Movement Charter general discussion

Questions and conversations about the Movement Charter that don’t fit into other, more specific forum topics.

The Movement Charter will be a document defining roles and responsibilities for all the members and entities of the Wikimedia movement, including laying out a new Global Council for movement governance. The Movement Charter is a Movement Strategy priority.[1] A broad ratification process is expected for its adoption.


See also

I don’t generally agree with the need for a Movement Charter. For me, our charter should be like the Constitution of Great Britain. it’s unwritten, is based on precedent and common practice, and is upheld mainly by people’s sense of right and wrong.

and also, Britain is an actual country, with one of the most developed governmental systems in the world, and even they don’t have any written constitution. think about that. that is just my own personal opinion on this topic.

With that said, I prefer to view all ideas from the WMF with an open mind. I plan to do so for this document as well. thanks.

I attended the call yesterday for Latin America, to review the preamble for the Movement Charter. Based upon that, I am now absolutely convinced that we do not need a Movement Charter. The reasons for this are threefold;

  1. Based upon the collaborative nature of our movement, any charter is most likely to be disregarded by the community in general, in the course of work on Wikipedia, etc

  2. based upon the non-hierarchical nature of the whole set of policies, procedures, and processes pertaining to the entire sum total of all Wikimedia content, the WMF is most likely to declare that the Movement Charter, if it is ever finalized, is totally non-binding on the community as a whole and individual editors and community members as well.

  3. A document which is inherently non-binding even before it is even enacted and finalized is worse than no document at all. the reason for this is quite simply is that any such document will obviously be utilized to some degree, by some community members, as a guideline and as a reference point; however, it will most probably immediately devalued by whichever community members are being addressed, as being non-binding on them and their opinions, and not enforceable. this is just my own personal opinion on the likely effects of this proposed document.

a document that no one can cite and which cannot be referred to as evidence of official policy, or indeed even as a common reference point, is overall of little or no value, even before it is enacted.

Based on the above points, I have to note that I am somewhat opposed to the existence of a possible “Movement Charter,” for the Wikimedia Community.

Please note, none of the above should be construed to mean that I in any way want to exclude the ideas and proposals of the WMF in general from reasoned consideration. On the contrary, I absolutely see the efforts of the WMF as being intrinsically beneficial to the entire Wiki movement and community as a whole.

I appreciate your kind attention to my thoughts and feedback above. All thoughts, comments, feedback and input on the above topics are welcome. Thanks!

Let me also note, we already have a totally workable Movement Charter, which is already in practical use and is generally accepted. I am referring to the “Five Pillars of Wikipedia;” because, for me, this set of principles are much better to serve as a hypothetical Movement Charter, if in fact such a document is needed. the reasons for this are simply;

  1. these core principles are already widely accepted on an everyday practical basis.
  2. these core principles are embraced as a practical guide on how to develop and expand the content of wikipedia.
  3. the role of these principles is already widely accepted. this is a separate area than “content;” in other words, a core document can be widely accepted in regards to content, as long as it is stable; however, that would not always mean that it would be accepted as a core guideline for actual regular usage.

I appreciate the chance to express the comments above on this. thanks.

sorry, for the multiple comments; if the thought here is that this is not a “charter,” but rather a collaborative “approach” to wikipedia, then that’s fine. if that’s the case, then why not call it that? I think that “charter” sounds like a set of inherent mandatory guidelines. thanks.

@Ifteebd10, don’t you find @Sm8900’s words thought provocating?

By the way, @Sm8900, we, the organizers, who are working for non-affiliate organized groups, are feeling the need for a charter very badly.

Yes, we have a “widely agreed” non-written sets of ideologies that fuel our regular work and help us to be focused on our ultimate goal as a movement.
But the situation gets complex when we come to work in a small and underrepresented community and there are a good number of those types of communities. I was talking about a “systemic failure” in our “widely accepted” non-written charter which causes the decentralized and completely independent communities to be monopolized by the people who use the movement to serve their own interests.

