The Beginnings of Auroville International

In November 1981, a year after the Government of India had passed the Auroville (Emergency Provisions) Act, three Aurovilians, Dorothee Hach, Yusuf Kassim and Peter Anderschitz decided to make an extensive trip through Europe and call upon all of Auroville’s friends to see if their interaction with Auroville could be intensified. The trip cumulated in a conference in Auroc, Bergerac, a small place in the south of France. That there were high hopes for this meeting was indicated by letters of support received from the Auroville Cooperative [a predecessor of the Working Committee], from Sri Aurobindo’s Action Center in Boulder, Colorado, from the Instituto di Richerche Evolutive in Rome, and from Matagiri in New York.

In the meeting it was agreed that each group should have a legal structure, which should be recognized by Auroville as its official representative in a country. It could then approach the government and institutions in that country for help for Auroville. It should also try to obtain tax-exempt status, so that it could serve as channels for donations to Auroville. Some representatives were already in the process creating legal institutions. Spontaneously, these institutions came to be called ‘Auroville International Centres’. The meeting also agreed that henceforth meetings of Auroville International would be held every year, every time in a different country, which has happened ever since.

The Umbrella Organisation

Around November 1982, Dr. Kireet Joshi, then Educational Advisor to the Government of India and Special Secretary at the Ministry of Education, visited Paris. Kireet, who had been instrumental in creating the Auroville (Emergency Provisions) Act 1980, was briefed on the work of the various Auroville International Centres. He expressed the need to create an umbrella organization; a legal body of which all these Centres could be members and which in turn could apply for registration with international organizations such as the United Nations and UNESCO. In the months that followed the statutes of such an organization were drafted, discussed in Auroville and New Delhi and once again discussed in detail during a special Auroville International meeting in Paris in February, 1983. It became the main – and hotly debated – topic of the next Auroville International meeting in June 1983 in Laubach, Germany. The meeting felt that the final incorporation should not wait till Auroville had explicitly agreed on it, for very good contacts with UNESCO had meanwhile been established. Mr. M’Bow, the then Secretary General of UNESCO, was member of the Auroville International Advisory Council set up under the Auroville (Emergency Provisions) Act and the way seemed open for Auroville International’s registration with UNESCO. It was also pointed out that the Indian Government intended to promote a resolution on Auroville in UNESCO’s General Conference in autumn that year, in which the Auroville International Centres would be mentioned. The meeting then unanimously agreed that the registration should take place on August 15th, 1983.

A letter dated August 12, 1983, from the Auroville Cooperative to all Centres, concluded the matter. “The Auroville representatives to the Laubach meeting have returned. It was decided to have a last meeting on the subject. … We decided to simply look through the statutes, quietly, methodically, all together … we came then to that question “Why Auroville International? And what is the relation with Auroville?” … and the necessity became apparent for a legal international body giving form to the already existing body of people around the world, for which the name of Auroville is a hope. … We can say that on that day began the reality of Auroville International in Auroville … And we wish to state that we want Auroville International to be created, to develop, and to work towards its aims.”

Auroville International came into being on August 15, 1983.