AOA: Formation & Principles

In April 1996 Pakistan played host to the International Conference of Asian Ombudsmen wherein 40 delegates from 18 countries unanimously decided to form the Asian Ombudsman Association (AOA). The guiding principles as decided in the conference were:

(1)     The Association shall be non-political, democratic and professional.

(2)     A Member shall be a person, whether titled Ombudsman, Parliamentary Commissioner, Minister of Supervision, Commissioner for Administrative Complaints, or, with other designation who has been appointed or elected according to the constitution or law of the country concerned and whose role includes the following characteristics:

(a)     to investigate grievance of any person or body of persons concerning any decision or any act done or omitted by any administrative authority over which jurisdiction exists; and

(b)     to make recommendations to authorities under jurisdiction.

(3)     The Association’s boundaries are not fixed but aim of the Association is to bring together Ombudsmen whose constitutional environment has sufficient similarities to make understandable collegiality, coordinating a meaningful and shared experience.

(4)     Meeting of the Asian Ombudsman Association will generally be held annually and the Ombudsman of the host country will sit as Chairman.

(5)     Besides members of the AOA, observers, i.e. persons interested in Ombudsman or like function, may be invited.

(6)     The objectives of the Association shall be:

(a)     to promote professionalism in discharging the role as Ombudsman;

(b)     to facilitate exchange of information that assists in resolution of problems which Ombudsmen in Asia are confronted with; and

(c)     to promote the aims and concepts of Ombudsmanship in Asia, including assistance in the establishment of new jurisdictions and assistance to newly appointed Ombudsmen.

Bye-Laws Committee: Deliberations and Drafts
2.         The Asian Ombudsman Association elected a Preparatory Committee for drafting of Bye-Laws. The Ombudsman of Pakistan was elected as its Convenor/Chairman and the Ombudsmen of China, Hong Kong (China), Korea, Sri Lanka and Iran as Members. The draft Bye-Laws were prepared by the Ombudsman of Pakistan and circulated among all the Members. The Ombudsman of Sri Lanka known as Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Ombudsman of Hong Kong (China) offered their comments whereas the Chief Ombudsman of Korea and the President of General Inspectorate Organization of Iran proposed new draft Bye-Laws. A set of Rules was also proposed by the Ombudsman of Hong Kong. Comments so made and the proposals offered were circulated among all the Members of the Preparatory Committee.

3.         During the Second Annual Conference of the Asian Ombudsman Association held in Seoul, Korea in March, 1997, the business of preparation of Bye-Laws was taken up and Mr. Justice Abdul Shakurul Salam, Ombudsman of Pakistan and Convenor/Chairman of the Preparatory Committee extended warm welcome to the participating members and apprised them of the draft proposed by Pakistan, incorporating the views of Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, as well as those of Korea and Iran. However, it was pointed out that one of the founding Members of the AOA and the Member of the Preparatory Committee, viz Vice Minister of Supervision, China was not present nor his views were available. So it was considered inappropriate to present detailed Draft of the Bye-Laws of the Association without any input or views from the Peoples Republic of China. He observed that the functions of the AOA could be carried out effectively with the aim and objective of the AOA as enunciated in the First Asian Ombudsman Conference held in Pakistan. Professor Bertram Bastiampillai (Sri Lanka) shared the views that there was no immediate need of the proposed Bye-Laws. Mr. Andrew So (Hong Kong-China) also welcomed the idea and highlighted that based on the said guidelines they could work effectively and efficiently. Mr. Walliullah Khobreh (Iran) emphasised that composition of the six Members should not be changed and the Bye-Laws Committee might continue with the drafting of Bye-Laws under the Chairmanship of the Ombudsman of Pakistan. The Convenor/Chairman thereafter concluded that the Committee should continue to consider the Bye-Laws which would be ready before 1998 Conference to be held in Macau. Thus the matter of Bye-Laws was deferred.