Being a non-affiliate organized group in Bangladesh and having no clear rules to follow, we were suppressed by the people who monopolized the system. our credit was snatched, our programs were vandalized, and we were cornered, just because we tried to grow, which threatened the monopoly. To whom we should go for the remedy? When the whole system has been monopolized, the local chapter itself snatched our wikimedia project’s credit; the administrators of the local language wikipedia vandalized our program.

We need a very well-defined charter including a well-defined “roles and responsibilities” chapter which will address non-affiliate organizations like us so that, we can use the charter as a safeguard while running any program. This roles and responsibilities chapter will also work to prevent systemic failure (like monopolizing the whole system) in the organically established organizational structure of the movement.

We need to keep in mind that not English Wikipedia (and other large Wikipedias) are not the only players in the system. If we talk about just wikipedias, there are 300+ of them, let alone other sister projects like wikivoyage or Wikibooks.

And there are hundreds of organizations all around the world that work beyond the black-and-white console of the on-wiki activities. The situation is more and more complex and overwhelming than we can even think of. Not all the entities mentioned above honor the sets of rules that prevail in the larger wikis. From my lens, we badly need a constitution which will define a set of standard practices.

and the charter is not a mandatory set of guidelines, communities need to ratify it.
Take “UN Convention on the rights of the Child” for example. 196 countries ratified it, except just one and that’s the states!

For further read:

  1. Link
  2. Link

@Mrb_Rafi , I am so glad to have your input on this thread. you have made some EXTREMELY important points. we need to start addressing these, and we need to do so now. I have also sent you a pm, so please check your inbox, for a message from me.

In my opinion, and this is only my own personal opinion on this, there is NO way that the Movement Charter will have any binding force on any chapters in ANY way. how do I know this? simply because the entire drafting process for this document is being open to all chapters, with NO centralized leadership to drive it whatsoever. all of that is fine, and it is all highly consistent with the usual customary Wikipedia format of being highly collaborative. so all that is well and good.

however, where does it leave you, and chapters like yours, and concerns like the ones you mentioned? well, nowhere at all, as far as I can tell.

you are telling me there are real issues to be addressed.

ok, have these been addressed prior to this? obviously,. they have not, or else you wouldn’t need to tell me about them now. ok, so what makes you think the Movement Charter will be different, or offer a new approach? in any way?

Please note I want to absolutely address each and every one of your concerns. in absolutely minute and highly tangible detail. ok, so let’s please get started. can you please take the first few concerns, and start to explain and elaborate on how they have affected you in a tangible way? I want to get this process started as quickly and as fully as we can.

let’s get this discussion started now. I would be absolutely glad to explore this fully, and I am absolutely available to help in any way possible. I look forward to your reply when you have a chance to reply here. thanks!

don’t take this the wrong way, @NPhan_WMF , but to me this whole idea for a Movement Charter is rather half-baked. you can read the reply above from @Mrb_Rafi to see why a central set of rules is genuinely needed. for me, and this is just my own personal opinion, the drafting process for the Movement Charter does not in any way display any of the process or attributes needed which would allow the community to generally express any actual tangible concerns via the movement charter process.

in short, we need to vastly rework and restructure the current drafting process, we need to begin a new process, with the primary goal to put concerns like the ones expressed above by @Mrb_Rafi at the center of the process.

in view of the effort, time, and (hopefully) useful material that I have contributed to the MS forums, i would like to be kept apprised and informed on whichever concrete, responsive, active efforts by the WMF will be launched and sustained by the WMF to deal with these highly-pressing concerns.

