspects as public information, cooperation with the professional community, and work in treatment centers and correctional institutions. In the committee report, the value of sharing among countries in these areas was pointed out. In addition to the delegates taking information back from the WSM's and zonal meetings, it was suggested that bulletins and newsletters on these subjects be exchanged and then translated, where necessary, and distributed. It was also noted that delegates from different countries might be invited to General Service Conferences as observers to gain experience and knowledge about these aspects. The committee recommended that workshops on these subjects be held at conventions and conferences in different countries.
In Mexico, the workshops were adjudged to be especially helpful, resulting in sharing among countries on public information, on women in A .A., and on The Twelve Concepts, where interest was very high. An important part of the agenda was the reports from The First European Service Meeting and the Second Ibero-American Encounter.
In his closing talk, Fernando Cutierrez Herrera, distinguished non-alcoholic attorney and Chairman of the Mexican General Service Board, compared each human life to the stained-glass windows in a cathedral - a masterpiece when the relationship among the elements is harmonious. But alcoholism destroys the human being's integrity and affects his family and social relationships, and the "stained-glass" is broken. Alcoholics Anonymous restores the marvelous work that is the human life, and those in A.A. service such as the WSM delegates are the anonymous craftsmen restoring, the integrity and harmony and beauty.
Appropriately, the Eighth WSM was held on the site of the First World Service Meeting, the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City. Equally appropriate was its theme, "The World Service Meeting Takes Its Inventory." Perhaps because of this focus, the four days - October 21-25, 1984 - seemed especially rich and productive. Simultaneous English/Spanish translation was again provided in the general sessions. A total of 38 delegates from 24 countries attended:
Argentina - Carlos C. and Juan R.
Australia - Vonnie E. and James S.
Belgium - Marcel V. and Gilbert C.
Brazil - Saulo P. and Nilton F.
El Salvador - Jose M.
Guatemala - Walter S.
Columbia - Ivan C. and Hugo C.
Finland - Kari H. and Raimo S.
French-speaking Europe - Jean-Max B. (France) and Maurice L. (Belgium)
Germany - Ingeborgz. and Manf red W.
Scotland - Raymond MCC.
England - James H.
Iceland - Marino P. and Olafur 0.
Ireland - Cecil C.
Italy - Roberto C. and Carlo E.
Mexico - Juan B. and Rafael R.
New Zealand - Ken P. and Jack de G.
Norway - Erik U.
South Africa - Pieter du T. and John H.
Sweden - Eva H.
Trinidad/Tobago - Rarnnath R. and Kapoor R.
U.S./Canada - David A. and Helen H. (Manitoba)
Uruguay - Dr. Fernando C.
Following the opening reception Sunday afternoon, delegates viewed a new public information film produced by the G.S.O. of Great Britain, a heartwarming portrayal of alcoholism and recovery in A.A. entitled, "One Day at a Time." The Eighth WSM was opened by Gordon Patrick, chairman of the General Service Board U.S./Canada. After the roll call, John H., from South Africa, delivered an inspiring and thought-provoking keynote address. After sharing a bit of his own recovery and reviewing forcefully the objectives of the WSM, John suggested a series of questions important to every delegate's approach to the forthcoming week:
"Do I have values? Have I a sense of direction? Am I able to distinguish between thinking and doing? . . . How well do I really communicate? Communications involves asking, telling, listening and understanding. Am I getting to the ‘nitty-gritty' of our spiritual principles? . . . Do we really speak the language of the heart? What people feel about things is often as important as what they know about them..."
For the WSM to take its own inventory, he said, we must first try to answer some probing questions:
Of the World Service Meeting:
1. Has the World Service Meeting come up to expectations? Has it achieved the goals originally envisaged for it?
2. What is the World Service Meeting achieving at present, and what will it be expected to achieve in the future? Has it recovered from its growing pains, or am I helping to prolong them?
Of ourselves as individuals:
1. Is the importance of the World Service Meeting understood in my country?
2. What have I done to properly communicate the World Service Meeting's recommendations to A.A. members in my country?
3. Am I dedicated enough? Am I truly committed? Have I done as much as I should have done?
Of the A.A. Fellowship as a whole:
1. Are we sharing only "success stories" when we may, in fact, have more to learn from projects which could be seen as "failures"?