Islamabad Moot: Participation & Deliberations
4.         Mr. Justice Abdul Shakurul Salam, the Convenor/Chairman, after consultation with the Members of the Preparatory Committee, convened its meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan from 10-11 November, 1997 and invitations were accordingly extended to China, Iran, Sri Lanka, Korea and Hong Kong (China). All consented to participate except the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration of Sri Lanka, who had already communicated twice his suggestions for incorporation in the proposed Bye-Laws. In the meanwhile, the Ombudsman of Hong Kong (China), framed a set of Rules for Asian Ombudsman Association. So, it necessitated to consolidate the attempted versions for their analysis and comparison. A collection of propositions and comments, containing comprehensive draft for discussion, suggested Bye-Laws and Rules by Korea, Iran and Hong Kong (China) respectively as well as views expressed thereupon were compiled in the form of booklet and circulated among the intending participants of the scheduled meeting.

5.         The following delegates from the Member countries participated:

(1)   CHINA

(a)     H. E. Mr. He Yong, Vice Minister of Supervision.

(b)     Mr. He Enlong, Director General.

(c)     Ms. Wang Lili, Director General.

(d)     Mr. Qiang Weidong, Deputy Director General.

(e)     Mr. Pan Jiahua, Deputy Director General.

(f)      Mr. Peng Wenyao, Deputy Director General,

(g)     Mr. Shi Xiangming, Director.

(h)     Mr. Yao Jing, Interpreter.

(2)   HONG KONG (CHINA)

(a)     Mr. Kwok Wing Andrew So, Ombudsman.

(3)   IRAN

(a)     Mr. Walliullah Khobreh, Deputy for Political and Judicial Affairs.

(b)     Mr. Ahmed Toyserkani, Deputy for Producing Affairs.

(c)     Mr. Jalal Ghamous.

(d)     Mr. Jawad Kazmi

(4)   KOREA

(a)     H. E. Mr. Choi Im-Kyu, Secretary General, Ombudsman’s Office.

(b)     Mr. Kwon Young Chul, Legal Affairs Officer.

(c)     Mr. Tai Young CHO, Counsellor.

(5)   PAKISTAN

(a)     Mr. Justice Abdul Shakurul Salam, Ombudsman of Pakistan.

(b) Brig. Zulfiqar Ahmad Khan (Retd), Secretary.

(c)     Mr. Ehsanul Haq, Adviser.

(d) Mr. Muhammad Hanif, Director General.

(e)     Mr. Ross Masood, Deputy Legal Adviser.

6.         The participants called on the President of Pakistan, Mr. Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, who wished success in the finalization of the Bye-Laws and for bright future for the Association. Mr. Illahi Buksh Soomro, Speaker National Assembly, hosted lunch in honour of the participants of the Meeting. The delegates also called on Mr. Khalid Anwar, Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights.

7.         Mr. Justice Abdul Shakurul Salam, Ombudsman of Pakistan and Convenor/ Chairman of the Bye-Laws Preparatory Committee invited H.E. Mr. He Yong, Vice Minister of Supervision, People’s Republic of China, to open the debate. The latter expressed thanks and appreciated Pakistan for effective arrangements of the meeting and playing a leading role in sponsoring and establishing the Asian Ombudsman Association (AOA). He further observed that the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee had upheld justice and adhered to principles and the same had won him respect from all the Member countries. The Chinese Vice Minister stressed that Asian Ombudsman Association should be a regional organization, independent and professional in full. The objectives of the Association should be to exchange experiences, strengthen cooperation and promote friendship between all the Ombudsmen and like office holders in Asia. He agreed in principle to the draft Bye-Laws prepared in consultation with other members by Pakistan.

8.         Mr. Andrew So, Ombudsman of Hong Kong (China) highlighted the requirement of certain Asian Ombudsman Association’s principles to be laid down, especially in line with the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI). In case the principles were approved, simple rules could be prepared to ensure independence and autonomous structure of the Asian Ombudsman Association.

9.         Mr. Walliullah Khobreh, Deputy for General Inspectorate Organization, Iran expressed that the principles had already been discussed in the First Conference in April 1996. He enunciated his country’s agreement to most of the provisions of the draft Bye-Laws and proposed to examine all these articles so that differences, if any, could be sorted out.

