1 Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR)
1.1 The Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR) is an international collaboration of organisations active on issues of academic freedom and education, and committed to promoting understanding, of and respect for, the values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
1.2 NEAR aims to promote and protect academic freedom and freedoms of assembly, thought opinion and expression. It seeks to defend the human rights of those in the education sector, including scholars, teachers, students, administrators and other staff.
2.1 Participation in NEAR is open to independent, non-governmental organizations and individuals who have interests that relate to the promotion of academic freedom and/or human rights in education. There are three levels of membership namely: Full Members, Affiliates and Individual Supporters. Details of these levels appear below.
2.2 Full Members of NEAR:
a. Have the right to provide case alerts to NEAR which will be transmitted by NEAR on its website and through e-mail, subject to its editorial policy guidelines.
b. Can contribute to on-line discussions of academic freedom issues and campaigns.
c. Will be invited to participate in NEAR annual conferences, and eventually to apply for travel grants for this purpose.
d. Can vote on all NEAR business, including the admission of new members.
e. Are eligible to be elected to Council.
Full membership is open only to non-governmental organizations (NGO’s). NEAR will accept organizations as NGOs by the degree of their independence and the purpose of their mandates. To become a full member of NEAR and retain its membership, an organization must establish that any government funding does not in any way influence the independence of the organization, particularly its willingness to monitor and be critical, if necessary, of any actions of the government providing funding. A guideline would be for an organization not to receive more than 25% of its total funding from any one government.
When applying, an organization must supply documentation to NEAR of its governing structure; the organization's mandate and goals; a history of its work in academic freedom and human rights; an indication of its capability to act as an independent monitor on freedom of expression; and, upon request, relevant financial information.
In the future full members will elect a Council every two years. Full members have the right to attend Council meetings and comment on Council business. Full members have the right to send resolutions to the Council concerning policy issues and other matters. The Council must consider the resolutions sent to it by its membership. Members have the right to send a decision of Council back to Council for consideration. By a two-thirds vote, members have the right to reject, alter or replace a Council decision.
NEAR annual conferences will include a periodic member review of NEAR Governance.
In the future full members will be charged a small annual subscription fee based on their annual economic turnover.
2.3 NEAR Affiliates
Interested organizations without independent monitoring or campaigning capability may instead choose to apply as NEAR affiliates. Affiliates will receive e-mailed information and alerts, invitations to the annual conference, and access to the newsgroup. They will not, however, have the right to submit alerts or vote on NEAR business. There is currently no subscription fee for affiliation.
2.4 Individual Supporters
Individual supporters may also participate in NEAR, they will receive e-mailed information and alerts, invitations to the annual conference, and access to the newsgroup. They will not, however, have the right to submit alerts or vote on NEAR business. There is no subscription fee for individual supporters.
2.5 No public positions will be taken in the name of NEAR. NEAR may facilitate its member organisations taking joint positions. Policies and positions adopted by one member, or by several members acting together, does not constitute endorsement by NEAR
The NEAR Annual General Meeting is open to members and invited guests and observers. However, at the time that the agenda is approved, the chair will indicate which periods of the meeting will be open only to full members for discussion of strictly NEAR matters, such as membership applications. At that time, full members will be given the opportunity to identify other subjects that they wish discussed with only full NEAR members in attendance.
The NEAR Council, in consultation with other Full Members, maintains the right to dismiss any member, affiliate or individual supporter should they not comply with NEAR governance and policy guidelines.
3.1 NEAR supports four basic areas of activity:
a) Building Links:
NEAR's primary activity is to build links between and among organisations on issues of academic freedom and human rights. This includes assisting academic refugees, particularly those forced to flee because of abuses to their academic freedom. By building these links, NEAR strengthens the capacity of all its participants to reach their goals.
Through the Clearing House, NEAR offers participants a source of current, accurate and reliable information on issues covered by NEAR.
c)Experience and Expertise:
NEAR participants also share valuable experience and expertise, including knowledge of country conditions, advocacy techniques, channels for communication, or other questions relevant to Network goals.
Depending upon interest, NEAR participants may develop other joint projects, iincluding, for example, education or training conferences, reporting or lobbying activities and collaborative funding or exchange initiatives.
3.2 NEAR is not a substitute for, nor will it replace, any existing organizations. NEAR
3.3 NEAR may also facilitate actions in various ways, including:
a)by circulating proposals amongst members
b)by bringing people together to coordinate actions
c)by providing organizational support if available
3.4 Policies and positions adopted by one member, or by several members acting together, does not constitute endorsement by NEAR.
3.5 A major element of the work of NEAR will be to obtain as greater global coverage as possible. As the Network develops a great emphasis will be to extend the activities of NEAR beyond North America and Europe to the Southern Hemisphere and to cover those in the developing countries where there are special difficulties associated with academic freedom and human rights.
