Wednesday, April 19, 2017

FAFICS: The Federation of Associations of Former International Civil Servants, Time for Change, 19 April 2017

Further to a question by a UN retiree on a FCUNS Facebook discussion thread, the topic of the need for change in the leadership of FAFICS was raised by Ian Richards, the CCISUA president.
Good idea, and one that some of us have been thinking about for quite some time. I'm not an expert on how the FAFICS system works, specifically the electoral process. Anyone who can clarify, please do.
As far as I can glean, the leaders of the various Association of Former International Civil Servants (AFICS) associations world-wide elect the members of the FAFICS council. So any change in the leadership of FAFICS has to begin with a conversation about AFICS. I can't speak about the other 58 or so AFICS associations world-wide. That there's no transparency or democracy in AFICS/NY has been only too obvious to some of us for some time.
FAFICS/AFICS appears to operate along the lines of the renowned and ancient society of freemasons in terms of a certain level of level of mystery surrounding its functioning, but with one notable and welcome difference: FAFICS/AFICS is as much a sorority as a fraternity.
Last year a group of AFICS/NY members led by Lowell Flanders proposed changes to the statutes that would introduce more transparency and participation in how AFICS/NY functions. This effort was rebuffed on laughably false “legal” grounds by the AFICS/NY governing board.
This happened while the president (then as now also the president of FAFICS) had her tenure renewed several times without consultation of the governing board, let alone the general membership of AFICS/NY which has no say in the choice of its leadership.
The AFICS/NY governing board self-perpetuates in serial and successive three-year terms with a mandatory break in between, and a “nominating committee” (a single governing board member) handpicks a handful of other candidates for “election” each year.
The general membership gets to "elect" six of the ten, and the other four are "appointed" by the governing board, as allowed by the statutes.
This is an example of how one of the AFICS associations operates, and, as mentioned above, it appears that all 59 are responsible for electing the members of the FAFICS council, which then elects the four representatives and two alternates, led by a president (who alternates between New York and Geneva) who are expected to represent the interests of retirees world-wide, including our pension interests. (FAFICS representatives on the board don't have voting rights; but they wield power and influence).
FAFICS and AFICS/NY have not reliably supported the UN staff unions and retiree groups in our efforts to have problems at the Pension Fund addressed. For two years in a row, the AFICS/NY leadership declined written requests by its members to hold consultations on pension matters. Last year, the then AFICS/NY president wrote an email (leaked) to the UN Office of Internal Oversight Management discouraging an audit of the backlog in benefit payments.
This lack on the part of AFICS/NY and FAFICS has been more apparent pertaining to the issues on the Secretariat side than on the Investment side. Some effective FAFICS action has taken place in conjunction with the work of the Assets and Liabilities Monitoring Committee of the Pension Board.
However, there hasn't been a single substantive message on pensions from AFICS/NY to its members since the November 2016 president's letter) besides a letter dated 17 February 2017 from Warren Sach Chair of the AFICS/NY pension committee about the independent third-party review of investments being conducted by Deloitte Touche at the pension board's request. There's been no mention, or posting on the AFICS website, of the reports of the Board of Auditors, the ACABQ, the GA resolution, or the OIOS audit of the backlog in benefit payments.
Next project, break through the self-perpetuating culture of FAFICS and AFICS and introduce transparency, democracy and real representation of the interests of their dues-paying members. For change to happen it has to be a concerted effort among AFICS members of the various associations world-wide.
Ideas on next steps are welcome. Let's start the conversation, and take relevant action.

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