Concept 5

ORIGINAL SHORT FORM VERSION:  “We serve the group by having the courage to state a minority opinion when needed and we respect this right in others. (petition/appeal).” (Right of Appeal)

Principle of the Concept:

DEMOCRACY

One Thing You Need To Know:
Trusted Servants Have a Right of Appeal

Trusted Servants Have a Right of Appeal

Every member of A.A.’s world service structure has the right to state a minority opinion when they feel the majority has crossed over to the dark side.

We have to recognize that there are times when the minority can be right and it is our responsibility to listen to their petition.  We have seen many examples where a well stated and well crafted minority opinion can change the outcome entirely.

In the spirit of democracy, allowing the minority opinion to be heard is vital to the unity we profess we must have in Tradition 1.  Being able to balance the right of appeal with majority decision ensures we will never be subjected to the tyranny of either the majority or the minority.

from Twelve Concepts of World Service Illustrated

Newcomers to A.A.’s General Service Conference are often surprised at the pains taken by the presiding officer to make sure the minority has a second opportunity to present its views. Even after extensive debate on an issue, followed by a vote in which a “substantial unanimity” is reached, those opposed are polled individually to see if they wish to speak further to their minority view. In fact, numerous instances can be cited in which this minority view is so compelling the Conference has then reversed itself.

This is A.A.’s “Right of Appeal” in action, and Bill says the same principle should apply to meetings of our area committees, trustee committees and boards. On an issue of grave importance, the minority has the actual duty of presenting its views. This “Right of Appeal” recognizes that minorities frequently can be right; that even when they are in error they still perform a most valuable service when they compel a thorough-going debate on important issues. The well-heard minority, therefore, is our chief protection against an uninformed, misinformed, hasty or angry majority.

“Trusted servants,” according to Bill, “do for the groups what the groups cannot or should not do for themselves.” And in exercising their “Right of Decision” (see Concept III), trusted servants are almost always “a small but truly qualified minority” — whether in the form of area committees, staffs, boards or even the General Service Conference itself. It is incumbent upon them, therefore, in their own meetings, to pay special deference to the minority voice.

This Concept also warns us of “the tyranny of the majority” and points out that in A.A., a simple majority is seldom sufficient basis for a decision. That’s why we usually require at least a two-thirds majority. Lacking this, it is preferable to delay the decision; or in the case of an election following the “Third Legacy Procedure,” to “go to the hat.” (See Service Manual, Chapter I.) The “Right of Appeal” also permits any person in the service structure, whether paid or volunteer, to petition for redress of a personal grievance. He or she can complain directly to the General Service Board, without prejudice or fear of reprisal.

The text above is an excerpt from the A.A. conference approved pamphlet (P8) The Twelve Concepts for World Service Illustrated.  Download your own copy of the full pamphlet.

CONCEPTS CHECKLIST

  1. Do we encourage the minority opinion, the “Right of Appeal,” to be heard at our home group, district committee meetings, area assemblies and the Conference?
  2. What does our group accept as “substantial unanimity*”?
  3. Has our group experienced the “tyranny of the majority” or the “tyranny of the minority”?
  4. Does our group understand the importance of all points of view being heard before a vote is taken?

* u·na·nim·i·ty (yo͞onəˈnimədē) [noun] agreement by all people involved; consensus

This checklist offered as part of Service Material from the General Service Office (SMF-91).  Download your copy of the complete checklist.

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