4 NEAR Clearing House Editorial Guidelines
4.1 The objective of the NEAR Clearing House is to facilitate the dissemination of information to defend and promote academic freedom and the fundamental human rights of those in the education sector. The full details of the purpose and intent of the Clearing House are contained in the Mandate to be considered for ratification at the inaugural meeting held in Paris in May 2001 It is collaboration of independent participants, enabling interested bodies to work together more efficiently and effectively toward this goal.
4.2 The core service of NEAR Clearing House is the operation of an Action Alert Network. Also planned is the publication of a Communiqu? (see below).
4.3 The Clearing House will disseminate to members and to the world public, external information originated by members in its original form. For example calendar notices, case updates or requests for assistance as well as efficient means of widely circulating information about their own activities relating to academic freedom. To this end, the Clearing House will design and develop Internet site(s) and/or other electronic systems (e.g. listservers) to be placed at the service of both members and the public.
4.4 The Clearing House will also maintain systems for the circulation of internal information for the use of its members and Council. This will be undertaken as and when resources are available as the Network develops.
5 Submission and Transmission of Information
5.1 Information Providers:
With the exception of certain elements of information in the NEAR Mandate, only information originated by NEAR members will be circulated externally.
5.2 Information Receivers:
a) NEAR members - entitled to receive internal and external information.
b) NEAR Council members - entitled to receive NEAR Council information.
c) NEAR Clearing House Subscribers - entitled to receive external information as
d) General Public - may receive and/or access external information (by various
means including e-mail, mail, listserver, Internet site, etc.).
6 Levels of Information
6.1 Action Alerts:
These consist of urgent information (requiring rapid action) supplied by members which are clearly sourced and provided, as far as possible, in accordance with the Clearing House Action Guidelines (see above). Action Alert information will, if necessary, be processed, transcribed, edited and formatted by the Clearing House. Where possible, material should be sent to NEAR via e-mail, while staff will -where appropriate and resources permit - translate material to other languages (English, French or Spanish). Members are encouraged to provide NEAR with information for the systematic follow-up of alert cases.
6.2 The Action Alert Network will not carry information which advocates censorship or other constraints on academic freedom and human rights. The onus is placed on the originator to demonstrate in its text why a particular case or issue has academic freedom implications. NEAR has the right to determine that information may not be published due to legal or other reasons.
6.3 Less urgent public and other information originated by members (non-alert case analysis, letters of protest, reports, campaign information, announcements, notices of events, campaign information, government replies etc.) will be circulated to members and made available to the public by various means (e-mail, listserver autolist, Internet site, mail, etc.). NEAR is not obliged to circulate information not received via e-mail, unless otherwise processed for Alert.
6.4 NEAR will also provide and/or arrange archive facilities.
7 Information Guidelines
7.1 To the greatest degree possible, Members will submit information by e-mail.
7.2 All NEAR Members will undertake to forward follow-up information and updates as much as possible. NEAR will undertake to solicit such updates where possible. NEAR will make clear that the accuracy of information distributed is the sole responsibility of the originating Member.
7.3 It is not the role of the Clearing House to mediate in disputes between NEAR Members on the accuracy of information circulated. In the event that one NEAR Member feels that inaccurate information has been circulated, they should, in the first instance, contact the NEAR Member concerned. The Clearing House should also be notified. The NEAR Member who issued the original information can then issue a Correction (either Internal or External, or for inclusion in the Communiqu?). If there remains disagreement about the facts, the NEAR Member with differing information may of course issue their own version.
7.4 The NEAR Clearing House as facilitators of an information network will adhere to the principle of freedom of opinion and the free flow of information. Not all NEAR Clearing House Members will have exactly the same opinion on all areas of academic freedom and human rights.
8 Other Communications
8.1 As the Network develops the intention will be to produce a communiqu?. It is recogised that in the initial stages that it will not be possible for one to be established. However, the objective will be to establish one when the resources and size of the Network enables this to happen.
8.2 The Communiqu? will be the newsletter of the NEAR community. Its purpose will be to provide a digest of news about the world of academic freedom and human rights for use both within the Community and for the broadest possible circulation. NEAR will have editorial responsibility for the Communiqu?. All members will be committed to supplying the Clearing House with material for the Communiqu?. The Communiqu? will appear in English and as resources become available also in French and Spanish.
8.3 The content of the Communiqu? shall be as comprehensive as possible in terms of geographical and thematic treatment of free expression issues. As much as possible,
8.4 In any items carried in the Communiqu? on issues where there has been a recent difference of view, the NEAR Director should aim to present a balanced review of the different opinions being expressed. However, the NEAR Director is not obliged to present this as background every time reference is made to an issue known more generally to be contentious. Additionally, or alternatively groups may be encouraged to present their views in letters or as submissions to the Communiqu?.