2. Do our recommendations play any part in the decision-making process of A.A.
3. Should we ask the U.S./Canada General Service Conference, General Service Board, and A.A. World Services, Inc., as the most experienced bodies, to be more explicit as to what they expect from us?
4. Do we see other agencies in the field of alcoholism as a "threat"? "Let's be friendly with our friends." - Who are our friends? Do we make a concerted effort to identify them? Do we number A.A.'s in other countries among our friends?
5. What is our experience, strength, and hope?
On Monday morning, Bob P., who presided, delivered an opening address extemporaneously in which he shared an historical perspective of carrying the A.A. message. He said, "We tend to think of A.A. as beginning when Bill Wilson carried the message to Dr. Bob and Dr. Bob sobered up. It really did begin then, but Bill liked to trace the beginnings to 1932 in Zurich, Switzerland, and Dr. Carl Jung, the great psychiatrist." He then related how Dr. Jung had told a patient, Rowland H. that his only hope for recovery from alcoholism was in having "a transforming experience of the spirit." Rowland was able to experience such a transformation through the Oxford Groups and to carry that message to a fellow-alcoholic, Ebby T., who in turn carried it to Bill Wilson. Bob concluded,
"Of course, this is the message we carry to still-suffering alcoholics today. Are we carrying this message in all countries, however? Perhaps the message has somehow become lost along the way. Do we think that relating only our drunkalogs and the fact that we have found sobriety in A.A. is enough? Sometimes it is enough, but it's not the message that was carried to Bill - the one he repeated over and over again - that it is only through a transforming experience of the spirit that we may recover. So in taking our inventory of the World Service Meeting, perhaps we should see if we are carrying this message through our service structure, literature, and Twelfth Step efforts in all our countries."
During the days that followed, the delegates, through presentations, discussions, workshops, and committee actions, addressed the responsibilities imposed upon them by the Meeting theme and other agenda items. Of unusual interest was a presentation/discussion on Communication through Literature moderated by the delegate from England with presenters from Mexico, Italy and Finland. In all four countries, virtually all the A.A. literature is published in their respective languages and the resulting growth in membership has been dramatic. Italy's story was especially inspiring, as no literature in Italian existed until 1980, and now there is a full inventory of books and pamphlets - and A.A. has grown from seven groups to 120 in just four years! Another extremely popular session was that devoted to "Back to Basics," especially a presentation by David A., delegate from U.S./Canada.
Reports were also given of the interim service meetings in Europe and Ibero-America.
After the 8th WSM closed Thursday afternoon, the delegates enjoyed two more days of scheduled activities. Friday morning they toured G.S.O. New York and lunched there. Later at an informal reception at the Roosevelt, they met the U.S./Canada General Service Board. After dinner, three non-alcoholic Trustees – Dr. Jack Norris, Joan Jackson and Mike Alexander – shared their experiences and Dr. Bill Flynn moderated a sharing session on the non-alcoholic Trustee's role. On Saturday, the delegates visited Stepping Stones, and that night were guests of honor at Bill's Birthday Dinner. Jack de G. from New Zealand and Fernando C. from Uruguay were speakers and other delegates sat on the dais, over-looking the crowd of more than 2,000.
Susan D, served as Secretary and Coordinator of this Eighth WSM. A unique but excellent report of the event appeared in the New York Daily News October 28, 1984, in a column by Bill Reel. This columnist had requested permission to attend some of the Meetings, which the delegates agreed to and this account resulted:
Life Beyond The Bottle
"A coincidence last week: Alcoholism made scary news when a study revealed that a staggering 11% of New York State high school kids are hooked on alcohol…and ex-drunks from two dozen countries met here at the Hotel Roosevelt to share experience, strength and hope at an international convention of Alcoholics Anonymous.
"I was the worst drunk in my village when I was 17," a slight, soft- spoken black man from Trinidad commented. He said he joined A.A. at age 20 in 1973 and has been sober ever since.
