The General Assembly of the World Federation of the Deaf met on 16-17 July 2011 in Durban, South Africa to consider extraordinary motions on three subjects: the location of the WFD archives in 1951-1987, Honorary Presidency to the Italian Deaf Association (ENS) in perpetuity and an amendment to the preamble of the WFD statutes. These proposals are related to a legal agreement that was signed between the WFD and ENS in June 2010.
WFD Honorary President Liisa Kauppinen said at the General Assembly: “We have discussed the archives with a professional historian/archive specialist. He assured that it is possible to document and catalogue archives located in several sites in such a way that anyone from the WFD can access them as long as the electronic retrieval system is standardized.” The General Assembly voted by majority that the archives will be digitalised, retrievable through internet, and that the WFD will establish a committee to research how to implement this new policy.
A clear majority voted against the second motion which proposed the Honorary Presidency to ENS in perpetuity. Many delegates highlighted that ENS was not the only national deaf association involved in the establishment of the WFD in Rome in 1951 and that it should therefore not receive any special treatment. It was also not clear to all why an honorary position should be granted to an association instead of an individual. The WFD General Secretariat was requested to continue negotiations with ENS about granting a plaque to the Italian Deaf Association as recognition for their contribution in 1951.
The Italian Deaf Association insisted that the preamble (renamed ” introductory statement” in the Durban amendment) should include the wording “established in Rome in 1951”. 15 delegates voted for keeping the old wording of the preamble and adding information on the founding year and place; 32 were in favour of deleting the whole paragraph, except for the phrase “Established in Rome in 1951”. 19 delegates wanted no changes whatsoever and one voted for the elimination of the whole introductory statement. Thus the introductory statement of the WFD statutes will be considerably shorter than was initially proposed to the General Assembly.
Both ENS and the WFD stated their willingness to move forward and make a fresh start: “We accept that there have been issues and that we have caused trouble”, stated the Italian delegation. WFD President Markku Jokinen declared that the WFD doesn’t want any more tension or struggle between the two organisations. “You are important to us and we respect your work. Let’s put the past behind us and look to the future without conflicts”, President Jokinen concluded.