Principles of the Conscientized International Expert
political correctness in international initiatives
- / -
Caveat lector. Printed in Transnational Associations,
1979, 11, pp. 543-545 [PDF version]
1. Participant representativity: I will only participate in meetings
or projects in which the distribution of participants (a) by age,
(b) by creed, (c) by race, (d) by ideology and (e)
by nationality, reflects, in each case (within say 15 %) that for
the world population, or at least for that sub-set with which the project
Any imbalance toward a predominance of one age-group, creed, race,
ideology, or nationality, or any coalition thereof, runs a considerable
risk of restricting the validity of any conclusions (to the degree of that
imbalance) for a society in which the interests of each are improperly
guaranteed and protected be the others.
2. Sexism: l will only participate in meetings or projects in
which the difference in the numbers of males or females is not greater
than (say) 15 %.
Any imbalance runs a considerable risk of restricting the validity
of any conclusions (to the degree of that imbalance) for a society composed
of approximately equal numbers of each sex. The dominance of one perspective
is not tolerable.
3. Discipline representation: l will only participate in meetings
or projects in which the disciplines represented reflect the complete spectrum
of those which consider that the topic under discussion is related to their
concerns and current activities.
In a society bedevilled by complex problems it cannot be expected
that any international issue can be appropriately and responsibly discussed
in the absence of the insight of disciplines which may provide clues to
useful action. It is intolerable that discussion should be dominated by
views emerging from one discipline or group of disciplines. It has been
remarked that few of the 1800 disciplines would acknowledge that their
expertise is not relevant to any complex problem.
4. Qualifications: I will only participate in meetings or projects
in which special care is taken to ensure that those participating are appropriately
qualified to guarantee that the discussion and conclusions are of quality
commensurate with the best available in institutions around the world and
are not influenced by superficial considerations.
The participation of people who have devoted insufficient attention
to the topic under discussion, as recognised by their peers, is irresponsible.
If the project is to be of any significance, every effort must be made
to protect the project from inappropriate inputs and inadequate insight
5. Community representation: I will only participate in meetings
or projects in which representatives of the community to be affected participate
are present on an equal footing with outside experts.
It is intolerable, in the light of past experiences of the misuse
of expertise, that "experts" should make plans for a community without
involving those to be affected right from the start. In doing so, care
should be taken to ensure that all factions and minority groups are appropriately
and genuinely represented at that level.
6. Economic and social equality: l will not participate in meetings
or projects in which participants are supposed to participate as equals
but in which their annual salaries (including financial privileges) differ
by a significant amount (e.g. 15 %).
It is unreasonable to engage in projects to reduce economic and social
inequalities when the participants in such projects constitute a living
and unself-critical demonstration of such inequalities.
7. Family participation: l will only participate in meetings
or projects in which arrangements are made to facilitate the presence and
participation of family members including children.
It is unrealistic to expect that a balanced discussion concerning
the problems and future of any community can be achieved when persons representing
important dimensions of that community are excluded or allocated a purely
decorative role. This procedure further reinforces adult arrogance (usually
male) and does much to perpetuate the unenlightened sterility of such proceedings.
It constitutes a demonstration of the insidious dynamics whose prevalence
in society is of so much concern. And, in so far as it is towards improving
the world in which children will have to live, it is only natural that
such meetings should be more responsive to childrens' views of the future
-- rather than designing their world with eyes blinkered by the views and
methods of the preceding generation.
8. Location: I will not participate in meetings or projects based
in cities to which a disproportionate percentage of resources is already
allocated at the expense of other locations whose underprivileged condition
is consequently aggravated.
It is intolerable that projects to reduce the unequal allocation
of resources should constitute a basic demonstration of the mentality which
reinforces the continuation of such practices.
9. Transportation: I will only participate in meetings or projects
which do not require use of vehicles constructed by aerospace and automotive
enterprises intimately associated with the manufacture of arms and military
Such enterprises are at the heart of the military-industrial complex
and contribute directly to the arms race, to misallocation of resources,
and the aggravation of world problems. Each time such vehicles are used
to transport participants the position of such enterprises within the international
system is reinforced
10. Handicapped: I will only participate in meetings or projects
which make provision for the participation on an equal footing of those
who may be physically handicapped, whether confined to wheel chairs, blind,
deaf or with a speech impediment.