I will look forward to your reply and to your regular updates on this. I greatly appreciate your help. you are welcome to reply with any comments, feedback, or input you may have. thanks very much.

i have taken the libery to restructure the thoughtful reply by @Mrb_Rafi above, into some useful bulleted points. do you HEAR what our colleague is saying? WHERE is the concerted organizational response, by the WMF, to address these massive and gross inequities, right here and right now? WHY is nothing being done right now, to address these fully and to work to correct these?

there is absolutely nothing that is ambivalent or ambiguous in any way about the important issues listed above. this is a clarion call to action. we as a community need to galvanize ourselves into genuine and concrete action which can begin the process to address these, and we need to do so in a way that will uphold the crucial core values of the wiki movement, in a way that will be relevant and beneficial to grossly marginalized and excluded communities like the one cited in @Mrb_Rafi 's highly important reply.

I am sure that many of my fellow community members will feel similarly. please, let’s get started,. let’s move ahead and create a movement which truly lifts all voices, and truly honors the concerns of all those who wish to participate.

In my opinion, we do not need a “Charter.” what we need is a Constitution. A charter is simply a statement of generalized non-binding values. A Constitution, by contrast, is a set of initial laws, usually as a new law enacted amongst various existing bodies and groups, which are fully binding the moment they are enacted, and which become the new and immediately-relevant guidelines for all constituent bodies within the broader whole, by definition.

i appreciate your help. thanks!

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After reviewing all prior discussions, particularly the issues highlighted by @Mrb_Rafi and @Sm8900, I propose that the Wikimedia Movement’s laws and principles be governed by a federal structure.

Assume the Wikimedia Foundation is a federal republic, similar to the United States, and its many chapters, affiliates, and non-affiliated user groups are its states. As a result, federal laws that intervene in state independence up to a degree but not totally, and state laws that must be in compliance with federal laws and followed only in a certain state, will be required.

The Movement Charter, or proposed Constitution, as well as other universal legal instruments such as the UCoC, will be regarded as WMF federal laws. Communities and user groups must observe federal laws and have their own laws and regulations that do not contravene the Constitution.

As a result, the WMF laws will have a limited degree of influence over the communities, while the communities will retain some autonomy.

How is my proposal coming along?


totally agree. especially since right now, we have a loose confederation, in which there are no laws that are binding upon any chapter, any group, any individual, or indeed any entity under the aegis of WMF in any way whatsoever.

I second your motion and vote in favor. this delegate from the great state of New York proudly stands in favor herewith for the proposal from my distinguished colleague. huzzah!! :slight_smile:

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@Mrb_Rafi , we need much more details on the occurrence which you describe above. could you please expand, expound, and elaborate at length? tagging @Ifteebd10 as well, for input, feedback, insights, etc.

quote from @Mrb_Rafi 's helpful insight above. look at the last sentence! emphasis added! well said! :smiley:

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@Sm8900 thanks a lot for all your inputs. I was thinking primarily that you were against any sort of charter and/or constitution but your later clarifications helped me to understand that you were never against this; in fact, you were in favor of making the charter or constitution more “binding” so that concrete action can be taken against any monopoly and abuse of power in the unique decentralized context of our movement. I support you.

  • Now, to summarize, we all agree that, we need to prevent any monopoly or abuse of power and inequity while keeping the decentralized, people-centric aspect of the movement intact. Just need to find a way out.

To be honest, all these legal things are beyond my wisdom. I’m just trying to understand the whole thing now.

  • As I can understand, the charter will create the base of the values and principles, and goals we have in the movement which will kinda work as a constitution of a country (though the comparison isn’t fully valid, cause anyone can opt-out from the charter by not ratifying if they want - as I can understand)

  • The UCOC will work in a similar way to the laws of a country work. The UCOC faq says,

Since the UCoC will become part of the Terms of Use, it will not be possible for individual communities to opt out of the global policy.

  • If I put the charter in the place of a constitution and the UCOC in the place of the laws of a country and compare it to my country’s (Bangladesh) constitution and laws then some interesting points will arise. We discussed these in our team’s (NDEC WERT), and images from the in-person discussions will be found here, summaries will become public soon.
    **our constitution says, every citizen must obey this constitution and the constitution will set the baseline of all laws of our country since the constitution lists the aspiration, values and goals as a nation.
    ** any law that violates the constitution, shouldn’t not exist.
    These are from my general knowledge, @Ifteebd10 can cross-check these points and make sure if they are right.

