IHF By-Laws: Desirable Changes (Part 3)

It seems that some of you feel I have kept you waiting for the part that interests you the most. I have received opinions to the effect that the worst thing you see in the IHF is the effect that the current system for voting rights and national/continental influence is having.

However, before getting into that, I want to comment on some other aspects of the IHF Congresses. As in several other areas,[u] the inadequacy of the procedures prescribed by Article 14 in the By-Laws creates problems[/u]. For instance, in several recent Congresses there have been disagreements or uncertainties regarding the validity of motions. This is a fundamental area where a high degree of reliability and transparency is needed. Similarly, there have been changes or disagreements regarding the right of candidates for IHF positions to be nominated for more than one position. This is not an area where one would want to be unnecessarily restrictive. Other problems have resulted from ad hoc decisions regarding the opportunity for candidates to introduce themselves before or during the Congress. There is simply no excuse for ad hoc decisions on such important matters; they should be clearly regulated in the By-Laws. Article 14 is also one of the areas of the By-Laws where [u]texts are misleading or ambiguous[/u]. Clarity must now be achieved.

It should also be noted that the updating of all the procedures related to the Congress must take into account that we are now living in a more modern era in terms of quick and easy communications, compared with the days when the By-Laws were last revised more fully. While certain documents must be distributed in paper form and through regular mail for the sake of proper protocol, many procedures can be simplified just by the reliance of publication on the IHF web site and the dissemination of information through electronic mail. Congress matters, especially elections, depend on a strong emphasis on transparency and timeliness, and there is no excuse for not using all methods available.

Getting then to [u]the issue of decision-making and voting power[/u], it is natural that in an international forum there is great pride attached to what is seen as democracy and fairness. Many member countries have had to be used to other practices, and others remember only to well the colonial days where superpowers had all the rights. In these circumstances,[u] it should not be surprising that, rightly or wrongly, the principle of ‘one member, one vote’ is seen as the real definition of democracy and fairness[/u]. Therefore, to question this principle may seem outrageous to some. And of course, as a practical matter, to move away from such a principle would always be an enormous undertaking.

[u]But it is not, in fact, so obvious that this principle is the right one, or the only one[/u]. Many point to the United Nations and its General Assembly, where clearly each country has one vote. But I could point to another organization within the overall UN family (where I had my career), namely the International Monetary Fund. Here the voting powers are totally different. Countries and regions get their voting power determined on the basis of the size of their economy and their trade. Nobody has disputed this principle, and the only disagreements involved delays in adjusting the voting power quickly enough when the relative strengths of countries change in relation to each other. In the IMF the issues do not involve just having a say in the decision-making on global policy issues, like in the UN. Instead, the focus is much more on who should have more or less of a say on matters involving how the organization’s financial resources are distributed to individual countries in need. And the individual member countries have of course contributed to this overall pool of resources to vastly different degrees, so this is seen as fair.

In fact, it would seem much more natural to compare the circumstances of the IHF with those of the IMF, rather than those of the UN. The IHF does not get its income in equal shares from all the individual member countries. Instead, its revenues are highly related to the top-level handball and the high degree of development in a relatively limited number of countries. By contrast, the money, material and assistance in other forms are given out disproportionately to those most in need due to their modest level of development. [u]Is there then really something strange and inappropriate in giving more of a role in the decision-making, incl. the elections, to those who provide, in comparison with those who essentially just receive??[/u] I am not pointing just to my UN vs. IMF comparison. In reality, there is currently a trend, as reported by those consulting firms who work with international sports federations, such as the IHF, on matters such as strategic development, by-law reviews etc., to have [u]federations move away from the old, ‘holy’ principle of ‘one member, one vote.’![/u]

Having ‘stirred up this hornets’ nest’, I will finish with another thorny issue. As many are aware, one of the most disputed issues in recent time has been the relative rights of the IHF and the respective Continental federations regarding the organization of the continental qualification events for World Championships and Olympic Games. The wording of the relevant By-Law articles must be cleaned up to get us away from ambiguities and seeming contradictions. But first it is necessary to spell out very clearly what the work distribution is supposed to be. I believe there is very little disagreement about allowing the continental federations to physically organize the events in questions, which furthermore often have the nature of a continental championship, and to enjoy the financial advantages. [u]But I do hope it is equally possible to agree that the IHF must retain the right to monitor all such even[/u]ts (with an emphasis on the technical aspects), [u]to provide referees as IHF deems necessary, and to have the final say in any matters of dispute regarding the proper execution of such events.[/u] In principle, the qualification results must be ratified by the IHF before they become official. Put differently, the ugly and image-damaging incidents of the qualifying for Beijing 2008 must never be repeated!

To summarize the key issue: it is one thing that all the countries in IHF who need help may know best what their needs are, but it is a totally different matter whether this really should make them entitled, through their current volume of votes, to dictate to those countries who really generate the income how the resources of the IHF should be spent!

With these comments I will bring my input to a conclusion at this time, and I really do encourage all federations and individuals with views on the By-Laws to make sure that they are heard. It would not be satisfactory to have the direction and the precise ideas developed exclusively by a small and not very representative working group!