"A big guy with a winning grin from South Africa put in, My wife used to send me to the café on the corner for a loaf of bread, and I'd get back two days later. He said A.A. sobered him up 14 years ago.
"The U.S. delegate, Dave from Dallas, asked, "does anybody know how much it costs an airline to make an unscheduled stop to throw a drunk off? It costs $6,000. I know, because I was thrown off three times by three different airlines.'
"Dave from Dallas got a knowing laugh from fellow delegates when he defined a well-balanced alcoholic as one who has a chip on both shoulders.
"There was a lot of happy laughter and a few tears of gratitude during the busy week of discussions devoted to how A.A., with over a million members attending 56,000 groups around the world, 30,000 of them in the U.S., can best reach out to victims of the universal disease of alcoholism.
"Here was hope for young alcoholics: When a presenter revealed that 27% of A.A.'s in Brazil are under 30, a man from the world office of A.A. in New York who keeps track of national membership survey's commented that the percentage is about the same in the U.S.
"Ten years ago, how many members were under 30?' she asked.
"There were so few back then that we didn't bother to include the question in surveys,' he said. ‘But there's been an explosion of young people into A.A. in recent years.
"A.A. began in Akron, Ohio in 1935 when a New York stockbroker on business there, sober six months for the first time in years, sought out and helped another alcoholic, a local M.D. The fellowship grew from that meeting. It is self-supporting and declines outside contributions. A big jump in membership occurred upon the publishing of the book "alcoholics Anonymous," which outlined principles of recovery from the disease. More than a million copies of the book have been sold. It took 34 years to sell the first million, fifteen to sell the second million, ten to sell the third million and 3 to sell the fourth million.
"Cooperation between countries was evident in workshops and committees last week at the Roosevelt. Insights were exchanged on internal matters such as communication, service structure, literature distribution and the like.
"Gratitude for sobriety permeated the parley. Carlos from Argentina, thanking A.A. for his victory over alcoholism, addressing in a voice husky with emotion a room that included, among others, ex-drunks Vonnie from Australia and Marcel from Belgium and Nilton from Brazil and Jose from El Salvador and Walter from Guatemala and Hugo from Columbia and Kari from Finland and Jean-Max from France and Ingeborg from England and Olafur from Iceland and Cecil from Ireland and Carlo from Italy and Rafael from Mexico and Erik from Norway and Eva from Sweden and Helen from Canada and Fernando from Uruguay, told them, "I am not a good speaker, but I am very enthusiastic about A.A. I am deeply moved to be here. When I talk as today, I begin to cry.'"
LATIN ANERICAN SERVICE MEETINGS
At the Fifth WSM in Helsinki, Finland, which had recommended that interim, zonal service meetings be held, the delegates from Latin America concluded independently that little had been done in the past to exchange experiences among their countries. They promised each other they would try to initiate a Latin American service meeting. Upon their return home, they received a letter from the Mexican delegate which further stimulated them into action. Through correspondence with each other and consultation with their respective G.S.O.'' they agreed on Bagota, Columbia, as the site, and selected Dave P., past WSM delegate from Columbia, as the coordinator.
Priner Encuentro Ibero-Arnericano de Servicios Generales de A.A.
This was the proper name for the ensuing service meeting held November 15-17, 1979. Seventeen delegates from ten countries participated, representing Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela. G.S.O. New York was also invited to participate and sent Beth K., the WSM coordinator, and Mary Ellen W., who had been born in Columbia and served as interpreter for Beth. There were also three observers, one from Venezuela and two from Columbia.
This being an initial meeting, some time was necessarily spent in internal organization and "housekeeping" decisions, such as defining the objectives of the meeting, setting criteria for delegates, agreeing on how sites of future meetings would be selected and how they would be financed, establishing standing committees, etc. These steps were accomplished efficiently through a Planning Committee.
Since half the countries participating had never attended a WSM, they benefited greatly from a session devoted to sharing by all countries on the state of A.A. in each and their problems and experiences. Also helpful were presentations on "The Reason for Zonal Meetings," "Sponsorship among Countries," and "Institutions and Public Information Work." And for many, it was their first understanding of the role of G.S.O. New York, and its relationship to other countries, from a talk by Beth K.