10.       Mr. Choi Im-Kyu, Secretary General, Ombudsman of Korea suggested that Bye-Laws of AOA should be consistent with those of IOI since the basic objectives of both the organizations was development of Ombudsmanship. He expressed the views that we should concentrate on principles on the basis of which Bye-Laws could be finalized in the next meeting to be held in Macau in 1998.

Draft Bye-Laws
11.       After general remarks, the delegates discussed all the articles and provisions suggested in the comprehensive draft Bye-Laws. After full debate the following Bye-Laws were unanimously agreed for adoption by the Asian Ombudsman Association:

1.   Name
The Association shall be called “Asian Ombudsman Association”. If the ombudsman is busy and cannot see you, you can play slots at Slotsguide as you wait for the ombudsman. This will help you kill time.

2.   Headquarters
The Headquarters of the Association shall be located at Islamabad, Pakistan. However, a member in host country/region, where the annual general meeting of the Association is held, may establish office for the purpose.

3.   Association’s Insignia
The Association’s insignia shall be as annex-I.

4.   Objectives
(1)     The Association shall be independent, non-political, democratic and professional body.

(2)     It is formed for the following objectives:

(a)     To promote the concepts of Ombudsmanship and to encourage its development in Asia.

(b)     To develop professionalism in discharge of the functions as Ombudsman.

(c)     To encourage and support study and research regarding the institution of Ombudsman.

(d)     To sponsor training and educational programmes for the institutions of Ombudsman in the region.

(e)     To provide scholarships, fellowships, grants and other types of financial support to individuals for study relating to the institution of the Ombudsman.

(f)      To collect, store, disseminate information and research data about the institution of Ombudsman.

(g)     To facilitate exchange of information and experiences among the Ombudsmen of the region.

(h)     To plan, arrange and supervise periodic conferences of the Ombudsmen of the Asian countries/regions.

(i)      To undertake such other matters necessary to further the above objectives of the Association.

5.   Membership
The Association shall comprise of — Voting Members, Associate Members, Honorary Life Members and Individual Members.

(1)     Voting Members
Voting Member shall be a person holding the office of Ombudsman, Parliamentary Commissioner, Minister of Supervision, Commissioner for Administrative Complaints or the head of any office or organisation known by any designation who has been appointed or elected according to the constitution or law of the country/region and whose role includes the following characteristics:

(a)     to investigate the grievance of any person or body of persons concerning any decision or recommendation made or any act committed or omitted by any administrative authority over which the jurisdiction exists;

(b)     to make recommendations to authorities under the jurisdiction;

(c)     to discharge functions; independent of the organisations over which jurisdiction is held; and

(d)     to report to the Head of State, Government or the Legislature the results of activities or on any matter arising from an investigation.

(2)     Associate Members
Persons or head of Agencies interested in or involved in Ombudsman like activities who do not qualify as voting members, for example universities, hospitals, prisons and press etc.

(3)     Honorary Life Members
Honorary Life Membership may be conferred by the Board of Directors from persons who have made outstanding contribution to the Ombudsman ethos or functions.

(4)     Individual Members
The Association may allow any individual to become a member who has shown interest through writings, research or otherwise in the concept of Ombudsmanship and whose Membership shall advance the objectives of the Association.

(5)     Acceptance
The General Assembly in the case of a Voting Member and the Board of Directors in the case of other types of Members shall decide about the Membership. In case of dispute or objection to the decision of the Board of Directors, the applicant shall have the right of appeal to the General Assembly, whose decision shall be ratified by consensus of voting members.

(6)     Rights and Obligations
(a)     Besides the founding members of the Association who have a right of vote, others elected as members shall have a right of vote, subject to the condition that member(s) from a country shall have one vote.

(b)     Any member may request the Board of Directors to consider any matter relating to the Association or any of its body.

(c)     The Associate, Honorary, and Individual members may participate but shall have no right of vote in the General Assembly.

(d)     All members are entitled to and obliged to do every thing in their power to promote the aims of the Association and to observe its statutes and resolutions.

(7)     Cancellation
The General Assembly shall be entitled to cancel the Membership by two-third majority when a member has:

(a) violated the statutes of the Association; or

(b) damaged its reputation; or

(c) not fulfilled the conditions set down for membership; or

(d) not cleared the membership dues after receiving three written notices.