  • Now, let’s come to the movement context, the charter is listing our aspirations, goals, values, roles as a movement; as I can understand, the UCOC should evolve from these aspirations, goals, values, roles as the constitution of Bangladesh did. There should be a relation between these two docs, do we have that?

  • If the majority of the communities ratify the UCOC, it will be in action and noone (including the communities who don’t want the UCOC) can’t opt out from the UCOC. Is it the same in the case of the Movement Charter? If it’s not, isn’t it kinda weird when anyone can opt-out from the charter but can’t do the same from the UCOC?

And regarding the federal system,

  • Is this even possible to implement it in the extremely unique context of the wikimedia movement?
  • Who will play the role of the “states”? The local communities? Then how do we ensure that the local communities won’t be monopolized? Isn’t it all the same as now?

Pardon me if I make any mistake; as I said earlier, these discussions are beyond my wisdom but I need to think about this because these will shape the future of our movement and my existence in the movement in the future will also be affected by these issues.

Analogies to governments aren’t particularly valid, because governments can force people to do things. Wikimedia can’t, at least for the majority of people that provide volunteer labor.

People, at least in large groups, have a natural veto over the movement charter and other documents. If enough editors choose to stop editing (or admins or other functionaries choose to spend their time on other things), the movement will have to choose between the movement’s ‘governance’ and its mission, and the mission has won out every time.

A movement charter might be useful as a check on the Wikimedia Foundation and other bodies in the movement, but putting them under the control of people who contribute to the mission. But it’s not like the laws of the country - people can simply walk away when contributing doesn’t become satisfying to them.

(I suspect we’re going to see similar examples of natural vetoes the when the UCOC leads to an outcome the community considers unjust.)

The most important thing that is mostly behind the uniqueness of the movement. Thanks for the comment, @TomDotGov.

This is the main reason I hesitate to compare the movement to any government structure.
But “something” is needed, you know. Putting people first doesn’t refer to lawlessness or the dictatorship of the folks with higher edit counts. As I mentioned earlier, being a newbie, I faced backlash from some of the most “dedicated” contributors of the local movement. Being a new contributor at that time, didn’t I have the right to get help? If I said, “I would walk away and not contribute to the movement anymore,” wouldn’t that be counted? or the same sentence uttered by someone with a higher edit count would have more weight just because of their edit count?

They didn’t even try to hide their obvious vandalism, as they know that they can play the “community card” whenever needed and we all know, the community is the boss everywhere and they are independent, no one can force them to do anything. Still, they are continuing the same behavior.

If we had the charter or the UCOC, we could sue them for specific unacceptable behavior according to the UCOC. We could tell them that, “You can’t force us to do anything just because you have a higher onwiki edit count and just because we are a non-affiliate organized group. You have broken those clauses of UCOC” If they can’t be forced to do anything, why should we be? Just because we don’t have higher edit counts? (Unless we break any established rule of any particular Wikimedia project; and we didn’t do that)

Consider the previously mentioned issue of monopolization of distant individual communities.
To be a true knowledge base owned by the people, the Wikimedia projects need to be open to literally everyone on the planet. But sometimes, our projects get owned by the folks with the highest edit counts instead of everyone. Most of the discussion channels are full of hatred and personal attacks, on-wiki talk pages and mailing lists fear away the newcomers due to their harsh environment, and newcomer biting has become a trend to express power. In a lot of cases, a portion of the people with higher edit counts make the rules, they themselves break the rules, and they play community cards whenever asked about their abuse of their self-proclaimed power. If they are asked about their misuse of Wikimedia spaces, they always have one threat, “What if I stop editing?” Was the movement supposed to be like this? If we deny the charter or the UCOC, do we have any better solutions for that?

Sorry for so so long texts, I think this thread is becoming hard-to-read for most people including newcomers. I hope we will try to keep the conversation simple.

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