Finally, two moves were made which turned out to be of transcendent importance in the years that followed. The first was to emphasize strongly the principle of sponsorship of countries with an A.A. service structure by those countries that already have a structure, literature, etc. An International Sponsorship Committee was established to help accomplish this objective, and specific responsibilities for the less developed countries were assigned. The second move was to establish a Spanish Translations Committee to analyze all translations of A.A. literature in Spanish and to bring about agreement on a common, unified translation. This committee was composed of representatives from Argentina, Columbia, El. Salvador, Mexico, and the Central American Literature Committee.
It was decided that the second Ibero-Arnerican Service Meeting would be held in Argentina in 1981, and that they would be held every two years thereafter.
In his report to the Sixth WSM the following year, Benedito V., delegate from Brazil, summarized the meeting accurately: "As a new experience, the meeting had excellent results. The participation was even greater than expected. ...A large agenda (was) handled easily. We believe that with the anticipated actions of the permanent committees and the experiences collected in Bogota, we will, through each successive meeting, arrive closer to our final objectives..."
Secundo Encuentro Ibero-Arnericano
At the 1981 Encuentro in Buenos Aires, on August 13-17, six countries were represented: Argentina, Brazil, El. Salvador, Mexico, Venezuela and Uruguay. The latter was welcomed to its first service meeting as an example of country-to-country sponsorship on the part of Argentina. Phyllis M. represented G.S.O. New York, as the Secretary and coordinator of the WSM. A local interpreter was provided to help her participate.
Since the Primer Encuentro, the Spanish Translations Committee had changed its name to the Latin American Commission for Translations into Spanish, to reflect better its scope and independence. The Meeting devoted considerable discussion to the Commission's composition and functions, and urged it be continued.
Similarly, the participating countries reaffirmed their commitment to help newer countries to form C.S.O.‘s and service structures, to assist the orderly growth of A.A. They also made a number of recommendations to improve the organization of the Ibero-Americano Encuentros and the sharing of the experience back home.
Tercero Encuentro Ibero - Arnericano
Brasilia, capital city of Brazil, was the site of the Encuentro held July 26-31, 1983, with past WSM delegate Eloy T. as coordinator. Susan D., as WSM Coordinator, represented G.S.O. New York. Five countries - Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, Mexico and Uruguay - were represented by six delegates.
As before, the countries' reports and discussions of their various problems was an important part of the agenda and valuable to the participants. Subjects covered included: the place of special interest groups; the splinter movement in Mexico called "The 24-Hour Groups;" public information work; and copyright and publishing concerns.
The Ibero-Ainerican Commission for Translation met during the Encuentro, and Susan was impressed with how hard they worked. Apparently the difficulties presented by different national attitudes, different languages and different literature in the 21 countries involved had, impeded much accomplishment by the Commission since its inception four years before. Yet there was no question of the need for it. At this meeting, its members hammered out a document spelling out the Commission's purpose and scope, methods and procedures. The chairmanship was to rotate to the host country of each succeeding Encuentro. The purpose and scope was defined as:
1. To motivate the correct translation of new A.A. literature.
2. To review existing translations to insure the spirit of A.A. in the original text is preserved.
3. To implement unification of basic A.A. literature in Spanish, avoiding regional differences.
4. To harmonize necessary adaptations with the original pamphlets.
5. To share information and coordinate work in order to avoid duplication of effort.
The working procedure was:
1. Each piece of literature translated should be sent to the chairman of the Commission.
2. He distributes copies to the Commission members.
3. They read the piece, checking for accuracy and faithfulness to the spirit of A.A., and return their corrections to the chairman within 60 days for pamphlets and 6 months for books.
4. The Chairman (with the help of his G.S.O. if necessary) reconciles the members' corrections and suggestions for revision, and approves the manuscript.
5. The country writing the piece writes A.A.W.S., Inc. for permission to reprint, informing them of the Commission's approval. And when they print the piece, they note both the copyright credit to A.A.W.S., Inc. and the approval of the Commission.