(8)     Withdrawal
Any Member may withdraw from the Association at any time by notifying ninety days in advance.

(9)     Observers
Persons interested in Ombudsmanship or similar functions being performed by other bodies may be invited as Observers.

6.   General Assembly
(1)     The General Assembly shall consist of the voting members.

(2)     The General Assembly shall be called once a year by the President. An extraordinary General Assembly shall be convened by the President when important decisions have to be made, or when at least one-fifth of the voting members request and submit a written agenda within one month.

(3)     The General Assembly shall be convened by sending written notices at least thirty days prior to the schedule and communicating the proposed agenda to the members.

(4)     The General Assembly shall have the right:

(a) to accept voting membership;

(b) to elect the members of the Board of Directors and one auditor;

(c) to fix the membership dues;

(d) to pass amendment in statute and basic organisational issues;

(e) to confer special honours on deserving persons;

(f) to approve reports of the Board of Directors and the auditor; and

(g) to decide venue of the next meeting of the members.

(5)     The General Assembly shall be deemed to have a quorum when at least half of the voting members are present. All resolutions of the General Assembly shall require a simple majority of the voting members present. However, for adopting a resolution on matters contained in items (d) above, a two-third majority of the voting members shall be necessary.

(6)     The General Assembly shall be chaired by the President or in his absence by the Vice-President and by the member who is organising the conference. In case of election of the President or the entire Board of Directors, the senior most member present in office shall preside.

7.   Board Of Directors
(1)     The Board of Directors shall consist of:

(a)     The President;

(b)     The Vice-President;

(c)     The Secretary;

(d)     The Treasurer; and

(e)     Five voting members.

(2)     The Board of Directors shall be elected by the General Assembly, for a term of two years, but shall remain in office until the new Board of Directors has been elected. The Board of Directors shall be entitled to co-opt members.

(3)     The Board may decide matters by circulation. The place of meeting (if any) shall be decided by the President in consultation with other members of the Board.

(4)     Resolutions by the Board of Directors shall be adopted by majority vote. In the event of a tie, the President shall cast the deciding vote.

(5)     Directors shall not receive any remuneration of their services, but by resolution of the Board, expenses may be allowed for their attendance at annual or special meetings of the Board.

(6)     Any Director who ceases to represent the office of the Ombudsman shall cease to be a member of the Board of Directors but his successor shall hold office for the remaining term of the retiring Director.

Responsibilities
(7)     All matters in furtherance of the objectives of the Association including financial, not reserved for the General Assembly as set out in para 6(4)(a) to (g) shall be dealt with by the Board of Directors.

(8)     The President shall represent the Association, convene the meetings of the Board of Directors and act as Chairman of meetings.

(9)     If the President is absent or otherwise prevented, he shall authorise any other Director to act on his behalf. The President shall be authorised to sign together with the treasurer all financial matters.

8.   Secretariat
(1)     The Secretariat shall consist of the President, the Vice President, the Secretary and the Treasurer and shall carry on all functions entrusted by the Board of Directors.

(2)     The auditor, selected for two years from amongst the voting members, shall be responsible for examining the financial management of the Association and submitting annually a written report to the General Assembly.

9.   Miscellaneous
In case of difficulties in giving effect to provisions of this Statute or interpretation of any clause thereof, the matter shall be referred to the President who may decide it, or refer it to the Board of Directors, or the General Assembly according to the nature and gravity of the matter. Decision of the President may be reviewed by the Board of Directors and their’s by the General Assembly.

(Resolution passed is at annex-II.

Closure
12.       In the concluding session the delegates thanked the Chair. Justice (Rtd) Abdul Shakurul Salam, Ombudsman of Pakistan gratefully acknowledged the trouble taken by the delegations to come from far off places to participate in the Preparatory Committee meeting and expressed his sincere gratitude to the delegates for their efforts and dedication in finalization of the proposals. He appreciated the friendship and cooperation in achieving unanimity. He apologized for any inconvenience which might have been caused to the delegates in spite of the best efforts. In the end he profusely thanked the participants and wished their safe return.

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