General Assembly, Ecumenical Centre, Geneva Tuesday, 2 December 2008, 10 am
Report by the Interim Executive Committee January-November 2008
1. Greycells was formally established by a Constituent Assembly held on 17 January 2008. The Assembly appointed an Interim Executive Committee and entrusted it with the task of making appropriate arrangements for setting up the Association and organizing its initial activities. It was agreed that the Committee be composed of the group of 11founding members.
2. At its first meeting, held on 25 January 2008, the Interim Executive Committee elected the following officers and coordinators:
Fermín Alcoba, President
Marjory Dam, Vice-president
Paul Rolian, Secretary
Catherine Bertrand, Treasurer
René Kirszbaum, Projects Coordinator
Guy Eckstein, Fund-raising Coordinator
Christina Schröder, Outreach Coordinator
Area Coordinators: Catherine Bertrand, UNHCR; Alberto Campeas, WTO; Marjory Dam, WHO; Guy Eckstein, WIPO; René Kirszbaum, ILO; Joseph Smadja, ITC.
3. From January to November 2008 the Committee has held 22 meetings. The records for those meetings, as well as any other documents mentioned in this report, are available to members and may be consulted upon request.
4. At the time of drafting this report, the Association has 44 members. Other colleagues have indicated their intention to join Greycells, but they have not formalized their membership as yet.
5. One of the Committee’s first concerns was to consolidate the Association’s legal status so that it would become a recognised partner within the international associative community in Geneva. By the same token, it would become eligible for any advantages granted by local authorities to this kind of entity. Therefore, Greycells was registered under Swiss law and has been recognized as an international public-interest NGO.
7. The Committee has also drafted several communications (information to members, presentation of Greycells published in the newsletters of associations of retirees (AAFI-AFICS, ILO, WHO, WTO), organized a roundtable open to all members; established a flowchart for processing requests for assistance; and is making an inventory of the expertise available among members of the Association.
8. Address lists of potential members were established with the assistance of some associations of retirees. On the basis of these lists, the Committee did a number of mailings to potential members. Some of them joined the Association, but generally the mailings had a limited response.
9. Since its inception, the Committee has had a regular and friendly working relation with the Swiss Mission to the UN and other International Organizations in Geneva, with the Geneva Welcome Centre and with other relevant Swiss institutions. All local and federal authorities concerned have been extremely helpful and supportive. Geneva’s Conseil d’Etat has recently approved the granting of a two-year subsidy which will cover the rental cost (excluding charges) of the office that Greycells now occupies at the Ecumenical Centre, Grand Saconnex, office 425. It is expected that some additional financial aid (a one-time subsidy for equipment and first installation expenses) will also be granted.
10. Following an introductory letter by the Swiss Ambassador to the UN, addressed to the Permanent Representatives in Geneva, the Committee sent letters presenting Greycells to the same Permanent Representatives, to the Executive Heads of the UN funds and programmes, specialized agencies and related organizations, and to managing directors of the main national cooperation agencies. Although, here again, the response was limited, some very encouraging reactions were recorded.
11. There have also been some activities relating to more substantive aspects of the Association’s intended action. It will be recalled that Greycells’ two major goals, as defined in the Statutes, are: a) to support the international community’s work in the developing world; and b) to cooperate with local Swiss institutions, as well as with accredited country representatives, with a view to improving the information capacity, outreach and hospitality facilities of Geneva as a host city for international organizations and NGOs.
12. Activities and/or projects are being carried out under each of these lines of action as illustrated here below:
a) An East Africa NGO requested support for two grassroots development projects in a rural area covering the construction of a schoolgirls’ hostel and one borehole for water supply. Greycells first advised the NGO on re-designing and re-formulating the projects to make them “bankable” and of interest to financial institutions; second, it offered to contact the donor community to help secure the required project funding.
b) Answering a request from a major national development aid agency, Greycells was able to identify expertise in Trade and Development for a project in the Caspian region.
c) The Representative of a Southern European country requested assistance with its eventual accession to WTO. Greycells is in contact to define the nature, conditions and timing of the help required.
d) Upon a suggestion by the Geneva Welcome Centre, a Geneva-based Régie and a diplomatic mission decided to submit their pending financial litigation to the arbitration of Greycells. The case was investigated by the Greycells Treasurer and both parties agreed with her conclusions.
e) Greycells received a request for 100 prematurely retired computers for 25 government high schools in a country in Asia. Greycells is making several contacts to identify an appropriate response to meeting this request.
f) Mandat International, a Swiss Public Foundation, has submitted for comments to Greycells three of their pedagogical “dossiers”, respectively on “Economy,Labour and Development”, “Geneva International” and “The UN System”. Observations, changes and corrections suggested by Greycells were taken into account and the “dossiers” accordingly amended.
g) A Least Developed Country (LDC) has recently appointed a Representative to International organizations in Geneva. Greycells is in contact with the Ambassador to assist him in establishing his office, familiarization with the major issues dealt with by the various organizations and participation in policy debates of interest to his country.
13. The Committee has also discussed cooperation possibilities with senior management of international organizations which have shown interest in the activities of Greycells (UNDP, UNCTAD). It has held conversations as well with some local institutions (Université Ouvrière de Genève, Fondation pour Genève) and with other associations (ARIS – Anti-racism Information Service, AIACE - Association Internationale des Anciens des Communautés Européennes).
14. In summary, it can be said that the initial administrative phase of Greycells’ establishment has been completed. However, on the substantive side there is a long way to go. The Committee has been able to respond to some requests for assistance, but they were of a limited scope. No major project has been undertaken either in Geneva or in the field. As stated in the Association’s recent roundtable, it is now time to move forward into a more dynamic phase, which should more fully involve all members. It is necessary to expand the membership base – both in the number of members willing to give their time and in the diversity of their competencies. And it is necessary to engage in outreach to potential “clients”.
15. Greycells was thought of as a platform from which retired international civil servants willing to contribute to the global development effort would be able to make their experience and expertise available to the international community. The platform is now ready to operate.
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