The Commission also acknowledged its reporting responsibility to the Literature/Publishing Committee of the World Service Meeting, and to the G.S.O.'s in Latin America.
Cuarto Encuentro Ibero-Americano
The seven delegates at this Encuentro represented five countries: Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico, and Uruguay. Carlos C. of the latter country was the coordinator. G.S.O. New York was represented by Vicente M., staff member for H ispanic. services. There were two other invited observers. The city of Punta del Este, on the sea, was the site for the meeting, held October 7-12, 1985.
The theme of this Encuentro and the thrust of its discussion was sponsorship between countries. Also, in addition to the usual sharing of information and problems, the past, present and future of this Ibero-Arnericano service meeting was discussed. It was noted that financial difficulties in many countries made it almost impossible to attend. However, some countries who are not present are able to benefit from reports taken back by sponsoring countries. It was recommended that, since the U.S./Canada has more Spanish-speaking groups than many Ibero-Americano structures, they be invited to send two delegates to these Encounters.
Again, the Ibero-Americano Commission for Translations met and decided that the policy of rotating the coordinating responsibility as the host country of the Encounter rotates, was not working. After a presentation by Vicente M., it was decided that since he has a permanent oversight of Spanish translation of A.A. literature in U.S./Canada, it would be more efficient to have G.S.O. New York act as coordinator rather than to have this responsibility rotate. Otherwise, the purposes and procedures of the Commission remain unchanged.
EUROPEAN SERVICE MEETINGS
After the seed was planted for interim, zonal service meetings, from the Communications Among Countries European workshop at the 1978 WSM in Helsinki, Finland , Bill S., the delegate from England and manager of the G.S.O. for Great Britain, immediately started to get the ball rolling. He set up an exploratory meeting with other European delegates to follow the General Service Conference of Great Britain in April, 1979. Besides Great Britain, Finland, West Germany, Norway and Switzerland were represented. They agreed to aim for a first meeting in 1981 - possibly in Switzerland to coincide with the 25th anniversary convention of A.A. there. It was also agreed that financing should follow the general principle of that of the WSM, and, significantly, the General Service Board of Great Britain volunteered to underwrite the expenses of such a meeting in the same way that the U.S./Canada Board underwrites WSM's.
Meanwhile, a European Information Center was established, working out of the G.S.O. in London, and observers began to be exchanged among various European General Service Conferences. And a new entity was heard from-the English-Speaking Intergroup of Continental Europe - which was to affect future planning for the European Service Meeting.
The ESICE grew out of a need for communication among the English-speaking Armed Forces groups (mainly American and Canadian) in West Germany. These English-speaking groups had little in common with the German-speaking groups in their host country, and obtained their literature and other services from, G.S.O. New York. There were also English-speaking groups in a half-dozen other European countries. None of them were a part of the service structure of their host countries. So a separate service office evolved, beginning in the mid-1960's, to publish directories of the English- speaking groups first, just for West Germany, and later for the rest of continental Europe - as well as to distribute English-language literature, publish a newsletter and perform other typical intergroup functions.
By 1978, the ESICE served over 100 English-speaking groups in seven countries, but its officers wanted to have some structural link to A.A. as a whole. They first explored the possibility of becoming a part of the General Service Conference U.S./Canada or a part of the WSM - neither of which was deemed appropriate. At the suggestion of G.S.O. New York, they approached the General Service Conference of Great Britain. , Both sides agreed this made sense, so the English-speaking Intergroup of Continental Europe found a "home" there.
Thus it was that in April, 1980, a second exploratory meeting was held to move toward a European Service Meeting, attended by representatives from Britain, Sweden, West Germany and the ESICE. It was decided to take positive action to have the first ESM in 1981, to invite each participating country to send two delegates, and to conduct the meeting in English.
All the above was reported by Joyce C., delegate from England, at the Sixth WSM in Glen Cove, Long Island, in June, 1980.