A physical handicap should not constitute an excuse for disqualifying
a participant, particularly when this is reinforced by the design of the
conference building, furniture, toilet and audio-visual facilities, and
the arrangements made for transport and accommodation. This is especially
the case when the project in concerned with problems which may give rise
to the handicap by which the person is afflicted and to which that person
is uniquely qualified to bear witness.
11. Equipment: I will only participate in meetings or projects
which do not make use of technical equipment (e.g. typewriters, computers,
telephones, desk calculators, interpretation equipment, etc.) manufactured
or maintained by multinational enterprises.
Aside from making use of scarce resources, and displacing individuals
from jobs, such products are often partly manufactured in developing countries
under exploitative labour arrangements and are then sold under monopolistic
12. Ergonomic factors: I will only participate in meetings or
projects which involve use of furniture and time schedules which respect
the physiological and psychological needs of participants (as determined
by such disciplines as ergonomics).
It is unreasonable to expect a group to generate useful results for
a wider society when its members do violence to their posture, health and
general well-being by the manner is which they are obliged to work. Furthermore,
solutions to this difficulty should reflect the needs of individuals from
cultures where both the actual furniture and the organization and pace
of interpersonal interaction may be very different
13. Holidays: I will only participate in meetings or projects
which respect the national holidays (independence days, etc.) of the countries
of the world and the weekly and other holy days of the religions of the
It is insulting to a people or a creed to arrange international meeting
or project schedules in terms of the practices in one nation or culture
whilst ignoring the practice in another which maybe less favourably represented.
This can only aggravate international misunderstanding as well as reinforce
the insensitivity of those from dominant nations and cultures.
14. Forms of address: I will only participate in meetings or
projects which take account of the appropri ate forms of greeting and address
to which people from different cultures are accustomed.
It is insensitive and possibly insulting, for example, to use the
first (or given) name of a person who does not wish to be automatically
coopted into the western fraternity which favours this practice.
15. Group size: I will only participate in meetings or projects
which call for interaction in groups in numbers not significantly greater
than the "critical group size", namely 7-12 participants.
Groups of larger size inhibit the freedom of expression of the less
articulate and less aggressive participants whose views may well be both
specially relevant and less distorted by needs for personal aggrandisement
Larger groups are generally less effective in this mode of operation and
therefore absorb considerable person-hours when those involved could better
employ their attention on other activities.
16. Participant expression: I will not participate in meetings
or projects in which the speaking is done mainly by a small clique (representing
less than 30 % of the participants) whilst the remainder, for whatever
reason, seldom speak, if at all.
This is an extremely inefficient use of human resources in which
many travel long distances without having the opportunity to express their
views and priorities. The more aggressive individuals or those speaking
the congress "jargon ,'fluently, dominate such events which thus stand
as models of the oppressive communication practices in the wider society.
Project environment and resource use
17. Resource conservation: I will only participate in
meetings or projects which make deliberate efforts to counter the wastage
of natural resources normally associated with such activities.
It is only appropriate that an international project should make
use of recycled paper and reusable envelopes, for example.
18. Meeting budget: I will only participate in meetings or projects
in which the total budget for the preparatory meetings (including travel,
accommodation, and cost of work lost) does not exceed a reasonable percentage
(say 33 %) of the total annual operational budget (i.e. excluding administrative
overheads) of the project.
It is counter-productive to assemble people to engage in projects
whose operational budgets are of the same order of magnitude as the cost
of their preparatory meetings, and to waste time discussing the details
and viability of such budgets.
19. Smoking: I will only participate in meetings or projects
in which smoking in any form is not tolerated.
Smoking fouls the air. It is inconsiderate of non-smoking participants,
is bad for the health of smokers and non-smokers, and reinforces the attitudes
which ensure continued environmental pollution. It is especially inappropriate
in meetings about environmental questions.
20. Alcohol consumption: I will only participate in meetings
or projects enlivened by receptions, banquets or entertainment in which
alcoholic beverages are not tolerated.
