WONCA Member Organizations
4th June 2020
WONCA AND ABU DHABI
These are extraordinary and exceptional times, and I’m quite sure that you will have been wondering what effects COVID-19 might have on the Abu Dhabi Council and conference. As you can imagine, it has been a challenging time for the WONCA Executive as they battle with a whole series of options regarding Abu Dhabi in November. We thought that we should now consult our Member Organizations (MOs) and seek YOUR views on the best way to proceed, to ensure continuing good governance of the organization whist still protecting our individual members.
President, President elect, CEO-designate and I have been in regular contact with both the Host Organizing Committee (HOC) and the Professional Conference Organizers (PCO) for Abu Dhabi. UAE went into significant lockdown for a time, but plans continued for a great WONCA conference, and there were also regular meetings of the Scientific Committee to finalise the programme. UAE is now starting to return to a degree of normality, and the government is keen to get tourism started again, so flights are re-commencing, and hotels opening, from mid-June.
However that – inevitably – is not the whole story. As I write, many countries still have significant restrictions, and few flights are operating. Many institutions have barred their staff from international travel for the rest of 2020. And even if people were able to leave their home countries, they then face a period of quarantine on their return. Thus, we must assume that many members will decline to travel, at least for the foreseeable future. In fact, Executive, at its recent meeting, discussed this very issue and the majority of Executive indicated they would NOT be in a position to travel to Abu Dhabi.
To meet its quorum, WONCA Council requires over half of the Executive (at least 7) to be present in person, and 2/3 of the MOs either present in person or represented by a proxy. Thus at least 40 MOs would have to be present, each holding no more than the permitted one proxy. I have to tell you that Executive has therefore reluctantly had to conclude that it may NOT be possible to run a Council in November which would have the attendance necessary to meet the quorum eligibility.
The conference is a slightly different issue. One of the many joys of WONCA events is the opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones, and to network with members of our global community. Sadly, for now that will not be an option for most, and we are having to consider a number of different options, including a virtual event. After discussion with the HOC and PCO for the Abu Dhabi event the shared recommendation is to POSTPONE both Council and conference until October or November 2021.
Essentially we have come down to two main options:
1. We can proceed on schedule for November 2020 with a hybrid in-person and virtual council and conference:
a. Rationale – no change in schedule and allows officer elections to take place.
b. Implications – challenging to arrange; no guarantee of a quorum, thus any decisions made may not be eligible; danger of disenfranchising MOs who might not be able to take part for a variety of reasons (poor internet connectivity; time zone anomalies etc); elections difficult to oversee and scrutinize for probity and validity. Virtual conference may well not be attractive to many potential delegates.
2. Postponing Abu Dhabi for up to 12 months, with both Council and conference taking place in October or November 2021. This option has been bolstered by a conversation with Royal Australian College of GPs (organizers of Sydney 2022) who have indicated that they would be willing to postpone until October 2023.
a. Rationale – a deferral of everything for 12 months, but after that the normal two-year cycle can be re-established (2021; 2023; 2025 etc). Council can be held with conference (in accordance with Bylaw Article 10.1.3). Opportunity to conduct business with all (or nearly all) members present. Elections can be held in an open and secure and robust manner. Region Councils can choose whether to extend their current president (if he/she is eligible) or to give the new incumbent a three-year cycle. All other officers can serve a full two-year term.
b. Implications –
i. Region Councils can choose whether to extend the term of their current president (if he/she is eligible) to 2021 or to give the new incumbent a three-year cycle (i.e., from 2020 to 2023). The decision of each region can be ratified by Executive.
ii. Members at Large and YDM rep would have to decide whether to extend their time on Executive for a third year (i.e. until 2021) or whether to resign and open up the positions for one year under Bylaw Article 12.8.2.
iii. All other officers, who will be elected in 2021, can serve the full two-year term in an ordinary manner until 2023.
We would, at this stage, greatly value the views of our MOs as to what they consider best. Would you and your delegates and members be prepared to travel to Abu Dhabi in November 2020? Should Council go ahead, in whatever form we can manage, with the risk of not achieving a quorum, or is postponement a better option? What are your thoughts on a hybrid conference – would that be attractive to you and your members? I really would be grateful to receive your thoughts, opinions – and even suggestions, most especially on the issues of:
Option 1 - Proceed on schedule in November 2020 with hybrid virtual Council and conference (for most)
Option 2 - Postponement of Council and conference to October/November 2021 in Abu Dhabi, with postponement of 2022 event in Sydney by 12 months to October 2023.
Deadline for submissions is Monday 15th June; we thank you for your consideration of these issues. Executive will meet again to consider your responses and if indicated we may come back with further consultations.
With best regards,
Dr Garth Manning
Chief Executive Officer