First European Service Meeting
The First ESM was held October 23-25, 1981, in Frankfurt, West Germany, which was chosen as the site because it is a center for A.A. activity in Germany as well as the location of the ESICE, and also because of its being a transportation center, easily reached by plane, train or car. Most of the staff work was done by Bill S. the indefatigable manager of G.S.O. for Great Britain, wearing his other hat as director of the European Information Center. He was assisted by bi-linigual A.A. members in Frankfurt, including Uli Z., a very active A.A. contact known to many A.A. travelers. Three volunteers from the ESICE were omnipresent, a kind of catalyst for the proceedings. The General Service Board for Great Britain underwrote the expenses and paid for all rooms and food, so delegates paid only their transportation; and Gordon W., chairman of that Board was an invited participant. The only non-European participant was Bob P., C. S. 0. New York, invited to deliver the keynote address, to lead the A.A. sharing session, and to share U.S./Canada experience in committees and workshops. The venue of the meeting was the Hotel National, and old, elegant hostelry in central Frankfurt.
An astonishing total of 14 countries attended, represented by two delegates each:
The agenda was patterned after those of the WMS's, and the theme was "Support Your Neighbor Country."
Bob P., in his keynote address, traced the origins of the meeting back to Bill Wilson's vision of A.A. worldwide, and hailed the thrust of the theme. He then zeroed in on the need for translations of the Big Book and other basic literature to adhere faithfully to the original text, and for overseas service boards to publish their own literature rather than relinquish the right to outside parties. Finally, he warned of the perils of ignoring the Traditions, as had been done in some countries.
Extra time was necessarily spent at this First ESM in organizing itself as a viable and ongoing event - including the decision to continue holding ESM's in the same central location. Reports of the various countries were exciting, often showing surprising growth and development. Then there were Spain and Portugal, just as proudly reporting their struggling beginnings; i.e., Portugal with nine groups and 30 members! Special note was taken of the absence of other countries where A.A. has very little foothold, such as Denmark, Greece and Austria. And a great deal of benefit was gained from the committee meetings, workshops and sharing sessions.
Gordon W. ended the weekend by speaking movingly of "so much joy and so much love among us all...We have made a tremendous start and we have fulfilled Bill W.'s vision, and I am sure he would have been terribly pleased at what has been done."
Second European Service Meeting
The Second ESM, held February 18-20, 1983, in Frankfurt, was attended basically by the same countries as the first, except that Portugal and Switzerland were unable to be represented, and three new countries were present for the first time: Denmark, Malta and Poland. The English-Speaking Intergroup again played a prominent part in the staffing and the business of the meeting, which had the theme, "Sharing Experience in Service." The Chairperson was Valerie L. of Great Britain, and the invited participant from G.S.O. New York was Phyllis M., who delivered the keynote address. After invoking words of Bill w. on service, Phyllis shared highlights of the 1982 WSM in Mexico, of which she was the Secretary and Coordinator.
Of special interest were the "New Country Reports." In Denmark, there were only a small number of men and women - four groups in Copenhagen, three elsewhere. Very little literature has been translated into Danish, although the "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions" is ready for printing if it can be accomplished. However, the other Scandinavian countries had agreed to help and visitors from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland were expected for a big open meeting.
Although A.A. in Malta went back 17 years, the Malta Group consisted almost entirely of Irish and English residents. However, Maltese-speaking members have begun to show up, and translation of literature into Maltese has commenced.
Teeming A.A. activity was reported by Poland, although the program is still new there. There are 14 groups, comprising 200 members. Other innovations are a national meeting and the election of an embryonic service committee. Their main problems centered around the translation and publication of A.A. literature, and they hungered for all kinds of A.A. sharing.
In closing the weekend, Valerie quoted one of her sponsors to the effect that a good meeting starts when it ends. "Go home now and practice what you have heard," her sponsor told her. And she suggested that the delegates to the Second ESM do likewise.
Third European Service Meeting
"Are We Growing into Our Responsibilities?" was the theme of the third ESM, at the same venue. Delegates were assembled from the same 14 countries as at the Second ESM, including the ESICE. Hubert O'R. from Ireland was the Chairman, and the invited participant from G.S.O. New York was Susan D.. Since the meeting was held March 8-10, 1985, note was taken of A.A.'s 50th Anniversary. As before, the communication and sharing were of benefit to all participants, especially the newer countries.