Commentary on INF’s letter to Stéphane Deschênes of 17th April 2017
By Duncan Heenan, Naturist Action Group, UK
In January this year Stéphane Deschênes resigned as a member of International Naturist Federation’s (‘INF’) governing body, after 3 years’ and 5 months’ service, including being INF’s Assessor For Non-European Countries. Deschênes had previously been President of the Canadian Naturist Federation for about 10 years and is the owner of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park, which he took from a small sleepy club to being the largest and most successful naturist club/resort in Canada. He also has a successful business career outside naturism.
In resigning he wrote an open letter to INF, setting out a number of issues he felt were essential to be addressed if INF was to become an effective agent of naturist progress. His resignation was the culmination of years of frustration at trying to breathe new life into INF, but being met with stuck-in-the-mud attitudes which saw change as impossible, unnecessary or unwelcome. Deschênes’ belief that change was needed was founded mostly on the lack of any real evidence of INF’s effectiveness over many decades. (This and the letters referred to are in an earlier post)
INF responded to Deschênes’ letter in April. Despite both letters being made public on naturist websites, it has elicited little comment. This may be because naturists know or care little of INF, or it may be because they have ‘seen it all before’ and consider INF a lost cause anyway. To help those new to the subject, I copy both letters at the end of this commentary.
However, I feel a proper and open debate is necessary. It is significant when someone of Stéphane Deschênes’ experience and stature feels moved to resign from a world body – and INF is naturism’s only world body. This should not be ignored. INF is funded by a per-capita levy on the membership of every National Naturist Federation which is affiliated to INF, so it is naturists’ own money which is at stake, and value for money should be something we should all care about even if we do not care about the wider acceptance of naturism. In an attempt to stimulate debate, I am writing this short commentary on the exchange of letters. If you agree with me, say so. If you disagree with me, say so. If you have any comment, say it. But please don’t just let this issue die from apathy and indifference. If you care about the progress of naturism, or if you believe in value for money, speak up; or an opportunity for real change will be missed, yet again. But say it where it will be heard by those who can change things.
If you have read the correspondence referred to (if not, please do), you will see that Deschênes, makes 14 specific comments and suggestions on INF. I do not have the inside experience of INF’s machinations to make much detailed comment on these points, though I shall make some general ones based on some 36 years of observing INF as a member of British Naturism (including having been BN’s Treasurer), and as a co-founder of Naturist Action Group ( www.naturistactiongroup.org ). However, I would like to start by considering the general tone of the reply, and how INF handled it.
The INF response to Deschênes’ comments ignores the fact that he felt it necessary to resign because of the overall lack of effectiveness of INF. By responding only on individual issues, INF is not seeing the wood for the trees. Deschênes’ comments list some of the symptoms of an ailing organisation, but the response looks only at the symptoms, and not the underlying condition. To an impartial observer INF appears to be in denial of its problems, and as a result no real consideration seems to be given to the specifics raised for debate, let alone the background to them and what they imply. Deschênes’ comments are addressed more to the National Federations which own INF rather than to the central INF body, and yet the response from ‘INF’ shows no real sign of the National Federations being involved in considering them. Indeed, though signed on behalf of the Central Committee, it is clearly written by the EC, and shows no evidence of Central Committee involvement. INF has ignored the whole point, which is not surprising in the context of its history of rejecting all criticism, however