Alcohol dulls the mental faculties, diminishing the value of participant
contributions and thus of the exercise. In addition, it is against the
principles of some major cultures and therefore offensive to them. It constitutes
a significant waste of scarce resources at a time when budgetary restrictions
are increasing and many viable projects go unfunded. Furthermore, it is
unseemly that participants should engage in such activity, which often
amounts to conspicuous overconsumption, at a time when two-thirds of the
world's population is short of food or starving.
21. Meat consumption: I will only participate in meetings or
projects in which the meals provided, available or recommended, do not
involve consumption of animal flesh.
Such consumption is offensive to the principles of some cultures
and as such is not appropriate to an international project. Delegation
of the (often painful) slaughter of such animals, by people who find it
distasteful and yet hope to benefit thereby, reinforces the split-minded
attitude whereby the slaughter of human beings is tolerated by those who
would supposedly prefer not to engage in it themselves. Further, it is
wasteful of agricultural land which could be more efficiently used to produce
food for the undernourished two-thirds of the world. The conspicuous waste
associated with such consumption (during intergovernmental meetings, for
example) is often insulting those whom the project is supposed to benefit
22. Energy use: I will not participate in meetings or projects
in which the use of energy (for air conditioning, central heating, lighting,
etc.) is inconsistent with the internationally recognised need to conserve
It is intolerable to be associated with projects which are concerned
in some way with energy-related issues and yet fail to take account of
international recommendations on these matters in connection with their
23. Languages: I will only participate in meetings or projects
in which arrangements are made for interpretation of discussions into and
from the working home languages of all the participants, and in which equivalent
arrangements are made for the working documents
It is intolerable that participants from countries which are already
underprivileged in many respects should be obliged to interact using the
languages of those countries which have contributed most to maintaining
their current state.
24. Practical action: I will only participate in meetings or
projects which do not confine their activity to verbal exchanges of ideas
but ensure a significant convergence on practical action or real-world
Debate is all too easily a substitute for action. The needed thinking
has largely been done, but seldom has any impact on the problems - and
that is the problem. New angels continue to be discovered on the
pinheads of scholastic discourse.
25. Observer detachment: I will only participate in meetings
or projects in which it is not expected that I should take up an attitude
as a detached observer, unaffected and uninvolved in the societies and
issues on which I am supposed to advise.
Such detachment suggests a degree of objectivity which does not correspond
to the reality of the situation. At the same time, it establishes an artificial
distance from the issues which protects me from any consequences of my
actions as well as reducing the credibility of my advice in the eyes of
those who should supposedly act upon it.
26. Community dialogue: I will only participate in projects requiring
dialogue with those to be affected by the project if the period of dialogue
is extended to a point at which the community in question no longer views
those coming from outside as a source of interference in their internal
It is intolerable that experts should undertake hit-and-run investigations
of communities. It is well-known that it takes much time for true dialogue
to emerge in such situations. It is characteristic of such communities
that people who have lived with them for several decades are considered
as "foreigners" and not to be wholly trusted. To be worthwhile, as much
time as is necessary must be spent with the community in question.
27. Participant interaction: I will not participate in meetings
or projects in which the messages between participants must necessarily
pass via some central group which, armed with such excuses as "time", "relevance",
"mailing costs", etc., regulate or inhibit such communication.
Such communication patterns do violence to the interests which participant
factions share, and impede the articulation of those interests, to the
advantage of the controlling group. Again it is precisely such practices
which reinforce inequalities to which the group should be sensitive and
as such erodes its credibility as an instigator of meaningful change.
In view of the interaction between the constraints noted above, it
is clearly improbable that any meeting or project will come up to these
standards and must therefore necessarily aggravate existing problems in
attempting so inappropriately to alleviate them.
I am therefore -- through no fault of my own -- unable to act meaningfully
in terms of the values of the international community, which are of course
I will therefore refrain from action until events evolve to permit me
to act in a manner consistent with these principles. By that time, however,
as a continually developing human being, I hope that my principles and
standards would have been even further refined
I can be contacted by courier pigeon, provided that someone with similar
values is sent to fetch the pigeon.