9 Editorial Advisory Committee
9.1 An Editorial Advisory Committee comprising representatives from three NEAR members will be established. Their role will be to assist the Clearing House when necessary in implementing the Editorial Policy and be available to NEAR Members who have concerns or complaints about the Editorial Policy.
10 Council and Executive Committe
10.1 There will be transitional arrangements in place to deal with the establishment and
10.2 All projects of NEAR are the responsibility of the NEAR Council.
10.3 Normally Council members shall serve a term of four years, after the completion of which the member shall relinquish their position on Council. After a two-year leave, an individual may stand again for Council membership. In order to achieve continuity, a third of Council members should be elected every two years or whenever a Council meeting takes place. In electing new Council members, NEAR should strive to achieve geographical and professional balance.
10.4 Members of the NEAR Council are required to attend Council meetings or, as permitted, to submit absentee votes. A Council member will lose their position if a general meeting is missed unless Council decides otherwise after taking into account all the circumstances of that absence.
10.5 Members of the NEAR Council shall be responsible for the costs of participation in the work of the Council. Where this is not possible consideration may be given to how these costs can be met by NEAR. This will be exceptional and limited to organisations that have very limited funds.
10.6 The NEAR Council shall elect by a two-thirds vote one member from among its number to be the Chairperson of NEAR for the period of two years. The Chairperson will have the power to convene meetings that will be held after the first year and shall be responsible for ensuring the implementation of and follow-up to Council decisions and for chairing Council.
10.7 An Executive Committee shall be established to deal with matters that arise between Annual Meetings. It shall consider such action as is required concerning the development of NEAR and participate in the preparation of the agenda for the Annual Meeting. It shall consist of the Chairperson, the Director of NEAR, representatives of no more than three Council members and a representative nominated by the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics. One of the Executive Committee shall act as the Treasurer of NEAR. It shall report on such matters to Council by e-mail and seek their approval.
10.8 In between general meetings, the Executive Committee may nominate new general members for NEAR. Such nominations shall be communicated to Council by e-mail and, after due consultation, new members may be approved by an e-mail vote as per existing rules for election.
10.9 All member organizations of the NEAR Council will have one vote.
10.10 General membership in NEAR may be accepted by a two-thirds vote of the NEAR Council. The Executive Committee may accept membership between meetings.
10.11 Unless otherwise decided by the Council, there shall be a general meeting of the NEAR Council every two years. Policy decisions can be taken at general meetings or, in between meetings, by polling all members. A quorum for decision-making shall be two-thirds of the Council. Absentee votes shall be allowed in matters of membership, funding proposals and changes in governance. A failure by any Council member to attend a general meeting, or to send a proxy vote, shall be interpreted as an abstention.
10.12 Wherever possible, the NEAR Council will take decisions by consensus. Where votes are required, they shall be on the basis of a two-thirds vote unless otherwise specified.
10.13 An amendment to the articles of governance of NEAR must be made at a general meeting by a two-thirds vote. The proposed amendment shall be proposed and circulated not less than 60 days before the general meeting. An exception to this prior notice provision may be made at the general meeting by the unanimous vote of a quorum present.
10.14 The Director of NEAR will be seconded from Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (UK) and will be the responsible to the Executive Board and Council for the efficient discharge of duties connected with the Network's Governance and Operating Principles.
10.15 The Executive Committee has power to recommend to Council that a person, or persons, be nominated to be the Presidents of NEAR if they have undertaken distinguished work in the cause of academic freedom and human rights. The persons will have no formal duties connected with NEAR but may be invited to address a Council Meeting or other event hosted by NEAR.
11.1 Approaches will be made to Educational Foundations and other bodies, which in the view of the Executive Committee, will not raise any issues about the independence of NEAR or its ability to act. The Executive Committee will have the power to accept funding between Council Meetings on this basis subject to making reports to the next Council Meeting.
11.2 Subscriptions from Members to contribute to ongoing activities particularly the Clearing House will be considered at the launch meeting and be levied as agreed.
11.3 Additional funding will be sought to achieve involvement particularly from the Southern Hemisphere and from developing countries.
12 Changes to Governance
12.1 Revisions will be agreed at Council Meetings. The Governance will be reviewed in any event at the meeting of the Council after the first period of operation. Proposals for changes will, in the first instance, be considered by the Executive committee.
13 Legal Standing of the Network
13.1 There will be a separate company registered in the UK that shall be a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. The company shall have the legal responsibility for matters connected with the Network.